Neville Wran

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The Honourable
Neville Wran
AC, CNZM, QC
35th Premier of New South Wales
Elections: 1976, 1978, 1981, 1984
In office
14 May 1976 – 4 July 1986
Monarch Elizabeth II
Governor Sir Roden Cutler
Sir James Rowland
Deputy Jack Ferguson
Ron Mulock
Preceded by Sir Eric Willis
Succeeded by Barrie Unsworth
Member of the New South Wales Parliament
for Bass Hill
In office
17 November 1973 – 4 July 1986
Preceded by Clarrie Earl
Succeeded by Michael Joseph Owen
Personal details
Born Neville Kenneth Wran
(1926-10-11) 11 October 1926 (age 87)
Balmain, New South Wales, Australia
Political party Australian Labor Party
Occupation Lawyer

Neville Kenneth Wran, AC, CNZM, QC (born 11 October 1926) was the Premier of New South Wales from 1976 until 1986. He was National President of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) from 1980 to 1986 and Chairman of both the Lionel Murphy Foundation and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) from 1986 to 1991.

Early years[edit]

Wran was born in the Sydney suburb of Paddington and educated at Nicholson Street Public School, Balmain, Fort St Boys' High and the University of Sydney,[1] where, ironically enough, he was a member of the Liberal Club,[2] and from which he gained a Bachelor of Laws in 1948. He was admitted as a solicitor in 1951, called to the Bar in 1957, and became a Queen's Counsel in 1968.

Political career[edit]

He began his political career in 1970 when he became a member of the upper house of the Parliament of New South Wales, the Legislative Council. Three years afterwards, he moved to the lower house, the Legislative Assembly, in the seat of Bass Hill. Support for this move had been organised by the General Secretary of the FMWU, Ray Gietzelt.[3] He then challenged Pat Hills for the state leadership of the ALP (which Hills had held since 1968). In this challenge he had cross-faction support from right-wing powerbroker John Ducker and left-winger Jack Ferguson. There were two rounds to the leadership vote which resulted in a tie between Hills and Wran in the second ballot. However it was ruled that in the event of a tie in the second ballot, the candidate who won the most votes in the first ballot would be the winner. Since Wran had won one vote more than Hills in the first ballot, Wran was therefore declared the new leader.

In May 1976, six months after Gough Whitlam's federal ALP government's dismissal, Wran led Labor to victory, narrowly defeating the Liberal Party's Premier Sir Eric Willis. Wran's win was not assured until it became clear that Gosford and Hurstville had fallen to Labor by only 74 and 44 votes respectively, giving Wran a one-seat majority. In 1978, campaigning with the slogan 'Wran's our Man', his government won a 13-seat swing on the back of the largest primary vote for any party in a century, popularly known as the 'Wranslide.' The Opposition Leader on that occasion, Peter Coleman, lost his seat. In 1981, Wran won a second 'Wranslide', picking up six seats for what is still Labor's largest proportion of seats in Parliament. Opposition Leader Bruce McDonald failed to be elected to the seat that he contested, marking the second time in a row that an Opposition Leader had failed to be elected to Parliament. Labor also reduced the Liberals to 14 seats, the same as its nominal junior partner, the National Country Party. He won a fourth term in 1984; although he suffered an 11-seat swing, he still won a larger majority than any of the victories won by the Liberals' Sir Robert Askin in the 1960s and 1970s.

Wran was also very popular, at one stage rating over 80 per cent approval in opinion polls. He was often talked about as a national political leader and rated highly in national polls as an alternative Labor Leader to Bill Hayden. He featured in Hayden's 1980 Federal election campaign, along with Bob Hawke.

Wran's childhood home in the Sydney suburb of Balmain

Wran was a Labor premier at a time when most Australian governments were held by conservative coalitions. During Wran's 10 years as Premier of New South Wales, the government embarked on a program of reform and change. Priorities were public transport (with the exception of the Warringah Transport Corridor which was cancelled despite a recommendation by Justice Michael Kirby that it be built), the environment, consumer protection and job creation. He also achieved significant electoral institutional reform such as a democratic Legislative Council, four year terms, public funding and disclosure laws and a pecuniary interests register for members of parliament. He called on Edwin Lusher, first whilst a QC and then as a Judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, to chair commissions of inquiry into police administration and gambling.[4] He also undertook the state's largest capital works program and refurbished many iconic places in Sydney. His government also built the modern-day Darling Harbour precinct.

Wran resigned both the premiership and his seat in Parliament on 4 July 1986, after continuously holding office longer than any other Premier in the history of NSW until that time. Bob Carr has since broken that record. Henry Parkes served longer than Wran in total, serving five terms between 1872 and 1891. The by-election for Wran's seat of Bass Hill was narrowly won by Michael Owen for the Liberal Party.

Controversy[edit]

In 1977, Wran supported Al Grassby, former Federal Immigration Minister, in allowing Domenico Barbaro, a Mafia figure in the Griffith region of New South Wales, back into Australia after having been earlier deported because of his criminal record.[5] However, as journalist David Hickie explains, Wran attempted to undermine the influence of organised crime, particularly in the area of illegal casinos.[6]

Further, in 1983, Wran faced the Street Royal Commission over claims by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) current affairs show Four Corners that he had tried to influence the magistracy over the 1977 committal of Kevin Humphreys, who had been charged with misappropriation of funds. His Corrective Services Minister, Rex Jackson, was jailed in 1987 for accepting bribes for the early release of prisoners.

Honours[edit]

  • On 31 December 2009, the New Zealand Government appointed him a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to New Zealand – Australia relations.[9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Hon. Neville Kenneth Wran (1926 – )". Members of Parliament. Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 8 February 2010. 
  2. ^ "History". Sydney University Liberal Club. Retrieved 6 May 2007. 
  3. ^ United Voice, SMH Obituary
  4. ^ State Library of New South Wales Catalogue
  5. ^ Bob Bottom, "Shadow of Shame: How the mafia got away with the murder of Donald Mackay," Sun Books, South Melbourne, 198, pp. 13-14.
  6. ^ David Hickie, "The Prince and the Premier: The story of Perce Galea, Bob Askin and the others who gave organised crime its start in Australia," Angus & Robertson Publishers, NSW, Australia, 1985.
  7. ^ a b c "Neville Kenneth Wran AC QC". Sydney University Senate. University of Sydney. Retrieved 8 February 2010. 
  8. ^ "WRAN, Neville Kenneth: AC". It's an Honour. Australian Government. Retrieved 23 February 2009. 
  9. ^ "New Year Honours 2010". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 31 December 2009. Retrieved 31 December 2009. 
  • Troy Bramston (ed.)(2006), The Wran Era, Federation Press, Sydney (NSW).
  • Brian Dale (1985), Ascent to Power, Allen and Unwin Australia, North Sydney (NSW)
  • Mike Steketee and Milton Cockburn (1986), Wran. An Unauthorised Biography, Allen and Unwin Australia, North Sydney (NSW).
Parliament of New South Wales
Preceded by
Clarrie Earl
Member for Bass Hill
1973 – 1986
Succeeded by
Michael Owen
Political offices
Preceded by
Reg Downing
Leader of the Opposition of New South Wales
in the Legislative Council

1972 – 1973
Succeeded by
Leroy Serisier
Preceded by
Pat Hills
Leader of the Opposition of New South Wales
1973 – 1976
Succeeded by
Sir Eric Willis
Preceded by
Sir Eric Willis
Premier of New South Wales
1976 – 1986
Succeeded by
Barrie Unsworth
Preceded by
Jack Renshaw
Treasurer of New South Wales
1980 – 1981
Succeeded by
Ken Booth
Preceded by
Ron Mulock
Minister for Mineral Resources
1981 – 1983
Succeeded by
Donald Day
Vacant
Title last held by
David Arblaster
as Minister for Culture, Sport and Recreation
Minister for the Arts
1984 – 1986
Succeeded by
Frank Walker
Preceded by
Paul Landa
Attorney General of New South Wales
1984
Succeeded by
Terry Sheahan
New title Minister for Ethnic Affairs
1985 – 1986
Succeeded by
Barrie Unsworth
Preceded by
George Paciullo
Minister for Industry and Decentralisation
1986
Succeeded by
Eric Bedford
Minister for Small Business and Technology
1986
Party political offices
Preceded by
Pat Hills
Leader of the Australian Labor Party in New South Wales
1973 – 1986
Succeeded by
Barrie Unsworth