Nelson Lemmon

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Nelson Lemmon
Nelson Lemmon.jpg
Minister for Works and Housing
In office
1 November 1946 – 19 December 1949
Prime MinisterBen Chifley
Preceded byBert Lazzarini
Succeeded byRichard Casey
Member of the Australian Parliament
for St George
In office
29 May 1954 – 10 December 1955
Preceded byBill Graham
Succeeded byBill Graham
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Forrest
In office
21 August 1943 – 10 December 1949
Preceded byJohn Prowse
Succeeded byGordon Freeth
Personal details
Born(1908-03-22)22 March 1908
Williamstown, Victoria, Australia
Died20 March 1989(1989-03-20) (aged 80)
Robertson, New South Wales, Australia
Political partyCountry Party (1930s)
Australian Labor Party
Spouse(s)Ada Mary Jackel

Nelson Lemmon (22 March 1908 – 20 March 1989) was an Australian politician. He was a member of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) and served as Minister for Works and Housing (1946–1949) in the Chifley Government. He played a key role in establishing the Snowy Mountains Scheme.[1]

Early life[edit]

Lemmon was born at Williamstown, Victoria, the son of John Lemmon, Australian Labor Party politician and Australian Labor Party member for Williamstown in the Victorian Legislative Assembly from 1904 to 1955.[2] He was educated at Williamstown State School and Longerenong Agricultural College, but subsequently moved to Ongerup, in the Great Southern region of Western Australia, to take up farming, and married Ada Mary Jackel in 1930.[3][4] Lemmon was later elected chairman of the Gnowangerup Road Board, becoming the youngest road board chairman in the state. He also served as a "prominent member" of the Wheatgrowers' Union.[5]

Early political involvement[edit]

Running as an unendorsed Country Party candidate, Lemmon unsuccessfully contested the seat of Katanning in the Legislative Assembly at both a 1935 by-election and the 1936 state election.[6] Lemmon was defeated by Arthur Watts, a future deputy premier, on both occasions, at the by-election losing by only 43 votes after five rounds of counting.[7]

Federal politics[edit]

Remaining involved in politics, although switching to the Labor Party, Lemmon won the House of Representatives seat of Forrest at the 1943 election. He defeated longtime Country member John Prowse on a swing of almost 14 percent as part of that year's massive Labor landslide. Notably, he won almost 53 percent of the primary vote, enough to take the seat off the Country Party without the need for preferences. He was Minister for Works and Housing in Ben Chifley's November 1946 ministry. In that role, he was responsible for the commencement of the construction of the Snowy Mountains Scheme, a complex of dams, power stations and tunnels in southern New South Wales to produce hydroelectric power and divert water for irrigation to inland areas along the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers.[8] He chose William Hudson as Commissioner of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority and refused to follow the normal procedure of putting forward three alternatives to cabinet.[9] Lemmon was also responsible for commencing a substantial program of construction of houses for ex-servicemen returned from World War II.

Lemmon's tenure in cabinet ended with his defeat at the 1949 election, in which he lost to Liberal Gordon Freeth despite being well ahead on the primary vote. However, on the third count, preferences from Country Party candidate and war hero Arnold Potts flowed overwhelmingly to Freeth, allowing Freeth to defeat Lemmon from third place on the primary vote.[10]

At the 1954 election he won the New South Wales seat of St George from Bill Graham and there was press speculation that he would run for Labor leadership. However, the Labor Party split in 1954 and Nelson lost to Graham at the 1955 election.[3]

He was one of only a small number of people who have represented more than one state or territory in the Parliament.

Later life[edit]

Lemmon returned to being a horse trainer and breeder in Robertson, New South Wales. He died on 20 March 1989, the last surviving member of the Chifley Cabinet.[11] He was survived by his wife and a son and a daughter.


  1. ^ "Members of the House of Representatives since 1901". Parliamentary Handbook. Parliament of Australia. Archived from the original on 17 November 2007. Retrieved 4 February 2008.
  2. ^ Smith, Ann G. (1986). "Lemmon, John (1875 - 1955)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Melbourne University Press. ISSN 1833-7538. Retrieved 4 February 2008 – via National Centre of Biography, Australian National University.
  3. ^ a b Hawke, Bob (4 April 1989). "Death of Hon. Nelson Lemmon". Hansard. Parliament of Australia. Archived from the original on 24 May 2011. Retrieved 4 February 2008.
  4. ^ "Ada toasts her 105th birthday". Bayside Bulletin. 14 January 2008. Retrieved 5 February 2008.[permanent dead link]
  5. ^ "THE KATANNING SEAT: Five Candidates Announced"The Western Mail. Published 8 August 1935.
  6. ^ "N. Lemmon's Candidature"The West Australian. Published 20 August 1935.
  7. ^ "KATANNING SEAT: BY-ELECTION COMPLETED—Mr. A. F. Watts Successful"The West Australian. Published 4 September 1935.
  8. ^ Endersbee, L A. "The Snowy Vision and the Young Team - The First Decade of Engineering for the Snowy Mountains Scheme". The spirit of the Snowy—fifty years on. Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering. Archived from the original on 13 October 2007. Retrieved 4 February 2008.
  9. ^ Sparke, Eric (1996). "Hudson, Sir William (1896 - 1978)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Melbourne University Press. ISSN 1833-7538. Retrieved 5 February 2008 – via National Centre of Biography, Australian National University.
  10. ^
  11. ^ Abjorensen, Norman. "Exits of the politically damned". Brisbane Times. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 6 February 2015.
Political offices
Preceded by
Bert Lazzarini
Minister for Works and Housing
Succeeded by
Richard Casey
Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
John Prowse
Member for Forrest
Succeeded by
Gordon Freeth
Preceded by
Bill Graham
Member for St George
Succeeded by
Bill Graham