|The Right Honourable
Sir Robert Menzies
KT, AK, CH, FAA, FRS, QC
|12th Prime Minister of Australia
Elections: 1940, 1946, 1949, 1951, 1954, 1955, 1958, 1961, 1963
26 April 1939 – 29 August 1941
|Preceded by||Earle Page|
|Succeeded by||Arthur Fadden|
19 December 1949 – 26 January 1966
|Governor-General||Sir William McKell
Sir William Slim
Viscount De L'Isle
|Preceded by||Ben Chifley|
|Succeeded by||Harold Holt|
|Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports|
11 November 1965 – 15 May 1978
|Preceded by||Sir Winston Churchill|
|Succeeded by||Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother|
|1st Leader of the Liberal Party|
31 August 1945 – 26 January 1966
|Preceded by||Position Established|
|Succeeded by||Harold Holt|
|2nd Leader of the United Australia Party|
26 April 1939 – 29 August 1941
|Preceded by||Joseph Lyons|
|Succeeded by||Billy Hughes|
23 September 1943 – 31 August 1945
|Preceded by||Billy Hughes|
|Succeeded by||Position Abolished|
|13th Leader of the Opposition|
23 September 1943 – 19 December 1949
|Prime Minister||John Curtin
|Preceded by||Arthur Fadden|
|Succeeded by||Ben Chifley|
|Member of the Australian Parliament
15 September 1934 – 16 February 1966
|Preceded by||John Latham|
|Succeeded by||Andrew Peacock|
|Deputy Premier of Victoria|
May 1932 – July 1934
|Premier||Sir Stanley Argyle|
|Preceded by||Albert Dunstan|
|Succeeded by||Wilfrid Kent Hughes|
|Attorney-General of Victoria|
19 May 1932 – 24 July 1934
|Premier||Sir Stanley Argyle|
|Preceded by||Ian Macfarlan|
|Succeeded by||Albert Bussau|
|Member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly
30 November 1929 – 31 August 1934
|Preceded by||Edmund Greenwood|
|Succeeded by||William Boyland|
|Member of the Victorian Legislative Council for East Yarra Province|
2 June 1928 – 11 November 1929
|Preceded by||George Swinburne|
|Succeeded by||Clifdon Eager|
|Born||Robert Gordon Menzies
20 December 1894
Jeparit, Victoria, Australia
|Died||15 May 1978
|Political party||Nationalist Party of Australia (1928–1931)
United Australia Party (1931–1945)
Liberal Party of Australia (1945–1966)
|Spouse(s)||Dame Pattie Menzies (née Leckie)|
|Education||Wesley College, Melbourne
University of Melbourne
Sir Robert Gordon Menzies, KT, AK, CH, FAA, FRS, QC (20 December 1894 – 15 May 1978), was Australia’s longest-serving Prime Minister to date, at over eighteen years total, his second term of sixteen years being the longest continuous term ever served.
Menzies studied law at the University of Melbourne, before becoming one of that city’s leading lawyers. He was Deputy Premier of Victoria from 1932 to 1934, and then transferred to Federal government, becoming Attorney-General and Minister for Industry under Joseph Lyons. In April 1939 he was elected leader of the United Australia Party (UAP) and sworn in as prime minister. On Britain’s declaration of war in September, he loyally stood by her, despite having backed her earlier appeasement policy. In 1941 he spent four months in England as a member of the war cabinet; it is theorised that he was considered as a replacement for Churchill at this time. Returning home, he found his party had lost support, and resigned. In 1945 he launched the Liberal Party of Australia as the effective opposition to Labor, and this would be his power-base during his long and triumphant second term.
By 1949, Cold War scares had eroded Labor support, and the Menzies Liberal/Country Coalition won power that year. His appeal to the home and family, promoted via reassuring radio talks, matched the national mood as the economy grew and middle-class values prevailed. His government was also supported by a breakaway group from the Labor Party. After his last election victory in 1963, his policy speech was televised for the first time. He was one of only two Australian prime ministers to be knighted during their term of office. He resigned in 1966.
Menzies is remembered for his development of the federal capital Canberra, and for his encouragement of university education.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Legal Career
- 3 Personal Life
- 4 Career in Victorian State Politics, 1928-1934
- 5 Early Career in Federal Politics, 1934-1939
- 6 First term as prime minister
- 7 Formation of Liberal Party and return to power
- 8 Second term as prime minister
- 9 After Politics
- 10 Death and Funeral
- 11 Legacy
- 12 Published works
- 13 Titles and honours
- 14 See also
- 15 Actors who have played Menzies
- 16 Eponyms of Menzies
- 17 Further reading
- 18 Notes and references
- 19 External links
Robert Gordon Menzies was born to James Menzies and Kate (née Sampson) in Jeparit, a town in the Wimmera region of northwestern Victoria, on 20 December 1894. He was the fourth of five children, with one sister and three brothers. His father James was a storekeeper and held agencies for farm machinery and stock agents, the son of Scottish crofters who had immigrated to Australia in the mid-1850s in the wake of the Victorian gold rush. His maternal grandfather, John Sampson, was a Cornish miner from Penzance who also came to seek his fortune on the goldfields, in Ballarat. His father was elected to the Victorian State Parliament for the seat of Lowan in 1911 and moved with the family to Melbourne after selling the farm. One of his uncles, Hugh Menzies, had been member of the Victorian Parliament for Stawell for two years up to 1904, while another uncle, Sydney Sampson, had represented the Division of Wimmera in the House of Representatives. His cousin, Sir Douglas Menzies, became a justice of the High Court of Australia He was proud of his Highland ancestry – his enduring nickname, Ming, came from //, the Scots – and his own preferred – pronunciation of Menzies. His middle name, Gordon, was given to him in honour and memory of Charles George Gordon, a British general killed in Khartoum in 1885.
Menzies' formal education began at Humffray Street State School in Bakery Hill, Ballarat, then later at private school in Ballarat. He attended Wesley College in Melbourne and studied law at the University of Melbourne, graduating in 1916.
When World War I began, Menzies was 19 years old and held a commission in the university's militia unit. He resigned his commission at the very time others of his age and class clamoured to be allowed to enlist. It was later stated that, since the family had made enough of a sacrifice to the war with the enlistment of two of three eligible brothers, Menzies should stay to finish his studies. Menzies himself never explained the reason why he chose not to enlist. It should be noted that the two brothers, James and Frank, who did enlist did not do so until 1915 after the landings at Anzac which belies the alleged reason. Subsequently he was prominent in undergraduate activities and won academic prizes and declared himself to be a patriotic supporter of the war and conscription. In 1916 he became the editor of the Melbourne University Magazine (MUM), establishing a reputation as an unusually bright and articulate member of the undergraduate community.
After graduating from the University of Melbourne in 1916 with First Class Honours in Law, Menzies was admitted to the Victorian Bar and to the High Court of Australia in 1918. Establishing his own practice in Melbourne, Menzies specialized chiefly in Constitutional law which he had read with the leading Victorian jurist, Sir Owen Dixon. In 1920 Menzies served as an advocate for the Amalgamated Society of Engineers which eventually took its appeal to the High Court of Australia. The case became a landmark authority for the positive reinterpretation of Commonwealth powers over those of the States. The High Court’s verdict raised Menzies’ profile as a skilled advocate and eventually he was appointed a King’s Counsel in 1929.
On 27 September 1920, Menzies married Pattie Leckie (1899-1995) at Kew Presbyterian Church in Melbourne. Pattie Leckie was the eldest daughter of John Leckie, a Deakinite Liberal who was elected the member for Benambra in the Victorian Legislative Assembly in 1913. Soon after their marriage, the Menzies bought the house in Howard Street, Kew, which would become their family home for 25 years. They had three surviving children: Kenneth (1922-1993), Ian (1923-1974) and a daughter, Heather (born 1928). Another child died at birth.
Career in Victorian State Politics, 1928-1934
In 1928, Menzies entered state parliament as a member of the Victorian Legislative Council from East Yarra Province, representing the Nationalist Party of Australia. He stood for constitutional democracy, the rule of law, the sanctity of contracts and the jealous preservation of existing institutions. Suspicious of the Labor Party, Menzies stressed the superiority of free enterprise except for certain public utilities such as the railways. His candidacy was nearly defeated when a group of ex-servicemen attacked him in the press for not having enlisted, but he survived this crisis. Within weeks of his entry to parliament, he was made a minister without portfolio in a new minority Nationalist State government led by Premier William McPherson. The new government had formed when the previous Labor government lost the support of the cross-bench Country Progressives.The following year he shifted to the Legislative Assembly as the member for Nunawading. In 1929, he founded the Young Nationalists as his party's youth wing and served as its first president. Holding the portfolios of Attorney-General and Minister for the Railways, Menzies served as Deputy Premier of Victoria from May 1932 until July 1934.
Early Career in Federal Politics, 1934-1939
Successfully contesting the Melbourne seat of Kooyong in the 1934 Federal election, Menzies transferred to federal politics representing the United Australia Party (UAP—the Nationalists had merged with other non-Labor groups to form the UAP during his tenure as a state parliamentarian). He was immediately appointed Attorney-General and Minister for Industry in the Lyons government. In 1937 he was appointed a Privy Councillor.
In late 1934 and early 1935 Menzies, then attorney-general, unsuccessfully prosecuted the government's highly controversial case for the attempted exclusion from Australia of Egon Kisch, a Czech Jewish communist. The initial prohibition on Kisch’s entry to Australia, however, had not been imposed by Menzies but by the Country Party minister for the interior Thomas Paterson.
In August 1938, while Attorney-General of Australia, Menzies spent several weeks on an official visit to Nazi Germany. He was strongly committed to democracy for the British peoples, but he thought that the Germans should take care of their own affairs without British interference. He decided Hitler was a German patriot trying to right the wrongs of Versailles, and was not a swashbuckling adventurer liable to cause serious trouble for the British Empire. He strongly supported the appeasement policies of the Chamberlain government in London, and sincerely believed that war could and should be avoided. In visiting Germany in 1938 Menzies was highly impressed with its achievements such as the suppression of trades unions and outlawing of the right to strike, while producing prosperity and ending unemployment. He said he was "deeply impressed" by the "spirituality" of the German people, their unselfish attitude, their less materialist outlook on life, and their preparation to make sacrifices on behalf of the Nation. Back home he expressed mixed views of Nazi Germany. He told audiences that Hitler's dictatorship was guilty of "unspeakably bad things". However, he added, there were features Australians should learn from, such as industrial efficiency. He explained that the great majority of Germans were supportive of Hitler, and that the youth were especially enthusiastic. Above all, Menzies insisted that war with Germany would be a horrible tragedy, and should be avoided at all costs. In July 1939, Menzies was heckled when he stated: "History will label Hitler as one of the really great men of the century."
Animosity developed between Sir Earle Page and Menzies which was aggravated when Page became Acting Prime Minister during Lyons's illness after October 1938. Menzies and Page attacked each other publicly. He later became deputy leader of the UAP. His supporters said he was Lyons's natural successor; his critics accused Menzies of wanting to push Lyons out, a charge he denied. In 1938 his enemies ridiculed him as "Pig Iron Bob", the result of his industrial battle with waterside workers who refused to load scrap iron being sold to Imperial Japan. In 1939, however, he resigned from the Cabinet in protest at postponement of the national insurance scheme.
First term as prime minister
With Lyons's sudden death on 7 April 1939, Page became caretaker prime minister until the UAP could elect a new leader. On 18 April 1939 Menzies was elected leader of the UAP and was sworn in as prime minister eight days later.
A crisis arose almost immediately, however, when Page refused to serve under him. In an extraordinary personal attack in the House, Page accused Menzies of cowardice for not having enlisted in the War, and of treachery to Lyons. Menzies then formed a minority government. When Page was deposed as Country Party leader a few months later, Menzies took the Country Party back into his government in a full-fledged Coalition, with Page's successor, Archie Cameron, as number-two-man in the government. On 3 September 1939 Britain and France declared war on Germany due to its invasion of Poland on 1 September, leading to the start of World War II. Menzies responded immediately by also declaring Australia to be at war in support of Britain, and delivered a radio broadcast to the nation on that same day, which began "Fellow Australians. It is my melancholy duty to inform you officially that in consequence of a persistence by Germany in her invasion of Poland, Great Britain has declared war upon her and that, as a result, Australia is also at war."
Thus Menzies at the age of 44 found himself a wartime leader of a small nation of 7 million people. He was especially worried about the military threat from Japan. Australia had very small forces, and depended on Britain for defence against the looming threat of the Japanese Empire, with its 100 million people, a very powerful Army and Navy and an aggressive foreign policy. Menzies hoped that a policy of appeasement would head off a war with Japan, and repeatedly pressured London. Menzies did his best to rally the country, but the bitter memories of the disillusionment which followed World War I made his task difficult, this being compounded by Menzies' lack of a service record. Further, as attorney-general and deputy prime minister, Menzies had made an official visit to Germany in 1938, when the official policy of the Australian government, supported by the Opposition, was strong support for Neville Chamberlain's policy of Appeasement. He led the Coalition into the 1940 election and suffered an eight-seat swing, losing the large majority he had inherited from Lyons. The result was a hung parliament, with the Coalition two seats short of a majority. Menzies managed to form a minority government with the support of two independent MPs, Arthur Coles and Alex Wilson. Labor, led by John Curtin, refused Menzies' offer to form a war coalition, and opposed using the Australian army for a European war, preferring to keep it at home to defend Australia. Labor agreed to participate in the Advisory War Council. Menzies sent the bulk of the army to help the British in the Middle East and Singapore, and told Winston Churchill the Royal Navy needed to strengthen its Far Eastern forces.
From 24 January 1941 Menzies spent four months in Britain discussing war strategy with Churchill and other Empire leaders, while his position at home deteriorated. En route to the UK he took the opportunity to stop over to visit Australian troops serving in the North African Campaign. Professor David Day, an Australian historian, has posited that Menzies might have replaced Churchill as British prime minister, and that he had some support in the UK for this. Support came from Viscount Astor, Lord Beaverbrook and former WWI Prime Minister David Lloyd George, who were trenchant critics of Churchill's purportedly autocratic style, and favoured replacing him with Menzies, who had some public support for staying on in the War Cabinet for the duration, which was strongly backed by Sir Maurice Hankey, former WWI Colonel and member of both the WWI and WWII War Cabinets. Writer Gerard Henderson has rejected this theory, but history professors Judith Brett and Joan Beaumont support Day, as does Menzies' daughter, Heather Henderson, who claimed Lady Astor "even offered all her sapphires if he would stay on in England".
When Menzies came home, he found he had lost all support, and was forced to resign on 27 August 1941. Although the UAP had been in power for a decade, it was so bereft of leadership that it was forced to turn to the nearly 78-year-old former Prime Minister Billy Hughes as its new leader. However, Hughes was deemed too old and frail to be a wartime prime minister, and a joint UAP-Country Party conference chose Country Party leader Arthur Fadden as Coalition leader—and hence Prime Minister—even though the Country Party was nominally the junior partner in the Coalition. Menzies was bitter about this treatment from his colleagues, and nearly left politics, but was persuaded to become Minister for Defence Co-ordination in Fadden's cabinet.
Formation of Liberal Party and return to power
Menzies built up a large popular base of support by his frequent appeals, often by radio, to ordinary non-elite working citizens whom he called The Forgotten People—especially those who were not suburban and rich or members of organised labour. He made clear his intended base in a speech on 22 May 1942 that was widely distributed:
I do not believe that the real life of this nation is to be found either in great luxury hotels and the petty gossip of so-called fashionable suburbs, or in the officialdom of the organised masses. It is to be found in the homes of people who are nameless and unadvertised, and who, whatever their individual religious conviction or dogma, see in their children their greatest contribution to the immortality of their race. The home is the foundation of sanity and sobriety; it is the indispensable condition of continuity; its health determines the health of society as a whole.
Fadden's government was defeated in Parliament later in 1941 after the two independent MPs crossed the floor, allowing Curtin to form a Labor minority government. Fadden was named as Leader of the Opposition, and Menzies moved to the backbench.
Labor won a crushing victory at the 1943 election, taking 49 of 74 seats and 58.2 percent of the two-party-preferred vote as well as a Senate majority. The Coalition, which had sunk into near-paralysis in opposition was knocked down to only 19 seats. Hughes, who had widely been reckoned as a stopgap leader, handed the UAP leadership back to Menzies. Fadden yielded the post of Opposition Leader back to Menzies as well. Soon after his return, Menzies concluded that the UAP was at the end of its useful life. He held a series of meetings during 1944 to discuss forming a new anti-Labor party to replace the UAP. This was the Liberal Party of Australia, which was launched in early 1945 with Menzies as leader and inherited the UAP's role as senior partner in the Coalition. Curtin died in office in 1945 and was succeeded by Ben Chifley.
The reconfigured Coalition faced its first national test in the 1946 election. It won 26 of 74 seats on 45.9 percent of the two-party vote, and remained in minority in the Senate. Despite winning a seven-seat swing, the Coalition failed to make a serious dent in Labor's large majority. Comments that "we can't win with Menzies" began to circulate in the conservative press especially after it was leaked that a circular he sent to Defence Department regarding wounded soldiers from both the First and Second World War receiving a pension increase. In it he stated that "....a dead soldier cost a letter home and a plaque, Legacy provided for his family. A wounded soldier haunted governments for decades."
Over the next few years, however, the anti-communist atmosphere of the early Cold War began to erode Labor's support. In 1947, Chifley announced that he intended to nationalise Australia's private banks, arousing intense middle-class opposition which Menzies successfully exploited. With the lower house enlarged from 74 to 121 seats, the Menzies Liberal/Country Coalition won the 1949 election with 74 House seats and 51.0 percent of the two-party vote but remained in minority in the Senate.
Second term as prime minister
Despite having a comfortable majority in the House, Menzies found himself frustrated by the Labor-controlled Senate. Menzies introduced legislation in 1951 to ban the Communist Party, hoping that the Senate would reject it and give him a trigger for a double dissolution election, but Labor let the bill pass. It was subsequently ruled unconstitutional by the High Court. But when the Senate rejected his banking bill, he called a double dissolution election. At that election, the Coalition suffered a five-seat swing, winning 69 of 121 seats and 50.7 percent of the two-party vote. However, it won six seats in the Senate, giving it control of both chambers. Later in 1951 Menzies decided to hold a referendum on the question of changing the Constitution to permit the parliament to make laws in respect of Communists and Communism where he said this was necessary for the security of the Commonwealth. If passed, this would have given a government the power to introduce a bill proposing to ban the Communist Party. Chifley died a few months after the 1951 election. The new Labor leader, Dr H. V. Evatt, campaigned against the referendum on civil liberties grounds, and it was narrowly defeated. Menzies sent Australian troops to the Korean War.
Economic conditions deteriorated in the early 1950s and Labor was confident of winning the 1954 election. Shortly before the election, Menzies announced that a Soviet diplomat in Australia Vladimir Petrov, had defected, and that there was evidence of a Soviet spy ring in Australia, including members of Evatt's staff. Evatt felt compelled to state on the floor of Parliament that he'd personally written to Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov, who assured him there were no Soviet spy rings in Australia, bringing the House into silence momentarily before both sides of Parliament laughed at Evatt's naivety.
This Cold War scare was claimed by some to enable the Menzies government to win the election. The Menzies government won 64 of 121 seats and 49.3 percent of the two-party vote. Evatt accused Menzies of arranging Petrov's defection. The aftermath of the 1954 election caused a split in the Labor Party, with several anti-Communist members from Victoria defecting to form the Australian Labor Party. The new party directed its preferences to the Liberals, with the Menzies government re-elected with an increased majority at the 1955 election. Menzies was re-elected almost as easily at the 1958 election, again with the help of preferences from what had become the Democratic Labor Party. By this time the post-war economic recovery was in full swing, fuelled by massive immigration and the growth in housing and manufacturing that this produced. Prices for Australia's agricultural exports were also high, ensuring rising incomes.
Following the Egyptian leader Colonel Nasser's nationialisation of the Suez Canal Company on 26 July 1956, Menzies led a delegation to Egypt to try to force Nasser to compromise with the West. Although, at the time it was seen as confirming Menzies' status as a world statesman, it was of vital importance to Australia's shipping trade with Britain. Menzies publicly supported the Anglo-French invasion of Egypt during the Suez Crisis.
Labor's new leader, Arthur Calwell, gave Menzies a scare after an ill-judged squeeze on credit – an effort to restrain inflation – caused a rise in unemployment. At the 1961 election the Menzies government narrowly retained government with 62 of 122 seats and a two-party vote of 49.5 percent. The Menzies government was able to exploit Labor's divisions over the Cold War and the American alliance, winning an increased majority at what would be Menzies' last election, the 1963 election. An incident in which Calwell was photographed standing outside a South Canberra hotel while the ALP Federal Executive (dubbed by Menzies the "36 faceless men") was determining policy also contributed to the 1963 victory. This was the first "television election" and Menzies, although nearly 70, proved a master of the new medium. Menzies' policy speech was televised on 12 November 1963, a method that "had never before been used in Australia". The effect of this form of political communication was studied by Colin Hughes and John Western, who published their findings in 1966. This was itself the first such detailed study in Australia.
In 1963, Menzies was appointed a Knight of the Order of the Thistle (KT), the order being chosen in recognition of his Scottish heritage. He is the only Australian ever appointed to this order. He was the second of only two Australian prime ministers to be knighted during their term of office (the first prime minister, Edmund Barton, was knighted during his term in 1902).
In 1965, Menzies committed Australian troops to the Vietnam War, as well as the reintroduction of conscription. These moves were initially popular,[dubious ] but later became problematic for his successors. Despite his pragmatic acceptance of the new power balance in the Pacific after World War II and his strong support for the American alliance, he publicly professed continued admiration for links with Britain, exemplified by his admiration for Queen Elizabeth II, and famously described himself as "British to the bootstraps". Over the decade, Australia's ardour for Britain and the monarchy faded somewhat, but Menzies' had not. At a function attended by the Queen at Parliament House, Canberra, in 1963, Menzies quoted the Elizabethan poet Thomas Ford, "I did but see her passing by, and yet I love her till I die".
While proud of his Scottish Presbyterian heritage, Menzies preached religious pluralism and tolerance as the norm for Australia.
Menzies resigned as prime minister on Australia Day 1966, and resigned from Parliament on 16 February, ending 32 years in Parliament (most of them spent as either a cabinet minister or opposition frontbencher), a combined 25 years as leader of the non-Labor Coalition, and 38 years as an elected official. To date, Menzies is the last Australian prime minister to leave office on his own terms. He was succeeded as Liberal Party leader and prime minister by his former treasurer, Harold Holt. He left office at the age of 71 years, 1 month and 6 days, making him the oldest person ever to be prime minister. Although the coalition remained in power for almost another seven years (until the 1972 Federal election), it did so under four different prime ministers.
On his retirement he became the thirteenth chancellor of the University of Melbourne and remained the head of the university from March 1967 until March 1972. Much earlier, in 1942, he had received the first honorary degree of Doctor of Laws of Melbourne University. His responsibility for the revival and growth of university life in Australia was widely acknowledged by the award of honorary degrees in the Universities of Queensland, Adelaide, Tasmania, New South Wales, and the Australian National University and by thirteen universities in Canada, the United States and Britain, including Oxford and Cambridge. Many learned institutions, including the Royal College of Surgeons (Hon. FRCS) and the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (Hon. FRACP), elected him to Honorary Fellowships, and the Australian Academy of Science, for which he supported its establishment in 1954, made him a fellow (FAAS) in 1958.
In July 1966, Menzies was installed as the ceremonial office of Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports and Constable of Dover Castleas appointed by the Queen, which included an official residence at Walmer Castle during his annual visits to Britain. At the end of 1966 Menzies took up a scholar-in-residence position at the University of Virginia. He presented a series of lectures, published the following year as Central Power in the Australian Commonwealth. He later published two volumes of memoirs. In March 1967 he was elected Chancellor of Melbourne University, serving a five-year term.
In 1971, Menzies suffered a severe stroke and was permanently paralyzed on one side of his body for the remainder of his life. He suffered a second stroke in 1972. His official biographer, Lady McNicoll wrote after his death in The Australian that Menzies was "splendid and sharp right up until the end" also that "each morning he underwent physiotherapy and being helped to face the day." In March 1977, Menzies accepted his Order of Australia (AK) from Queen Elizabeth in a wheelchair in the Long Bar of the Melbourne Cricket Ground during the Centenary Test.
Death and Funeral
Menzies died from a heart attack while reading in his study at his Haverbrack Avenue home in Malvern, Melbourne on 15 May 1978. Tributes from across the world were sent to the Menzies family. Notably among those were from HM Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia: "I was distressed to hear of the death of Sir Robert Menzies. He was a distinguished Australian whose contribution to his country and the Commonwealth will long be remembered." and from Malcolm Fraser, Prime Minister of Australia: "All Australians will mourn his passing. Sir Robert leaves an enduring mark on Australian history."
Menzies was accorded a state funeral, held in Scots' Church, Melbourne on 19 May at which Prince Charles represented the Queen. Other dignitaries to attend included current and former Prime Ministers of Australia Malcolm Fraser, John McEwan, John Gorton and William McMahon as well as the Governor General of Australia, Sir Zelman Cowan. Former Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom Alec Douglas-Home and Harold Wilson also attended.
The service was and is to this day one of the largest state funerals ever held in Australia, with over 100,000 people lining the streets of Melbourne from Scots' Church to Springvale Crematorium, where a private service was held for the Menzies family and a 19-gun salute was fired at the end of the ceremony. In July 1978, a memorial service was held for Menzies in the United Kingdom at Westminster Abbey. A memorial dedicated to Sir Robert and Dame Pattie Menzies is placed in the 'Prime Ministers Garden' within the grounds of Melbourne General Cemetery.
Menzies was prime minister for a total of 18 years, five months and 12 days, by far the longest-serving Australian prime minister. His second term of 16 years, one month and seven days is far and away the longest unbroken tenure in that office. During his second term he dominated Australian politics as no one else has ever done. He managed to live down the failures of his first term in office and to rebuild the conservative side of politics from the nadir it hit in 1943. Menzies also did much to develop higher education in Australia and made the increasing development of Canberra one of his big projects. However, it can also be noted that while retaining government on each occasion, Menzies lost the two-party-preferred vote in 1940, 1954, and 1961.
He was the only Australian prime minister to recommend the appointment of four governors-general (Viscount Slim, and Lords Dunrossil, De L'Isle, and Casey). Only two other prime ministers have ever chosen more than one governor-general. (Malcolm Fraser chose Sir Zelman Cowen and Sir Ninian Stephen; and John Howard chose Peter Hollingworth and Michael Jeffery.)
The Menzies era saw Australia become an increasingly affluent society, with average weekly earnings in 1965 50% higher in real terms than in 1945. The increased prosperity enjoyed by most Australians during this period was accompanied by a general increase in leisure time, with the five-day workweek becoming the norm by the mid-Sixties, together with three weeks of paid annual leave.
Several books have been filled with anecdotes about Menzies. While he was speaking in Williamstown, Victoria, in 1954, a heckler shouted, "I wouldn't vote for you if you were the Archangel Gabriel" – to which Menzies coolly replied "If I were the Archangel Gabriel, I'm afraid you wouldn't be in my constituency."
Planning for an official biography of Menzies began soon after his death, but it was long delayed by Dame Pattie Menzies' protection of her husband's reputation and her refusal to co-operate with the appointed biographer.[why?] In 1991, the Menzies family appointed Professor A.W. Martin to write a biography, which appeared in two volumes, in 1993 and 1999. The National Museum of Australia in Canberra holds a significant collection of memorabilia relating to Robert Menzies, including a range of medals and civil awards received by Sir Robert such as his Jubilee and Coronation medals, Order of Australia, Companion of Honour and US Legion of Merit. There are also a number of special presentation items including a walking stick, cigar boxes, silver gravy boats from the Kooyong electorate and a silver inkstand presented by Queen Elizabeth II. Robert Menzies's personal library of almost 4000 books is held at the University of Melbourne Library.
- The Forgotten People: and other studies in democracy (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1942)
- Speech is of Time: selected speeches and writings (London: Cassell, 1958)
- Afternoon Light: some memories of men and events (Melbourne: Cassell Australia, 1967)
- Central Power in the Australian Commonwealth: an examination of the growth of Commonwealth power in the Australian Federation (London: Cassell, 1967)
- The Measure of the Years (Melbourne: Cassell Australia, 1970)
- Dark and Hurrying Days: Menzies' 1941 diary (Canberra: National Library of Australia, 1993)
- Letters to my Daughter (Miller's Point: Murdoch Books, 2011)
Titles and honours
- In 1950 Menzies was awarded the Legion of Merit (Chief Commander) by US President Harry S. Truman for "exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services 1941–1944 and December 1949 – July 1950".
- On 1 January 1951 he was appointed to the Order of the Companions of Honour (CH)
- On 29 August 1952, the University of Sydney conferred the degree of Doctor of Laws (honoris causa) on Menzies. Similarly, He was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws by the Universities of Bristol, Belfast, Melbourne, British Columbia, McGill, Montreal, Malta, Laval, Quebec, Tasmania, Cambridge, Harvard, Leeds, Adelaide, Queensland, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Drury and California. On 29 April 1964 Menzies was awarded the honorary degree of a Doctor of Letters (DLitt) by the University of Western Australia. Menzies was also awarded with an Honorary Doctor of Science by the University of New South Wales.
- In 1973 Menzies was awarded Japan's Order of the Rising Sun, Grand Cordon, First Class (other Australian prime ministers to be awarded this honour were Edmund Barton, John McEwen, Malcolm Fraser and Gough Whitlam).
- On 7 June 1976, he was appointed a Knight of the Order of Australia (AK). The category of Knight of the order had been created only on 24 May, and the Chancellor and Principal Knight of the Order, the Governor-General Sir John Kerr, became the first appointee, ex officio. Menzies' was the first appointment made after this.
- In 1984, the Australian Electoral Commission proclaimed at a redistribution on 14 September 1984, the Division of Menzies for representation in the Australian House of Representatives in honour of the former prime minister. The division neighbours Menzies' old division of Kooyong in metropolitan Melbourne, Victoria.
- In 1994, the year of the centenary of Menzies' birth, the Menzies Research Centre was created as an independent public policy think tank associated with the Liberal Party.
- 1950, he was appointed a Chief Commander of the Legion of Merit
- 1951, he was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Companions of Honour (CH)
- 1963, he was appointed a Knight of the Order of the Thistle (KT)
- 1973, he was appointed a Grand Cordon First Class of the Order of the Rising Sun
- 1976, he was appointed a Knight of the Order of Australia (AK)
- 1935, he was awarded the King George V Silver Jubilee Medal
- 1937, he was awarded the King George VI Coronation Medal
- 1953, he was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal
Styles from birth
Styles and titles Menzies held from birth until death, in chronological order:
- Mr Robert Menzies (20 December 1894 – 1928)
- The Hon. Robert Menzies, MLC (1928–1929)
- The Hon. Robert Menzies, MLA (1929–1929)
- The Hon. Robert Menzies, KC, MLA (1929–1934)
- The Hon. Robert Menzies, KC, MP (1934–1937)
- The Rt Hon. Robert Menzies, KC, MP (1937–1951)
- The Rt Hon. Robert Menzies, CH, KC, MP (1951–1952)
- The Rt Hon. Robert Menzies, CH, QC, MP (1952–1958)
- The Rt Hon. Robert Menzies, CH, FAA, QC, MP (1958–1963)
- The Rt Hon. Sir Robert Menzies, KT, CH, FAA, QC, MP (1963–1965)
- The Rt Hon. Sir Robert Menzies, KT, CH, FAA, FRS, QC, MP (1965–1966)
- The Rt Hon. Sir Robert Menzies, KT, CH, FAA, FRS, QC (1966–1976)
- The Rt Hon. Sir Robert Menzies, KT, AK, CH, FAA, FRS, QC (1976 – 15 May 1978)
- First Menzies Ministry
- Second Menzies Ministry
- Third Menzies Ministry
- Fourth Menzies Ministry
- Fifth Menzies Ministry
- Sixth Menzies Ministry
- Seventh Menzies Ministry
- Eighth Menzies Ministry
- Ninth Menzies Ministry
- Tenth Menzies Ministry
Actors who have played Menzies
- In the 1984 mini series The Last Bastion, Menzies was portrayed by John Wood.
- In the 1987 mini series Vietnam, he was portrayed by Noel Ferrier.
- In the 1988 mini series True Believers, he was portrayed by John Bonney.
- In the 1996 Egyptian film Nasser 56, he was portrayed by Egyptian actor Hassan Kami.
- In the 2007 film Curtin, he was portrayed by Bille Brown.
- In the 2008 television documentary Menzies and Churchill at War, he was portrayed by Matthew King.
- Max Gillies has caricatured Menzies on stage and in the comedy satire series The Gillies Report.
Eponyms of Menzies
- Sir Robert Menzies Memorial Foundation
- Menzies School of Health Research Australia
- R. G. Menzies Building, Australian National University Library
- Menzies Research Centre
- Menzies College (La Trobe University)
- Robert Menzies College (Macquarie University)
- Sir Robert Menzies Building (Monash University, Clayton Campus)
- The Australian federal electoral division of Menzies.
- Menzies Wing (Wesley College, Melbourne)
- Brett, Judith (1992) Robert Menzies' Forgotten People, Macmillan, (a sharply critical psychological study)
- Cook, Ian (1999), Liberalism in Australia, Oxford University Press, South Melbourne, Victoria, Ch. 7 'Robert Menzies'. ISBN 0-19-553702-5
- Day, David. (1993) Menzies and Churchill at War (Oxford University Press)
- Hazlehurst, Cameron (1979), Menzies Observed, George Allen and Unwin, Sydney, New South Wales. ISBN 0-86861-320-7
- Henderson, Anne. (2014) Menzies at War
- Hughes, Colin A (1976), Mr Prime Minister. Australian Prime Ministers 1901–1972, (Melbourne: Oxford University Press) Chs. 13 and 18. ISBN 0-19-550471-2
- Martin, A.W. (1993 and 1999) Robert Menzies: A Life, two volumes, Melbourne University Press online edition from ACLS E-Books
- Martin, Allan (2000), 'Sir Robert Gordon Menzies,' in Grattan, Michelle, "Australian Prime Ministers", New Holland Publishers, pages 174–205. (very good summary of his life and career) ISBN 1-86436-756-3
- Martin, A.W. (2000), "Menzies, Sir Robert Gordon (Bob) (1894 – 1978)", Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, Melbourne University Press, (Melbourne), pp 354–361.
- Starr, Graeme (1980), The Liberal Party of Australia. A Documentary History, Drummond/Heinemann, Richmond, Victoria. ISBN 0-85859-223-1
Notes and references
- Warhurst, John. "The religious beliefs of Australia's prime ministers". eurekastreet.com.au. Retrieved 1 May 2014.
- White, F. (1979). "Robert Gordon Menzies. 20 December 1894 – 15 May 1978". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society 25: 445–426. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1979.0016.
- Australia's Prime Ministers website: Robert Menzies
- "Parliament of Victoria – Re-Member".
- Australian Academy of Science: Biographical Memoirs of Deceased Fellows: Robert Gordon Menzies 1894–1978
- Manning Clark, Manning Clark's History of Australia, Pimlico, 1995, p.468, ISBN 0-7126-6205-7. Gordon's death had stirred a lasting movement of imperialist patriotism in Australia.
- "Before office – Robert Menzies – Australia's PMs – Australia's Prime Ministers".
- "NAA: B2455, MENZIES FRANK GLADSTONE".
- "Australia's Prime Ministers". Primeministers.naa.gov.au. Retrieved 4 November 2011.
- Martin, Allan W (1993). Robert Menzies: A Life Volume 1 1894-1943. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press. p. 20. ISBN 0 552 84442 1 Check
- Martin, Allan W (2000). "Menzies, Sir Robert". Australian Dictionary of Biography.
- Martin, Allan W (2000). "Menzies, Sir Robert". Australian Dictionary of Biography.
- Martin. Robert Menzies. pp. 66–67.
- "Australia's PMs, Robert Menzies, Before Office".
- Peter Monteath, "The Kisch visit revisited." Journal of Australian Studies 16#34 (1992) pp: 69–81.
- "Australian Dictionary of Biography, Menzies, Sir Robert Gordon (Bob) (1894-1978)".
- Christopher Waters, "Understanding and Misunderstanding Nazi Germany: Four Australian visitors to Germany in 1938," Australian Historical Studies (2010) 41#3 pp: 369–384
- Waters, "Understanding and Misunderstanding Nazi Germany" p 377
- E. M. Andrews, "The Australian Government and Appeasement." Australian Journal of Politics & History (1967) 13#1 pp: 34–46.
- David Day, "Menzies and Churchill at war (1993) pp 6–7
- Mirror (Perth, WA) 15 July 1939, page 17 online
- Keegan, John (1997). The Second World War. London: Pimlico. p. 35. ISBN 0-7126-7348-2.
- "MVM 1939 – Declaration of War". Menziesvirtualmuseum.org.au. 3 September 1939. Retrieved 4 November 2011.
- "Menzies Speech: Declaration of War (1939)". australianscreen. National Film and Sound Archive. Retrieved 19 April 2013.
- David Day, Menzies and Churchill at War (1993) pp 9–26
- Paul Hasluck, The Government and the People: 1939–1941 (1951)
- Australian Broadcasting Corporation documentary "Menzies and Churchill at War" (2008) by Film Australia.
- "After office – William Morris Hughes – Australia's PMs". Primeministers.naa.gov.au. Retrieved 17 October 2012.
- "Before office – Arthur Fadden – Australia's PMs – Australia's Prime Ministers". Primeministers.naa.gov.au. Retrieved 17 October 2012.
- Scott Brodie (1984). Australia's Prime Ministers. NSW, Australia: PR Books. ISBN 0 86777 006 6.
- "Ministries and Cabinets". parliamentary Handbook. Parliament of Australia. Retrieved 17 September 2010.
- Judith Brett, Robert Menzies' Forgotten People (2007)
- "The Forgotten People – Speech by Robert Menzies (22 May 1942)". Liberals.net. 22 May 1942. Retrieved 4 November 2011.
- "In office – Robert Menzies – Australia's PMs". Primeministers.naa.gov.au. Retrieved 17 October 2012.
- Ed Carson, Lorraine Kerr. Australian Social Policy and the Human Services: Ed Carson and Lorraine Kerr, Cambridge.
- Federal government deficit and debt since federation: The Australian 10 May 2014
- "Royal Commission – The Petrov Affair".
- Hughes, Colin A; Western, John S (1966), The Prime Minister's Policy Speech: A Case Study in Televised Politics, Canberra: Australian National University Press, p. bookcover & pg. 1
- The London Gazette: . 9 April 1963. Retrieved 30 October 2008.
- "We did but see her". Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. 7 February 2004. Retrieved 19 April 2013.
- Raymond Apple (2008). The Great Synagogue: A History of Sydney's Big Shule. UNSW Press. p. 217.
- "MENZIES Robert Gordon". Legal Opinions. Australian Government Solicitor. Retrieved 7 May 2014.
- "Former Office-Bearers". University Secretary's Department University Calendar. The University of Melbourne. Retrieved 7 May 2014.
- http://menziesvirtualmuseum.org.au/the-1970s/menzies-reflects-australia-matures%7C Menzies Research Center - Retrieved 2016-02-07
- https://www.menziesrc.org/sir-robert-menzies/history-of-sir-robert-menzies | Menzies Research Centre - Retrieved 2016-02-06
- "Prince here tomorrow – Rush trip to Menzies funeral". The Age (Melbourne). 17 May 1978. p. 1. Archived from the original on 19 July 2012. Retrieved 12 August 2010.
- http://newsweekly.com.au/article.php?id=155%7C Newsweekly 2000 - Retrieved 2016-02-06
- http://primeministers.naa.gov.au/primeministers/menzies/after-office.aspx | NAA - Former Prime Ministers, Menzies after office - Retrieved 2016-02-06
- Stuart Macintyre. A Concise History of Australia.
- "Inkstand presented to Sir Robert Menzies in Commemoration of the Commonwealth Royal Tour 1954, National Museum of Australia". Nma.gov.au. Retrieved 4 November 2011.
- The Robert Menzies Collection: A Living Library; retrieved 18 October 2013.
- "Its an Honour: CH". Australian Government. Retrieved 15 October 2009.
- "The Right Honourable Robert Gordon Menzies". University of Sydney. Retrieved 15 October 2009.[dead link]
- "University Secretary's Department – Former Office-Bearers". University of Melbourne. Retrieved 15 October 2009.
- "Speech by Sir Robert Menzies in Winthrop Hall, University of Western Australia". University of Western Australia. Retrieved 15 October 2009.
- Honour awarded 1973 – National Archives of Australia Archived 20 May 2009 at the Wayback Machine
- Origins of Current Divisions Name – Current Divisions, Australian Electoral Commission web site
- "Menzies, Sir Robert Gordon (Bob) (1894–1978) Biographical Entry – Australian Dictionary of Biography Online". Adb.online.anu.edu.au. Retrieved 16 April 2010.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Robert Menzies.|
- Papers of Robert Menzies, 1905–1978, National Library of Australia, approximately 82.30 m. (588 boxes) + 99 fol. boxes.
- "Robert Menzies". Australia's Prime Ministers. National Archives of Australia. Retrieved 29 June 2010.
- Martin, A. W. (2000). "Menzies, Sir Robert Gordon (Bob) (1894–1978)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: Australian National University. Retrieved 29 June 2010.
- "Robert Menzies". National Museum of Australia. Retrieved 29 June 2010.
- The Menzies Foundation
- The Menzies Virtual Museum
- The Menzies Centre for Australian Studies, London
- The Liberal Party's Robert Menzies website
- Listen to Menzies' declaration of war on australianscreen online
- Menzies' declaration of war was added to the National Film and Sound Archive's Sounds of Australia registry in 2010
- Sir Robert Menzies at the National Film and Sound Archive
- The Robert Menzies Collection: A Living Library
|Library resources about
- Charcoal Sketch – Menzies Collection