- John Hewson
- For the English soldier and regicide, see John Hewson (regicide).
Dr John Hewson AM
Opposition Leader of Australia In office
3 April 1990 – 23 May 1994
Preceded by Andrew Peacock Succeeded by Alexander Downer Member of the Australian Parliament
Preceded by Peter Coleman Succeeded by Andrew Thomson Personal details Born 28 October 1946
Sydney, New South Wales
Political party Liberal Party Spouse(s) Margaret Deaves
Children 1 (female)
by Carolyn Somerville
Alma mater University of Sydney
University of Saskatchewan
Johns Hopkins University
John Robert Hewson AM (born 28 October 1946) is an Australian economist, company director and a former politician. He was federal leader of the Liberal Party of Australia from 1990 to 1994 and led the party to defeat at the 1993 federal election.
Hewson was born in Sydney, New South Wales, the son of a working-class, politically conservative engineer. He was educated at Kogarah High School and then at the University of Sydney where he graduated in economics. He then gained a master's degree from the Regina campus of the University of Saskatchewan (which since 1974 has been the University of Regina) and a second master's and a doctorate in economics from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. In 1967 he married Margaret Deaves.
Returning to Australia, Hewson worked as an economist for the Reserve Bank of Australia. From 1976 to 1983 he was employed as an economic advisor to two successive Liberal treasurers; Phillip Lynch and John Howard. During this period he developed a keen interest in politics and was determined to enter politics himself. While a strong Liberal, he was critical of what he saw as the weakness and inconsistency of economic policy under Malcolm Fraser's government. He was a supporter of some of the economic policies of Margaret Thatcher.
After the defeat of the Fraser government at the 1983 election, Hewson went into business journalism and became a director of a private bank, the Macquarie Bank. This allowed the Labor Party to tag him as "a wealthy banker" when he entered politics. Having divorced Margaret Deaves in 1985, in 1988 he remarried to Carolyn Somerville.
Federal political career
Hewson was elected at the 1987 election to the House of Representatives for the affluent Sydney electorate of Wentworth. He entered Parliament at a time when there was a leadership vacuum on the conservative side of politics. John Howard had just lost the 1987 elections and the Liberals had no obvious alternative leader. In September 1988, Howard appointed him shadow finance minister. In May 1989, when Andrew Peacock replaced Howard as Leader, Hewson became shadow treasurer. In the lead up to the 1990 election, Hewson performed well against the then-Treasurer Paul Keating.
Election to leadership of the opposition
When Peacock was defeated at the 1990 elections, Hewson was elected to the Liberal leadership, despite having been in Parliament only three years. He defeated Peter Reith 62 votes to 13. (Reith was then elected deputy leader and Hewson made him Shadow Treasurer.) His positive qualities were his strength in economic policy, and his attractive media personality. But he had no experience in other areas of policy, his views on most issues were unknown, and he had little experience of political tactics, particularly against such hardened veterans as Hawke and Keating. He was vulnerable to the accusation that he was a narrow economic technocrat, and his Thatcherite views laid him open to criticism.
Fightback! economic policy
Shortly after the leadership change, Hewson made up ground on the Hawke government in the opinion polls, as the Australian economy struggled with the early 1990s recession. Hewson was determined to make a break with what he saw as the weak pragmatism of past Liberal leaders. In November 1991 he launched "Fightback!", a radical economic policy package. The key elements of the package were introduction of a consumption tax called the goods and services tax (GST), the compensatory abolition of a range of other taxes such as sales tax, deep cuts in income tax for the middle and upper-middle classes, and increases in pensions and benefits to compensate the poor for the rise in prices flowing from the GST.
In December, Keating successfully challenged Hawke and became Prime Minister. Through 1992 Keating mounted a campaign against the Fightback package, and particularly against the GST, which he described as an attack on the working class in that it shifted the tax burden from direct taxation of the wealthy to indirect taxation of the mass of consumers. Keating memorably described the impact of Hewson's GST as "15% on this, 15% on that." Keating famously described Hewson as a "feral abacus." 
This assault forced Hewson into a partial backdown, agreeing not to levy the GST on food. But this concession opened Hewson to charges of weakness and inconsistency, and also complicated the arithmetic of the whole package, since the weakening of the GST reduced the scope for tax cuts, the most attractive element of the package for middle-class voters. The complications of the new package were famously demonstrated in the "birthday cake interview", in which Hewson was unable to answer a question posed by journalist Mike Willesee about whether or not a birthday cake would cost more or less under a Coalition government. Hewson was instead forced into a series of circumlocutions about whether the cake would be decorated, have ice cream in it and so on. In reference to the Birthday Cake Inverview in an August 2006 interview, Hewson said: "Well I answered the question honestly. The answer's actually right. That doesn't count...I should have told him (Mike Willesee) to get stuffed!". According to Channel 9's 20 to 1 episode Unscripted and Unplanned, the Birthday Cake Interview incident was the moment Hewson lost the election with the interview held 10 days before polling day. However, polls right up to election day supported a Coalition victory.
1993 federal election
Hewson was defeated by Keating at the 1993 election, losing what many had described as "the unloseable election" for the Liberals. The issue of the GST was dropped from the Liberal Party's agenda until the 1998 election campaign.
Despite previously having pledged to resign the leadership in the event that he was defeated at the 1993 Federal Election, Hewson decided to continue in his position. He defeated a post-election party leadership challenge from John Howard and Bruce Reid but his position was never secure from that point onward and political colleagues such as Peter Costello, Alexander Downer and Bronwyn Bishop consistently undermined his leadership over the subsequent year. In 1994 he attempted to quell leadership speculation by calling a leadership ballot, but he lost the vote and the leadership to Alexander Downer. In April 1995, Downer resigned, John Howard was elected Liberal leader for the second time, and Hewson resigned from Parliament shortly after. Hewson thus had one of the shortest parliamentary careers of any leader of a major political party.
Career after politics
Since his departure from politics, he has written extensively for the business and general press, and spent time on the lecture circuit. In his writings he demonstrated an increasing focus on corporate social and environmental responsibility. In 2003-4 he chaired a community advisory committee to RepuTex, a new company that conducts assessments of companies on these criteria, as well as issuing an annual public listing of Australia's top 100 companies on these criteria.
Business and academic activity
In 1995, Hewson was invited to join IT&T Services as a non executive director in one of his few private enterprise successes. IT&T was a specialist IT and telecommunications design and project management group who delivered major technology projects for both corporate and government clients such as Citigroup, Department of Defence, News Limited and Ernst & Young across the Asia Pacific region. IT&T Services was acquired by public company Powerlan Ltd in 2000. He became Professor of Management at Macquarie University, Sydney, and Dean of the Macquarie Graduate School of Management in 2002 but resigned within two years. While at Macquarie University, he also served as a consultant to ABN AMRO.
In 2005, Hewson was elected onto the Touring Car Entrants Group of Australia (TEGA) board as an independent member. He left in June 2006 after a dispute with V8 Supercars Australia Chairman Tony Cochrane. John Hewson held the position of chairman of the board of directors for the Elderslie Group, a company whose primary interests lie in the areas of corporate finance and property investments. Unsatisfied with the direction the Group was heading in, he later resigned. On 2 July 2008, global accounting firm, PWC was appointed as receiver and administrator of the failed Elderslie Group. Since circa 2005, Hewson has been a member of the Trilateral Commission, an alliance of top political and economic leaders from North America, Asia-Pacific, and Europe. He is Chairman of General Security Australia Insurance Brokers Pty Ltd.
After 1996 he became increasingly critical of Prime Minister John Howard. In 2003 he opposed Howard's decision to take part in the Iraq War although in 2004 argued it would be electoral "suicide" for the Liberal Party to replace Howard with an alternate leader at the time. In July 2006, Hewson gave an interview to ABC's Four Corners program in which he voiced concern at the growing influence of what he characterised as a "hardline right religious element" in the NSW branch of the Liberal Party. This was in breach of a Liberal Party rule about speaking to the media and reports at the time claimed he could face expulsion from the party.
Hewson married Margaret Deaves in 1967. Having divorced Deaves in 1985, in 1988 he married Carolyn Somerville, described by news media as "a formidable figure in investment banking".
Since leaving politics, Hewson has been involved in a range of non-profit organisations, including the Arthritis Foundation of Australia and kids charity, KidsXpress.
- ^ Henderson, Gerard (2003). "Hawke's Opposition: From Malcolm Fraser to John Hewson". In Ryan, Susan and Bramston, Troy. The Hawke Government: A Critical Retrospective. Pluto Press Australia. ISBN 1864032642.
- ^ a b c d e Wilmoth, P (10 April 2004). "The man we knew as Hewson". The Sun-Herald (Fairfax Media). http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/04/10/1081326978084.html. Retrieved 28 August 2010.
- ^ "Australia's Hard Choice", The Economist 326 (7801), 6 Mar.
- ^ "Opposition leaders' fates over 30 years". The Daily Telegraph (News Limited). 2009-12-01. http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/opposition-leaders-fates-over-30-years/story-e6freuy9-1225805752550. Retrieved 2010-08-28.
- ^ a b "John Hewson". Enough Rope with Andrew Denton. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 2006-08-07. http://www.abc.net.au/tv/enoughrope/transcripts/s1705370.htm. Retrieved 2010-08-28.
- ^ The article "Hot Pies, Cold Pies AND Pie-Eaters", by Alan Ramsey, Sydney Morning Herald, 6 March 1993 places the interview the "previous" Wednesday evening on the Nine Network's A Current Affair, which would make it 3 March 1993, 10 days before the election.
- ^ "Newspoll records". Newspoll. 2008-05-31. http://www.newspoll.com.au/cgi-bin/polling/display_poll_data.pl. Retrieved 2010-08-28.
- ^ a b c Hewett, Jennifer (31 March 2010). "In constant motion". The Australian (News Limited). http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/features/in-constant-motion/story-e6frgabx-1225843339785. Retrieved 28 August 2010.
- ^ ASX, ASIC, PWR Annual report 2000
- ^ "Day one of the election race: who do we trust?". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 2004-08-30. http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2004/s1188038.htm.
- ^ Klan, Anthony (2008-07-03). "Elderslie Finance Corporation in receivership after John Hewson bid fails". The Australian (News Limited). http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/elderslie-finance-in-receivership/story-e6frg8zx-1111116805381. Retrieved 2010-03-29.
- ^ "Membership list". Trilateral Commission: List of Members. Trilateral Commission. 2010-08. http://www.trilateral.org/download/file/TC_list_8-10%281%29.pdf. Retrieved 2010-08-28.
- ^ "Dr John Hewson - Chairman". About GSA. General Security Australia Insurance Brokers Pty Ltd. 2010. http://www.gsaib.com.au/about-gsa/john-hewson-sydney-insurance-broker. Retrieved 2010-08-28.
- ^ "Interview: Dr John Hewson". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 17 July 2006. http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/content/2006/s1686114.htm.
- ^ Davies, Anne (24 July 2006). "Membership must have rewards - or parties will die". The Sydney Morning Herald (Fairfax Media). http://www.smh.com.au/news/opinion/membership-must-have-rewards--or-parties-will-die/2006/07/23/1153593209663.html?page=fullpage. Retrieved 6 August 2010.
- ^ "ABC TV - Gruen Nation". Gruen Nation. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 2010. http://www.abc.net.au/tv/gruentransfer/gruennation. Retrieved 11 August 2010.
- John Hewson at the Internet Movie Database
- Video – John Hewson's satirical history of the Liberal Party
- RepuTex corporate website
- Elderslie Finance corporate website
- GSA corportate website
Political offices Preceded by
Leader of the Opposition
Party political offices Preceded by
Leader of the Liberal Party of Australia
Parliament of Australia Preceded by
Member for Wentworth
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