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John Howard Takes Liberal Leadership As Andrew Peacock Miscalculates

John Howard became leader of the Liberal Party for the first time at a bizarre meeting of the parliamentary party called to remove him as deputy leader.

The party meeting was called by leader Andrew Peacock in an attempt to remove Howard from the deputy leadership. Peacock had demanded an assurance from Howard that he would not challenge for the leadership but Howard refused to give one.

A contest between Howard and John Moore saw Howard re-elected deputy leader by 38 votes to 31. Peacock then resigned and Howard was elected leader, defeating Jim Carlton by 57 votes to 6. Neil Brown became deputy leader.

Tension between Andrew Peacock and John Howard had simmered since the party went into opposition in 1983. Howard was Treasurer in the Fraser government from 1977 to 1983. Peacock was Foreign Minister from 1975 to 1981. The two men were natural rivals, Howard a conservative and Peacock a liberal.

Peacock resigned from the Fraser government in 1981 and was defeated when he challenged Fraser’s leadership in 1982. However, Peacock became leader of the party after it was defeated by Bob Hawke’s ALP in March 1983. Whilst Peacock performed creditably in the 1984 election, his leadership came under question in 1985.

The first video shows Laurie Oakes reporting on the change of leadership on Ray Martin’s Midday show.

The second and third videos show Howard’s first press conference as leader and Peacock’s press conference as outgoing leader.

The fourth video shows reaction to Howard’s election from Jeff Kennett, John Cain, Bill Snedden and Paul Kelly.

  • Watch Laurie Oakes & Ray Martin (9m)
  • Watch Howard’s press conference (29m)
  • Watch Peacock’s press conference (16m)
  • Watch political reaction to Howard’s election (4m)


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Malcolm Farnsworth
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