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Sir Stanley Argyle
|32nd Premier of Victoria|
19 May 1932 – 2 April 1935
|Deputy||Sir Robert Menzies|
|Preceded by||Edmond Hogan|
|Succeeded by||Albert Dunstan|
|Born||4 December 1867
Kyneton, Victoria, Australia
|Died||23 November 1940
Toorak, Melbourne, Australia
|Spouse(s)||Violet Ellen Jessie Lewis|
Early life and education
He was born in Kyneton, Victoria, the son of a grazier, and was educated at Brighton Grammar School and Trinity College within the University of Melbourne, where he graduated in medicine. He also studied bacteriology at King's College London.
After further study in the United Kingdom, he went into general practice in Kew (a wealthy Melbourne suburb), and was later a pioneer of radiology in Australia. He was a member of the Kew City Council 1898–1905 and was mayor in 1903–05. During World War I he was consultant radiologist to the Australian Imperial Force in Egypt and in France, with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. After the war he invested in dairy farming, milk processing and citrus growing.
Argyle was elected to the Victorian Legislative Assembly for the seat of Toorak in 1920, as an independent Nationalist. He was Chief Secretary and Minister for Health in the ministries of Harry Lawson, John Allan, Alexander Peacock and William McPherson between 1923 and 1928. When McPherson resigned as leader of the Nationalist Party, Argyle was chosen to succeed him, and in 1931 the party was renamed the United Australia Party (UAP). He led the opposition to Ned Hogan's minority Australian Labor Party government, which was unable to cope with the effects of the Great Depression and was heavily defeated at the May 1932 elections.
Argyle formed a coalition government with the Country Party, led by Allan and later by Albert Dunstan. The government had a huge majority – 45 seats to Labor's 16. Ministers included the rising star of the UAP, Robert Menzies, who became Attorney-General and Minister for Railways. Argyle, a firm fiscal conservative, held to the orthodox view that in a time of depression government spending must be cut so that the budget remained in balance. This soon brought him into conflict with both the trade unions and the farmers, but at the time there seemed to be no alternative policy. Argyle was lucky in that the economy began to improve from 1932, and the unemployment rate fell from 27 percent in 1932 to 20 percent in 1934 and 14 percent in 1935. This led a reduction in unemployment relief payments and an increase in taxation revenue, easing the state's financial crisis.
Argyle fought the March 1935 election with an improving economy, a record of sound, if unimaginative, management. With the Labor Party opposition still divided and demoralised, he was rewarded with a second comfortable majority, his United Australia Party. But at this point he was unexpectedly betrayed by his erstwhile Country Party allies. The Country Party leader, Albert Dunstan, was a close friend of the gambling boss John Wren, who was also very close to the Labor leader Tom Tunnecliffe (in the view of most historians, Tunnecliffe was, in fact, under Wren's control). Wren, aided by the Victorian Labor Party President, Arthur Calwell, persuaded Dunstan to break off the coalition with Argyle and form a minority Country Party government, which Labor would support in return for some policy concessions. Dunstan agreed to this deal, and in April 1935 he moved a successful no confidence vote in the government from which he had just resigned.
The UAP (and later its successor the Liberal Party) never forgave the Country Party for this treachery. Henry Bolte, later Victoria's longest-serving Premier, was 27 in 1935, and Dunstan's betrayal of Argyle lay behind his lifelong and intense dislike of the Country Party, whom he called "political prostitutes". Argyle remained in politics as Leader of the Opposition until his death in 1940.
Throughout his life, Argyle showed a keen interest in the quality of Melbourne's milk supply. Argyle founded the Willsmere Certificated Milk Co. in 1898, of which he was a director until 1920. As a member of the Legislative Assembly, he objected to the metropolitan milk bill, which was intended to improve the quality of Melbourne's milk. After the bill was held up in the Legislative Council in 1921, he was nominated to a committee to consider amendments, and visited New Zealand to report on milk-supply there.
- Geoff Browne, A Biographical Register of the Victorian Parliament, 1900–84, Government Printer, Melbourne, 1985
- Don Garden, Victoria: A History, Thomas Nelson, Melbourne, 1984
- Kate White, John Cain and Victorian Labour 1917–1957, Hale and Iremonger, Sydney, 1982
- Raymond Wright, A People's Counsel. A History of the Parliament of Victoria, 1856–1990, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1992
|Victorian Legislative Assembly|
|Member for Toorak
|Premier of Victoria
|Party political offices|
|Leader of the Nationalist Party in Victoria
|Became the United Australia Party|
|New party||Leader of the United Australia Party in Victoria