|32nd Premier of Tasmania|
26 August 1958 – 26 May 1969
|Preceded by||Robert Cosgrove|
|Succeeded by||Angus Bethune|
3 May 1972 – 31 March 1975
|Preceded by||Angus Bethune|
|Succeeded by||Bill Neilson|
6 July 1909|
Mathinna, Tasmania, Australia
|Died||23 October 1999
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
|Political party||Australian Labor Party|
|Spouse(s)||Alice "Lal" Hanigan|
Born in the small town of Mathinna on 6 July 1909, Reece joined the Australian Workers' Union in 1934, having that year obtained a job at a copper mine after four years' unemployment. From 1935 to 1946 he was in charge of the AWU's West Coast District organisation.
Reece 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, and over the next 12 years he held various portfolios, including the Ministry of Mines, the Ministry of Housing, and the Ministry of Lands and Works. These roles he combined with the federal presidency of the Labor Party between 1952 and 1955. 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. This ended 35 years of uninterrupted 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. 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%.
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".
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."
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 
He died on 23 October 1999 at the age of 90.
- Bethune Memorial, Stateline (Tasmanian edition) (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), 27 August 2004.
- 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
- Lake Pedder 30th Anniversary, Dimensions in Time (ABC TV), 10 June 2002.
- TimeFrame: Lake Pedder, ABC TV.
- 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.
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)
|Premier of Tasmania
|Premier of Tasmania