Les Johnson

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Les Johnson
Les Johnson 1970.jpg
Minister for Aboriginal Affairs
In office
6 June 1975 – 11 November 1975
Prime MinisterGough Whitlam
Preceded byJim Cavanagh
Succeeded byTom Drake-Brockman
Minister for Housing and Construction
In office
30 November 1973 – 6 June 1975
Prime MinisterGough Whitlam
Preceded byHimself (Housing; Works)
Succeeded byJohn Carrick
Minister for Works
In office
9 October 1973 – 30 November 1973
Prime MinisterGough Whitlam
Preceded byJim Cavanagh
Succeeded byHimself (Housing & Construction)
Minister for Housing
In office
19 December 1972 – 30 November 1973
Prime MinisterGough Whitlam
Preceded byKevin Cairns
Succeeded byHimself (Housing & Construction)
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Hughes
In office
25 October 1969 – 19 December 1983
Preceded byDon Dobie
Succeeded byRobert Tickner
In office
10 December 1955 – 26 November 1966
Preceded byNew seat
Succeeded byDon Dobie
Personal details
Born(1924-11-22)22 November 1924
Enfield, New South Wales, Australia
Died26 May 2015(2015-05-26) (aged 90)
Political partyLabor
Spouse(s)(1) Gladys Jones
(2) Marion Sharkey (nee Legge)
ChildrenGrant, Sally, Jenny
Occupationfitter and turner, union organiser

Leslie Royston Johnson AM (22 November 1924 – 26 May 2015) was an Australian politician. He was a member of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) and held ministerial office in the Whitlam Government, serving as Minister for Housing (1972–1973), Works (1973), Housing and Construction (1973–1975), and Aboriginal Affairs (1975). He represented the Division of Hughes in New South Wales from 1955 to 1966 and from 1969 to 1983. He later served as High Commissioner to New Zealand from 1984 to 1985, cutting short his term due to his daughter's ill health.

Early life[edit]

Johnson was born at Enfield, New South Wales on 22 November 1924. He initially worked as a boilermaker's mate before becoming an apprentice fitter and turner. He became active in the Amalgamated Engineering Union, serving as chair of its New South Wales Youth Committee. He later worked as an organiser for the Federated Clerks Union and ran a general store and newsagency at Gymea.[1]


Johnson was elected for the Australian Labor Party as the first member for the House of Representatives seat of Hughes at the 1955 election and held it until his defeat at the 1966 election by Liberal Don Dobie. However, a redistribution ahead of the 1969 election reconfigured Hughes with a notional Labor majority of eight percent, making it a safe Labor seat on paper. Believing this made Hughes impossible to hold, especially with Johnson priming for a rematch, Dobie transferred to the newly created seat of Cook, which had been created mostly out of the wealthier portions of Hughes. This proved prescient, as Johnson retook the seat on a large swing, while Dobie narrowly won Cook. Johnson would hold Hughes without serious difficulty until 1983.

Johnson in 2006

Following Labor's win at the December 1972 election, he was appointed to the Whitlam ministry as Minister for Housing. In October 1973, he was appointed to the additional portfolio of Works. In November the two portfolios were combined as Housing and Construction. In June 1975 he was moved to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. He lost this position as a result of the dismissal of the Whitlam Government in November 1975. He subsequently became the Opposition Whip.

Labor returned to government at the March 1983 election, but Johnson did not stand for a place in the ministry. However, he was elected chairman of committees.[2] He resigned from parliament in December 1983 so that he could become Australian High Commissioner to New Zealand. His position as High Commissioner was cut short following the serious illness of his daughter, Sally Anne Penman, who was diagnosed with breast cancer, and subsequently died in February 1988.

Personal life[edit]

Les Johnson married Gladys (Peg) Jones in 1947, and she died in 2002. They had three children, Grant, Sally (deceased) and Jenny. In 2003 Les Johnson married Marion Sharkey, and they lived at Shoal Bay, NSW. [3][4]

Johnson was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in June 1990.[5] He died on 26 May 2015, aged 90.[6]


  1. ^ Hawkins, John. "Johnson, Leslie Royston (Les) (1924–2015)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Australian National University. Retrieved 27 September 2021.
  2. ^ "Appendix 3—Deputy Speakers". House of Representatives Practice (7th ed.). Parliament of Australia. Retrieved 15 February 2020.
  3. ^ "Members of the House of Representatives since 1901". Parliamentary Handbook. Parliament of Australia. Archived from the original on 17 November 2007. Retrieved 6 February 2008.
  4. ^ "House of Representatives by-elections 1901–2005". Parliamentary Library research brief. Parliament of Australia. Archived from the original on 21 August 2008. Retrieved 6 February 2008.
  5. ^ "Johnson, Leslie Royston, AM". It's an Honour. Government of Australia. Retrieved 6 February 2008.
  6. ^ http://www.gazetteherald.com/whitlam-minister-les-johnson-dies-at-90/112801/
Political offices
Preceded by Minister for Housing
Merged into Housing
and Construction
Preceded by Minister for Works
New title Minister for Housing and Construction
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister for Aboriginal Affairs
Succeeded by
Parliament of Australia
New division Member for Hughes
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member for Hughes
Succeeded by
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by Australian High Commissioner to New Zealand
1984 – 1985
Succeeded by