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The influence of Queensland in the Menzies government 1949-1966

By Jeffrey Wall - posted Tuesday, 25 May 2021


Not long before his passing in January 2007 Sir James Killen and I had a long discussion on the influence of Queensland in the Menzies Government between 1949 and 1966.

It was just one of the many discussions Jim and I had. I will write in the future about the founder of the Liberal Party, Sir Robert Menzies, our greatest Prime Minister and his unique association with Jim.

Sadly Jim, as he would have put it "was gathered up" before we had the time to record and hopefully publish his wonderful recollections of the Menzies era some of which he did outline in his own memoir "Killen – Inside Australian Politics".

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I well recall when then Bishop Tom Frame asked me if Jim would agree to be interviewed for his biography of Harold Holt. I drove over to Jim's home, which I did very frequently, and he readily agreed. When I dropped Bishop Frame off a few days later Jim went to his 40 or more filing cabinets and pulled out half a dozen or more large folders containing all his record on his association with Harold Holt.

As the Bishop said when he started combing through there was probably a book in them as well!

In the future I will write on our discussions on Menzies, and Harold Holt, among others.

But I want to focus now on an issue that concerned Jim greatly. And that was the contribution to the success of the Menzies Government by Queensland Minister and Members - and the Liberal and Country Party organisations - was not adequately appreciated.

When I list the names and roles of the Liberal and Country Party Ministers who served in the Menzies Government Jim's concern was surely justified! And when you add the contribution by the party organisations the significant contribution is further enhanced.

When the Menzies Government was elected in 1949 two of the top four positions in the cabinet were held by Queenslanders.

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The Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer was Sir Arthur Fadden. The Leader of the Government in the Senate was Sir Neil O'Sullivan. Both were proud Queenslanders!

It was Jim Killen's view that Sir Arthur Fadden's steady hand between 1949 and his retirement in 1958 was arguably the main reason why the Menzies Government was united, and remarkably successful. He remembered Fadden fondly and commented more than once that even though Menzies and Fadden had a massive falling out in the early 1940's, neither carried grudges, and both believed harmony within the Liberal Party and Country Party parliamentary and organisational wings was absolutely essential.

Not long after Jim was elected as Member for Moreton in 1955, Fadden called him in for a drink and reminded him "that all the best batsmen are not in the one team". In essence he urged Jim to understand his opponents as well as his colleagues – something Jim took on board and adopted throughout the rest of his long life.

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About the Author

Jeffrey Wall CSM CBE is a Brisbane Political Consultant and has served as Advisor to the PNG Foreign Minister, Sir Rabbie Namaliu Prime Minister 1988-1992 and Speaker 1994-1997.

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All articles by Jeffrey Wall

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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