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Robert Menzies

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Robert Menzies

The Right Honourable
Sir Robert Menzies
12th Prime Minister of Australia
Elections: 1940, 1946, 1949, 1951, 1954, 1955, 1958, 1961, 1963
In office
19 December 1949 – 26 January 1966
Monarch George VI
Elizabeth II
Governor General Sir William McKell
Sir William Slim
Viscount Dunrossil
Viscount De L'Isle
Lord Casey
Preceded by Ben Chifley
Succeeded by Harold Holt
In office
26 April 1939 – 29 August 1941
Monarch George VI
Governor General Lord Gowrie
Preceded by Earle Page
Succeeded by Arthur Fadden
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Kooyong
In office
15 September 1934 – 16 February 1966
Preceded by John Latham
Succeeded by Andrew Peacock
Deputy Premier of Victoria
In office
May 1932 – July 1934
Premier Stanley Argyle
Preceded by Albert Dunstan
Succeeded by Wilfrid Kent Hughes
Constituency Nunawading
Personal details
Born Robert Gordon Menzies
(1894-12-20)20 December 1894
Jeparit, Victoria, Australia
Died 15 May 1978(1978-05-15) (aged 83)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Political party Nationalist Party of Australia (1928–1931)
United Australia Party (1931–1945)
Liberal Party of Australia (1945–1966)
Spouse(s) Dame Pattie Menzies (née Leckie)
Children 3
Alma mater University of Melbourne
Profession Lawyer
Religion Presbyterianism[1]

Sir Robert Gordon Menzies, KTAKCHFAAFRSQC[2] (20 December 1894 – 15 May 1978), was an Australian politician and the 12th Prime Minister of Australia. He served over 18 collective years, and is Australia's longest-serving prime minister.


  • Early life 1
  • Rise to power 2
  • First term as Prime Minister 3
  • Formation of Liberal Party and return to power 4
  • Second term as Prime Minister 5
  • Retirement and legacy 6
  • Last years 7
  • Death 8
  • Other 9
  • Titles and honours 10
    • Appointments 10.1
    • Medals 10.2
    • Styles from birth 10.3
  • See also 11
  • Actors who have played Menzies 12
  • Eponyms of Menzies 13
  • Further reading 14
  • Notes and references 15
  • External links 16

Early life

Robert Gordon Menzies was born to killed in Khartoum in 1885.[7]

Menzies' formal education began at Humffray Street State School in Bakery Hill, Ballarat,[8] then later at private school in Ballarat. He attended (Wesley College) in Melbourne and studied law at the University of Melbourne, graduating in 1916.

When World War I began, Menzies was 19 years old and held a commission in the university's militia unit. He resigned his commission at the very time others of his age and class clamoured to be allowed to enlist. It was later stated that, since the family had made enough of a sacrifice to the war with the enlistment of two of three eligible brothers, Menzies should stay to finish his studies.[6] Menzies himself never explained the reason why he chose not to enlist. It should be noted that the two brothers, James and Frank, who did enlist did not do so until 1915 after the landings at Anzac which belies the alleged reason.[9][10] Subsequently he was prominent in undergraduate activities and won academic prizes and declared himself to be a patriotic supporter of the war and conscription.[11] Menzies was admitted to the Victorian Bar and to the High Court of Australia in 1918 and soon became one of Melbourne's leading lawyers after establishing his own practice. In 1920 he married Pattie Leckie, the daughter of federal Nationalist, and later Liberal, MP, John Leckie.

Rise to power

In 1928, Menzies gave up his law practice to enter state parliament as a member of the Victorian Legislative Council from East Yarra Province, representing the Nationalist Party of Australia. His candidacy was nearly defeated when a group of ex-servicemen attacked him in the press for not having enlisted, but he survived this crisis. The following year he shifted to the Legislative Assembly as the member for Nunawading. Before the election, he founded the Young Nationalists as his party's youth wing and served as its first president. He was Deputy Premier of Victoria from May 1932 until July 1934.

Menzies transferred to federal politics in 1934, representing the United Australia Party (UAP—the Nationalists had merged with other non-Labor groups to form the UAP during his tenure as a state parliamentarian) in the upper-class Melbourne electorate of Kooyong. He was immediately appointed Attorney-General and Minister for Industry in the Lyons government. In 1937 he was appointed a Privy Councillor.

In late 1934 and early 1935 Menzies, then Attorney-General, unsuccessfully prosecuted the Joseph Lyons government's case for the attempted exclusion from Australia of Egon Kisch, a Czech Jewish communist. While some saw this as an early example of his anti-Communism, others suspected and charged Menzies with holding Nazi sympathies. Following the outbreak of World War II Menzies attempted to distance himself from his actions as Attorney-General in this affair by claiming Interior Minister Thomas Paterson was responsible since he made the initial order to exclude Kisch.

In August 1938, as Attorney-General of Australia in the pro-Appeasement Lyons government, Menzies visited Germany, letting it be known that he was "prepared to give Hitler the benefit of the doubt, and draw my conclusions about Germany myself." Animosity developed between Sir Earle Page and Menzies which was aggravated when Page became Acting Prime Minister during Lyons's illness after October 1938. Menzies and Page attacked each other publicly. He later became deputy leader of the UAP. His supporters said he was Lyons's natural successor; his critics accused Menzies of wanting to push Lyons out, a charge he denied. In 1938 his enemies ridiculed him as "Pig Iron Bob", the result of his industrial battle with waterside workers who refused to load scrap iron being sold to Imperial Japan. In 1939, however, he resigned from the Cabinet in protest at postponement of the national insurance scheme. With Lyons's sudden death on 7 April 1939, Page became Prime Minister until the UAP could elect a leader.

First term as Prime Minister

Menzies broadcasting to the nation the news of the outbreak of war, 1939 (see quote in text)

On 18 April 1939 Menzies was elected Leader of the UAP and was sworn in as Prime Minister eight days later. A crisis arose almost immediately, however, when Page refused to serve under him. In an extraordinary personal attack in the House, Page accused Menzies of cowardice for not having enlisted in the War, and of treachery to Lyons. Menzies then formed a minority government. When Page was deposed as Country Party leader a few months later, Menzies reformed the Coalition with Page's successor, Archie Cameron. On 3 September 1939 Britain and France declared war on Germany due to its invasion of Poland on 1 September, leading to the start of World War II.[12] Menzies responded immediately by also declaring Australia to be at war in support of Britain, and delivered a radio broadcast to the nation on that same day, which began:

Thus Menzies at the age of 44 found himself a wartime leader of a small nation of 7 million people that depended on Britain for defence against the looming threat of the Japanese Empire, with 100 million people, a very powerful military, and an aggressive foreign policy that looked south. He did his best to rally the country, but the bitter memories of the disillusionment which followed World War I made his task difficult, this being compounded by Menzies' lack of a service record. Further, as Attorney-General and Deputy Prime Minister, Menzies had made an official visit to Germany in 1938, when the official policy of the Australian government, supported by the Opposition, echoed the United Kingdom in supporting Neville Chamberlain's policy of Appeasement. He led the Coalition into the 1940 election and lost the large majority he had inherited from Lyons. The result was a hung parliament, with the Coalition two seats short of a majority but Menzies managed to form a minority government with the support of two independent MPs, Arthur Coles and Alex Wilson. Labor, led by John Curtin, refused Menzies' offer to form a war coalition, and opposed using the Australian army for a European war, preferring to keep it at home to defend Australia. Labor agreed to participate in the Advisory War Council. Menzies sent the bulk of the army to help the British in the Middle East and Singapore, and told Winston Churchill the Royal Navy needed to strengthen its Far Eastern forces.[15]

Menzies and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in 1941

From 24 January 1941 Menzies spent four months in Britain discussing war strategy with Churchill and other Empire leaders, while his position at home deteriorated. Professor

Victorian Legislative Council
Preceded by
James Merritt
Member for East Yarra Province
1928 – 1929
Succeeded by
Sir Clifden Eager
Victorian Legislative Assembly
Preceded by
Edmund Greenwood
Member for Nunawading
1929 – 1934
Succeeded by
William Boyland
Political offices
Preceded by
Sir Albert Dunstan
Deputy Premier of Victoria
1932 – 1934
Succeeded by
Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes
Preceded by
Ian MacFarlan
Attorney General of Victoria
1932 – 1934
Succeeded by
Albert Bussau
Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
John Latham
Member for Kooyong
1934 – 1966
Succeeded by
Andrew Peacock
Political offices
Preceded by
John Latham
Minister for Industry
1934 – 1939
Succeeded by
Billy Hughes
Attorney-General of Australia
1934 – 1938
Preceded by
Earle Page
Prime Minister of Australia
1939 – 1941
Succeeded by
Arthur Fadden
Preceded by
Geoffrey Street
Minister for Defence Coordination
1939 – 1941
Succeeded by
John Curtin
Preceded by
Richard Casey
Treasurer of Australia
1940 – 1941
Succeeded by
Percy Spender
Preceded by
John Lawson
Minister for Trade and Customs
Succeeded by
George McLeay
New title Minister for Munitions
Succeeded by
Philip McBride
Preceded by
Arthur Fadden
Leader of the Opposition of Australia
1943 – 1949
Succeeded by
Ben Chifley
Preceded by
Ben Chifley
Prime Minister of Australia
1949 – 1966
Succeeded by
Harold Holt
Preceded by
Enid Lyons
Vice-President of the Executive Council
Succeeded by
Eric Harrison
Preceded by
Richard Casey
Minister for Foreign Affairs
1960 – 1961
Succeeded by
Garfield Barwick
Preceded by
Donald Cameron
Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific
and Industrial Research Organisation

1961 – 1962
Succeeded by
John Gorton
Party political offices
Preceded by
Joseph Lyons
Leader of the United Australia Party
1939 – 1941
Succeeded by
Billy Hughes
Preceded by
Billy Hughes
Leader of the United Australia Party
1943 – 1945
Party disbanded
New political party Leader of the Liberal Party of Australia
1945 – 1966
Succeeded by
Harold Holt
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Sir Winston Churchill
Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports
1966 – 1978
Succeeded by
Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother
Academic offices
Preceded by
Sir William Upjohn
Chancellor of the University of Melbourne
1967 – 1972
Succeeded by
Leonard Weickhardt
  • Papers of Robert Menzies, 1905-1978, National Library of Australia, approximately 82.30 m. (588 boxes) + 99 fol. boxes.
  • "Robert Menzies". Australia's Prime Ministers.  
  • Martin, A. W. (2000). "Menzies, Sir Robert Gordon (Bob) (1894–1978)".  
  • "Robert Menzies".  
  • The Menzies Foundation
  • The Menzies Virtual Museum
  • The Menzies Centre for Australian Studies, London
  • The Liberal Party's Robert Menzies website
  • Listen to Menzies' declaration of war on australianscreen online
  • Menzies' declaration of war was added to the National Film and Sound Archive's Sounds of Australia registry in 2010
  • Sir Robert Menzies at the National Film and Sound Archive
  • The Robert Menzies Collection: A Living Library

External links

  1. ^ Warhurst, John. "The religious beliefs of Australia's prime ministers". Retrieved 1 May 2014. 
  2. ^ White, F. (1979). "Robert Gordon Menzies. 20 December 1894-15 May 1978".  
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ Australian Academy of Science: Biographical Memoirs of Deceased Fellows: Robert Gordon Menzies 1894–1978
  5. ^ Rowse, Alfred Leslie. All Souls in my time, 1993
  6. ^ a b Australia's Prime Ministers website: Robert Menzies
  7. ^ Manning Clark, Manning Clark's History of Australia, Pimlico, 1995, p.468, ISBN 0-7126-6205-7. Gordon's death had stirred a lasting movement of imperialist patriotism in Australia.
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Australia's Prime Ministers". Retrieved 4 November 2011. 
  12. ^ Keegan, John (1997). The Second World War. London: Pimlico. p. 35.  
  13. ^ "MVM 1939 – Declaration of War". 3 September 1939. Retrieved 4 November 2011. 
  14. ^ "Menzies Speech: Declaration of War (1939)". australianscreen.  
  15. ^ Paul Hasluck, The Government and the People: 1939–1941 (1951)
  16. ^ a b Australian Broadcasting Corporation documentary "Menzies and Churchill at War" (2008) by Film Australia.
  17. ^ "After office - William Morris Hughes - Australia's PMs". Retrieved 17 October 2012. 
  18. ^ "Before office - Arthur Fadden - Australia's PMs - Australia's Prime Ministers". Retrieved 17 October 2012. 
  19. ^ Scott Brodie (1984). Australia's Prime Ministers. NSW, Australia: PR Books.  
  20. ^ "Ministries and Cabinets". parliamentary Handbook.  
  21. ^ Judith Brett, Robert Menzies' Forgotten People (2007)
  22. ^ "The Forgotten People – Speech by Robert Menzies (22 May 1942)". 22 May 1942. Retrieved 4 November 2011. 
  23. ^ "In office - Robert Menzies - Australia's PMs". Retrieved 17 October 2012. 
  24. ^
  25. ^ a b Hughes, Colin A; Western, John S (1966), The Prime Minister's Policy Speech: A Case Study in Televised Politics, Canberra: Australian National University Press, p. bookcover & pg. 1 
  26. ^ The London Gazette: no. 42964. p. 3155. 9 April 1963. Retrieved 30 October 2008.
  27. ^ "We did but see her".  
  28. ^ Raymond Apple (2008). The Great Synagogue: A History of Sydney's Big Shule. UNSW Press. p. 217. 
  29. ^ "MENZIES Robert Gordon". Legal Opinions. Australian Government Solicitor. Retrieved 7 May 2014. 
  30. ^ "Former Office-Bearers". University Secretary's Department University Calendar. The University of Melbourne. Retrieved 7 May 2014. 
  31. ^ "Prince here tomorrow – Rush trip to Menzies funeral". The Age (Melbourne). 17 May 1978. p. 1. Retrieved 12 August 2010. 
  32. ^ Stuart Macintyre. A Concise History of Australia.
  33. ^ "Inkstand presented to Sir Robert Menzies in Commemoration of the Commonwealth Royal Tour 1954, National Museum of Australia". Retrieved 4 November 2011. 
  34. ^ The Robert Menzies Collection: A Living Library; retrieved 18 October 2013.
  35. ^ "Its an Honour: CH". Australian Government. Retrieved 15 October 2009. 
  36. ^ "The Right Honourable Robert Gordon Menzies".  
  37. ^ a b "University Secretary's Department – Former Office-Bearers".  
  38. ^ "Speech by Sir Robert Menzies in Winthrop Hall, University of Western Australia".  
  39. ^ Honour awarded 1973 – National Archives of Australia
  40. ^
  41. ^ Origins of Current Divisions Name – Current Divisions, Australian Electoral Commission web site
  42. ^ "Menzies, Sir Robert Gordon (Bob) (1894–1978) Biographical Entry – Australian Dictionary of Biography Online". Retrieved 16 April 2010. 

Notes and references

  • Brett, Judith (1992) Robert Menzies' Forgotten People, Macmillan, (a sharply critical psychological study)
  • Cook, Ian (1999), Liberalism in Australia, Oxford University Press, South Melbourne, Victoria, Ch. 7 'Robert Menzies'. ISBN 0-19-553702-5
  • Hazlehurst, Cameron (1979), Menzies Observed, George Allen and Unwin, Sydney, New South Wales. ISBN 0-86861-320-7
  • Hughes, Colin A (1976), Mr Prime Minister. Australian Prime Ministers 1901–1972, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, Victoria, Chs. 13 and 18. ISBN 0-19-550471-2
  • Martin, A.W. (1993 and 1999) Robert Menzies: A Life, two volumes, Melbourne University Press online edition from ACLS E-Books
  • Martin, Allan (2000), 'Sir Robert Gordon Menzies,' in Grattan, Michelle, "Australian Prime Ministers", New Holland Publishers, pages 174–205. (very good summary of his life and career) ISBN 1-86436-756-3
  • Martin, A.W. (2000), "Menzies, Sir Robert Gordon (Bob) (1894 – 1978)", Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, Melbourne University Press, (Melbourne), pp 354–361.[42]
  • Starr, Graeme (1980), The Liberal Party of Australia. A Documentary History, Drummond/Heinemann, Richmond, Victoria. ISBN 0-85859-223-1

Further reading

  • Sir Robert Menzies Memorial Foundation
  • Menzies School of Health Research Australia
  • R. G. Menzies Building, Australian National University Library
  • Menzies Research Centre
  • Menzies College (La Trobe University)
  • Robert Menzies College (Macquarie University)
  • Sir Robert Menzies Building (Monash University, Clayton Campus)
  • The Australian federal electoral division of Menzies.[41]
  • Menzies Wing (Wesley College, Melbourne)

Eponyms of Menzies

Actors who have played Menzies

Bust of Robert Menzies by sculptor Wallace Anderson located in the Prime Minister's Avenue in the Ballarat Botanical Gardens

See also

  • Mr Robert Menzies (20 December 1894 – 1928)
  • The Hon. Robert Menzies, MLC (1928–1929)
  • The Hon. Robert Menzies, MLA (1929–1929)
  • The Hon. Robert Menzies, KC, MLA (1929–1934)
  • The Hon. Robert Menzies, KC, MP (1934–1937)
  • The Rt Hon. Robert Menzies, KC, MP (1937–1951)
  • The Rt Hon. Robert Menzies, CH, KC, MP (1951–1952)
  • The Rt Hon. Robert Menzies, CH, QC, MP (1952–1958)
  • The Rt Hon. Robert Menzies, CH, FAA, QC, MP (1958–1963)
  • The Rt Hon. Sir Robert Menzies, KT, CH, FAA, QC, MP (1963–1965)
  • The Rt Hon. Sir Robert Menzies, KT, CH, FAA, FRS, QC, MP (1965–1966)
  • The Rt Hon. Sir Robert Menzies, KT, CH, FAA, FRS, QC (1966–1976)
  • The Rt Hon. Sir Robert Menzies, KT, AK, CH, FAA, FRS, QC (1976 – 15 May 1978)

Styles and titles Menzies held from birth until death, in chronological order:

Styles from birth



  • In 1994, the year of the centenary of Menzies' birth, the Menzies Research Centre was created as an independent public policy think tank associated with the Liberal Party. Its first Director was Michael L'Estrange, who was later Cabinet Secretary, High Commissioner to London, and head of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.[40]
  • On 7 June 1976, he was appointed a Knight of the Order of Australia (AK). The category of Knight of the order had been created only on 24 May, and the Chancellor and Principal Knight of the Order, the Governor-General Sir John Kerr, became the first appointee, ex officio. Menzies' was the first appointment made after this.
  • In 1950 Menzies was awarded the Legion of Merit (Chief Commander) by U.S. President Harry S. Truman for "exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services 1941–1944 and December 1949 – July 1950".
The Menzies Spire at Jeparit, Victoria. In part the inscription reads: "The spire symbolises the rise to world recognition of a boy who was born in Jeparit and who rose by his own efforts to become Australia's Prime Minister and a statesman recognised and honoured throughout the world."

Titles and honours

Planning for an official biography of Menzies began soon after his death, but it was long delayed by Dame Pattie Menzies' protection of her husband's reputation and her refusal to co-operate with the appointed biographer. In 1991, the Menzies family appointed Professor A.W. Martin to write a biography, which appeared in two volumes, in 1993 and 1999. The National Museum of Australia in Canberra holds a significant collection of memorabilia relating to Robert Menzies, including a range of medals and civil awards received by Sir Robert such as his Jubilee and Coronation medals, Order of Australia, Companion of Honour and US Legion of Merit. There are also a number of special presentation items including a walking stick, cigar boxes, silver gravy boats from the Kooyong electorate and a silver inkstand presented by Queen Elizabeth II.[33] Robert Menzies′ personal library of almost 4000 books is held at the University of Melbourne Library.[34]

Several books have been filled with anecdotes about Menzies. While he was speaking in Williamstown, Victoria, in 1954, a heckler shouted, "I wouldn't vote for you if you were the Archangel Gabriel" – to which Menzies coolly replied "If I were the Archangel Gabriel, I'm afraid you wouldn't be in my constituency."

The Menzies era saw Australia become an increasingly affluent society, with average weekly earnings in 1965 50% higher in real terms than in 1945. The increased prosperity enjoyed by most Australians during this period was accompanied by a general increase in leisure time, with the five-day workweek becoming the norm by the mid-Sixties, together with three weeks of paid annual leave.[32]

He was the only Australian Prime Minister to recommend the appointment of four governors-general (Viscount Slim, and Lords Dunrossil, De L'Isle, and Casey). Only two other Prime Ministers have ever chosen more than one governor-general. (Malcolm Fraser chose Sir Zelman Cowen and Sir Ninian Stephen; and John Howard chose Peter Hollingworth and Michael Jeffery.)

Menzies was Prime Minister for a total of 18 years, five months and 12 days, by far the longest-serving Australian Prime Minister. His second term of 16 years, one month and seven days is far and away the longest unbroken tenure in that office. During his second term he dominated Australian politics as no one else has ever done. He managed to live down the failures of his first term in office and to rebuild the conservative side of politics from the nadir it hit in 1943. Menzies also did much to develop higher education in Australia and made the increasing development of Canberra one of his big projects. However, it can also be noted that while retaining government on each occasion, Menzies lost the two-party-preferred vote in 1940, 1954, and 1961.


Menzies died from a heart attack at his home in Malvern, Melbourne in 1978 and was accorded a state funeral, held in Scots' Church, Melbourne, at which Prince Charles represented the Queen.[31]


In July 1966 the Queen appointed Menzies to the ceremonial office of Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports and Constable of Dover Castle, which included an official residence at Walmer Castle during his annual visits to Britain. At the end of 1966 Menzies took up a scholar-in-residence position at the University of Virginia. He presented a series of lectures, published the following year as Central Power in the Australian Commonwealth. He later published two volumes of memoirs. In March 1967 he was elected Chancellor of Melbourne University, serving a five-year term. A stroke in 1971 limited his mobility in the last years of his life.[29][30]

Last years

On his retirement he became the thirteenth Chancellor of the University of Melbourne and remained the head of the university from March 1967 until March 1972. Much earlier, in 1942, he had received the first honorary degree of Doctor of Laws of Melbourne University. His responsibility for the revival and growth of university life in Australia was widely acknowledged by the award of honorary degrees in the Universities of Queensland, Adelaide, Tasmania, New South Wales, and the Australian National University and by thirteen universities in Canada, the United States and Britain, including Oxford and Cambridge. Many learned institutions, including the Royal College of Surgeons (Hon. FRCS) and the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (Hon. FRACP), elected him to Honorary Fellowships, and the Australian Academy of Science, for which he supported its establishment in 1954, made him a fellow (FAAS) in 1958.

Menzies resigned as Prime Minister on Australia Day 1966, and resigned from Parliament on 16 February, ending 32 years in Parliament (most of them spent as either a cabinet minister or opposition frontbencher), a combined 25 years as leader of the non-Labor Coalition, and 38 years as an elected official. To date, Menzies is the last Australian Prime Minister to leave office on his own terms. He was succeeded as Liberal Party leader and Prime Minister by his former Treasurer, Harold Holt. He left office at the age of 71 years, 1 month and 26 days, making him the oldest person ever to be Prime Minister. Although the coalition remained in power for almost another seven years (until the 1972 Federal election), it did so under four different Prime Ministers.

Sir Robert Menzies

Retirement and legacy

While proud of his Scottish Presbyterian heritage, Menzies preached religious pluralism and tolerance as the norm for Australia.[28]

In 1965, Menzies committed Australian troops to the Vietnam War, as well as the reintroduction of conscription. These moves were initially popular, but later became problematic for his successors. Despite his pragmatic acceptance of the new power balance in the Pacific after World War II and his strong support for the American alliance, he publicly professed continued admiration for links with Britain, exemplified by his admiration for Queen Elizabeth II, and famously described himself as "British to the bootstraps". Over the decade, Australia's ardour for Britain and the monarchy faded somewhat, but Menzies' had not. At a function attended by the Queen at Parliament House, Canberra, in 1963, Menzies quoted the Elizabethan poet Thomas Ford, "I did but see her passing by, and yet I love her till I die".[27]

Menzies meets with US Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara at the Pentagon in June 1964

In 1963, Menzies was appointed a Knight of the Order of the Thistle (KT),[26] the order being chosen in recognition of his Scottish heritage. He is the only Australian ever appointed to this order, although three British governors-general of Australia (Lord Hopetoun; Sir Ronald Munro Ferguson, later Lord Novar; and Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester) were members. He was the second of only two Australian prime ministers to be knighted during their term of office (the first prime minister Edmund Barton was knighted during his term in 1902).

Labor's new leader, Arthur Calwell, gave Menzies a scare after an ill-judged squeeze on credit – an effort to restrain inflation – caused a rise in unemployment. At the 1961 election the Menzies government narrowly retained government with 62 of 122 seats and a two-party vote of 49.5 percent. The Menzies government was able to exploit Labor's divisions over the Cold War and the American alliance, winning an increased majority at what would be Menzies' last election, the 1963 election. An incident in which Calwell was photographed standing outside a South Canberra hotel while the ALP Federal Executive (dubbed by Menzies the "36 faceless men") was determining policy also contributed to the 1963 victory. This was the first "television election" and Menzies, although nearly 70, proved a master of the new medium. Menzies' policy speech was televised on 12 November 1963, a method that "had never before been used in Australia".[25] The effect of this form of political communication was studied by Colin Hughes and John Western, who published their findings in 1966. This was itself the first such detailed study in Australia.[25]

Following the Egyptian dictator Colonel Nasser's nationialisation of the Suez Canal Company on 26 July 1956, Menzies led a delegation to Egypt to try to force Nasser to compromise with the West. Although, at the time it was seen as confirming Menzies' status as a world statesman, it was of vital importance to Australia's shipping trade with Britain. Menzies publicly supported the Anglo-French invasion of Egypt during the Suez Crisis.

This Cold War scare was claimed by some to enable the Menzies government to win the election. The Menzies government won 64 of 121 seats and 49.3 percent of the two-party vote. Evatt accused Menzies of arranging Petrov's defection. The aftermath of the 1954 election caused a split in the Labor Party, with several anti-Communist members from Victoria defecting to form the Australian Labor Party (Anti-Communist). The new party directed its preferences to the Liberals, with the Menzies government re-elected with an increased majority at the 1955 election. Menzies was reelected almost as easily at the 1958 election, again with the help of preferences from what had become the Democratic Labor Party. By this time the post-war economic recovery was in full swing, fuelled by massive immigration and the growth in housing and manufacturing that this produced. Prices for Australia's agricultural exports were also high, ensuring rising incomes.

Economic conditions deteriorated, however, and Labor was confident of winning the 1954 election. Shortly before the election, Menzies announced that a Soviet diplomat in Australia Vladimir Petrov, had defected, and that there was evidence of a Soviet spy ring in Australia, including members of Evatt's staff. Evatt felt compelled to state on the floor of Parliament that he'd personally written to Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov, who assured him there were no Soviet spy rings in Australia, bringing the House into silence momentarily before both sides of Parliament laughed at Evatt's naivety.[24]

Queen Elizabeth II with Menzies at an official function during her first visit to Australia in 1954

With a Senate minority for the new Menzies government, Menzies introduced legislation in 1951 to ban the Communist Party, hoping that the Senate would reject it and give him a trigger for a double dissolution election, but Labor let the bill pass. It was subsequently ruled unconstitutional by the High Court. But when the Senate rejected his banking bill, he called a double dissolution election. The Menzies government won 69 of 121 seats and 50.7 percent of the two-party vote at the 1951 election and gained control of the Senate. Later in 1951 Menzies decided to hold a referendum on the question of changing the Constitution to permit the parliament to make laws in respect of Communists and Communism where he said this was necessary for the security of the Commonwealth. If passed, this would have given a government the power to introduce a bill proposing to ban the Communist Party. Chifley died a few months after the 1951 election. The new Labor leader, Dr H. V. Evatt, campaigned against the referendum on civil liberties grounds, and it was narrowly defeated. Menzies sent Australian troops to the Korean War.

Robert and Pattie Menzies in the 1940s
1970 ABC interview with Menzies and Allan Fraser, discussing the Petrov Affair

Second term as Prime Minister

Over the next few years, however, the anti-communist atmosphere of the early Cold War began to erode Labor's support. In 1947, Chifley announced that he intended to nationalise Australia's private banks, arousing intense middle-class opposition which Menzies successfully exploited. With the lower house enlarged from 74 to 121 seats, the Menzies Liberal/Country Coalition won the 1949 election with 74 House seats and 51.0 percent of the two-party vote but remained in minority in the Senate.

The reconfigured Coalition faced its first national test in the 1946 election. It won 26 of 74 seats on 45.9 percent of the two-party vote, and remained in minority in the Senate. Comments that "we can't win with Menzies" began to circulate in the conservative press especially after it was leaked that a circular he sent to Defence Department regarding wounded soldiers from both the First and Second World War receiving a pension increase. In it he stated that "....a dead soldier cost a letter home and a plaque, Legacy provided for his family. A wounded soldier haunted governments for decades."

Labor won the 1943 election with 49 of 74 seats and 58.2 percent of the two-party-preferred vote as well as a Senate majority. Hughes resigned as UAP leader, and Menzies returned to the leadership. Fadden yielded the post of Opposition Leader back to Menzies as well. Realizing that he had inherited a party in a state of near-paralysis, Menzies held a series of meetings during 1944 to discuss forming a new anti-Labor party to replace the UAP. This was the Liberal Party of Australia, which was launched in early 1945 with Menzies as leader and inherited the UAP's role as senior partner in the Coalition. Curtin died in office in 1945 and was succeeded by Ben Chifley.

Fadden's government was defeated in Parliament later in 1941 after the two independent MPs crossed the floor, allowing Curtin to form a Labor minority government. Fadden was named as Leader of the Opposition, and Menzies moved to the backbench.[23]

"I do not believe that the real life of this nation is to be found either in great luxury hotels and the petty gossip of so-called fashionable suburbs, or in the officialdom of the organised masses. It is to be found in the homes of people who are nameless and unadvertised, and who, whatever their individual religious conviction or dogma, see in their children their greatest contribution to the immortality of their race. The home is the foundation of sanity and sobriety; it is the indispensable condition of continuity; its health determines the health of society as a whole."[22]
He made clear his intended base in a speech on 22 May 1942 that was widely distributed: [21]Menzies built up a large popular base of support by his frequent appeals, often by radio, to ordinary non-elite working citizens whom he called

Formation of Liberal Party and return to power

When Menzies came home, he found he had lost all support, and was forced to resign on 27 August. The UAP was so bereft of leadership that it turned to former Prime Minister Billy Hughes as its new leader. However, the nearly 78-year-old Hughes was viewed as a stopgap leader, and a joint UAP-Country Party conference chose Country Party leader Arthur Fadden as Coalition leader—and hence Prime Minister—even though the Country Party was nominally the junior partner in the Coalition.[17][18] Menzies was bitter about this treatment from his colleagues, and nearly left politics,[19] but was persuaded to become Minister for Defence Co-ordination in Fadden's cabinet.[20]

[16] and Joan Beaumont support Day, as does Menzies' daughter, Heather Henderson, who claimed Lady Astor "even offered all her sapphires if he would stay on in England".Judith Brett has rejected this theory, but history professors Gerard Henderson, former WWI Colonel and member of both the WWI and WWII War Cabinets. Writer Maurice Hankey for the duration, which was strongly backed by Sir War Cabinet who were trenchant critics of Churchill's purportedly autocratic style, and favoured replacing him with Menzies, who had some public support for staying on in the [16]

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