Peter Reith was a member of the Australian Parliament's House of Representatives. Over time, he rose to become one of its most prominent members. If things had gone slightly different on a number of occasions, he could well have become prime minister.

Even as it would stand, Reith became one of the top members of prime minister John Howard's Cabinet. Reith was a member of the Liberal Party of Australia, which is actually the country's top political party. His Parliamentary career was not without controversy. Which is perhaps in the end barred him from the prime ministerial role.

Both the highs and the lows of Reith's political career have now been examined anew.

Reith died on November 8, 2022

Peter Reith has passed away, report the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the South Coast Register. The apparent cause of death was complications from Alzheimer's disease, which he'd been stricken with.

News of Reith's passing was quickly met with a number of statements expressing condolences and mourning. Including former prime ministers John Howard and Tony Abbott and current opposition leader Peter Dutton.

Reith was first elected to the Australian House of Representatives in a 1982 by-election. He won his seat from the Victorial electoral division of Flinders. The by-election was triggered by the resignation of the previous Flinders MP, Philiip Lynch.

Lynch has been the deputy leader of the Liberal Party and a Cabinet member under three prime ministers. But battles with ill health compelled him to resign and he died from stomach cancer not long after.

Reith's first stay in Parliament was quite brief. Just months later, he was ousted in the 1983 federal election by the Australian Labor Party's Bob Chynoweth.

But as it would turn out, Reith wouldn't have to wait long for another chance. Following re-districting, Chynoweth opted to successfully run in the division of Dunkley. Meanwhile, Reith won back his previous seat from Flinders.

This time, Peter Reith kept his Parliamentary status for several years. In 1990, he ran for the leadership of the Liberal Party, but lost to John Hewson.

Hewson was an MP from the New South Wales electoral division of Wentworth. But he would win the post of deputy leader of the Liberals. Which also in effect made him the deputy leader of the Official Opposition. He later lost his deputy role to fellow Victoria MP Michael Wooldridge.

Eventually was appointed as defense minister

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Peter Reith was perhaps at the height of his political career. He was viewed as a possible successor to John Howard as Liberal leader and prime minister. However, around that same time, reports involving his family and improper phone usage emerged. To make a long story short, excessive phone use by Reith and his son cost Australian taxpayers about $50,000.

This seemed to effectively end the speculation about the elder Reith's chances at becoming prime minister.

Despite this, Howard appointed him as minister of defense, one of the country's top Cabinet jobs. But shortly after, Reith announced his intentions to retire from Parliament. He did not stand for re-election in the 2001 federal election. He was succeeded in the Flinders division by fellow Liberal Greg Hunt. Hunt later became a Cabinet member under Prime Ministers Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull. South Australia Senator Robert Hill took over for Reith as defense minister.

Would attempt a political comeback

Peter Reith would step back into the political foray about a decade later. In 2011, he unsuccessfully challenged sitting Liberal Party President Alan Stockdale for the office.

Reith lost by a single vote. The decisive vote seemed to come from Tony Abbott, who was recorded on camera as voting for Stockdale. It was made even more notable due to Abbott being something of a protégé of Reith's. He had succeeded him in two Cabinet roles during the Howard premiership.

Later, Reith wrote regularly for The Sydney Morning Herald. He also appeared frequently as a television political commentator for Sky News Australia. In 2017, Reith was planning to make another political run. Gearing to challenge incumbent Michael Kroger for the Presidency of the Victoria chapter of the Liberal Party. But Reith's health would take a turn for the worse. After being hospitalized with apparent bleeding on the brain, he aborted his campaign plans.