Monday, October 6, 2008

Masonic Prime Ministers of Australia

A Publication of the Museum of Freemasonry

Since Federation there have been 25 Prime Ministers of Australia. It is not surprising to learn that of this number 10 have been Freemasons.

Freemasons were prominent in the political and social life of this country. The "Father of the Constitution", Sir Samuel Griffith was a Freemason. Indeed, of the first three Justices of the High Court, two were Freemasons.

Freemasons also played a significant role in our first Parliament.
House of Representatives: 30 of the 75
Members were Freemasons Senate: 14 of the 36 Members were Freemasons.

In the first Parliament 12 of the Electorates were named after Freemasons.

Edmund Barton (1849-1920)

Federationist, Prime Minister and judge was born in Sydney the son of an accountant/stockbroker. He was educated at Fort Street High School. In 1872 he was admitted to the bar. He successfully stood for the University of Sydney seat in the NSW Legislative Assembly in 1879.

For more than ten years he campaigned for federation. At the 1897 Convention poll he was elected first of the ten NSW delegates. After the first election the Governor General asked Sir William Lyne to form a government he was unsuccessful and so Barton was then asked and he was successful and became Australias first Prime Minister. In 1903 he resigned from Parliament and was appointed to the High Court where he gained a reputation as a good and impartial judge. He is buried in South Head Cemetery .

Initiated: Australian Lodge of Harmony No. 556 English Constitution in Sydney on 13 March 1878. Became Senior Deacon of the Lodge on 9 June 1880

George Reid (1845-1918)

Prime Minister for less than a year (190405), Reid was Leader of the Opposition for six years. After eight years as a member of the House of Representatives he resigned to become Australia's first High Commissioner in London.

A 'Father of Federation', Reid was a member of the New South Wales parliament for 20 years, and Premier from 1894 to 1899.

In the last two years of his life Reid was a member of the ' Mother of Parliaments', with a seat in the House of Commons from January 1916 until his death in 1918.

Initiated in Lodge Centennial No. 169 UGL of NSW on 16 November 1896.

William McMahon (1908 -1988)

Educated at Sydney Grammar School and the University of Sydney, where he studied law, he practised as a solicitor before enlisting in the 2nd AIF in early 1940. He served in Australia before being discharged in 1945 with the rank of Major.

McMahon entered parliament in 1949, winning the Sydney House of Representatives seat of Lowe for the Liberal Party. This was the election that returned the Liberals to government in coalition with the Country Party for a period in power that lasted 23 years. McMahon served on the backbench for only 18 months before promotion to the ministry as Minister for the service departments of Navy and Air (195154). Throughout the 1950s and 1960s he served successively as Minister for Social Services (195456), Primary Industry (195658), Labour and National Service (195866), Treasurer (196669), External Affairs (196070) and Foreign Affairs (197071).

McMahon served as Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party under Prime Ministers Harold Holt and John Gorton between 1966 and 1971. In March 1971, one month after McEwens retirement from parliament, McMahon succeeded in a leadership challenge against Gorton and became Prime Minister.

After 23 years of coalition government, McMahon lost the 1972 general election. McMahon resigned as party leader after the election. He remained in parliament until 1982 but did not have a front bench role in later Liberal governments. McMahon was appointed a member of the Privy Council in 1966, made a Companion of Honour in 1972, and knighted in 1977.

Initiated: Lodge University of Sydney No. 544 UGL of NSW on 22 March 1974.

John Gorton ( 1911 - 2002)

John Gorton was born in Melbourne in 1911 and lived most of his childhood in Sydney. He joined the RAAF on the outbreak of World War II, serving in the United Kingdom, Singapore, Darwin and Milne Bay (Papua New Guinea). He was discharged with the rank of Flight Lieutenant in 1944 after being severely wounded during air operations.

John Gorton was elected to the Senate in 1949 as a senator for the state of Victoria. He entered the Menzies ministry in 1958 as Minister for the Navy, a position he held until 1963. He was subsequently Minister for Works (196367), Minister for the Interior (196364) and Minister for Education and Science (196668) in the governments of Menzies and Holt. After Harold Holt disappeared in late 1967, Gorton became leader of the Liberal Party. John Gorton was Prime Minister of Australia from 1968 to 1971, when he was replaced as party leader by William McMahon.

Gorton resigned from the Liberal Party on 23 May 1975, sitting as an independent in the House of Representatives until the end of the parliamentary term.

John Gorton was appointed a member of the Privy Council and in 1971 a Companion of Honour. He was knighted in 1977, and appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia in 1988.

Joseph Cook ( 1860 - 1947 )

Joseph Cook entered the New South Wales Legislative Assembly as one of the first Labor members in the election of 1891. Feeling constrained by Labor's strict caucus rules, he left the party for George Reid's Free Trade group and the position of Postmaster-General in Reid's government. Cook was elected to the first Commonwealth parliament after Federation in 1901. Here he retained his support for Reid. When Reid retired in 1908, Joseph Cook became leader of the Free Trade Party and, in 1909 with Alfred Deakin, formed the first Liberal government. Cook served as Minister for Defence in this government.

In 1913, Cook replaced Deakin as Leader of the Liberal Party opposition and in June of that year became the Prime Minister following the general election. Following a double dissolution instigated by Cook in 1914, the Liberal Party lost the election and Labor regained control of both houses of parliament.

When 'Billy' Hughes left the Labor Party in 1916, a Nationalist coalition government was formed with Cook as Deputy Prime Minister. He served as Minister for the Navy (191720) and Treasurer (1920). Cook represented Australia at the Imperial War Conference (1918) and Versailles Peace Conference (1919) and acted as Prime Minister for five months in 1921. He resigned from parliament in November 1921 to become High Commissioner in London.

Joseph Cook returned to Australia in 1927 at the conclusion of his term as High Commissioner. In 192829 he headed the Royal Commission into South Australia as affected by Federation. He died in Sydney in 1947.

Initiated in Lodge Independent No. 8 UGL of NSW in Lithgow on 12 February 1892

John Mc Ewan ( 1900 - 1980)

A former clerk in the Crown Solicitor's Office, Melbourne, John McEwen enlisted in the First AIF in the last year of World War I (1918). He later became active in the Victorian Farmers' Union and the Victorian Country Party. McEwen was elected to the House of Representatives in 1934 as a Victorian Country Party representative, but he soon shifted his allegiance to the federal Country Party, which was the junior partner in the coalition government led by Joseph Lyons.

McEwen was promoted to the ministry in 1937 as Minister for the Interior. He ceased to be a minister when the Country Party dropped out of the governing coalition when Robert Menzies first became leader of the United Australia Party. But he became Minister for External Affairs and, later, Minister for Air and Minister for Civil Aviation when the Country Party, by then led by Arthur Fadden, re-joined the government.

In Opposition for most of the 1940s, McEwen again became a minister in the Menzies government, which was formed in December 1949. He was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (194956), Minister for Trade (195663) and Minister for Trade and Industry (196371). He remained in the ministry of the LiberalCountry party coalition until his retirement from politics in 1971.

McEwen was narrowly beaten for the Country Party leadership in 1939, losing to Arthur Fadden. But he was successful in 1958, when he succeeded Fadden as both Party leader and Deputy Prime Minister. McEwen became Prime Minister on 19 December 1967, replacing Harold Holt, who had disappeared while swimming off the Victorian coast. His period in office was short, ending on 10 January 1968 when the Liberal Party chose John Gorton to be its leader.

John McEwen died in 1980.

Initiated: Lauderdale Lodge No. 361 Victorian Constitution on 28 July 1926. Installed as Master of the Lodge on 10 October 1936.

Arthur Fadden (1895 - 1973)

Having served a single term in the Queensland Legislative Assembly (193235), Arthur Fadden entered the House of Representatives as a member of the Country Party following a by-election for the seat of Darling Downs in 1936.

Fadden entered the government of Robert Menzies as a junior Minister (Supply and Development, and later Air, and Civil Aviation). Following the return of the United Australia Party/ Country Party coalition government after the October 1940 general election Fadden was promoted to Treasurer. On ascending to the leadership of the Country Party, appointment as deputy Prime Minister was soon to follow.

In August 1941 Menzies resigned as Prime Minister, and was replaced by Fadden, who served until 7 October 1941 when the Independents, who provided his government's majority, agreed instead to support the John Curtin-led Labor Party. This brought about a change of government.

Remaining as Country Party leader, Fadden again became Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer when the Menzies Liberal-Country Party government returned to power in December 1949. He held both posts until his retirement in December 1958.

Initiated: Caledonia Lodge No. 737 Scottish Constitution in Queensland on 20 July 1915 (now No. 34 on the register of the United Grand Lodge of Queensland).

Stanley Bruce (1883 - 1967)

Born in Australia in 1883 and raised in Melbourne, Stanley Melbourne Bruce studied at Cambridge before settling in London in the years before World War I. During the war he served with the British Army in Egypt (where he was awarded the Military medal) and Gallipoli (where he was awarded the French Croix de Guerre). Wounded at Gallipoli in 1915 he was invalided to London. In 1917 Bruce returned to Australia to join the family importing firm of Paterson, Laing and Bruce.

Bruce entered the House of Representatives in 1918, winning a by- election for the seat of Flinders. He served as Treasurer (192123) in the Hughes Nationalist Government, and became Prime Minister in 1923 when new coalition partners, the Country Party (led by Earle Page), would not accept Hughes as Nationalist Party leader. As well as Prime Minister in the BrucePage Government, Bruce also held the portfolios of External Affairs (192329), Health (192728), and Trade and Customs (1928).

Initiated in Old Melburnians Lodge No. 317 Victorian Constitution on 12 June 1925.

Earle Page ( 1880 - 1961)

Born in the New South Wales coastal centre of Grafton in 1880, Earle Page studied medicine at Sydney University, prior to joining a medical practice in his home town in 1902. He served as a doctor in the First AIF from 1916 to 1917.

Page successfully contested the seat of Cowper in the 1919 federal election as a representative of the Farmers and Settlers' Association. Along with ten other members elected on similar tickets, Page formed the Country Party in 1920 and, in 1921, emerged as its parliamentary leader. After the 1922 elections, Page used Country Party numbers to influence the governing Nationalist Party to replace its leader Billy' Hughes with Stanley Bruce and to accept the Country Party as its partner in a coalition government. Page became Deputy Prime Minister to Bruce, and Treasurer in the BrucePage government of 1923 to 1929.

Page again became Deputy Prime Minister after the 1934 election when the UAP needed Country Party support to govern. He served as Minister for Commerce, and later Minister for Health in this coalition government. Lyons died in Office on 7 April 1939, and Page was sworn in as Prime Minister until the new UAP leader, Menzies, was selected. Menzies became Prime Minister on 26 April 1939. Differences between Page and Menzies saw the Country party excluded from Menzies' first government, and Pages subsequent stepdown from Country Party leadership. Page served as Minister for Commerce (194041) and Minister for Health (194956) in the postwar Menzies government. He died in 1961.

Initiated Lodge Prince Leopold No. 87 UGL of NSW in Grafton on 4 December 1917.

Robert Menzies (1894 - 1978)

After a brief career in Victorian state politics as Attorney-General and Minister for Railways (192834), Robert Gordon Menzies entered federal parliament as member for Kooyong. He became Attorney-General in the Lyons government immediately, and deputy leader of the United Australia Party (UAP) in 1935.

When Prime Minister Joseph Lyons died in office in April 1939, Menzies was elected leader of the UAP and became Prime Minister. He led the UAP government (April 1939 March 1940) and the UAPCountry Party coalition government (March 1940 August 1941).

Following party dissension in 1941, Menzies resigned as Prime Minister to be replaced by Arthur Fadden. Instrumental in forming the Liberal Party of Australia from the remnants of the UAP in 1944, Menzies become Prime Minister for the second time on 19 December 1949, when his Liberal Party, in coalition with the Country Party, beat Labor. Menzies remained Prime Minister for a record 16 years. He won a further six general elections before retiring in 1966.

Appointed a Knight of the Thistle in 1963, Menzies resigned from the prime ministership in 1966 and retired from parliament one month later. He died in 1978.

Initiated in Austral Temple Lodge No. 110 Victorian Constitution on 10 March 1920.

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