Eric Reece

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The Honourable
Eric Reece
AC
Eric Reece.jpg
32nd Premier of Tasmania
In office
26 August 1958 – 26 May 1969
Preceded by Robert Cosgrove
Succeeded by Angus Bethune
Constituency Darwin/Braddon
In office
3 May 1972 – 31 March 1975
Preceded by Angus Bethune
Succeeded by Bill Neilson
Personal details
Born (1909-07-06)6 July 1909
Mathinna, Tasmania, Australia
Died 23 October 1999(1999-10-23) (aged 90)
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Nationality Australia Australian
Political party Australian Labor Party
Spouse(s) Alice Reece

Eric Elliott Reece, AC (6 July 1909 – 23 October 1999) was Premier of Tasmania on two occasions: from 26 August 1958 to 26 May 1969, and from 3 May 1972 to 31 March 1975.

Biography[edit]

Eric Reece was born in the small town of Mathinna on 6 July 1909. He attempted to enter the House of Representatives for the Division of Darwin at the federal elections of 1940 and 1943, but failed both times. In 1943, his successful opponent was Dame Enid Lyons. Reece was elected to the Tasmanian House of Assembly on 23 November 1946 representing the state seat of Darwin (later renamed Braddon). He was immediately appointed to cabinet. After 12 years as a minister, he became Premier in 1958 after the retirement of Robert Cosgrove.

Reece lost the premiership of Tasmania in 1969, when the ALP was narrowly defeated by the Liberal Party led by Angus Bethune ending 35 years of Labor government in Tasmania. The Liberals had gained a one-seat majority in the House of Assembly by forming a coalition with their former leader, Kevin Lyons, who had founded his own Centre Party. Nevertheless the Liberals' majority in the House of Assembly ended when Lyons quit the coalition, forcing Bethune back to the polls in 1972.[1] Reece and the Labor Party regained control in a landslide win, with Reece gaining the record for highest-ever vote in Braddon of 35.4%.

Reece was well known for his staunch support of Tasmania's Hydro Electric Commission and its power development schemes on the Gordon River, which earned him the nickname 'Electric Eric'.[2]

In 1972, he controversially approved the flooding of Lake Pedder in Tasmania's south west, which proceeded despite a determined protest movement and a blank cheque offer from Prime Minister Gough Whitlam to preserve the Lake Pedder area. Reece refused Whitlam's offer, stating that he would "not have the Federal Government interfering with the sovereign rights of Tasmania".[3]

Reece was quoted as saying:

"There was a National Park out there, but I can't remember exactly where it was . . . at least, it wasn't of substantial significance in the scheme of things. The thing that was significant was that we had to double the output of power in this state in ten years in order [to] supply the demands of industry and the community. And this was the scheme that looked as though it could do a greater part of [the] job for us."[4]

Reece was Federal President of the Labor Party on two occasions during the 1970s. He retired from active politics on 31 March 1975 after the ALP introduced a mandatory retirement age of 65. He is one of the few Australian state politicians to have never served on the backbench, having spent his entire 28-plus years in the House of Assembly as either a minister or shadow minister. He was however involved in the December 1982 rally in Queenstown in support of the Organisation for Tasmanian Development, and marched with fellow ex-Premier Robin Gray (a great and self-confessed admirer of his) in support of the Gordon-below-Franklin dam [5]

He died on 23 October 1999 at the age of 90.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bethune Memorial, Stateline (Tasmanian edition) (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), 27 August 2004.
  2. ^ Millwood, Scott. Whatever Happened to Brenda Hean? Crows Nest, NSW ISBN 978-1-74175-611-1 offers some details of his autocratic style of dealing with opposition
  3. ^ Lake Pedder 30th Anniversary, Dimensions in Time (ABC TV), 10 June 2002.
  4. ^ TimeFrame: Lake Pedder, ABC TV.
  5. ^ Pink, Kerry (2001). Through Hells Gates: A History of Strahan and Macquarie Harbour. Fifth edition. ISBN 0-646-36665-3. pp. 72 for photo, p. 73 for text.

Further reading[edit]

Green, Roger (1981) Battle for the Franklin Sydney: Australian Conservation Foundation and Fontana Books ISBN 0-00-636715-1 - specifically pp 26–38 for an extended interview as to his views of the Lake Pedder issue.

Koshin, Jillian (2009) 'Electric Eric. The Life and Times of Eric Reece an Australian State Premier' Bokprint and Maribyrnong Press ISBN 978-0-9806157-3-9 (Paperback), 978-0-980157-4-6 (Hardback)

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Robert Cosgrove
Premier of Tasmania
1958–1969
Succeeded by
Angus Bethune
Preceded by
Angus Bethune
Premier of Tasmania
1972–1975
Succeeded by
Bill Neilson