Peter Howson (politician)

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The Hon.
Peter Howson
Peter Howson.jpg
Peter Howson, ca. 1956
13th Minister for Air
In office
10 June 1964 – 28 February 1968
Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies
Harold Holt
John McEwen
John Gorton
Preceded by David Fairbairn
Succeeded by Gordon Freeth
Constituency Fawkner
1st Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts
In office
31 May 1971 – 5 December 1972
Prime Minister William McMahon
Succeeded by Moss Cass
Constituency Casey
Personal details
Born (1919-05-22)22 May 1919
London, UK
Died 1 February 2009(2009-02-01) (aged 89)
Geelong, Victoria, Australia
Nationality Australian
Political party Liberal Party of Australia
Alma mater Trinity College, Cambridge
Awards Mentioned in Dispatches
Military service
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch Royal Navy
Years of service 1940–1946

Peter Howson, CMG (22 May 1919 – 1 February 2009) was an Australian politician.


Howson was born in London, England in 1919 to Jessie and George Arthur Howson, and was educated at Stowe School and Trinity College, Cambridge.[1] During World War II, he served in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve as a pilot from 1940 to 1946, and was Mentioned in Despatches for his service.[2]

Howson was the Liberal Party of Australia member for the House of Representatives seat of Fawkner from his defeat of William Bourke at the 1955 election until its abolition before the 1969 election. He was then elected as the member for Casey. He was appointed Minister for Air in June 1964 in Robert Menzies' last ministry.[3]

In 1967, Harold Holt's government was attacked over allegations that it had misused the VIP aircraft fleet for ministers' private purposes. When asked to table records on the fleet's movements, Holt and Howson refused and implied that they did not exist, but Senator John Gorton later found that the records did exist and tabled them in the Senate.[4] When Gorton became Prime Minister, on 10 January 1968, he retained Howson in his ministry, but after he won a seat in the House of Representatives he carried out a Cabinet reshuffle on 28 February 1968 and dropped Howson from the ministry.[5]

Expecting to be rewarded for his support of McMahon during Gorton's ministry, Howson was disappointed when he was appointed in March 1971 to a portfolio no one in the McMahon Ministry wanted, Australia's first Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts and was controversially reported as commenting: "The little bastard [McMahon] gave me trees, boongs and pooftas".[6] Howson was defeated by Labor's Race Mathews at the 1972 election.[3]

Howson published a diary recording the events during his period as a parliamentarian and as a Minister.[7]

In 1973 he founded the Deafness Foundation Victoria.[8]

Howson was appointed a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George in 1980 for services to Parliament.[9] He was also awarded the Centenary Medal in 2001 for long and devoted service to improving conditions for Australia's indigenous people.[10]

Howson was active as a commentator on Indigenous matters, strongly supporting their cultural assimilation while deriding the Stolen Generations as a "silly fairy tale".[6][11][12][13][14][15]

Howson died in Geelong after suffering complications from a fall.[16]


  1. ^ Overington, Caroline (4 February 2009). "Former minister Howson dies at 89". The Australian. News Limited. 
  2. ^ Change in Canberra, Flight International, 25 June 1964.
  3. ^ a b "Members of the House of Representatives since 1901". Parliamentary Handbook. Parliament of Australia. Archived from the original on 17 November 2007. Retrieved 18 December 2007. 
  4. ^ "John Gorton, before". Australia's Prime Ministers. National Archives of Australia. Archived from the original on 31 August 2007. Retrieved 18 December 2007. 
  5. ^ "John Gorton, in office". Australia's Prime Ministers. National Archives of Australia. Archived from the original on 31 August 2007. Retrieved 18 December 2007. 
  6. ^ a b Mungo Wentworth MacCallum (10 February 2009). "Kevin’s package stands up to scrutiny". Byron Shire Echo. Retrieved 17 March 2010. 
  7. ^ Peter Howson (edited by Don Aitkin) (1984), The Howson Diaries. The Life of Politics, Viking Press, Ringwood, Victoria. ISBN 0-7139-1656-7
  8. ^ Deafness Foundation
  9. ^ HOWSON, Peter, It's an Honour, 1980.
  10. ^ HOWSON, Peter, It's an Honour, 1980.
  11. ^ Peter Howson, Academia's Sorry Obsession: Manne et al. would help Aborigines more by looking at the present, not the past, The Age, 3 April 2001 on the Institute for Private Enterprise website
  12. ^ Peter Howson, Legal Notes: The Stolen Generations True Believers Take One Step Back, National Observer, No. 49, Winter 2001
  13. ^ Peter Howson and Des Moore, A Rabbit-proof Fence Full of Holes, The Bennelong Society, originally published in The Australian, 11 March 2002
  14. ^ Peter Howson, Land Rights—the Next Battleground, Quadrant June 2005 49:6
  15. ^ "Peter Howson, Live not by land alone: We should know by now that native title doesn't improve indigenous livelihood", The Australian, 28 September 2006
  16. ^ Former Aboriginal affairs minister Howson dies, ABC News, 2 February 2009
Political offices
Preceded by
David Fairbairn
Minister for Air
Succeeded by
Gordon Freeth
New title Minister for the Environment,
Aborigines and the Arts

Succeeded by
Gough Whitlam
Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
William Bourke
Member for Fawkner
Division abolished
New division Member for Casey
Succeeded by
Race Mathews