The American Australian Association is deeply saddened by the passing of Andrew Peacock, Former Australian Liberal leader and Australian Ambassador to the United States from 1997-1999. We send our condolences to his family and loved ones.
Ex-Liberal leader, debonair diplomat: Andrew Peacock dead at 82
Two-time Liberal leader Andrew Peacock has died at his home in the US, with his wife by his side. He was 82.
Mr Peacock, one of the most significant political figures of the 1980s and 1990s, led the Liberal Party to the 1984 and 1990 federal elections, losing both times to Bob Hawke’s Labor Party.
Dubbed the “colt from Kooyong’’, Mr Peacock succeeded Robert Menzies in the blue-ribbon Liberal seat of Kooyong in 1966.
Stylish, debonair and articulate, Mr Peacock rose quickly in political circles, becoming the minister of the army at the age of 30 and foreign minister at 36.
But his much-publicised relationship with actress Shirley MacLaine earned him almost as much publicity. MacLaine once famously said he was the only politician she had ever known to own a Gucci toothbrush.
Mr Peacock married three times. His first marriage to Susan Rossiter ended in 1977. They had three daughters: Jane, Ann and Caroline. Susan later became a socialite, marrying Robert Sangster and then Sir Frank Renouf.
Mr Peacock married Margaret Ingram in 1983 and the pair divorced in 1995.
His third marriage was to Penne Korth, a businesswoman, former US ambassador, former Texas beauty queen and a staunch Republican in 2002. The pair moved to Austin, Texas, in 2007.
Mr Peacock’s rivalry with John Howard became one of the defining political relationships of the 1980s as the pair battled for the heart and soul of the Liberal Party. Mr Peacock became the leader after the defeat of the Fraser government in 1983 and gained a swing in the 1984 election. But he resigned the leadership the following year after he failed to have his deputy, Mr Howard, removed.
Mr Peacock, leader of the “wet” faction, unsuccessfully challenged Mr Howard, the leader of the economic “dries”, in 1987. Instead he was elected deputy leader. But he succeeded in replacing Mr Howard in 1989.
Mr Peacock’s second term lasted less than a year. He resigned after the Liberals lost the 1990 election. He left politics in 1994, paving the way for Mr Howard to return to the leadership the following year — and be dubbed Lazarus with a triple bypass. Mr Howard went on to defeat the Keating government in 1996.
In 1997 Mr Peacock was appointed ambassador to the US.
Despite never becoming prime minister, Mr Peacock thrived in his post-political life and never lost his sense of humour. Asked about his biggest defeat, in an interview with The Weekend Australian in 2019, Mr Peacock said: “Unquestionably, far and away it was the 1974 Melbourne Cup when Leilani was beaten by Think Big.’’
The horseracing enthusiast was a part-owner of Leilani. “I still have nightmares over it,” he said. “Leilani won everything but the Melbourne Cup. She came second and she was favourite, but she got caught in the shadows of the post. That was a shattering blow.’’
Speaking in 2019 to mark his 80th birthday Mr Peacock reflected on his life in politics.
“Unlike most of my colleagues I did not hunger for the job as prime minister,’’ he says. “I truly was more interested in what we were doing than the post itself. I wanted good posts. I wanted to be the foreign minister, but being prime minister was not the central orient; it wasn’t the central purpose to what I was doing.
“I mean it was still important and disappointing to lose (in 1990). I don’t want to put it down, but I wasn’t sitting there like some do plotting to be prime minister. It wasn’t in my nature.’’
Mr Peacock is survived by his wife, Penne Percy Korth Peacock, and his three daughters, Ann, Caroline and Jane.
Obituary courtesy of The Australian: Joe Kelly and Sid Maher.