Cleaver Bunton

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Cleaver Bunton
Senator for New South Wales
In office
27 February 1975 – 11 November 1975
Preceded by Lionel Murphy
Personal details
Born (1902-05-05)5 May 1902
Albury, New South Wales
Died 20 January 1999(1999-01-20) (aged 96)
Nationality Australian
Political party Independent
Spouse(s) Eileen O'Malley
Occupation Local councillor

Cleaver Ernest Bunton AO OBE (5 May 1902 – 20 January 1999) was a long-serving Mayor of Albury, New South Wales, Australia, who came to national prominence in 1975 when he was controversially appointed to the Senate by New South Wales Liberal Party Premier, Tom Lewis, to fill a position vacated by a Labor Party member.

Early life[edit]

Born in Albury, Bunton left school at 13 and initially worked as a clerk in a solicitor's office before becoming an accountant. He also was involved in Albury sporting and community affairs, playing Australian rules football with the Albury Football Club, becoming captain-coach and club secretary at 17. His younger brother Haydn Bunton went on to become a notable Australian rules footballer.

Bunton married Eileen O'Malley in 1930. In 1930, he was elected president of the Ovens and Murray Football League (a position he held until 1969). He also held administrative roles in the Victorian Country Football League, the West Albury Tennis Club and a range of other community groups and organisations.

Municipal career[edit]

In recognition of his role in Albury, Bunton was encouraged to run for a position on the Albury Municipal Council, and was elected in 1925 at the age of 22, the youngest person ever elected to a council to that time. After initially retiring in 1931, he returned to the council in 1937, elected Mayor of Albury in 1945 and served as from 1946 until August 1976 (with brief breaks in 1961 and 1972–73). Bunton was also a regional radio commentator, commenting on sport and reading the news bulletins.

Appointment to the Australian Senate[edit]

Bunton would have remained an uncontroversial hardworking local administrator but for the resignation of Australian Labor Party Senator for New South Wales Lionel Murphy on 9 February 1975 to take up an appointment as a judge of the High Court.

Convention dictated that Federal Senate casual vacancies were filled by persons nominated by the same political party of the same state. However, on 27 February the New South Wales Liberal Party Premier, Tom Lewis, defied this convention by appointing Bunton, who was not affiliated with any party.[1] Facing a hostile Labor Party (and sometimes hostile electorate), Bunton surprised many observers by acting independently rather than as a Liberal appointee, and resisted urgings from the Malcolm Fraser-led Opposition to block the supply bills of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam's government, instead supporting Labor on the supply bills during the 1975 Australian constitutional crisis.[2]

Bunton chose not to contest the ensuing election but to retire. The controversy surrounding his and Albert Field's appointments prompted an amendment to the Constitution requiring that casual Senate vacancies be filled by a member of the same party.[1]


For his services, Bunton was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1954,[3] an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 1975,[4] a member of the Ovens and Murray League Hall Of Fame, as well as receiving an honorary degree from Charles Sturt University and having a street in Albury, a chrysanthemum and a ward in the Albury Base Hospital named in his honour.

In recognition of his years of service to his home city, Bunton was occasionally known by the sobriquet "Mr Albury".


  1. ^ a b Gerard Newman (14 May 2002). "Senate Casual Vacancies". Research Note no.35 2001-2001. Commonwealth of Australia. Archived from the original on 14 September 2010. Retrieved 23 March 2010. 
  2. ^ Hansard Senate 15 February 1999, see pp 1858 onwards
  3. ^ It's an Honour - Officer of the Order of the British Empire
  4. ^ It's an Honour - Officer of the Order of Australia


Preceded by
Dudley Padman
Mayor of Albury
1946 – 1960
Succeeded by
John King
Preceded by
John King
Mayor of Albury
1961 – 1972
Succeeded by
Tom Pearsall
Preceded by
Tom Pearsall
Mayor of Albury
1974 – 1976
Succeeded by
Max Barry