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Joseph Lyons

Joseph Lyons

Overview
Joseph Aloysius Lyons, CH (15 September 1879 – 7 April 1939) was an Australian politician. He was Labor
Australian Labor Party
The Australian Labor Party is an Australian political party. It has been the governing party of the Commonwealth of Australia since the 2007 federal election. Julia Gillard is the party's federal parliamentary leader and Prime Minister of Australia...

 Premier of Tasmania from 1923 to 1928 and a Minister in the James Scullin
James Scullin
James Henry Scullin , Australian Labor politician and the ninth Prime Minister of Australia. Two days after he was sworn in as Prime Minister, the Wall Street Crash of 1929 occurred, marking the beginning of the Great Depression and subsequent Great Depression in Australia.-Early life:Scullin was...

 government from 1929 until his resignation from the Labor Party in March 1931. He subsequently led the United Australia Party
United Australia Party
The United Australia Party was an Australian political party that was founded in 1931 and dissolved in 1945. It was the political successor to the Nationalist Party of Australia and predecessor to the Liberal Party of Australia...

 and was the tenth Prime Minister of Australia
Prime Minister of Australia
The Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia is the highest minister of the Crown, leader of the Cabinet and Head of Her Majesty's Australian Government, holding office on commission from the Governor-General of Australia. The office of Prime Minister is, in practice, the most powerful...

 from January 1932 until his death.

Lyons was born in Circular Head, at Stanley, Tasmania
Stanley, Tasmania
Stanley is a town on the north-west coast of Tasmania, Australia. Travelling west, Stanley is the second-last major township on the north-west coast of Tasmania, Smithton being the larger township in the Circular Head municipality...

, the son of Irish immigrants.
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Encyclopedia
Joseph Aloysius Lyons, CH (15 September 1879 – 7 April 1939) was an Australian politician. He was Labor
Australian Labor Party
The Australian Labor Party is an Australian political party. It has been the governing party of the Commonwealth of Australia since the 2007 federal election. Julia Gillard is the party's federal parliamentary leader and Prime Minister of Australia...

 Premier of Tasmania from 1923 to 1928 and a Minister in the James Scullin
James Scullin
James Henry Scullin , Australian Labor politician and the ninth Prime Minister of Australia. Two days after he was sworn in as Prime Minister, the Wall Street Crash of 1929 occurred, marking the beginning of the Great Depression and subsequent Great Depression in Australia.-Early life:Scullin was...

 government from 1929 until his resignation from the Labor Party in March 1931. He subsequently led the United Australia Party
United Australia Party
The United Australia Party was an Australian political party that was founded in 1931 and dissolved in 1945. It was the political successor to the Nationalist Party of Australia and predecessor to the Liberal Party of Australia...

 and was the tenth Prime Minister of Australia
Prime Minister of Australia
The Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia is the highest minister of the Crown, leader of the Cabinet and Head of Her Majesty's Australian Government, holding office on commission from the Governor-General of Australia. The office of Prime Minister is, in practice, the most powerful...

 from January 1932 until his death.

Early life


Lyons was born in Circular Head, at Stanley, Tasmania
Stanley, Tasmania
Stanley is a town on the north-west coast of Tasmania, Australia. Travelling west, Stanley is the second-last major township on the north-west coast of Tasmania, Smithton being the larger township in the Circular Head municipality...

, the son of Irish immigrants. His father, Michael Lyons, was a successful farmer who afterwards engaged in a butchery and bakery business, but lost this on account of bad health, and subsequently was forced to work as a labourer. His mother, a woman of courage and endurance, did much to keep the family of eight children together, but Joseph had to leave school at nine to work as a messenger and printer's devil
Printer's devil
A printer's devil was an apprentice in a printing establishment who performed a number of tasks, such as mixing tubs of ink and fetching type...

. But with the assistance of two aunts, he was able to resume his education at the Philip Smith Teachers' Training College, Hobart
Hobart
Hobart is the state capital and most populous city of the Australian island state of Tasmania. Founded in 1804 as a penal colony,Hobart is Australia's second oldest capital city after Sydney. In 2009, the city had a greater area population of approximately 212,019. A resident of Hobart is known as...

, and became a teacher. He also became an active trade unionist and was an early member of the Australian Labor Party
Australian Labor Party
The Australian Labor Party is an Australian political party. It has been the governing party of the Commonwealth of Australia since the 2007 federal election. Julia Gillard is the party's federal parliamentary leader and Prime Minister of Australia...

 in Tasmania.

State politics


In 1909 Lyons was elected to the Tasmanian House of Assembly
Tasmanian House of Assembly
The House of Assembly, or Lower House, is one of the two chambers of the Parliament of Tasmania in Australia. The other is the Legislative Council or Upper House...

. From 1914 to 1916 he was Treasurer (finance minister) and Minister for Education and Railways in John Earle
John Earle (Australian politician)
John Earle was an Australian politician and the first Labor Premier of Tasmania.- Early life :Born into a farming family of Cornish descent in Bridgewater, Tasmania, Earle left home at 17 to work as a blacksmith's apprentice in a Hobart foundry...

's state Labor government. As Education Minister he oversaw a number of reforms, including abolition of fees for state schools, improving teachers' pay and conditions, and founding Tasmania's first state high schools.

In 1913, a participant in the Labor discussion groups, Eliza Burnell, introduced him to her 15 year-old daughter, Enid Burnell
Enid Lyons
Dame Enid Muriel Lyons, AD, GBE was an Australian politician and the first woman to be elected to the Australian House of Representatives as well as the first woman appointed to the federal Cabinet...

, a trainee teacher and they were married two years later. She was a strong-minded woman who exercised great influence over Lyons, while raising their eleven children.

When the ALP split over conscription during the First World War in 1916, Earle, a pro-conscriptionist, followed Prime Minister Billy Hughes
Billy Hughes
William Morris "Billy" Hughes, CH, KC, MHR , Australian politician, was the seventh Prime Minister of Australia from 1915 to 1923....

 out of the Labor party. Like most Australians of Irish Catholic background, Lyons was an anti-conscriptionist and stayed in the Labor Party, becoming its new leader in Tasmania.

He led the Labor opposition in the Tasmanian Parliament until 1923 when he became Premier, leading a minority ALP government. He held office until 1928, also serving as Treasurer during the whole period of his premiership. Lyons' government was cautious and pragmatic, establishing good relations with business and the conservative government in Canberra, but attracting some criticism from unionists within his own party. Labor narrowly lost the 1928 state election to the Nationalist Party
Nationalist Party of Australia
The Nationalist Party of Australia was an Australian political party. It was formed on 17 February 1917 from a merger between the conservative Commonwealth Liberal Party and the National Labor Party, the name given to the pro-conscription defectors from the Australian Labor Party led by Prime...

.

Federal politics


At the 1929 election
Australian federal election, 1929
Federal elections were held in Australia on 12 October 1929. All 75 seats in the House of Representatives were up for election, with no Senate seats up for election, as a result of Billy Hughes and other rebel backbenchers crossing the floor over industrial relations legislation, depriving the...

, Lyons entered Federal politics, winning the seat of Wilmot
Division of Wilmot
The Division of Wilmot was an Australian Electoral Division in the state of Tasmania. It was located in central Tasmania, and was named after Sir John Eardley-Wilmot, the sixth Lieutenant-Governor of Tasmania...

 in Labor's landslide victory under James Scullin
James Scullin
James Henry Scullin , Australian Labor politician and the ninth Prime Minister of Australia. Two days after he was sworn in as Prime Minister, the Wall Street Crash of 1929 occurred, marking the beginning of the Great Depression and subsequent Great Depression in Australia.-Early life:Scullin was...

. He was appointed Postmaster-General
Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (Australia)
The Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy is currently Senator the Hon Stephen Conroy. He replaced Senator the Hon Helen Coonan on 3 December 2007.-Portfolio:...

 and Minister for Works and Railways
Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government (Australia)
The Australian Minister for Infrastructure and Transport is the Hon Anthony Albanese. On 3 December 2007 he replaced the Minister for Transport and Regional Services, the Hon Mark Vaile, who held office since August 2006, and the Minister for Local Government, Territories and Roads, the Hon Jim...

.

When the Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

 struck in 1930, the Scullin government split over its response. Lyons became the leading advocate within the government of orthodox finance and deflationary economic policies, and an opponent of the inflationary, proto-Keynesian
Keynesian economics
Keynesian economics is a school of macroeconomic thought based on the ideas of 20th-century English economist John Maynard Keynes.Keynesian economics argues that private sector decisions sometimes lead to inefficient macroeconomic outcomes and, therefore, advocates active policy responses by the...

 policies of Treasurer Ted Theodore
Ted Theodore
Edward Granville Theodore was an Australian politician. He was Premier of Queensland 1919–25, a federal politician representing a New South Wales seat 1927–31, and Federal Treasurer 1929–30.-Early life:...

. Theodore was forced to resign over accusations of corruption in June 1930, and Scullin took over the Treasury portfolio in addition to the Prime Ministership. Lyons served as acting Treasurer from August 1930 to January 1931 while Scullin was in Britain for the Imperial Conference. In October 1930 Lyons announced his plan for recovery, insisting on the need to maintain a balanced budget and cut public spending and salaries, although also advising lower interest rates and the provision of greater credit for industry.

His conservative economic approach won him support among business, but angered many in the Labor caucus, who wanted to expand the deficit to stimulate the economy, and were horrified at the prospect of cuts in salaries and government spending. Alienated by their attacks, Lyons began to consider suggestions from a group of his new business supporters, including influential members of the Melbourne Establishment, that he leave the government to take over the leadership of the conservative opposition.

Resignation from the Labor Party


When Scullin returned in January 1931, he reappointed Theodore (as it had become clear Theodore would not be charged with corruption) to the Cabinet as Treasurer, which Lyons took as a rejection of his own policies. Lyons immediately resigned from the Cabinet, and then in March from the Labor Party. Accompanied by another senior minister in the Scullin government, James Fenton
James Fenton (Australian politician)
James Edward Fenton CMG was an Australian politician. He is notable for having been appointed a cabinet minister by two governments of different political complexions, but resigning from both governments on matters of principle.Born at Nette Yallock, near Avoca, Victoria, Fenton was educated at a...

, and three other right-wing Labor MPs, he formed the "All for Australia League" and crossed the floor to sit on the opposition benches. The opposition Nationalist Party
Nationalist Party of Australia
The Nationalist Party of Australia was an Australian political party. It was formed on 17 February 1917 from a merger between the conservative Commonwealth Liberal Party and the National Labor Party, the name given to the pro-conscription defectors from the Australian Labor Party led by Prime...

 and the five dissident Labor MPs (as well as three conservative independent MPs) soon merged to form a new party, the United Australia Party
United Australia Party
The United Australia Party was an Australian political party that was founded in 1931 and dissolved in 1945. It was the political successor to the Nationalist Party of Australia and predecessor to the Liberal Party of Australia...

.

Although the new party was basically the Nationalist Party under a new name, Lyons was chosen as leader of the party (and thus became Leader of the Opposition) rather than the old Nationalist leader John Latham, as it was recognised that (as an affable family man with the common touch) he was a far more electorally appealing figure than the aloof Latham, and his Labor background and his Catholicism would allow him to win traditional Labor support groups (working-class voters and Irish Catholics) over to the new party.

In March, at about the same time as Lyons led his group of defectors from the right of the Labor Party across the floor, 5 left-wing NSW Labor MPs, supporters of New South Wales
New South Wales
New South Wales is a state of :Australia, located in the east of the country. It is bordered by Queensland, Victoria and South Australia to the north, south and west respectively. To the east, the state is bordered by the Tasman Sea, which forms part of the Pacific Ocean. New South Wales...

 Premier Jack Lang
Jack Lang (Australian politician)
John Thomas Lang , usually referred to as J.T. Lang during his career, and familiarly known as "Jack" and nicknamed "The Big Fella" was an Australian politician who was Premier of New South Wales for two terms...

, also split from the official Labor Party over the government's economic policies (for Lyons they had been too radical, for the Langites they were not radical enough), forming a "Lang Labor" group on the cross-benches. The government had now lost its majority in the House of Representatives. Late in the year, the Langite MPs decided to vote with the UAP to pass a motion of no confidence
Motion of no confidence
A motion of no confidence is a parliamentary motion whose passing would demonstrate to the head of state that the elected parliament no longer has confidence in the appointed government.-Overview:Typically, when a parliament passes a vote of no...

 in the government and force an early election.

The election
Australian federal election, 1931
Federal elections were held in Australia on 19 December 1931. All 75 seats in the House of Representatives, and 18 of the 36 seats in the Senate were up for election...

 was held in December 1931. Lyons and the UAP offered stable, orthodox financial policies, and portrayed an image of putting national unity above class conflict (given credibility by Lyons, a man of working-class, Labor background, leading a conservative, largely middle and upper class party), while Labor remained split between the official party and the Langites. The result was a huge victory for the UAP. The new government was sworn in January 1932. Lyons became the third former Labor Party MP to become a non-Labor Prime Minister.

Prime Minister


The UAP had the numbers in Parliament to govern on its own in Lyons's first term. After the 1934 election
Australian federal election, 1934
Federal elections were held in Australia on 15 September 1934. All 74 seats in the House of Representatives, and 18 of the 36 seats in the Senate were up for election. The incumbent United Australia Party led by Prime Minister of Australia Joseph Lyons with coalition partner the Country Party led...

 it governed in the traditional conservative coalition with the Country Party
National Party of Australia
The National Party of Australia is an Australian political party.Traditionally representing graziers, farmers and rural voters generally, it began as the The Country Party, but adopted the name The National Country Party in 1975, changed to The National Party of Australia in 1982. The party is...

. Until 1935 Lyons served as Treasurer as well as Prime Minister. In office, Lyons followed the same conservative financial policy he had advocated during the Scullin government, cutting public spending and debt. He benefited politically from the gradual worldwide recovery that took place after 1932.

In foreign affairs he supported Britain with little criticism, and was a strong supporter of the League of Nations
League of Nations
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace...

. His government tended to support the conciliation of the dictatorships of Germany, Italy, and Japan to avoid another world war, but he did prepare somewhat for such a prospect with an expansion of the armed forces, the opening of an aircraft factory, and the planning of new munitions factories and shipyards.

At the 1934 election the ambitious and talented Robert Menzies
Robert Menzies
Sir Robert Gordon Menzies, , Australian politician, was the 12th and longest-serving Prime Minister of Australia....

 entered Parliament, and was immediately seen as Lyons's successor, although he denied that he was seeking to displace Lyons. The government won a third term in 1937
Australian federal election, 1937
Federal elections were held in Australia on 23 October 1937. All 74 seats in the House of Representatives, and 19 of the 36 seats in the Senate were up for election...

. However, as the international situation darkened in the late 1930s, Lyons, a lifelong pacifist, became increasingly depressed. Most politicians expected that he would soon be replaced by Menzies, who resigned from Cabinet in protest at the government's inaction on the national insurance scheme. On 7 April 1939, in Sydney, Lyons died suddenly of a heart attack – the first Australian Prime Minister to die in office. He was 59 years old.

Lyons was one of the most genuinely popular men to hold the office of Prime Minister, and his death caused widespread grief. His genial, laid-back appearance often led to cartoon portrayal as a sleepy koala
Koala
The koala is an arboreal herbivorous marsupial native to Australia, and the only extant representative of the family Phascolarctidae....

. A devout Catholic, he was the second Catholic to become Prime Minister, after his immediate predecessor Scullin, and the only non-Labor Catholic Prime Minister to date.

He is the only person in Australian history to have been Prime Minister, Premier
Premiers of the Australian states
The Premiers of the Australian states are the de facto heads of the executive governments in the six states of the Commonwealth of Australia. They perform the same function at the state level as the Prime Minister of Australia performs at the national level. The territory equivalents to the...

 of a State, and Leader of the Opposition in both the Federal Parliament and a State Parliament (although George Reid
George Reid (Australian politician)
Sir George Houstoun Reid, GCB, GCMG, KC was an Australian politician, Premier of New South Wales and the fourth Prime Minister of Australia....

 had served as Premier of a colony before Federation). Lyons is also Australia's only Prime Minister to come from Tasmania.

He was the only Australian Prime Minister to be in office during the reigns of three monarchs (George V
George V of the United Kingdom
George V was King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and Emperor of India, from 6 May 1910 through the First World War until his death in 1936....

, Edward VIII
Edward VIII of the United Kingdom
Edward VIII was King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth, and Emperor of India, from 20 January to 11 December 1936.Before his accession to the throne, Edward was Prince of Wales and Duke of Cornwall and Rothesay...

, and George VI
George VI of the United Kingdom
George VI was King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth from 11 December 1936 until his death...

), and the only Australian Prime Minister who was in office continuously throughout a monarch's entire reign (Edward VIII).
Dame Enid Lyons later went into politics in her own right, in 1943 becoming the first woman to sit in the House of Representatives, and later the first woman Cabinet Minister in the Menzies' Liberal government. Two of their sons later became involved in Tasmanian state politics in the Liberal Party
Liberal Party of Australia
The Liberal Party of Australia is an Australian political party.Founded a year after the 1943 federal election to replace the United Australia Party, the centre-right Liberal Party typically competes with the centre-left Australian Labor Party for political office...

: Kevin Lyons
Kevin Lyons
Kevin Orchard Lyons was an Australian politician and member of the Tasmanian House of Assembly representing the seat of Darwin...

 was Deputy Premier between 1969 and 1972 and Brendan Lyons
Brendan Lyons
Brendan Aloysius Lyons was an Australian politician. He was elected to the Tasmanian House of Assembly at the 1982 election representing the Division of Bass for the Liberal Party...

 served in the ministry of Robin Gray
Robin Gray (Australian politician)
Robin Trevor Gray is a former Australian politician who was Premier of Tasmania from 1982 to 1989. A Liberal, he was elected Liberal state leader in 1981 and in 1982 defeated the Labor government of Harry Holgate on a policy of "state development," particularly the building of the Franklin Dam, a...

 during the 1980s.

Honours


The Australian federal Division of Lyons
Division of Lyons
The Division of Lyons is an Australian Electoral Division in Tasmania. The division was created in 1984 to replace the abolished Division of Wilmot and is named for Joseph Lyons, Prime Minister of Australia 1931-39, Member for Wilmot from 1929-39, and his wife Dame Enid Lyons, the first woman...

 and the Canberra suburb of Lyons, Australian Capital Territory
Lyons, Australian Capital Territory
Lyons is a suburb in the Canberra, Australia district of Woden. The postcode is 2606.The suburb was named after Joseph Lyons, Labor Premier of Tasmania from 1923 to 1928 and a Minister in the James Scullin government from 1929 until his resignation from the Labor Party in March 1931...

 are both named jointly in honour of Joseph Lyons and his widow Dame Enid Lyons
Enid Lyons
Dame Enid Muriel Lyons, AD, GBE was an Australian politician and the first woman to be elected to the Australian House of Representatives as well as the first woman appointed to the federal Cabinet...

.

In 1975 he was honoured on a postage stamp bearing his portrait issued by Australia Post
Australia Post
Australia Post is the trading name of the Australian Government-owned Australian Postal Corporation .-History:...

.

See also


  • First Lyons Ministry
    First Lyons Ministry
    The First Lyons Ministry was the twenty-first Australian Commonwealth ministry, and ran from 6 January 1932 to 12 October 1934.United Australia Party*Rt Hon Joseph Lyons, MP: Prime Minister, Treasurer...

  • Second Lyons Ministry
    Second Lyons Ministry
    The Second Lyons Ministry was the twenty-second Australian Commonwealth ministry, and ran from 12 October 1934 to 9 November 1934.United Australia Party*Rt Hon Joseph Lyons, MP: Prime Minister, Treasurer...

  • Third Lyons Ministry
    Third Lyons Ministry
    The Third Lyons Ministry was the twenty-third Australian Commonwealth ministry, and ran from 9 November 1934 to 29 November 1937.United Australia Party–Australian Country Party Coalition...

  • Fourth Lyons Ministry
    Fourth Lyons Ministry
    The Fourth Lyons Ministry was the twenty-fourth Australian Commonwealth ministry, and ran from 29 November 1937 to 7 April 1939.United Australia Party–Australian Country Party Coalition*Rt Hon Joseph Lyons, MP: Prime Minister...

  • List of Australian Prime Ministers who died in office

Further reading

  • Henderson, Anne
    Anne Henderson
    Anne Henderson is an Australian writer, best known as the Deputy Director of The Sydney Institute and editor of The Sydney Papers....

     (2000), 'Joseph Aloysius Lyons,' in Michelle Grattan
    Michelle Grattan
    Michelle Grattan AO , Australian journalist, was the first woman to become editor of an Australian metropolitan daily newspaper. Specialising in political journalism, Grattan has written and edited for many significant Australian newspapers....

     (ed.), Australian Prime Ministers, New Holland, Sydney, New South Wales, pages 152–167. ISBN 1 86436 756 3
  • Hughes, Colin A
    Colin Hughes
    Colin Anfield Hughes is an Australian academic specializing in electoral politics and government.He received his B.A. and M.A. degrees from Columbia University and his Ph.D from the London School of Economics. In 1966, along with John S...

     (1976), Mr Prime Minister. Australian Prime Ministers 1901–1972, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, Victoria, Ch.11. ISBN 0 19 550471 2

External links