Lionel Bowen

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For the English footballer, see Lionel Bowen (footballer).
The Honourable
Lionel Bowen
Lionel Bowen.jpg
6th Deputy Prime Minister of Australia
In office
11 March 1983 – 4 April 1990
Prime Minister Bob Hawke
Preceded by Doug Anthony
Succeeded by Paul Keating
Deputy Leader of the Labor Party
In office
22 December 1977 – 4 April 1990
Leader Bill Hayden
Bob Hawke
Preceded by Tom Uren
Succeeded by Paul Keating
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Kingsford Smith
In office
25 October 1969 – 19 February 1990
Preceded by Dan Curtin
Succeeded by Laurie Brereton
Personal details
Born (1922-12-28)28 December 1922
Ultimo, New South Wales
Died 1 April 2012(2012-04-01) (aged 89)
Sydney, New South Wales
Nationality Australian
Political party Australian Labor Party
Spouse(s) Claire Clement
Alma mater University of Sydney
Occupation Solicitor
Religion Roman Catholic[1]
Military service
Allegiance Australia Australia
Service/branch Australian Army
Years of service 1941–1945
Rank Corporal

Lionel Frost Bowen, AC (28 December 1922 – 1 April 2012) was an Australian politician and senior Labor Party figure, serving in the ministries of Gough Whitlam and Bob Hawke. He was Deputy Prime Minister of Australia from 1983 to 1990.

Personal life[edit]

Bowen was born in the Sydney suburb of Ultimo. His father left the family when Bowen was aged 10 years and Bowen's mother looked after her invalid brother and elderly mother, while working as a cleaner.[2] Bowen was educated at Cleveland Street public school, Marcellin College Randwick and Sydney University where he graduated with a LLB in 1946 and became a solicitor. He served in the Second Australian Imperial Force from 1941 to 1945, reaching the rank of corporal.[3][4]

Bowen and his wife, Claire, married in 1953 and had three daughters and five sons. He lived in the same home in Kensington for 73 years.[5]

Tony Bowen, a son of Lionel and Claire Bowen and a member of the Labor Party, was elected Mayor of the City of Randwick in 2012.[6] In 2013, Tony was an unsuccessful candidate for ALP preselection for Lionel's old seat of Kingsford Smith. [7]

Political career[edit]

Bowen was elected to Randwick Council and became Mayor in 1948.[8] He served in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly from 1962 to 1969, representing Randwick,[4] before being elected to the Parliament of Australia in 1969, to the seat of Kingsford Smith in the House of Representatives. From 1972 to 1975 he served successively as Minister for Manufacturing Industry, Special Minister of State and Postmaster-General in the Whitlam cabinet.

Bowen played a relatively quiet role in politics, preferring to work behind the scenes.[2][5][8] A significant achievement came as acting education minister in the Whitlam government, when he managed to split the opposition and win National Party support in the Senate for needs-based funding for non-government schools.[9]

When Whitlam resigned as Labor leader after his defeat at the 1977 election, Bowen contested the party leadership but was defeated by Bill Hayden and became Deputy Leader. He retained this position when Bob Hawke became Leader in February 1983. When Hawke won the March 1983 election, Bowen became Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade in the first Hawke Ministry. In July 1983, he was appointed Vice-President of the Executive Council and in the second Hawke ministry, he became Attorney-General, losing the Trade portfolio.

In 1988 Bowen sponsored four referendums to reform the Australian Constitution (see Australian referendum, 1988), but all were defeated. He retired from federal politics prior to the March 1990 election, and was succeeded as Deputy Prime Minister by Paul Keating.

Post political career[edit]

Bowen served as Chairman of the National Gallery of Australia between 1990 and 1995 and shared a strong interest in horseracing.[5]

In 1991, he was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia "in recognition of service to the community and politics."[10] In 2001, he received a Centenary Medal.[11]

Bowen died from pneumonia on 1 April 2012[12] after years afflicted with Alzheimer's disease.[5] He was given a state funeral on 11 April 2012.[13]


The Family Court of Australia and the Federal Magistrates Court are located in the Lionel Bowen Building in Goulburn Street, Sydney. The City of Randwick main library is known as the Bowen Library.



  1. ^ "Labor's staunch Catholic politician Lionel Bowen dies". CathNews. 1 April 2012. Retrieved 5 April 2012. 
  2. ^ a b "Lionel Bowen: the model deputy". ABC News (Australia). AAP. 1 April 2012. Retrieved 5 April 2012. 
  3. ^ "Bowen, Lionel Frost". World War II Nominal Roll. Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved 25 February 2010. 
  4. ^ a b "Mr Lionel Frost Bowen (1922 – )". Members of Parliament. Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 25 February 2010. 
  5. ^ a b c d Humphries, David (3 April 2012). "Labor's anchor through turbulent era". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 5 April 2012. 
  6. ^ Herbertson, Lisa (26 September 2012). "Tony Bowen elected as new mayor of Randwick Council". Southern Courier. Retrieved 26 September 2012. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b Benson, Simon (2 April 2012). "Vale Lionel Bowen: a true working class hero". The Daily Telegraph (Australia). Retrieved 5 April 2012. 
  9. ^ Steketee, Mike (2 April 2012). "Legend of Labor Lionel Bowen never lost the touch". The Australian. Retrieved 5 April 2012. 
  10. ^ "Mr Lionel Frost Bowen, Companion of the Order of Australia". It's an Honour. Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved 22 January 2008. 
  11. ^ "Mr Lionel Frost Bowen, Centenary Medal". It's an Honour. Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved 1 April 2012. 
  12. ^ Wroe, David (2 April 2012). "Death of Labor elder Bowen, who remained an everyday bloke". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2 April 2012. 
  13. ^ "'Unique' Bowen farewelled at Sydney funeral". The Sydney Morning Herald. AAP. 11 April 2012. Retrieved 11 April 2012. 
Civic offices
Preceded by
George Nicholas Elias Dan
Mayor of Randwick
Succeeded by
Lou Walsh
Preceded by
Harry Jensen
Mayor of Randwick
Succeeded by
Ranville Ashmore Popplewell
Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
Daniel Curtin
Member for Kingsford Smith
Succeeded by
Laurie Brereton
Political offices
Preceded by
Alan Hulme
Succeeded by
Reg Bishop
Preceded by
Doug Anthony
Deputy Prime Minister of Australia
Succeeded by
Paul Keating
Minister for Trade
Succeeded by
John Dawkins
Preceded by
Gareth Evans
Succeeded by
Michael Duffy
Party political offices
Preceded by
Tom Uren
Deputy Leader of the Labor Party
Succeeded by
Paul Keating