Jim Forbes (Australian politician)

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The Honourable
Dr Jim Forbes
Minister for Immigration
In office
22 March 1971 – 5 December 1972
Prime Minister William McMahon
Preceded by Phillip Lynch
Succeeded by Lance Barnard
Minister for Health
In office
26 January 1966 – 22 March 1971
Prime Minister Harold Holt (1966–67)
John McEwen (1967–68)
John Gorton (1968–71)
William McMahon (1971)
Preceded by Reginald Swartz
Succeeded by Ivor Greenwood
Minister for the Army
In office
18 December 1963 – 26 January 1966
Prime Minister Robert Menzies (1949-1966)
Preceded by John Cramer
Succeeded by Malcolm Fraser
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Barker
In office
13 October 1956 – 11 November 1975
Preceded by Archie Cameron
Succeeded by James Porter
Personal details
Born (1923-12-16) 16 December 1923 (age 93)
Hobart, Tasmania
Nationality Australian
Political party Liberal Party of Australia
Alma mater Royal Military College, Duntroon
University of Adelaide
Magdalen College, Oxford
Military service
Allegiance Australia
Service/branch Australian Army
Years of service 1940–1947
Rank Lieutenant
Unit 2nd Australian Mountain Battery
Battles/wars Second World War
Awards Military Cross

Alexander James de Burgh Forbes, CMG, MC (born 16 December 1923) is a former Australian politician and the last remaining Liberal member of the Menzies Government. In 1964, as Minister for the Army, Forbes introduced conscription because of the Vietnam War.

Early life and military service[edit]

Forbes was born in Hobart, Tasmania, on 16 December 1923. He graduated from the Royal Military College, Duntroon, in 1942, and was commissioned into the Australian Army. He was stationed in Darwin in 1943, then assigned to the 2nd Mountain Battery.[1] On 24 April 1945, Forbes was awarded the Military Cross (MC) in recognition of gallant and distinguished service in the South West Pacific.[2] Following the end of the Second World War, Forbes was part of Australia's victory contingent in the London Victory Celebrations of 1946.[3]

After his discharge from the army in 1947,[1] he studied at the University of Adelaide and Magdalen College, Oxford.[3]

Political career[edit]

Forbes was the Liberal candidate for the marginal Adelaide seat of Kingston in the 1955 election, losing to Labor incumbent Pat Galvin.

After the death of Speaker and former Country Party leader Archie Cameron in 1956, Forbes ran as the Liberal candidate in a by-election for Cameron's seat of Barker, a safely conservative seat in rural South Australia. He won the seat, though suffering a swing of almost 10 percent. Forbes was reelected in his own right in 1958 and held the seat until his retirement in 1975.[4] He was Minister for the Army from 1963 to 1966, Minister for the Navy from 1963 to 1964, Minister for Health from 1966 to 1971 and Minister for Immigration from 1971 until William McMahon's defeat in the 1972 election. As Minister for Immigration he was responsible for resisting British pressure to admit ethnically-Asian refugees from Uganda during Idi Amin's regime; he said, "Applications by Asians in Uganda will continue to be considered on their individual merits in accordance with our non-European immigration policies. These policies reflect the firm and unshakeable determination of the Government to maintain a homogeneous society in Australia."[5] He also ordered the deportation of Joe Cocker when a small quantity of cannabis was found by police in his band's hotel room.[6]

In November 1973, Prime Minister Gough Whitlam accused Forbes in parliament of abusing the Government's hospitality by drinking too much at a reception for the New Zealand Prime Minister. Forbes demanded the remark be withdrawn, with Opposition Leader Billy Snedden saying Whitlam should be ashamed and calling him 'gutless'. Whitlam responded "It is what he [Forbes] put in his guts that rooted him." Whitlam eventually withdrew the remark, after ensuring it had been transcribed to Hansard. An angry Forbes followed Whitlam out of the chamber calling him a "filthy bastard", to which Whitlam responded "Look, he's still shaking." Forbes insisted that any shaking was due to sciatica, and not alcohol consumption.[7][8]

After politics[edit]

Even 36 years after retirement, Jim Forbes was still in the headlines when it was revealed he had spent $16,000 on subsidised flights in the first six months of 2011: "New figures show Dr Jim Forbes, 87, who was the federal member for Barker when he retired from Parliament in 1975, took 29 flights for himself and his family, costing $16,078 under the Gold Pass scheme."[9] in 2014, he reasserted the need for Australia to introduce conscription for the Vietnam War, an action he undertook as the then minister responsible for the army.[10]

Awards and honours[edit]

In 1977, Forbes was made a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George in recognition of service to the parliament.[11]

In 2001, he was awarded the Centenary Medal for service to the Commonwealth Parliament and as Chairman of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories.[12]


  1. ^ a b FORBES, ALEXANDER JAMES DEBURGH, WW2 Nominal Roll, Department of Veterans Affairs.
  2. ^ "No. 37138". The London Gazette (Supplement). 21 June 1945. p. 3237. 
  3. ^ a b Pratt, Mel: Jim Forbes interviewed by Mel Pratt for the Mel Pratt collection (sound recording), National Library of Australia, 14 March 1978.
  4. ^ "Members of the House of Representatives since 1901". Parliamentary Handbook. Parliament of Australia. Archived from the original on 17 November 2007. Retrieved 18 November 2007. 
  5. ^ Neumann, Klaus (3 July 2004). "You're welcome, if we're interested". Project SafeCom Inc. Retrieved 10 January 2008. 
  6. ^ "Going Down Under". The Sydney Morning Herald. 3 July 2004. Retrieved 10 January 2008. 
  7. ^ Ramsey, Alan (10 December 2003). "Going Down Under". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 10 January 2008. 
  8. ^ "Liberal denies drink charge". The Age. 16 November 1973. Retrieved 14 February 2013. 
  9. ^ Hudson, Phillip (29 November 2011). "Free Travel – even 36 years later". The Advertiser. Retrieved 29 November 2011. 
  10. ^ https://www.crikey.com.au/2014/01/08/we-had-to-bring-it-in-defending-conscription-50-years-on/
  11. ^ FORBES, Alexander James, It's an Honour, 31 December 1977.
  12. ^ FORBES, Alexander James, It's an Honour, 1 January 2001.
Political offices
Preceded by
John Cramer
Minister for the Army
Succeeded by
Malcolm Fraser
Preceded by
John Gorton
Minister for the Navy
Succeeded by
Fred Chaney
Preceded by
Reginald Swartz
Minister for Health
Succeeded by
Ivor Greenwood
Preceded by
Phillip Lynch
Minister for Immigration
Succeeded by
Lance Barnard
Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
Archie Cameron
Member for Barker
Succeeded by
James Porter