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People of the Liberal Party:
Sir Robert Menzies


    Prime Minister from 24 June 1939 to 29 August 1941 and 19 December 1949 to 26 January 1966


    Sir Robert Gordon Menzies was born on 20 December 1894 in Jeparit, Victoria, into a political family. His father James became a member of the Victorian Parliament, and uncle Sydney was a member of the federal House of Representatives.

    He attended Grenville and Wesley Colleges, then Melbourne University.

    In 1916, he graduated with first class Honours in Law. He served Military training, but did not serve in the Great War.

    In 1918, he was admitted to the Bar and practised as an Attorney.

    Menzies first attempt at Parliament in 1928, saw him lose. However, he was appointed two months later when the successful candidate died.

    He resigned in a protest against rural employment subsidies and returned to practise as an Attorney.

    In 1932, he joined the United Australia Party and when they won the Victorian State Election, he became Attorney General, Minister for the Railways and Deputy Premier.

    He won the federal seat of Kooyong in 1934 and became deputy leader of the UAP.

    Prime Minister Joseph Lyons died in office in 1939 and Earl Page was appointed caretaker Prime Minister. Menzies was eventually made Prime Minister.

    In September 1939, when Britain declared War on Germany, Menzies formed a six man war cabinet. He sent troops overseas in January 1940, and retained Government in the elections of this year.

    Critics of Menzies dubbed him "Pig Iron Bob" because he fought with workers refusing to load iron ore bound for Japan to help them make weapons in the war against China.

    In early 1941, Menzies resigned and Arthur Fadden took over as Prime Minister. When the ALP won a landslide victory in 1943, the Conservative forces of Australia appeared destroyed.

    On 22 May 1942, Menzies made his famous speech The Forgotten People which outlined his philosophies and formed the nucleus of his forthcoming Liberal Party.

    Menzies made a comeback in November 1944, when he assembled a coalition of anti-Labour groups from various aspects of Australian Society. They formed the Liberal Party.

    In December 1949, Menzies won a huge victory of 71 seats to 46. Menzies remained Prime Minister until 26 January 1966, winnning a record 7 consecutive elections. The Party remained in Power until 1972.

    Menzies closest call came in 1961 after a credit squeeze, when his Government was returned with the slimmest majority of one seat.

    Menzies achievements included expanding the Education system and CSIRO. He increased immigration. He introduced medical and hospital benefits.

    Menzies helped to establish the Colombo Plan and the ANZUS treaty. He was pro-active in developing an Australia-Japan Trade Agreement. Standards of living rose over his long period of office.

    Many people criticise Menzies for not achieving much, but his formula was correct for the time.

    On 26 January 1966, Menzies retired and named Harold Holt as his successor. He retired from Public life, but was sometimes sought for a blessing on Liberal Party matters in the ensuing years. For instance in 1975, before the Liberal Party overthrew Billy Snedden as leader, it is reported that Menzies blessing was sought by those planning it.

    Menzies is often thought to have been too much larger than life, and the Party suffered a "Messiah" complex for the next three decades, whereby figures such as John Elliott, Bromwyn Bishop were elevated to "saviour" status. The early and high expectations of these and others helped to dent their careers before they could mature.

    On 15 May 1978, the founder of the Liberals was finally gone.


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Written and Authorised by A.Molloy, PO Box 669, Double Bay, 2028.
Responsibility for Election Commentary taken by A.Molloy, PO Box 669, Double Bay, 2028.
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