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Dawkins is Keating's first big test

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J ° h / \ M e d i a R elease Leader of the Opposition 287/91 December 23, 1991


The brawl over the Treasury is an early pointer to the inherent weakness of Paul Keating's leadership. Plainly, the new Prime Minister wants to reward co-plotter John Dawkins with the second most important job in the Federal Government.

Equally plainly, the Right-wing faction wants its man - Ralph Willis - to stay. Senator Graham Richardson is out to prove that he is the real power, the strong man in the Keating Government.

If Senator Richardson gets his way, the new Prime Minister's leadership will be compromised at its very outset. Mr Keating's predicament exposes a quadruple weakness:

First, like all Labor leaders, he cannot choose who will be in his Ministry and must work with whomever Caucus gives him.

Second, he dare not move for a "spill" of

Ministerial positions for fear of a bloodbath in Caucus where feelings still run high after the political assassination of Bob Hawke - Bob Hawke's failure to spill all positions has severely

constrained the new Prime Minister.

Third, his authority to appoint Ministers is subject to the influence of the factions. Every Prime Ministerial appointment and every Prime Ministerial decision is subject to factional veto.

And fourth, he can't force early resignations from the Ministry and the Parliament because he can't risk an electoral setback so early in his term as Prime Minister.

Unlike Bob Hawke, Paul Keating has no known skills as a conciliator and consensus builder with which to hold Caucus together. And he lacks the clear support base to deal

decisively with the factions.

Hence the new Prime Minister is at the mercy of the faction leaders and the corrosive Hawke-Keating rivalry is likely to degenerate into an all-out factional war as the Party barons try to demonstrate their muscle.