Barry Jones (Australian politician)

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The Honourable
Barry Jones
Barry Jones in 2007.jpg
Minister for Science (and Technology)/
Minister for Science, (Customs)
and Small Business
In office
11 March 1983 – 4 April 1990
Preceded by David Thomson
Succeeded by Simon Crean
David Beddall
(Small Business and Customs)
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Lalor
In office
10 December 1977 – 31 August 1998
Preceded by Jim Cairns
Succeeded by Julia Gillard
Member of the Victorian Parliament
for Melbourne
In office
June 1972 – November 1977
Preceded by Arthur Clarey
Succeeded by Keith Remington
Personal details
Born (1932-10-11) 11 October 1932 (age 84)
Geelong, Victoria, Australia
Nationality Australia
Political party Australian Labor Party
Spouse(s) Rosemary Hanbury
(30 June 1961 – her death June 2006)
Profession teacher, writer, politician

Barry Owen Jones, AC FAA FACE FAHA FASSA FTSE (born 11 October 1932), is an Australian polymath,[1][2][3][4] writer, lawyer, social activist, quiz champion and former politician. He campaigned against the death penalty throughout the 1960s, particularly against the execution of Ronald Ryan. He is on the National Trust's list of Australian Living Treasures.

Early life[edit]

Barry Jones was born in Geelong, Victoria and educated at Melbourne High School and the University of Melbourne, where he studied arts and law. He began his career as a schoolteacher at Dandenong High School, where he taught for nine years, before becoming a household name as an Australian quiz champion in the 1960s on Bob Dyer's Pick a Box, a radio show from 1948, televised from 1957. He was known for taking issue with Dyer about certain expected answers, most famously in response to a question about "the first British Governor-General of India", where he pointed out that Warren Hastings was only technically Governor of Bengal. Jones' appearances on Pick a Box lasted from 1960 to 1968.[5]

As a forward-thinking man he famously claimed that, in the future, there would be more computers than cars in Tasmania. Nationwide, people responded with laughter and ridicule. Australians thought the claim was absurd and nonsense.[6]

Jones also tried his hand at broadcasting on Melbourne radio in the mid-1960s. He was one of the pioneers of talkback radio, working at 3DB in Melbourne.[7] His show Talkback to Barry Jones and Mike Walsh's show on Sydney's 2SM were Australia's first talkback shows.[8] Jones believes that modern talkback shows have a much narrower focus than the original shows. He says "I was trying to convey to people a sense of what they didn't know rather than simply talk about football or pets. My emphasis was on using talkback as an instrument for exposing people to new ideas and challenging them, rather than just reinforcing the ideas they already held."[8] Jones was a panelist on 3DB's popular program, Information Please.

Political career[edit]

A member of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) from 1950, Jones was a Federal candidate in 1955, 1958 and 1963, with a strong interest in education and civil liberties.

Jones's political career began in the Victorian Parliament where he represented the electorate of Melbourne as a Labor Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) from 1972 to 1977, when he resigned to go into federal politics.

In 1977, he was elected to the House of Representatives as the Labor member for the Federal seat of Lalor in Victoria, which he held until his retirement in 1998. He was Minister for Science in the Hawke government from 1983 to 1990, in which role he presided over the growth of organisations such as the CSIRO, the creation of the Australia Prize, Questacon and the Commission for the Future. Jones lost his place in the ministry when he failed to gain the backing of his centre-left faction.

In 1992, upon the resignation of Stephen Loosley, to whom he had lost the position in a split vote in 1991, he was elected National President of the ALP, serving until 2000. He became National President again in 2005–06.

Jones was the chief architect of the ALP's Knowledge Nation education concept, as chair of the Chifley Research Centre's Knowledge Nation Taskforce.[9] During this time he was also a member of the Council of the National Library of Australia.[10]

He was the Vice-President of the World Heritage Committee from 1995 to 1996 and a member of the Executive Board of UNESCO from 1991 until 1995.

Jones and Ian Sinclair served as co-chairs of the 1998 Constitutional Convention on an Australian republic.

Academic career[edit]

Jones attended the selective Melbourne High School in South Yarra before continuing to the University of Melbourne where he graduated with Bachelor of Laws and Master of Arts degrees. Jones holds the honorary degrees of Doctor of Letters from the University of Technology, Sydney and University of Wollongong, Doctor of Science from Macquarie University and Doctor of Laws from the University of Melbourne.

In 1999 he was appointed an adjunct professor at Monash University and became a Vice-Chancellor's Fellow at the University of Melbourne in 2005.

He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science (FAA); a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities (FAHA); a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia (FASSA); and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (FTSE): he was the first (and so far the only) person elected Fellow of all four Australian learned academies. In 1999 he was elected a Visiting Fellow Commoner at Trinity College, Cambridge. He is also a Fellow of the Australian College of Educators (FACE).[11]

Later life[edit]

Jones chaired the Victorian Schools Innovation Commission from 2001 until 2005.[12] He chaired the Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority from 2000 to 2005[12] and serves on the boards of several medical research institutes. On 31 October 2008, Jones was appointed to serve on the board of the Victorian Opera.[13]

He appeared regularly as a member of the Brains Trust on the television quiz show The Einstein Factor. He mentioned on an episode of the show that he likes to watch his Wikipedia page grow.[14]

On 9 April 2010, the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr, announced the formation of the Book Industry Strategy Group (BISG) with Jones as chair.[15] The group submitted its report in September 2011.[16]

Barry Jones Bay in the Australian Antarctic Territory and Yalkaparidon jonesi, an extinct marsupial, were named after him. He is the owner of the largest private autograph collection in Australia.[17]

Stance against capital punishment[edit]

Jones has maintained a long-standing public profile as an outspoken opponent of capital punishment.[18][19]

On euthanasia[edit]

Jones's stated position on voluntary euthanasia in the past has been inconclusive. He has noted that popular support is not of itself a compelling reason for its adoption.[20]


Jones has been a prolific author of political and sociological books, including:

  • Decades of Decision 1860–, 1965
  • The Penalty is Death (editor), 1968
  • Joseph II, 1968
  • Barry Jones' Guide to Modern History: Age of Apocalypse, 1975
  • Macmillan Dictionary of Biography (editor), 1981
  • Sleepers, Wake! Technology and the Future of Work, 1982
  • Barry Jones' Dictionary of World Biography, 1994
  • A Thinking Reed (autobiography), 2006
  • Dictionary of World Biography, 3rd edition, 2016
  • The Shock of Recognition: The Books and Music that have Inspired Me, 2016


  1. ^ Professor Ian Chubb, Vice-Chancellor, Australian National University, BARRY OWEN JONES : CITATION FOR AN HONORARY DEGREE Archived 5 March 2014 at the Wayback Machine. ; Retrieved 14 September 2013
  2. ^ Mike Steketee, Review of A Thinking Reed, The Australian, 7 October 2006 ; Retrieved 14 September 2013
  3. ^ National Trust of Australia, National Living Treasures Archived 19 September 2014 at the Wayback Machine. ; Retrieved 14 September 2013
  4. ^ University of Canberra, Monitor Online, Barry Jones From quiz champion to global prophet Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine.; Retrieved 14 September 2013
  5. ^ Barry Jones on Talking Heads
  6. ^ "Let's make sure we don't look back and laugh"[permanent dead link] by Julia Gillard (27 October 2010)
  7. ^ "Commercial radio celebrates 40 years of talkback", Commercial Radio Australia enewsletter, 16 April 2007 Archived 20 July 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ a b Javes, Sue (2007) "In so many words" Archived 26 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine., The Sydney Morning Herald, 23 April 2007
  9. ^ Chifley Research Centre Archive[permanent dead link]
  10. ^ National Library of Australia (1999). "Appendix 1. The Council of the National Library of Australia". Annual Report, 1998–1999. Archived from the original on 2001-07-23. 
  11. ^ Australian College of Educators Archived 12 November 2016 at the Wayback Machine.
  12. ^ a b Prof Hon Barry Jones Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine., The University of Melbourne
  13. ^ Board of Directors Archived 9 October 2010 at the Wayback Machine. at Victorian Opera
  14. ^ The Einstein Factor, episode screened on 22 June 2008
  15. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 21 February 2011. Retrieved 2010-12-11. 
  16. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 16 December 2010. Retrieved 2010-12-11. 
  17. ^ Jones, Barry Owen Archived 29 September 2012 at the Wayback Machine., — Parliament of Victoria
  18. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2 July 2016. Retrieved 2015-07-09. 
  19. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 24 April 2016. Retrieved 2015-07-09. 
  20. ^;db=CHAMBER;id=chamber%2Fhansardr%2F1996-11-21%2F0126;query=Id%3A%22chamber%2Fhansardr%2F1996-11-21%2F0000%22[permanent dead link]

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
David Thomson
Minister for Science (and Technology)/
Minister for Science, (Customs)
and Small Business

11 March 1983 – 4 April 1990
Succeeded by
Simon Crean (Science)
David Beddall (Small
Business and Customs)
Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
Jim Cairns
Member for Lalor
10 December 1977 – 31 August 1998
Succeeded by
Julia Gillard