John Anderson (Australian politician)

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The Honourable
John Anderson
11th Deputy Prime Minister of Australia
In office
20 July 1999 – 6 July 2005
Prime Minister John Howard
Preceded by Tim Fischer
Succeeded by Mark Vaile
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Gwydir
In office
15 April 1989 – 17 October 2007
Preceded by Ralph Hunt
Succeeded by Division abolished
Personal details
Born (1956-11-14) 14 November 1956 (age 57)
Political party National Party
Spouse(s) Julia
Children 5 (Jessica, Nicholas, Georgina, Laura and Andrew)
Alma mater University of Sydney
Religion Anglican[1] (Evangelical)[2]

John Duncan Anderson AO (born 14 November 1956) is a former Australian politician. He served as the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia and Leader of the rural-based National Party of Australia from July 1999 to July 2005.

Early years[edit]

Anderson was born in Sydney, but his family have been graziers (sheep ranchers) and landowners in northern New South Wales since the 1840s. When he was three years old, his mother died of cancer. In a tragic accident, his younger sister died after Anderson hit a cricket ball into the back of her neck while he was playing with his father. He was educated at The Kings School as a boarder in Hake House and has a Master of Arts degree from the University of Sydney where he was also the Resident of St. Paul's College (A residential college within the University of Sydney). He was a farmer and grazier on family properties before entering politics.

Political career[edit]

In 1989 Anderson was elected to the House of Representatives as MP for the rural seat of Gwydir, at a by-election following the resignation of Ralph Hunt. Handsome, well-educated and well-spoken, he made an immediate impression in the National Party, and was appointed to the Opposition front bench in 1992. In March 1993 he was elected Deputy Leader of the National Party.

When the Liberal Party under John Howard won the March 1996 elections and formed a coalition government with the National Party, Anderson became Minister for Primary Industries and Energy. In 1998 he shifted to become Minister for Transport and Regional Development.

When Tim Fischer retired as National Party leader in July 1999, Anderson was elected party leader without opposition and thus became Deputy Prime Minister. He inherited a party with its electoral base in a long-term decline and facing a series of difficult policy challenges. There were some doubts that his urbane image was appropriate for a rural-based party.

Among the issues facing Anderson as National Party leader were the Liberal Party's desire to privatise the state telephone company, Telstra, which many rural Australians feared would lead to higher charges and reduced services. Anderson succeeded in delaying any action on this until an inquiry had been held, and until a guarantee could be given that there would be no reduction in services.

Nevertheless, at the 2001 federal elections, the National Party lost three seats, two of them to independent MPs, while the Liberals gained seats. As a result, the party had to give up a place in the coalition Cabinet formed after the elections. During 2003 there was speculation that Anderson would soon be quitting politics, but in September he announced that he would stay and fight the 2004 election. Despite a coalition victory, the National Party lost a further seat in the House of Representatives. The party did however pick up two seats in the Senate.

In September 2004, independent federal MP Tony Windsor claimed that he had been approached by a figure associated with the National Party with the offer of a diplomatic position in exchange for retiring from his seat of New England, which he won from the National Party in 2001, at the 2004 election. In November speaking under parliamentary privilege, Windsor said that it was Anderson, and National Party Senator Sandy Macdonald, who had made the offer, through an intermediary, Tamworth businessman Greg McGuire. Anderson, McDonald and McGuire all denied the claims.[3][4] In the end, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions found that there were no grounds to lay any charges under the Commonwealth Electoral Act, thus exonerating Anderson.

In June 2005 Anderson announced that he would resign from the ministry and as Leader of the Nationals in mid- July citing a "debilitating but thankfully benign prostate condition" and other personal concerns. The prostate condition was also described as a stress-related prostate condition, prostatitis.[5][6] "Men need to talk about these things," Mr Anderson said in an interview.

In the House of Representatives on 23 June, after Anderson's announcement of his intention to resign, members from all sides of politics, led by the Prime Minister, John Howard, and the Leader of the Opposition, Kim Beazley, praised his personal qualities and integrity.[7] Mark Vaile, his deputy, succeeded him as Nationals Leader and Deputy Prime Minister. He remained as Member for Gwydir, retiring from politics before the 2007 election.

On 13 June 2011, Anderson was named an Officer of the Order of Australia for distinguished service to the Parliament of Australia, particularly through support of rural and regional communities, transport development, and water management initiatives.[8]


  1. ^ John Warhurst, "Religion in 21st Century Australian National Politics" (link, .doc file, 91kb): In the third Howard government attention was focused rather more on the religiosity of leading government figures, including Treasurer Peter Costello (a Baptist) and Nationals’ leader John Anderson (an Anglican).
  2. ^ – reading – Faith & Duty: The John Anderson Story
  3. ^ "Anderson quizzed over bribe claims". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 18 November 2004. Retrieved 1 June 2007. 
  4. ^ "Kingmaker Windsor falls on his sword". The Sydney Morning Herald. 22 November 2004. Retrieved 1 June 2007. 
  5. ^ "Secret men's business". Retrieved 28 April 2009. 
  6. ^ "Deputy PM calls it quits – National –". Melbourne: 24 June 2005. Retrieved 28 April 2009. 
  7. ^ "House of Representatives Hansard" (PDF). Parliament of Australia. 23 June 2005. Retrieved 1 June 2007.  pp46-71
  8. ^ "John Anderson AO". Australian Honours Database. Retrieved 13 June 2011. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Bob Collins
Minister for Primary Industries and Energy
Succeeded by
Mark Vaile
Preceded by
Mark Vaile
Minister for Transport and Regional Development
Succeeded by
Warren Truss
Preceded by
Tim Fischer
Deputy Prime Minister of Australia
Succeeded by
Mark Vaile
Party political offices
Preceded by
Tim Fischer
Leader of the National Party of Australia
Succeeded by
Mark Vaile
Preceded by
Bruce Lloyd
Deputy Leader of the
National Party of Australia

Succeeded by
Mark Vaile
Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
Ralph Hunt
Member for Gwydir
Division abolished