Frank Wilkes

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The Honourable
Frank Wilkes
AM
Member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly
for Northcote
In office
1957–1988
Preceded by John Cain
Succeeded by Tony Sheehan
Personal details
Born Frank Noel Wilkes
(1922-07-16) 16 July 1922 (age 92)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Political party Australian Labor Party
Children Helen Buckingham

Frank Noel Wilkes AM (born 16 July 1922), Australian politician, was Leader of the Labor Opposition in Victoria from 1977 to 1981. Wilkes was born in Melbourne and educated at Northcote Primary and Secondary Schools and Preston Technical College. During the Second World War he served in the southwest Pacific in the Australian Army as a radio operator. After the war he studied accountancy, and worked in his father's furniture factory, of which he later became manager. In 1954 he was elected to Northcote City Council, which he almost completely dominated.[1][2] Wilkes served as a Councillor until 1978, but he never became Mayor, as work commitments being both a councillor and a parliamentarian were too great.[3]

The state electorate of Northcote had been held since 1917 by John Cain, leader of the Labor Party and three times Premier of Victoria.[4] Wilkes became a protégé of Cain's and joined the Labor Party in 1948, despite his family background in business. He was Cain's campaign manager at the 1952 and 1955 state elections. When Cain died in 1957, Wilkes was elected to the Victorian Legislative Assembly at the subsequent by-election. He became Labor Whip in 1959, and Deputy Leader in 1967.[5]

Wilkes was a loyal deputy to Clyde Holding,[4] who led the party in opposition from 1967 to 1977 and lost three elections to the Liberal Party, first to Henry Bolte and then to Dick Hamer. When Holding resigned after the 1976 election, Wilkes claimed the leadership by right of long and loyal service, rather than any outstanding ability. He was an uninspiring speaker and no match for the urbane Hamer in Parliament or on the hustings. Nevertheless, at the 1979 state elections, Labor under Wilkes gained eleven seats, the party's best showing for many years.[6]

Few in the Labor Party believed that Wilkes could defeat the Liberals, however, and the 1979 election had seen John Cain, son of the former Premier and a man most believed to be of greater ability than Wilkes, elected to Parliament. During 1980 and 1981 Cain's supporters destabilized Wilkes's leadership and eventually forced his resignation.[7] When Cain led Labor to victory in 1982, Wilkes was made Minister for Local Government. He retired in 1988 from Parliament after more than 30 years service. In the 1989 Queen's Birthday honours, he was made a Member of the Order of Australia for service to government and politics and to the Victorian parliament.[8]

Wilkes was the last ALP leader who did not become Premier until Jim Kennan.

Wilkes' daughter Helen Buckingham[5] was a Labor member of the Victorian Legislative Council from 2002 to 2006.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Lyle Allan (1984), 'Ethnic transition in inner-Melbourne politics', in James Jupp (ed.), Ethnic Politics in Australia, George Allen and Unwin, North Sydney, New South Wales, page 143. ISBN 0-86861-334-7
  2. ^ R.H. Badham (1977), 'Introducing Frank Wilkes', Nation Review, 9–15 June.
  3. ^ Andrew Lemon (1983), The Northcote Side of the River, Hargreen Publishing Company, North Melbourne, Page 269. ISBN 0-949905-12-7
  4. ^ a b Max Hollingsworth (7 June 1977). "Wilkes: Man Most Likely to Succeed?". The Age. p. 8. 
  5. ^ a b H E Buckingham (12 September 2006). "Condolences". Council Extract. Retrieved 2010-12-03. 
  6. ^ Michael O'Grady (1979), 'The party leaders: Hamer and Wilkes,' in Peter Hay, Ian Ward, John Warhurst (eds.), Anatomy of an Election, Hill of Content, Melbourne, Victoria, pages 91-104.
  7. ^ "Northcote". ABC Elections Victoria 2006. ABC News. 22 November 2006. Retrieved 2010-01-23. 
  8. ^ Wilkes, Frank Noel, It's an Honour, 12 June 1989.
Victorian Legislative Assembly
Preceded by
John Cain, Sr.
Member for Northcote
1957–1988
Succeeded by
Tony Sheehan
Political offices
Preceded by
Clyde Holding
Leader of the Opposition (Victoria)
1977–1981
Succeeded by
John Cain, Jr.
Party political offices
Preceded by
Clyde Holding
Leader of the Australian Labor Party in Victoria
1977–1981
Succeeded by
John Cain, Jr.