Today, we received the sad news of the passing of former Liberal Party member, parliamentarian and minister, Peter Keaston Reith AM.
If ever there was a stalwart of the Liberal Party, it was Peter Reith.
Elected to the seat of Flinders in 1982, he served as a Member of the House of Representatives for more than 17 years. In his maiden speech, Peter described Flinders as ‘one of the great places in Australia to live and enjoy’. He kept his promise of representing the people of Flinders to the best of his ability.
Peter served under Liberal leaders Malcolm Fraser, Andrew Peacock, John Hewson, Alexander Downer and John Howard. He was loyal to each leader as he was to his party, whether in government or opposition.
His analytical and sharp policy mind was reflected in the positions he held as a shadow minister, from industrial relations and education, to foreign affairs and defence, to education and sport, and more besides. Peter was a powerful and effective Manager of Opposition Business.
But his main achievements came under the Howard Government where he had ministerial responsibilities for industrial and workplace relations, small business, and defence. He was a consultative Cabinet Minister and confidant of Prime Minister John Howard.
Peter’s political legacy is extensive. He will be remembered most, however, for his fearlessness in the face of extreme union intimidation – especially by freeing up the waterfront to ensure Australia had a more productive, forward-looking economy. He was an architect of pivotal workplace reform which put the interests of employers and employees first.
In the days ahead, the Parliament will have an opportunity to reflect on the momentous legacy of a formidable politician and great Australian.
On behalf of the Coalition, I offer my heartfelt condolences to Peter’s colleagues, his friends and his family, especially his wife Kerrie, and four sons Paul, Simon, David and Robert.
May he rest in peace.