Gibb Kennett AC (born 25 July 1948), Australian politician,
served as the Premier of Victoria from 1992 to 1999.
Kennett was born in Melbourne and educated at Scotch
College. He dropped out of the Australian National
University after one year of an economics degree,
and worked in retailing. In 1968 he was conscripted
into the Australian Army, and served in Malaysia and
Singapore. He returned to civilian life and played
VFL football for 3 seasons, for Hawthorn, before he
went into advertising, forming his own company, KNF,
in 1971. In 1972 he married Felicity Kellar, with
whom he has four children. They separated for a period
from January to October 1998, but have since reconciled.
Kennett was elected as a Liberal Member of the Victorian
Legislative Assembly (MLA) for Burwood in 1976, and
in 1981 he became Minister for Housing, Immigration
and Ethnic Affairs in the government of Dick Hamer.
When the Liberals were defeated in 1982 he was elected
Leader of the Liberal Party, despite being the youngest
member of the outgoing Cabinet. He was an aggressive
Opposition Leader, and was much criticised for his
"bull-in-a-china-shop" style and his populist
Labor government of John Cain was easily re-elected
in 1985. In 1987, in one notable incident Kennett
referred to the Federal Liberal leader John Howard
using colourful language in a mobile telephone conversation
with Howard rival Andrew Peacock.
the end of its second term the Cain government had
endured some loss in support and the Liberals were
considered a good chance of winning the 1988 election.
When Cain was returned with a small but workable majority,
Kennett was criticised within his own party, and in
1989 he was deposed as leader and replaced by Alan
Brown, a little-known rural MLA. A furious Kennett
described Alan Hunt, the instigator of the coup, as
"a man never to be trusted".
He publicly pledged never to attempt a return to the
Liberal leadership, but when Brown proved unable to
challenge the government effectively, he allowed his
supporters to stage a party-room coup and restore
him to the leadership unopposed in 1991.
Kennett won the October 1992 election in a landslide
as a result of the public's disillusionment with the
Labor government, which was held responsible for the
state's economic and budgetary crisis. The Liberals
had substantial majorities in both houses of the state
Victorian Parliament and were able to pass any legislation
office Kennett immediately instituted one of the most
radical budget-cutting and privatisation programs
undertaken by any Victorian government in an effort
to improve the State's economy. Some
of the government functions which the Kennett government
privatised in whole or in part were: prisons, gas
and electricity production and supply, hospitals,
ambulance services, trams, trains and buses, water
supply and government laboratories. Fifty-thousand
public servants were retrenched in the process. As
well, 350 government schools were closed, 7,000 teaching
jobs removed. At the same time, reforms were made
in state education including self-management, increased
use of technology and greater emphasis on literacy
and numeracy skills.
cuts were made in the community, health, education
and welfare sectors. Rural rail services were cut,
and police numbers were slashed, despite the Liberals'
traditional support for more police. The government
forced through amalgamations of local councils, and
also reduced their powers. Industrial relations reforms
reduced the influence of the trade unions.[citation
legislation amending the Parliamentary Committees
Act included provisions creating the Scrutiny of Acts
and Regulations Committee, previously sought by progressives
and parliamentary reformers.
policies succeeded in restoring Victoria's budget
to surplus, for example the multibillion dollar sale
of gas and electricity assets saw Victoria's debt
plummet. Victoria's credit rating was upgraded to
and population growth resumed unemployment was to
remain above the national average for the entirety
of his premiership. Critics pointed out that the Kennett
government was claiming credit for external factors
such as improving national economic indicators, and
that states that had not undergone similar radical
reforms also saw economic improvement.
The social cost of the Kennett reforms was considered
high by many commentators, academics and those who
suffered economically and provoked a campaign of demonstrations
by trade unions and community groups.
Kennett government also embarked on a series of high-profile
projects, such as restoring Parliament House and building
a new Melbourne Museum and a new Melbourne Exhibition
Centre (commonly referred to as "Jeff's shed").
The most controversial of these was the Crown Casino,
a gambling and entertainment centre on Melbourne's
Southbank. While initial plans for a casino had been
made under the Labor government, the tender process
and construction occurred under Kennett. There were
many allegations of corruption in the tendering process
for the casino, but no impropriety was ever proved[citation
popularity remained high through his first term, and
in 1996 he was re-elected with his majority almost
intact. During his second term, however, the public
began to tire of what was seen as his arrogant and
confrontationist style. The government's
sharp cuts to government services were particularly
resented in country Victoria, where the Liberals and
their coalition partners, National Party held almost
all the seats. Kennett's legislation reducing the
powers of the independent Auditor-General aroused
much opposition. The Age newspaper, which had supported
Kennett in 1992 and 1996, turned against him.
Labor remained weak and leaderless, it offered little
challenge to Kennett's dominance of Victorian politics.
But in mid-1999 Labor replaced its leader, John Brumby,
with Steve Bracks, who came from Ballarat and was
popular in rural areas. Nevertheless Kennett entered
the 1999 election campaign fully expecting to win,
and most commentators and opinion polls agreed[citation
needed]. On the morning of the election a leading
political journalist, Ewen Hannan, predicted that
"Labor supporters will be crying into their beers
1999 election loss
The Liberals lost 13 seats to Labor in the 1999 election,
most of them in regional centres such as Ballarat
and Bendigo, and to three Independents in rural areas.
The final result in the Legislative Assembly was:
Labor with 42 seats, the Liberals and Nationals with
43, and three Independents. Both parties negotiated
with the three independent members: Russell Savage,
Craig Ingram and Susan Davies. Labor was successful
in winning their support to form a government after
signing a Charter pledging to restore services to
rural areas and promising Parliamentary reforms. Kennett
had offered similar pledges but with Susan Davies,
a long-term Labor Party member, and Savage refusing
to support the Liberals while Kennett remained leader,
the Labor Party took office.
defeat of the Kennett Government was almost totally
unexpected, and was regretted by those who had supported
the government's policies and reforms, which had restored
Victoria's fiscal credibility, stemmed the fall in
its population growth rate and revived its economic
growth. Critics argued that Kennett's
radical program had damaged the social infrastructure
through the reduction in government services, particularly
in regional areas, and that this, added to the perception
of some that Kennett was arrogant, had led to his
supporters urged the Liberal Party to force a vote
of "no confidence" on the floor of the Parliament
in a last-ditched effort to force Savage and Ingram
to support the Liberal Government.
However with the Liberal Party divided on Kennett's
future role, Kennett resigned as Leader of the Liberal
Party and from Parliament, saying he wished to have
no further involvement in politics.
In the following by-election, the ALP defeated the
Liberal Party in his Burwood electorate.
Rumoured returns to politics
After the Liberals' second election defeat in 2002,
rumours began that Kennett was planning a comeback
to politics. The issue came to a head in May 2006
after the sudden resignation of the Liberal Party
leader, Robert Doyle, when Kennett announced he would
contemplate standing in a by-election for the seat
vacated by Doyle and offering himself as party leader.
His stance was supported by Prime Minister John Howard,
who rated him as the party's best hope to win the
November 2006 state election. But within 24 hours
Kennett announced he would withdraw from the race
rather than challenge Ted Baillieu, whom Kennett had
been grooming for the top post since 1999. John
Howard was reported to have been "embarrassed"
by having publicly supported Kennett before his decision
not to re-enter politics.
Life after politics
Kennett currently chairs beyondblue
(the National Depression Initiative), a body that
was largely formed by the efforts of the Victorian
State Government. He has held the position since 2000,
when he became beyondblue's inaugural chairman.
For a brief period during 2002, he was a radio presenter
for Melbourne station 3AK. He also serves on the boards
of Australian Seniors Finance, a reverse mortgage
company, and SelecTV, a satellite television group.
2005 Kennett was made Vice President of his beloved
Hawthorn Football Club, and in a ceremony on December
14, 2005, he officially took over the presidency from
2005 Kennett received Australia's highest civilian
honour, when he was made a Companion of the Order
of Australia (AC). He was also awarded an honorary
doctorate - Hon DBus (Honoris Causa) - by The University
had hip replacement surgery in December 2005.
2006 he was attacked while celebrating his son's birthday
in a Richmond bar and received minor abrasions; the
attacker is awaiting trial.
name remains associated with one of the two largest
factions in the fractious Victorian branch of the
Liberal Party. The battles between the "Kennett
faction" and the "Kroger/Costello faction"
(associated with Michael Kroger and Peter Costello)
are fierce. (Credit: