|16th Leader of the Opposition|
7 March 1960 – 8 February 1967
|Prime Minister||Robert Menzies|
|Preceded by||H. V. Evatt|
|Succeeded by||Gough Whitlam|
|Leader of the Labor Party|
7 March 1960 – 8 February 1967
Acting leader: 9 February – 7 March 1960
|Preceded by||H. V. Evatt|
|Succeeded by||Gough Whitlam|
|Deputy Leader of the Labor Party|
20 June 1951 – 7 March 1960
|Leader||H. V. Evatt|
|Preceded by||H. V. Evatt|
|Succeeded by||Gough Whitlam|
|Minister for Immigration|
13 July 1945 – 19 December 1949
|Prime Minister||Ben Chifley|
|Preceded by||New position|
|Succeeded by||Harold Holt|
|Minister for Information|
21 September 1943 – 19 December 1949
|Prime Minister||John Curtin|
|Preceded by||Bill Ashley|
|Succeeded by||Howard Beale|
|Member of the Australian Parliament|
21 September 1940 – 2 November 1972
|Preceded by||William Maloney|
|Succeeded by||Ted Innes|
Arthur Augustus Calwell
28 August 1896
West Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
|Died||8 July 1973 (aged 76)|
East Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
(m. 1921; wid. 1922)
|Education||St Mary's College|
St Joseph's College
Calwell grew up in Melbourne and attended St Joseph's College. After leaving school, he began working as a clerk for the Victorian state government. He became involved in the labour movement as an officeholder in the public-sector trade union. Before entering parliament, Calwell held various positions in the Labor Party's organisation wing, serving terms as state president and as a member of the federal executive. He was elected to the House of Representatives at the 1940 federal election, standing in the Division of Melbourne.
After the 1943 election, Calwell was elevated to cabinet as Minister for Information, overseeing government censorship and propaganda during World War II. When Ben Chifley became prime minister in 1945, Calwell was also made Minister for Immigration. He oversaw the creation of Australia's expanded post-war immigration scheme, at the same time strictly enforcing the White Australia policy. In 1951, he was elected deputy leader of the Labor Party in place of H. V. Evatt, who had succeeded to the leadership upon Chifley's death. The two clashed on a number of occasions over the following decade, which encompassed the 1955 party split. In 1960, Evatt retired and Calwell was chosen as his successor, thus becoming Leader of the Opposition.
Calwell and the Labor Party came close to victory at the 1961 election, gaining 15 seats and finishing only two seats shy of a majority. However, those gains were wiped out at the 1963 election. Calwell was one of the most prominent opponents of Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War, a stance that was not electorally popular at the time. In 1966, Calwell survived a leadership challenge from his deputy Gough Whitlam, survived an assassination attempt with minor injuries, and finally led his party to a landslide defeat at the 1966 election, winning less than one-third of the total seats. He was 70 years old by that point, and resigned the leadership a few months later. He remained in parliament until the 1972 election, which saw Whitlam become prime minister, and died the following year.
Birth and family background
Calwell was born on 28 August 1896, in West Melbourne. He was the oldest of seven children born to Margaret Annie (née McLoughlin) and Arthur Albert Calwell. His father worked as a police officer and retired as a superintendent of police. Calwell's parents were both born in Australia. His maternal grandfather was Michael McLoughlin, who was born in County Laois, Ireland, and arrived in Melbourne in 1847 after jumping ship. He married Mary Murphy, who was born in County Clare. Calwell's paternal grandfather Davis Calwell (or Caldwell) was an Irish American born in Union County, Pennsylvania, who arrived in Australia in 1853 during the Victorian gold rush. He married Elizabeth Lewis, a Welshwoman, and settled near Ballarat, eventually becoming president of the Bungaree Shire Council. Davis Calwell's father, Daniel Caldwell, had immigrated to the United States from northern Ireland, and served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in the 1820s.
Calwell grew up in West Melbourne. As a young boy he contracted diphtheria, which permanently scarred his vocal chords and gave him a lifelong "raspish, nasal voice". Although his father was an Anglican, Calwell was raised in his mother's Catholic faith. He began his education at St Mary's College, the local Mercedarian school. In 1909, he won a scholarship to St Joseph's College, North Melbourne, a Christian Brothers school. One of his closest friends at school was Matthew Beovich, a future Archbishop of Adelaide. In later life Calwell said "I owe everything I have in life, under Almighty God and next to my parents, to the Christian Brothers." Calwell's mother died in 1913, aged 40, when her oldest son was 16 and her youngest child was only three months old. His father remarried, eventually dying in 1938 at the age of 69.
World War I
Calwell was an officer in the Australian Army Cadets at the outbreak of World War I, and made two unsuccessful applications for a commission in the Australian Imperial Force. After his second rejection in 1916 he made no further attempts to seek active service, being unwilling to join as an enlisted man; however, he was placed in the Army Reserve and remained there until receiving an honourable discharge in 1926. Calwell joined the Young Ireland Society in 1914, and served as the organisation's secretary until 1916. His reputation as an Irish republican brought him to the attention of the military police, which suspected him of involvement in the more radical Irish National Association. His residence was searched on one occasion, and his correspondence was routinely examined by censors. On two occasions there were moves to have him dismissed from the military for disloyalty, but Calwell denied the accusations and there was little proof that he had been actively disloyal.
Public service career
Calwell entered the Victorian Public Service in 1913, as a junior clerk in the Department of Agriculture. He transferred to the Department of the Treasury in 1923, where he remained until winning election to parliament in 1940. As with most of his colleagues, Calwell joined the Victorian State Service Clerical Association. He served as secretary and vice-president of that organisation, which in 1925 was reorganised into the state branch of Australian Public Service Association (a forerunner of the modern Community and Public Sector Union). He was elected as the new organisation's inaugural president, serving until 1931.
Early political involvement
Calwell joined the Labor Party at about the age of 18. He was elected secretary of the Melbourne branch in 1916, and from 1917 served as one of the Clerical Association's delegates to the state conference. He was elected to the state executive in the same year, and was state president of the party from 1930 to 1931 – at the time, the youngest person to have held the position. Calwell unsuccessfully sought Labor preselection for the Victorian Legislative Assembly and the Senate on a number of occasions, and was elected to the party's federal executive in 1926. He was an assistant secretary to state MP Tom Tunnecliffe for a period, and from 1926 served as secretary to William Maloney, the long-serving Labor member for the federal Division of Melbourne. Maloney would remain in parliament until his death at the age of 85, and Calwell made no effort to force an early retirement, despite being widely seen as the heir apparent to the seat.
Curtin and Chifley Governments (1941–1949)
Maloney announced he would not run for another term at the 1940 federal election. He died a month before polling day; as a result, no by-election was held in the Division of Melbourne. At the general election, Calwell easily retained the seat for the Labor Party. Due to his tenure as Victorian state president of the party and his long service as Maloney's secretary, he was already well known in federal parliament.
During World War II, Calwell was appointed as Minister for Information in the Second Curtin Ministry following the 1943 election, and became well known for his tough attitude towards the Australian press and his strict enforcement of wartime censorship. This earned him the enmity of large sections of the Australian press, and he was dubbed "Cocky" Calwell by his political foes, cartoonists of the period depicting him as an obstinate Australian cockatoo.
In 1945 when Ben Chifley succeeded Curtin, Calwell became the inaugural Minister for Immigration in the post-war Chifley Government. Thus, he was the chief architect of Australia's post-war immigration scheme at a time when many European refugees desired a better life far from their war-torn homelands, and he became famous for his relentless promotion of it. Calwell's advocacy of the program was crucial because of his links to the trade union movement, and his skillful presentation of the need for immigration. Calwell overcame resistance to mass immigration by promoting it under the slogan "populate or perish". This drew attention to the need, particularly in light of the recent war in the Pacific, to increase Australia's industrial and military capabilities through a massive increase in the population. In July 1947 he signed an agreement with the United Nations Refugee Organisation to accept displaced persons from European countries ravaged by war. Calwell's enthusiasm and drive in launching the migration program was a notable feature of the second term of the Chifley government, and has been named by many historians as his greatest achievement (especially given the labour movement's hostility to earlier migration programs).
Calwell was a staunch advocate of the White Australia Policy. While Europeans were welcomed to Australia, Calwell attempted to deport many Malayan, Indochinese and Chinese wartime refugees, some of whom had married Australian citizens and started families in Australia. The main instrument of deportation was the War-time Refugees Removal Act 1949, which succeeded previous acts that allowed non-whites to stay in certain circumstances. Calwell's refusal to grant entry to Lorenzo Gamboa – a Filipino man who had fought with the U.S. Army and had an Australian wife and children – caused an international incident with the Philippines. President Elpidio Quirino expressed his disappointment "that our neighbour, to whom we looked for friendship, should exclude us because of our colour", and the Philippine House of Representatives passed a bill that would have excluded Australians from the country. Calwell remained unmoved, and told a rally prior to the 1949 election that "I am sure we don't want half-castes running over our country" and "if we let in any U.S. citizen, we will have to admit U.S. Negroes [...] I don't think mothers and fathers would want to see that".
In economic policy, Calwell was not a great advocate of nationalisation. Gough Whitlam attributed this to Calwell's brand of socialism which was "an emotion rather than an ideology, a memory of the social deprivation he observed in Melbourne during the Depression years."
Calwell left ministerial office from the 1949 election when the Chifley Government was defeated by the Liberal Party, led by Robert Menzies. The following period in opposition was one of great frustration. Like many Labor parliamentarians and union officials at the time, Calwell was a Roman Catholic. The Australian Catholic Church was in this period fiercely anti-communist and had in the 1940s encouraged Catholic trade unionists to oppose communists within their trade unions. The organisations that co-ordinated Catholic efforts were called Industrial Groups. Calwell had originally supported the Industrial Groups in Victoria and continued to do so until the early 1950s. After Chifley's death in 1951, H. V. Evatt became the Labor leader, and Calwell became his Deputy. Under Evatt, Labor's attitude towards the Industrial Groups began to change, as Evatt suspected that one of their aims was to promote the Catholic element within the Labor Party.
Calwell's friendship with many of the leaders of the Industrial Groups (known collectively as "Groupers") led Evatt to privately question his loyalty. The two men thus had an increasingly difficult working relationship. This culminated in Evatt drafting and delivering the Labor Platform for the 1954 federal election without consulting Calwell. Labor was narrowly defeated at the polls, which deepened the rift between the two men.
Evatt's subsequent public attack on the "Groupers" and his insistence on their expulsion from the party placed Calwell in a difficult position. He was made to choose between the Evatt-led official Labor Party and the "Groupers" (who were mainly Catholic and Victorian). During a specially convened Labor Conference in Hobart in May 1955, the "Groupers" were expelled from the Labor Party and Calwell chose to stay within the party. Calwell's loyalty to the party was to cause him much personal and political anguish: he lost many of its oldest friends at this time, including the Archbishop of Melbourne, Daniel Mannix, and was, for a time, denied Communion at his parish church.
Ironically, this loyalty to the party did not prevent him from being deeply distrusted by the left-wing of the ALP, especially in his home state of Victoria. For many years, he had a stormy relationship with the state Labor Party. He never favoured the communist philosophy and was eloquent in his attacks on communists, whom he once called, "Pathological exhibits... human scum... paranoiacs, degenerates, morons, bludgers... pack of dingoes... industrial outlaws and political lepers... ratbags. If these people went to Russia, Stalin wouldn't even use them for manure."
Leader of the Opposition (1960–1967)
Evatt retired in 1960, and Calwell was acting leader before he succeeded him as Leader of the Australian Labor Party and Leader of the Opposition, with Gough Whitlam as his deputy. Calwell very nearly defeated Menzies at the 1961 federal election, owing to widespread discontent at Menzies' deflationary economic policies, as well as the unprecedented (and temporary) endorsement of the ALP by the usually pro-Liberal Sydney Morning Herald. It is generally accepted that unfavourable Democratic Labor preferences were the primary reason why Labor came up two seats short of toppling the Coalition despite winning an 18-seat swing and a majority of the two-party vote. Ultimately, a narrow loss in Bruce, located in the DLP's heartland of Melbourne, ended any realistic chance of a Labor win, but the Coalition was not assured of another term in government until the Brisbane-area seat of Moreton was called for the Liberals hours later. Labor actually won 62 seats, the same as the Coalition. However, two of those seats were in the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory, and members from the territories then did not count for purposes of forming a government.
After this, however, Menzies was able to exploit divisions in the ALP over foreign policy and state aid for Catholic schools to recover his position. Calwell opposed the use of Australian troops in Malaya and the establishment of American military communications bases in Australia. He also upheld the traditional Labor policy of denying state aid to private schools.
At the 1963 election, Calwell hoped to build on his gains from two years earlier, but was severely damaged by a picture in The Daily Telegraph that showed him and Whitlam outside a Canberra hotel, waiting for word from Labor's Federal Conference as to the policies upon which they should fight the election.
In an accompanying story, Alan Reid of the Telegraph wrote that Labor was ruled by "36 faceless men". The Liberals seized on it, issuing a leaflet accusing Calwell of taking direction from "36 unknown men, not elected to Parliament nor responsible to the people." At the election, Labor suffered a 10-seat swing. Many thought that Calwell should retire, but he was determined to stay and fight.
Calwell made his strongest stand with his vehement opposition to Australia's military involvement in the Vietnam War and the introduction of conscription to provide troops for the war, publicly saying that "a vote for Menzies was a blood vote". Unfortunately for Calwell, the war was initially very popular in Australia and continued to be so after Menzies retired in 1966. Menzies' successor, Harold Holt, seized on this and fought the 1966 election on the Vietnam issue. Labor suffered a crushing defeat, losing nine seats while the Coalition won the largest majority government in Australian history at the time.
It was clear by this time that Calwell's awkward, tactless image was no match for that of his charismatic and ambitious young Deputy Leader, the urbane, middle-class, university-educated Whitlam. In particular, Whitlam's clear mastery of the media gave him a huge advantage over Calwell, who looked and sounded substantially older than his 70 years. Calwell, an old-fashioned stump orator whose career was forged in the days of the raucous public meeting, had always come across badly on television, compared with the smooth, avuncular and rich-voiced Menzies and the suave Holt. Calwell was also regarded by 1966 as an aged relic of the Great Depression era. He was still campaigning about socialism and nationalisation, and continued to defend the White Australia Policy. Calwell resigned as Labor leader two months after the election, in January 1967; Whitlam succeeded him.
Calwell was only the second victim of an attempted political assassination in Australia (the first being Prince Alfred in 1868). On 21 June 1966, Calwell addressed an anti-conscription rally at Mosman Town Hall in Sydney. As he was leaving the meeting, and just as his car was about to drive off, a 19-year-old student named Peter Kocan approached the passenger side of the vehicle and fired a sawn-off rifle at Calwell at point-blank range. However, the closed window deflected the bullet, which lodged harmlessly in his coat lapel, and he sustained only minor facial injuries from broken glass. Calwell later visited Kocan in the mental hospital (where he was confined for ten years), and through a regular correspondence encouraged his eventual rehabilitation.
By the time Calwell's political career ended he was the Father of the House of Representatives, having served as an MP for 32 years. He was frequently critical of Whitlam, especially since he knew that Whitlam intended abandoning the White Australia Policy.
At the 1972 election which brought Whitlam to the prime ministership, Calwell retired from Parliament. After a period of slow deterioration in his health, and a nearly four week stint in hospital, Calwell died on 8 July 1973. He was given a state funeral at St Patrick's Cathedral, Melbourne. He was survived by his wife Elizabeth and his daughter Mary Elizabeth.
Notwithstanding Calwell's poor relations with the conservative press in Australia and his public battles against right-wing Catholics like Archbishop Mannix and B. A. Santamaria, he maintained a cordial relationship with Menzies. Menzies, for his part, never lost his respect and outright personal liking for Calwell. He attended Calwell's funeral, but (according to his biographer Allan W. Martin) became so overwhelmed by grief after arriving at the cathedral that he was unable to compose himself and leave his car.
Calwell's first marriage was to Margaret Mary Murphy in 1921. She died the following year in 1922, and ten years later, on 29 August 1932, he married Elizabeth (Bessie) Marren, a strong-willed, intelligent and well-read Irishwoman who was social editor of the Catholic weekly newspaper, the Tribune. In 1933 they launched the Irish Review as the official organ of the Victorian Irish Association. Calwell had met Elizabeth at Irish language classes run by the Gaelic League in Melbourne, and retained an interest in and fluency in the language.
Calwell and his second wife had two children, Mary Elizabeth (b. 1934) and Arthur Andrew (b. 1937). His son, known as Art, died of leukaemia in June 1948 at the age of eleven. Calwell was profoundly affected by his son's death, and subsequently wore only black neckties. His wife later recalled it as "the cruellest blow Arthur has ever suffered. In fact, he has never been the same since that dreadful day". Calwell's daughter was described by The Canberra Times in 1995 as his "most passionate defender and admirer". In 2013, she published a sympathetic biography of her father titled I Am Bound to Be True, hoping to "correct what she believes is the maligning of his legacy".
Outside of the political arena, Calwell was a devotee of the North Melbourne Football Club and was the first life member of the club. He was always devoted to the Roman Catholic Church despite his many conflicts with church leaders. He received a papal knighthood from Pope Paul VI and was made a Knight Commander with Star of the Order of St Gregory the Great (KC*SG) for his lifelong service to the church.
Calwell and racism
Calwell's remark in parliament in 1947 that "two Wongs don't make a white" was widely reported at the time, both in Australia  and overseas. While it is widely quoted as evidence of Calwell's racism, the remark was intended to be a humorous reference to a Chinese resident called Wong who was wrongly threatened with deportation, and a Liberal MP, Sir Thomas White, the Member for Balaclava. According to Hansard, Calwell said "there are many Wongs in the Chinese community, but I have to say — and I am sure that the honorable Member for Balaclava will not mind doing so — that 'two Wongs do not make a White'".
In his autobiography, Calwell said it was intended as a "jocose remark", and that it had been "so often misrepresented it has become tiresome". He attributed this to the press, stating that "because of some anti-Australian Asian journalist or perhaps because some Australian pressman with a chip on his shoulder, a Labor Party hater, the name of White was deliberately altered into a definition of colour".: 109
Calwell believed himself to be free of personal prejudice against people of other races while believing that they should exist in separation. This is reflected by Calwell's comments in his 1972 memoirs Be Just and Fear Not in which he maintained his view that non-European people should not be allowed to settle in Australia. He wrote:
I am proud of my white skin, just as a Chinese is proud of his yellow skin, a Japanese of his brown skin, and the Indians of their various hues from black to coffee-coloured. Anybody who is not proud of his race is not a man at all. And any man who tries to stigmatise the Australian community as racist because they want to preserve this country for the white race is doing our nation great harm... I reject, in conscience, the idea that Australia should or ever can become a multi-racial society and survive.
Speaking regarding the incident involving Lorenzo Gamboa, when a questioner brought up his U.S. citizenship for consideration, Calwell responded "If we let in any U.S. citizen we will have to admit U.S. negroes. I don't think any mothers and fathers want to see that."
In 1948, Calwell announced that no Japanese war brides would be allowed to settle in Australia, stating "it would be the grossest act of public indecency to permit any Japanese of either sex to pollute Australia" while relatives of deceased Australian soldiers were alive.
Of Indigenous Australians, Calwell wrote: "If any people are homeless in Australia today, it is the Aboriginals. They are the only non-European descended people to whom we owe any debt. Some day, I hope, we will do justice to them."
- Kiernan, Colm (1978). Calwell: A Personal and Political Biography. Thomas Nelson. p. 11. ISBN 0170051854.
- Kiernan, Calwell (1978), pp. 13–15.
- Kiernan, Calwell (1978), pp. 11–12.
- Kiernan, Calwell (1978), p. 19.
- Kiernan, Calwell (1978), pp. 16–18.
- Kiernan, Calwell (1978), pp. 12.
- Kiernan, Calwell (1978), pp. 9–10.
- Kiernan, Calwell (1978), pp. 24–31.
- Kiernan, Calwell (1978), pp. 31–33.
- Kiernan, Calwell (1978), pp. 33–36.
- J. Franklin, 'Calwell, Catholicism and the origins of multicultural Australia', 2009.
- Neumann, Klaus (2006). "Guarding the Flood Gates: The Removal of Non-Europeans, 1945–49" (PDF). In Martin Crotty (ed.). The Great Mistakes of Australian History. UNSW Press.
- Sullivan, Rodney (1993). "'It had to happen': the Gamboas and Australian–Philippine interactions". In Reynaldo C Ileto & Rodney Sullivan (eds.). Discovering Australasia: Essays on Philippine-Australian Interactions. James Cook University. ISBN 0864434618.
- Whitlam, Gough (1985). The Whitlam Government 1972-1975. Penguin. ISBN 9780140084610.
- The Canberra Times, 11 February 1960
- "Digital Collections - Books - Item 1: Mr. Calwell and the Faceless Men". Nla.gov.au. Retrieved 26 February 2012.
- Gibbney, H J. "Edinburgh, Duke of (1844–1900)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Melbourne University Press. ISSN 1833-7538. Retrieved 25 April 2019 – via National Centre of Biography, Australian National University.
- Romei, Stephen (24 November 2010). "Failed assassin Peter Kocan wins top literary award". The Australian. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
- Lennon, Troy (21 June 2016). "Labor leader Arthur Calwell survived a bullet but not the polls". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
- Hollinsworth, Harry (9 July 1973). "In the Herald: 9 July 1973". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 9 July 2019.
- Noone, Val (2012). Hidden Ireland in Victoria. Ballarat Heritage Services. p. 116. ISBN 9781876478834.
- Freudenberg, Graham. "Calwell, Arthur Augustus (1896–1973)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Melbourne University Press. ISSN 1833-7538. Retrieved 25 April 2019 – via National Centre of Biography, Australian National University.
- Kiernan 1978, p. 137.
- Kiernan 1978, p. 138.
- Abjorensen, Norman (28 June 1995). "Calwell: an icon in search of a bust". The Canberra Times.
- Bramston, Troy (15 June 2013). "Calwell's daughter corrects his legacy". The Australian. Retrieved 23 June 2019.
- Souter, Gavin (1988). Acts of Parliament. Melbourne University Press. p. 456. ISBN 9780522843675.
- "Two 'Wongs' And a 'White'". The Courier-mail. Queensland. 3 December 1947. p. 3. Retrieved 25 April 2019 – via National Library of Australia.
"Malays with two wives. Calwell's Claim". The Sydney Morning Herald. 3 December 1947. p. 4. Retrieved 25 April 2019 – via National Library of Australia.
"Malays must go, but Wong may remain". The Argus (Melbourne). No. 31, 593. Victoria. 3 December 1947. p. 9. Retrieved 25 April 2019 – via National Library of Australia.
- "Asia "didn't relish" Minister's crack". The Daily Telegraph. New South Wales. 18 December 1947. p. 2. Retrieved 25 April 2019 – via National Library of Australia.
"Criticism Of 'White Australia'". The Daily Telegraph. New South Wales. 30 September 1948. p. 2. Retrieved 25 April 2019 – via National Library of Australia.
- Arthur Calwell, Minister for Immigration (2 December 1947). "Deportations" (PDF). Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). Vol. 195. Commonwealth of Australia: House of Representatives. p. 2948.
- Calwell, Arthur Augustus (1972). Be just and fear not. Hawthorn, Victoria: Lloyd O'Neil Pty Ltd. ISBN 0-85550-352-1.
- Calwell, Be Just and Fear Not (1972), p. 117.
- "No Harlem For Australia". The Australian Worker. 28 November 1949.
- "Mr Calwell will not allow Japs 'to pollute Australia'". Hobart Mercury. 10 March 1948.
- Calwell, Be Just and Fear Not (1972), p. 116.
- Cawell, Arthur (1972). Be Just and Fear Not. Lloyd O'Neil. ISBN 0855503521.
- Calwell, Mary Elizabeth (2012). I Am Bound To Be True: The Life and Legacy of Arthur A. Calwell, 1896–1973. Mosaic Press. ISBN 9781625643124.
- Kiernan, Colm (1978). Calwell: A Personal and Political Biography. Thomas Nelson. ISBN 0170051854.
- The Minister for Information, Mr. A.A. Calwell (PDF), 18 April 1947, archived from the original (PDF) on 5 April 2012