John Anderson (Australian politician)

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John Anderson

John Anderson in 2017.jpg
Deputy Prime Minister of Australia
In office
20 July 1999 – 6 July 2005
Prime MinisterJohn Howard
Preceded byTim Fischer
Succeeded byMark Vaile
Leader of the National Party of Australia
Elections: 2001, 2004
In office
20 July 1999 – 6 July 2005
DeputyMark Vaile
Preceded byTim Fischer
Succeeded byMark Vaile
Minister for Transport and Regional Development
In office
21 October 1998 – 6 July 2005
Prime MinisterJohn Howard
Preceded byMark Vaile
Succeeded byWarren Truss
Deputy Leader of the National Party of Australia
In office
23 March 1993 – 20 July 1999
LeaderTim Fischer
Preceded byBruce Lloyd
Succeeded byMark Vaile
Minister for Primary Industries and Energy
In office
11 March 1996 – 21 October 1998
Prime MinisterJohn Howard
Preceded byBob Collins
Succeeded byMark Vaile
Member of Parliament
for Gwydir
In office
15 April 1989 – 17 October 2007
Preceded byRalph Hunt
Succeeded byDivision abolished
Personal details
Born (1956-11-14) 14 November 1956 (age 64)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Political partyNational Party of Australia
Spouse(s)Julia Robertson
Alma materThe King's School, Parramatta, University of Sydney

John Duncan Anderson AO (born 14 November 1956) is an Australian politician who was Deputy Prime Minister of Australia and leader of the National Party from 1999 to 2005. He was a member of the House of Representatives from 1989 to 2007, serving as Minister for Primary Industries and Energy (1996–1998) and Minister for Transport and Regional Development (1998–2005) in the Howard Government.

As a government minister and later Deputy Prime Minister, Anderson had cabinet responsibility for primary industry policy, including transport infrastructure and agricultural water rights.[1]

After politics, Anderson launched a web-based interview program, Conversations with John Anderson, featuring interviews with public intellectuals.

Early life and education[edit]

Anderson was born in Sydney to Duncan Anderson, and Beryl Mann.[2]:48 His family had been graziers and landowners of Mullaley in northern New South Wales since the 1840s.[3] When he was three years old, his mother died of cancer. His father was an acting sergeant in north Africa during World War II, where he sustained significant injuries.[2]:7 In 1970, his younger sister Jane died after Anderson hit a cricket ball into the back of her neck while playing cricket at home with his father.[4]

Anderson has described his religious upbringing as "very, very nominal Presbyterian."[5]

As a young child, Anderson was tutored at home by his aunt, Margaret, through Blackfriars Correspondence School.[5] At age nine, he was sent to board in Gunnedah where he attended Gunnedah South Public School.[6] Anderson was then sent to The King's School in Parramatta, boarding at Waddy House.[7]

He began a degree in arts and laws at the University of Sydney, where he was a resident of St Paul’s College, but dropped law shortly after commencing.[5] Anderson graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in history and returned to the family property where he was a farmer and grazier, and completed a Master of Arts during this time.[2]:62

Early parliamentary career[edit]

Anderson became chair of the National Party's Tambar Springs branch in 1984.[8] A few weeks later, MP Frank O'Keefe recommended Anderson run for the seat of Paterson, where he was current member,[2]:41 but the seat was abolished in 1984.[9] In 1989, Ralph Hunt, the sitting MP in the neighbouring seat of Gwydir, retired and supported Anderson to replace him.[2]:41 The ensuing pre-selection contest to become the National Party candidate for the next election was close, Anderson winning over contenders that included future MP, Tony Windsor.[10][11] During the by-election he faced right wing candidates John Uebergang, who would later create the Confederate Action Party of Australia, and the anti-immigration Bevan O’Regan, who would later join One Nation.[12]

Anderson won the by election, with a two-party preferred result of 56%.[13] His first remarks to the House of Representatives were part of a condolence motion for his mentor, and former MP, Frank O'Keefe, who had died two weeks before.[2]:71 Anderson later gave his official maiden speech on 17 August 1989.[14] Anderson served in several parliamentary committees.[8] After the 1990 federal election, the opposition leader John Hewson asked Anderson to join the shadow ministry. He became Parliamentary Secretary to the Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations, John Howard.[15][16]

In March 1993, following the Coalition's defeat at the 1993 election, Anderson was elected deputy leader of the Nationals in place of Bruce Lloyd. With the backing of Sinclair, who unsuccessfully challenged Tim Fischer for the party leadership, he defeated three more senior candidates – Peter McGauran, John Sharp and Bruce Scott. At the time he was described in The Canberra Times as "a young, good-looking man with a long lineage in farming who has been tipped for party leadership ever since he entered politics because he bridges the traditional interests of the former Country Party and its need to update its image for the 1990s".[17] He was subsequently included in John Hewson's shadow cabinet as Shadow Minister for Primary Industry.[8] As shadow minister he criticised the minister Simon Crean on matters such as the government-set wool floor price.[18]

Anderson served as acting leader of the Nationals for around a month starting in January 1994, in the absence of Fischer who had been badly injured in a car accident.[19]

Cabinet minister[edit]

Anderson became the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy upon the Coalition's victory at the 1996 federal election, during which he had promised the establishment of a $1 billion fund “to restore the national estate, including programs to arrest soil degradation".[citation needed] Anderson also reached a high of 68.51% in the two party preferred vote for his seat of Gwydir.[citation needed]

Upon becoming a minister, Anderson was asked by Prime Minister John Howard to join a five-person committee with the brief of making radical cuts to government spending.[citation needed] The goal of the so-called “razor gang” was to cut $6 to $8 billion in expenditure and was led by the new treasurer, Peter Costello. Anderson advocated that agricultural research and development, diesel fuel rebates and the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service should be protected from spending cuts.[citation needed]

Minister for Primary Industries and Energy[edit]

Anderson’s three years in the primary industries portfolio were marked by conflict as government protection of primary industries were removed. During his ministry, the government had significantly deregulated the wool, wheat and dairy sectors, and privatised much of the meat and livestock industry. Anderson lead a delegation of Australian business leaders to visit Taiwan in September 1996 in his role as primary industries minister, which the People's Republic of China said contravened the One China policy. [20]

In response to the government-owned Australian Wool Corporation (AWC) being left with a surplus of 4 million bales of unsold wool and a debt of around $2 billion, Anderson and the Coalition government gave wool producers a pay-out of $300 million, drawing down against their equity in the wool stockpile, despite objections from many National Party members who preferred a policy of freezing sales from the stockpile. The government wool-owning entity was entirely privatised, to become Woolstock Australia, by August 2001.[citation needed]

Anderson announced significant restructures of the meat and livestock industry in 1997, which were supported with some reservations by farmers groups, such as NSW Farmers. In 1998, Meat & Livestock Australia was created from the two organisations, with the goal of becoming a less costly, producer-owned service delivery body.[21]

Minister for Transport and Regional Development[edit]

In September 1997, Anderson assumed the portfolio for Transport and Regional Development, giving him responsibility for developing national rail, road and water infrastructure. Anderson oversaw the creation of the Australian Rail Track Corporation, a Commonwealth body set up to own or hold long-term leases over much of the continental rail network.[citation needed]

In response to criticism over industry deregulation, the privatisation of Telstra and gun control laws, Fischer and Anderson scheduled a party meeting on 5 August 1998 to declare their leadership positions vacant, inviting their party room critics, particularly Bob Katter and De-Anne Kelly, to replace them. Anderson and Fischer nominated for the positions they had vacated and were re-elected unopposed.[citation needed]

During the 1998 federal election, private polling indicated that up to 49% of people in Anderson's seat of Gwydir intended to vote for the new Pauline Hanson's One Nation. Anderson suffered a 16.18% swing against him with a primary vote of 46.14%, the only time his first round votes were below 50%.[citation needed]

Deputy Prime Minister[edit]

Following the resignation of Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals leader Tim Fischer, Anderson was elected unopposed as the new leader and become Deputy Prime Minister himself on 20 July 1999. Anderson kept his ministerial responsibilities in Transport and Regional Development and were extended to the delivery of government services, such as health, to regional and remote centres, and a role in the National Security Committee. Anderson also assumed the role of Acting Prime Minister when John Howard was overseas, such as during the September 11 attacks and in the aftermath of the 2002 Bali bombings.[citation needed]

Anderson's ministerial department was responsible for paying outstanding wages and entitlements for former employees of the insolvent airline Ansett Australia, though allowing it to collapse.[citation needed]

During Anderson's tenure as Deputy Prime Minister, the Coalition government established the National Water Initiative in 2004, allowing producers to gain ongoing access entitlements for a share of water available for use, rather than fixed-term entitlements with no guarantee of renewal.[citation needed]

On 17 November 2004, the MP for New England Tony Windsor accused John Anderson of offering him, via businessman Greg Maguire, a diplomatic or trade posting if Windsor would surrender his seat. As the statement was made under parliamentary privilege, it was protected from litigation for defamation. Anderson strongly repudiated the claims. A Senate inquiry and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions found that there were no grounds to lay any charges under the Commonwealth Electoral Act.[citation needed]

On the last sitting day of Parliament before the winter recess of 2005, John Anderson announced his resignation from the leadership of the National Party, and as Deputy Prime Minister, citing a citing a "debilitating but thankfully benign prostate condition". He was succeeded in both positions by Mark Vaile, and retired from parliament at the 2007 federal election.[22]

Later life[edit]

NYU Professor Jonathan Haidt meeting Anderson before an interview.

Anderson served as chairman of Eastern Star Gas (ESG) from October 2007 until 2011[citation needed] when the publicly-listed company and its flagship Narrabri Gas Project was acquired by Santos in a $924 million deal.[23]

On 13 June 2011, Anderson was named an Officer of the Order of Australia: "For distinguished service to the Parliament of Australia, particularly for supporting rural and regional communities, transport development, and water management initiatives".[24]

Prior to the 2017 Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey, Anderson was interviewed on ABC television speaking about his opposition to same-sex marriage.[25]

In the late 2010s, Anderson made an increased presence in online media, as well as newspaper opinion pieces and television appearances. Since 2018, Anderson has hosted a podcast and YouTube channel where he interviews public figures, including historian Victor Davis Hanson, former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, former Labor leader Kim Beazley,[26][27][28] Jonathan Haidt, Glenn Loury, Niall Ferguson,[28] and psychologist Jordan B. Peterson.

In March 2021, Anderson declared himself a candidate in the National Party's pre-selection for Senate candidacy at the next federal election.[22][29][30] In June 2021, Anderson was beaten by former party director Ross Cadell (42–39) for the top spot on the Nationals Senate ticket for New South Wales, and hence the second spot on the joint Coalition Senate ticket.[31][32] Anderson declined to run for the second spot which was deemed unwinnable, and declared his political career had come to an end.[33]

Personal life[edit]

John Anderson in a sorghum field on the family property Newstead, Liverpool Plains in NSW Australia, 2017

In 1998, Anderson and his wife Julia's fifth child was born in January of that year, with Down syndrome and Hirschsprung's disease, and died six months later.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "Joint Press Conference with Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson Parliament House, Canberra". Retrieved 5 May 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Gallagher, Paul (2006). Faith and Duty: the John Anderson story. Sydney: Random House. ISBN 9781741665642.
  3. ^ "Autumn for a man of all seasons". The Age. 24 June 2005. Retrieved 4 January 2021.
  4. ^ King, Madeleine (23 April 2018). "The day John Anderson's childhood ended". SBS Insight. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
  5. ^ a b c "Resources | Sydney University Evangelical Union". Retrieved 20 January 2021.
  6. ^ "Faces of Gunnedah Pollies". Namoi Valley Independent. 6 June 2013. Retrieved 20 January 2021.
  7. ^ Sowada, Karin. "Faith & Duty: The John Anderson Story". sydneyanglicans. Anglican Media Sydney. Retrieved 20 January 2021.
  8. ^ a b c "Hon John Anderson MP". Parliament of Australia. Retrieved 26 September 2020.
  9. ^ "2001 Profile of the division of Paterson". Australian Electoral Commission. Australian Electoral Commission. Retrieved 19 January 2021.
  10. ^ Ackerman, Piers (11 September 2020). "ALP caught in trap of its own making by two rats". News Corp Australia. Retrieved 19 January 2021.
  11. ^ Devine, Miranda (29 October 2011). "Windsor down but long way from out". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 19 January 2021.
  12. ^ Malone, Paul (30 March 1989). "Coalition Set To Reject Wheat Regulation". The Canberra Times.
  13. ^ "Pressure on Kennet for Coalition". The Canberra Times. 17 April 1989. Retrieved 20 January 2021.
  14. ^ "Hansard - APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 1) 1989-90". Parlinfo. (Commonwealth) Parliament of Australia. Retrieved 19 January 2021.
  15. ^ "HEWSON RESHUFFLES SHADOW MINISTRY". Australian Financial Review. 29 April 1992. Retrieved 10 May 2021.
  16. ^ "Hewson front bench switch". The Canberra Times. 29 April 1992.
  17. ^ Connors, Tom (24 March 1993). "'Kind' challenge won by Fischer". The Canberra Times.
  18. ^ Iffland, Katrina (17 April 1993). "Opposition calls for wool tax guarantee". The Canberra Times.
  19. ^ "Fischer makes 'bonus days' count". The Canberra Times. 15 February 1994.
  20. ^ "The Dragon has Claws: 1996 and The Howard Government's Hurdles with China - AIIA". Australian Institute of International Affairs. Retrieved 7 May 2021.
  21. ^ "David Crombie reflects on 20 years of MLA, MSA operations". Beef Central. 27 November 2018. Retrieved 7 May 2021.
  22. ^ a b "Former Nationals leader John Anderson seeks Senate spot after 14 years". Australian Financial Review. 8 March 2021. Retrieved 8 March 2021.
  23. ^
  24. ^ "Award Extract". Australian Honours Search Facility. Commonwealth Of Australia - Dept of Prime Minister and Cabinet. Retrieved 13 June 2011.
  25. ^ "Former National Party Leader John Anderson – Some home truths". ABC News. 22 August 2017.
  26. ^ Hains, Tim. "Victor Davis Hanson: Will Our Next Revolution Be French, Russian, Maoist, Or American?". Retrieved 5 May 2021.
  27. ^ "Hommage : Jonathan Sacks, le rabbin des nations". La (in French). 3 December 2020. Retrieved 5 May 2021.
  28. ^ a b Sheridan, Greg (11 May 2019). "John Anderson's second coming". The Weekend Australian. Retrieved 27 September 2020.,
  29. ^ Wright, Tony (8 March 2021). "'Every hand will be needed at the wheel': John Anderson in bid to return to Parliament". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 8 March 2021.
  30. ^ Sheridan, Greg (8 March 2021). "John Anderson to make comeback with Nationals". The Australian.
  31. ^ "Former leader John Anderson fails in Senate bid for troubled Nats". Australian Financial Review. 18 June 2021. Retrieved 20 June 2021.
  32. ^ "John Anderson loses senate bid". Sky News. 18 June 2021. Retrieved 21 June 2021.
  33. ^ "Former Nationals leader John Anderson's return to politics falls flat". Out in Perth. 20 June 2021. Retrieved 21 June 2021.

External links[edit]

External video
video icon Australia is in a new culture war says John Anderson, Matter Of Fact With Stan Grant, ABC News
Political offices
Preceded by
Bob Collins
Minister for Primary Industries and Energy
Succeeded by
Mark Vaile
Preceded by
Mark Vaile
Minister for Transport and Regional Development
Succeeded by
Warren Truss
Preceded by
Tim Fischer
Deputy Prime Minister of Australia
Succeeded by
Mark Vaile
Party political offices
Preceded by
Tim Fischer
Leader of the National Party of Australia
Succeeded by
Mark Vaile
Preceded by
Bruce Lloyd
Deputy Leader of the
National Party of Australia

Succeeded by
Mark Vaile
Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
Ralph Hunt
Member for Gwydir
Division abolished