Jack Egerton

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Sir John (Jack) Alfred Roy Egerton (11 March 1918 – 21 December 1998) was an Australian trade union organiser and member of the Australian Labor Party. Egerton was born in Emerald, Queensland and was educated at Rockhampton and Mount Morgan High Schools.

Jack Egerton started work as a boilermaker. He became state secretary of the Queensland Boilermakers Union in 1943, and well before reaching the age of 40 he had become one of the leading figures in Queensland politics, as Premier Vince Gair found to his cost in 1957. President of the Queensland Trades and Labour Council from 1967 to 1976, Egerton also served as president of the Australian Labor Party state executive from 1968 to 1976; and as an executive of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and a member of the ALP's federal executive. In the 1970s, Egerton was Prime Minister Gough Whitlam's right-hand man in Queensland and frequently clashed with the state's conservative Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen.

In 1976 Egerton, having fallen out with Whitlam, became the Australian Labor Party's first and only knight for a quarter of a century (although, by contrast, the analogous New Zealand party had, and still has, several knights in its ranks). William McKell, who during the 1940s had been Premier of New South Wales, had accepted a knighthood in 1951, but only after leaving the ALP and being appointed Governor-General. Exactly why Egerton broke with ALP tradition and accepted the honour was a question that he never publicly answered. It is said that the only man who knew the secret was former Senator Albert Patrick Field, but Field committed suicide in 1990 without revealing anything about the subject.

Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser offered the knighthood to Egerton for service to the trade union movement. The award cost Egerton his ALP membership, and earned him the name of 'Jumping Jack the Black Knight', as well as prompting in some quarters the even more hostile epithet 'Labor Rat'. By odd coincidence, Egerton, the son of a boilermaker, received his knighthood from Governor-General John Kerr, also the son of a boilermaker. An outraged Whitlam would later say the knighthood was "the most inappropriate conferral of the title since Queen Elizabeth I knighted Sir Toby Belch". Egerton's wife, Lady (Moya) Egerton had her ALP membership restored in 1977, but Sir Jack was never reinstated to the party.[1]

Egerton was later elected as an alderman of the Gold Coast City Council 1979-85, and served as the Deputy Mayor of the Gold Coast for a time.[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Obituary, "Jumping Jack paid the price for the gong", Canberra Times, 29 December 1998, p. 13

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