As prime minister, Keating moved to deregulate the financial markets and privatize government businesses, including the national airline. He emphasized Australia's ties with Asia and the importance of competing in a global economy. Keating also advocated Australia's withdrawal from even nominal British rule and its adoption of a purely republican mode of government. Although he initiated a number of successful free-market reforms, ongoing economic problems undid his administration. In the elections of 1996 Labor was defeated by a Liberal-National coalition led by John Howard. Keating stepped down as Labor party leader and then resigned his seat in parliament, ending a 27-year career in politics.
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