Robin Gray (Australian politician)

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The Honourable
Robin Gray
37th Premier of Tasmania
In office
26 May 1982 – 29 June 1989
Preceded by Harry Holgate
Succeeded by Michael Field
Constituency Wilmot (1976–1984)
Lyons (1984–1995)
Personal details
Born (1940-03-01) 1 March 1940 (age 75)
Kew, Victoria, Australia
Nationality Australian
Political party Liberal Party of Australia
Alma mater University of Melbourne
Occupation Agricultural consultant

Robin Trevor Gray (born 1 March 1940) is a former Australian politician who was Premier of Tasmania from 1982 to 1989. A Liberal, he was elected Liberal state leader in 1981 and in 1982 defeated the Labor government of Harry Holgate on a policy of "state development," particularly the building of the Franklin Dam, a hydroelectric dam on the Franklin River.

Early life[edit]

Robin Gray was born in Kew, a suburb of Melbourne. Once he had completed high school, he won a scholarship to agricultural college and completed a Bachelor of Science at the University of Melbourne. His qualifications led to a job as an agricultural consultant at a firm in Victoria's Western District. In 1965, the firm sent Gray to northern Tasmania to operate a branch of the firm in Launceston.[1]

Political career[edit]

During 1976, the state leader of the Liberal Party, Max Bingham, convinced Gray to stand as a candidate in the state election for that year. Gray ended up out-polling three sitting Liberal members in Wilmot.[1] Bingham resigned as leader following his party's poor performance at the 1979 election, which resulted in a marked swing away from the Liberals. Gray was elected Deputy Leader under Geoff Pearsall, and when Pearsall resigned in 1981 for unexplained personal reasons, Gray took over the party's leadership.

The campaign on which Gray embarked, to build the Franklin Dam, aroused protests from the Tasmanian Greens, led by Dr Bob Brown (later a Senator). Gray in 1982 allied with militant left wing FEDFA trade union leader Kelvin McCoy to form in November 1982 the Organisation for Tasmanian Development (OTD) which was directly associated with notable stickers seen on cars in Tasmania like Doze in a Greenie: help Fertilize the South-West, If It's Brown, Flush It, and Keep Warm This Winter:Burn a Greenie. Gray and McCoy praised each other publicly in their promotion of the Gordon-below-Franklin dam. One of the more notable events of Gray's involvement with the OTD was the 3,000-strong rally in Queenstown on 11 December 1982, which included former Premier Eric Reece.[2] Despite Reece's ALP background, Gray praised Reece as "the greatest living Tasmanian."

In 1983, the newly elected federal Labor government led by Bob Hawke intervened to prevent the building of the dam. However it was finally a High Court of Australia decision (Commonwealth v Tasmania)—despite the persistent clamour for states' rights in which even Joh Bjelke-Petersen was utilised [3]—which stopped the dam's construction. Tasmania was the recipient of $276 million in grants by way of compensation.[4]

Gray was elected to a second term in 1986. This marked the first time in 58 years that a non-Labor government had managed to win a second term in Tasmania. But after seven years in power, Gray's Liberals suffered a two-seat swing at the 1989 election, which left them one seat short of a majority, although they were still the largest single group in parliament. The ALP formed an accord with the Greens, whose unprecedented five seats gave them the balance of power.[5] Gray refused to resign and asked the Governor, Sir Phillip Bennett, to call fresh elections. Bennett refused to accept his advice, believing that Gray had lost the support of the House and was no longer in a position to ask for a dissolution. Rather than face defeat in the legislature, Gray resigned, and ALP leader Michael Field became the new Premier.

A Royal Commission[6] later found that prominent Launceston businessman and chairman of Gunns, Edmund Rouse, had tried to bribe a Labor backbencher to cross the floor and keep Gray in power. Gray denied any knowledge of this but an ALP appointed Royal Commission criticised his conduct, (having an unexplained $10,000 in the freezer was a problem) but found no legal case to answer. He resigned as Liberal leader on 17 December 1991. Post the Royal Commission conclusion, in 1992 Gray won one of the highest personal votes ever recorded at the next State election.

From 1996 until his retirement on 5 May 2010, Gray was a director of the forestry company Gunns Limited.[7][8]


Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Cockburn, Milton (26 July 1983). "Robin Gray: The drover's dog gets the glittering prize". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 13 November 2014. 
  2. ^ Pink 2001, pp.71-88 for accounts of Grays involvement with the Organisation for Tasmanian Development, and the events just mentioned
  3. ^ Pink 2001, p.86 for photo
  4. ^ Pink 2001, p.87
  5. ^ Ward, Airlie: Minority Government, Stateline Tasmania (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), 10 March 2006.
  6. ^ Report Royal Commission Rouse and others, The Age.
  7. ^ Gunns - Board Of Directors, Gunns Limited
  8. ^ http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/03/16/2846857.htm

References[edit]

  • Pink, Kerry (2001) Through Hells Gates: A History of Strahan and Macquarie Harbour Fifth edition ISBN 0-646-36665-3

Further reading[edit]

  • Gray, Robin (1982) National Press Club luncheon address. Premier of Tasmania spoke about Tasmania ; the dams and the future of Australia's smallest state. held at National Library of Australia - tape and transcript
  • Lines, William J. (2006) Patriots : defending Australia's natural heritage St. Lucia, Qld. : University of Queensland Press, 2006. ISBN 0-7022-3554-7

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Geoff Pearsall
Opposition Leader of Tasmania
1981–1982
Succeeded by
Ken Wriedt
Preceded by
Harry Holgate
Premier of Tasmania
1982–1989
Succeeded by
Michael Field
Preceded by
Michael Field
Opposition Leader of Tasmania
1989–1991
Succeeded by
Ray Groom
Party political offices
Preceded by
Geoff Pearsall
Leader of the Liberal Party in Tasmania
1981–1991
Succeeded by
Ray Groom