This morning Kim Beazley turned to his one undoubted asset in his attempt to dispel again the stories that he would be replaced as Labor leader before the next election. Experience, he told the morning press scramble, is what the Australian people wanted in a leader and that is why he would take his party to the next federal election.

No great vision of what he would do with the job of Prime Minister if he got it, just the bland assertion that the talk of a leadership challenge was speculation.

According to Beazley the years are on his side while being a handicap for Kevin Rudd, the Opposition Foreign Affairs spokesman who has emerged as the one credible leadership alternative. The past record of the nation’s Prime Ministers shows why:

Year of first

victory

Prime

Minister

Winning

Age

Years in

Politics

1901

Sir Edmund Barton

52

22

1903

Alfred Deakin

48

24

1910

Andrew Fisher

47

17

1913

Joseph Cook

52

22

1917

William Morris Hughes

54

23

1925

Stanley Melbourne Bruce

41

7

1929

James Scullin

53

19

1932

Joseph Lyons

51

22

1941

John Curtin

55

11

1946

Ben Chifley

61

17

1949

Robert Menzies

54

20

1966

Harold Holt

58

31

1969

John Gorton

58

19

1972

Gough Whitlam

56

19

1975

Malcolm Fraser

45

19

1983

Robert Hawke

53

3

1993

Paul Keating

49

24

1996

John Howard

56

22

Average

52

19

 

ALP contenders

Age

Years in Politics

Kim Beazley

58

26

Kevin Rudd

49

8

Stephen Smith

51

13

Wayne Swan

52

13

 

Since the foundation of Federation, Australians normally have chosen men of maturity and experience to be their leader. Only Stanley Bruce and Bob Hawke stand out as exceptions and they were remarkable men. Bruce became PM before facing an election as leader and was a war hero to boot. Hawke might not have been long in parliament but he had a lengthy spell in public life behind him.

With the failure of a comparatively youthful Mark Latham fresh in their minds the members of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party are naturally wary of taking a risk again with inexperience. Kim Beazley can be thankful that there is no would be challenger of more experience than Kevin Rudd.

Peter Fray

Save 50% on a year of Crikey and The Atlantic.

The US election is in a little over a month. It seems that there’s a ridiculous twist in the story, almost every day.

Luckily for new Crikey subscribers, we’ve teamed up with one of America’s best publications, The Atlantic for the election race. Subscribe now to make sense of it all, and you’ll get a year of Crikey (usually $199) and a year’s digital subscription to The Atlantic (usually $70AUD), BOTH for just $129.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW