Eric Harrison

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For other people named Eric Harrison, see Eric Harrison (disambiguation).
The Right Honourable
Sir Eric Harrison
KCMG, KCVO
Eric John Harrison.jpg
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Wentworth
In office
19 December 1931 – 17 October 1956
Preceded by Walter Marks
Succeeded by Les Bury
Personal details
Born (1892-09-07)7 September 1892
Surry Hills, New South Wales
Died 26 September 1974(1974-09-26) (aged 82)
Chatswood, New South Wales
Nationality Australian
Political party UAP (1931–45)
Liberal (1945–56)
Spouse(s) Mary Cook McCall
Children Shirley Walters
Occupation Soldier

Sir Eric John Harrison KCMG KCVO (7 September 1892 – 26 September 1974) was an Australian politician who became the first Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party of Australia. He was also the first Leader of the House of Representatives.

Biography[edit]

Harrison was born in the Sydney suburb of Surry Hills and educated at Crown Street Superior Public School. He left school at 13 to work in the textile industry and soon became a manager of a textile factory. In October 1916 he joined in the First Australian Imperial Force and served from December 1917 on the Western Front in the 5th Field Artillery Brigade and was promoted to sergeant in May 1918. He married Mary Cook McCall in 1920.[1]

Political career[edit]

Although Harrison had not previously been politically active, in 1931 he established a branch of Joseph Lyons' All for Australia League in the Sydney suburb of Auburn, within Jack Lang's Auburn electorate, with police protection. In the December 1931 general elections he defeated Walter Marks for the House of Representatives seat of Wentworth, although both had been endorsed by the United Australia Party (UAP). He was appointed Minister for the Interior from 12 October 1934 in Lyons' second ministry, but lost the position on 9 November 1934 in Lyons' third Ministry, created to accommodate the Country Party. During this period he banned the entry of the Czechoslovakian anti-fascist campaigner, Egon Kisch into Australia.[1]

In November 1938 Harrison became Minister without portfolio administering External Territories, and in April 1939 was appointed Postmaster-General and Minister for Repatriation in Robert Menzies' first ministry, when the Country Party left the coalition. When they returned in March 1940, he was again left out of the ministry. He became Minister for Trade and Customs in Menzies third ministry in October 1940. He is notable for making available a newsprint ration for Ezra Norton's Daily Mirror in 1941, while tightening overall newsprint rationing.

Harrison was a strong supporter of Menzies, as he continued to be after World War II. He went into opposition with the defeat of the Fadden government in October 1941 and almost lost his seat to suffragette and Australian Labor Party candidate Jessie Street in December 1943.[1]

Harrison was commissioned as an officer in the Militia in 1940 and in 1942 and 1943 he was a full-time liaison officer with the United States military forces in Australia. On one occasion he wore a uniform in Canberra, causing Eddie Ward to denounce him as a fake soldier and to accuse him of having been a member of the New Guard.

His wife died in 1941 and in October 1944 he married Linda Ruth Yardley, née Fullerton, a widow and a businesswoman.

He became Deputy Leader of the UAP in April 1944 and became the first Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party of Australia when it was formed in late 1944, holding the position until 1956. He was the longest serving Liberal Party Deputy Leader until his record was broken by Peter Costello in 2006.

He was a vocal critic of the Curtin and Chifley governments.[1]

Post war[edit]

Following the Liberal Party's win in the December 1949 election, Harrison became Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (until March 1950) and Minister for Defence in the Menzies ministry. From April 1950 until March 1951 he was resident in London, and in October 1950 he moved from the Defence portfolio to become Minister for the Interior. In May 1951, he became Minister for Defence Production and Vice-President of the Executive Council in Menzies' fifth ministry and the inaugural Leader of the House. From November 1955 to February 1956, he was also Minister for the Army and Minister for the Navy.[1]

Harrison resigned from parliament in 1956 and became Australian High Commissioner in London, where he was an outspoken advocate of the "white" Commonwealth.

The Harrisons returned to Australia in September 1964 and moved to the Sydney suburb of Castle Cove. He died at Chatswood of Parkinson's disease and was survived by his wife and the three daughters of his first marriage.[1] One of his daughters was Shirley Walters, a Senator for Tasmania 1975–93.

Honours[edit]

Harrison was made a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (KCVO) in 1954 as a result of being minister in charge of the royal visit of Queen Elizabeth II. This was an honour within the Queen's personal gift. He was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) in 1961 for his service as High Commissioner to the UK.[1]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Macintyre, Stuart (1996). "Harrison, Sir Eric John". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: Australian National University. Retrieved 20 September 2007. 

External links[edit]

Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
Walter Marks
Member for Wentworth
1931–1956
Succeeded by
Les Bury
Political offices
Preceded by
John Perkins
Minister for the Interior
1934
Succeeded by
Thomas Paterson
Preceded by
John Perkins
Minister without portfolio administering
External Territories

1938–1939
Succeeded by
John Perkins
Preceded by
Archie Cameron
Postmaster-General
1939–1940
Succeeded by
Harold Thorby
Preceded by
Harry Foll
Minister for Repatriation
1939–1940
Succeeded by
Geoffrey Street
Preceded by
George McLeay
Minister for Trade and Customs
1940–1941
Succeeded by
Richard Keane
Preceded by
John Dedman
Minister for Defence
1949–1950
Succeeded by
Philip McBride
Minister for Postwar Reconstruction
1949–1950
Succeeded by
Richard Casey
(National Development)
Preceded by
Philip McBride
Minister for the Interior
1950–1951
Succeeded by
Wilfrid Kent Hughes
New title Minister for Defence Production
1951–1956
Succeeded by
Howard Beale
Preceded by
Robert Menzies
Vice-President of the Executive Council
1951–1956
Succeeded by
Neil O'Sullivan
Preceded by
Josiah Francis
Minister for the Army
1955–1956
Succeeded by
John Cramer
Minister for the Navy
1955–1956
Succeeded by
Neil O'Sullivan
Party political offices
Preceded by
none
Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party of Australia
1944–1956
Succeeded by
Harold Holt
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Sir Thomas White
Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom
1956–1964
Succeeded by
Alec Downer