Angus Bethune (politician)

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Sir Angus Bethune
Angus Bethune.jpg
33rd Premier of Tasmania
In office
26 May 1969 – 3 May 1972
DeputyKevin Lyons
Preceded byEric Reece
Succeeded byEric Reece
Personal details
Born(1908-09-10)10 September 1908
Sheffield, Tasmania, Australia
Died22 August 2004(2004-08-22) (aged 95)
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Political partyLiberal Party
Alexandra Pritchard (m. 1938)
Military service
Allegiance Australia
Branch/service Royal Australian Air Force
Years of service1940–1948
RankWarrant Officer

Sir Walter Angus Bethune (10 September 1908 – 22 August 2004) was an Australian politician and member of the Tasmanian House of Assembly. He was Premier of Tasmania from 26 May 1969 to 3 May 1972.

Early life[edit]

Bethune was born in Sheffield in north-western Tasmania, and was educated at Launceston Grammar School and The Hutchins School in Hobart.[1] Before entering politics, Bethune worked as a jackaroo.[2] On 15 August 1940, during World War II, he enlisted as an airman and Warrant Officer in the Royal Australian Air Force.[3]

Political career[edit]

Bethune was elected to the Tasmanian House of Assembly at the 1946 general election on 23 November 1946, representing the seat of Wilmot (now Lyons) for the newly formed Liberal Party. On 19 March 1960, Bethune became Leader of the Opposition when the leader of the Liberal Party, Tim Jackson resigned in protest at party disunity and a lack of support for his leadership.[4]

On 7 September 1966, Kevin Lyons (the son of former Premier and Prime Minister Joseph Lyons) resigned from the state Liberal Party after a dispute over preselection, and on 15 October formed the Centre Party.[5] In 1969, Lyons held the balance of power, and offered his support to Bethune to form government with himself as Deputy Premier. Bethune accepted. This forced Labor Premier Eric Reece to resign on 26 May, making Bethune the first non-Labor Premier of Tasmania in 35 years, and the first to hold the post since the main non-Labor party in Tasmania adopted the Liberal banner in 1946. He also served as his own Treasurer.

During his term as Premier, Bethune introduced a number of important initiatives, although he had pledged to avoid "revolutionary changes". Bethune's government introduced random breath tests to tackle drink driving, made the wearing of seatbelts compulsory, set up the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service, built more schools and tightened state finances.[2]

Bethune was instrumental in the establishment of a Hansard service for the Tasmanian parliament, although he was no longer Premier by the time the system was introduced. Kevin Lyons had lost a vote to introduce Hansard in 1960, and with the Bethune-Lyons coalition in power in 1969, Bethune sought a report into the feasibility of such a transcription service. The report was not completed until 1973, but Hansard was considered by Bethune's successors Eric Reece and Doug Lowe until finally being implemented in 1979.[6]

In 1972, Kevin Lyons dissolved the coalition between the Centre and Liberal parties, and was highly critical of Bethune. Bethune was forced to the polls, and the instability in his government saw him lose power in the election on a three-seat swing. Labor won a clear majority, and Reece returned as premier.[2]

After politics[edit]

Bethune retired from politics on 30 June 1975, and later joined forces with his former rival, Eric Reece, to back the Franklin Dam which they both supported.[2]

Sir Angus died after a short illness on 22 August 2004 in Hobart, aged 95. He was accorded a state funeral which was held on 27 August.[2]


Bethune was made Knight Bachelor on 16 June 1979 in recognition of service to the Federal Parliament.[7] He was also awarded a Centenary Medal in 2001.


  1. ^ Former Tasmanian premier Sir Angus Bethune dies, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 23 August 2004.
  2. ^ a b c d e Pearce, Garney: Bethune Memorial, Stateline (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), 27 August 2004.
  3. ^ RAAF: BETHUNE, WALTER ANGUS, World War II Nominal Roll (Australian Government).
  4. ^ George C. Wade, Jackson, William (Tim) (1907–1975), Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, Melbourne University Press, 1996, pp 547–548.
  5. ^ On This Day: A Tasmanian Political Almanac, Parliament of Tasmania.
  6. ^ Background: Hansard, Parliament of Tasmania, July 2005.
  7. ^ BETHUNE, Walter Angus, It's an Honour (Australian Government).

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Tim Jackson
Leader of the Opposition in Tasmania
Succeeded by
Eric Reece
Preceded by
Eric Reece
Premier of Tasmania
Succeeded by
Eric Reece