Davis Hughes

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Sir William Davis Hughes (24 November 1910 – 16 March 2003) was an Australian politician and bureaucrat.

Early life[edit]

Hughes was born in Launceston, Tasmania and was educated at Launceston High School and the University of Tasmania, although he did not graduate.[1] He married Joan Johnson in 1940 and they had one son and two daughters. He was a school teacher in Tasmania from 1927 until 1935, and at The Armidale School from 1947 until 1950. He served in the Royal Australian Air Force from 1939 until 1945, achieving the rank of squadron leader.[2]

Political career[edit]

Hughes was elected as a member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly for Armidale from 1950 to 1953 and 1956 to 1973 for the Country Party. He was chosen to lead the party in 1958, but his term of office was brief because he was forced to resign in 1959 after it was revealed that he did not have the university degree which he claimed.[3]

With the election of the Askin government in 1965, Hughes became Minister for Public Works,[2] with responsibility for, among other things, the completion of the Sydney Opera House. Hughes refused to accept Jørn Utzon's approach to managing the Opera House project and, specifically, the construction of plywood prototypes for its interiors. He cut off funding so Utzon could not even pay his own staff and eventually forced the architect off the project by refusing to pay a fee claim for £51,000, which led to Utzon's departure. After a heated discussion about the claim Utzon sent a letter of withdrawal to Hughes on 28 February 1966 because of the disputed payment, stating "you have forced me to the leave the job"[4] which Hughes immediately twisted in the media announcement made only hours after receiving it to be Utzon's 'resignation'.

The Opera House was subsequently completed by another architect, Peter Hall, whose altered designs did not fully realize Utzon's original vision.

Upon his resignation from parliament in January 1973, Hughes was appointed NSW Agent-General in London.[5] He died at Erina, New South Wales.

He died in 2003, aged 92.


Hughes was knighted in 1975, two years after resigning from parliament.[6]


  1. ^ "Our History- No 68. Skulduggery in the 1959 State Election". The Armidale Independent. Archived from the original on 27 March 2012. 
  2. ^ a b "Sir Davis Hughes (1910–2003)". Members of Parliament. Parliament of New South Wales. Archived from the original on 4 June 2011. Retrieved 25 February 2010. 
  3. ^ Farrelly, Elizabeth (1 December 2008). "High noon at Bennelong Point". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2013-10-17. 
  4. ^ P.Drew, 1999. p.350
  5. ^ "Sir Davis Hughes". The Telegraph. 28 April 2003. Retrieved 2013-10-17. 
  6. ^ "Death of the Honourable Sir Davis Hughes". Hansard. Parliament of New South Wales. Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-05-01. 
Parliament of New South Wales
Preceded by
David Drummond
Member for Armidale
1949 – 1953
Succeeded by
Jim Cahill
Preceded by
Jim Cahill
Member for Armidale
1956 – 1973
Succeeded by
David Leitch
Party political offices
Preceded by
Sir Michael Bruxner
Leader of the New South Wales Country Party
1958 – 1959
Succeeded by
Sir Charles Cutler
Preceded by
William Chaffey
Deputy Leader of the New South Wales Country Party
1968 – 1973
Succeeded by
Leon Punch
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Sir John Pagan
Agent-General for New South Wales
Succeeded by
Sir Ken McCaw