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Paul Hasluck

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Paul Hasluck

The Right Honourable
Sir Paul Hasluck
17th Governor-General of Australia
In office
30 April 1969 – 11 July 1974
Monarch Elizabeth II
Prime Minister John Gorton
William McMahon
Gough Whitlam
Preceded by The Lord Casey
Succeeded by Sir John Kerr
Minister for External Affairs
In office
24 April 1964 – 11 February 1969
Prime Minister Robert Menzies
Harold Holt
John McEwen
John Gorton
Preceded by Garfield Barwick
Succeeded by Gordon Freeth
Minister for Defence
In office
18 December 1963 – 24 April 1964
Prime Minister Robert Menzies
Preceded by Athol Townley
Succeeded by Shane Paltridge
Minister for Territories
In office
11 May 1951 – 18 December 1963
Prime Minister Robert Menzies
Preceded by Richard Casey
Succeeded by Charles Barnes
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Curtin
In office
11 December 1949 – 12 February 1969
Preceded by Division created
Succeeded by Victor Garland
Personal details
Born (1905-04-01)1 April 1905
Fremantle, Western Australia
Died 9 January 1993(1993-01-09) (aged 87)
Dalkeith, Western Australia
Political party Liberal Party of Australia
Spouse(s) Alexandra Hasluck

Sir Paul Meernaa Caedwalla Hasluck GCMG, GCVO (1 April 1905 – 9 January 1993) was an Australian historian, poet, public servant and politician, and the 17th Governor-General of Australia.


  • Early life 1
  • Political career 2
  • Governor-General 3
  • Honours 4
  • Works 5
    • Poetry 5.1
    • Political writing 5.2
    • Biographical 5.3
  • Notes 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8

Early life

A native of Western Australia, Hasluck was born in Fremantle, into a family of Salvation Army members, whose values he retained throughout his career. He was educated at the prestigious Perth Modern School, which became something of a training-ground for future politicians (later students there included Prime Minister Bob Hawke as well as senators John Wheeldon and John O. Stone). Later Hasluck attended Perth's sole campus at the time, the University of Western Australia, where he graduated with a MA degree.

While still a student, Hasluck joined the literary staff of Perth's main newspaper, The West Australian; he also began to publish articles (in that journal and elsewhere) on the history of the state. After he had obtained his MA, he worked as a tutor in the UWA's history department, and in 1939 he was promoted to a lectureship in history. By that time he had been married for seven years to Alexandra Darker (1908–1993), with whom he had two sons. Alexandra Hasluck became a distinguished writer and historian in her own right, and was the first woman to be appointed a Dame of the Order of Australia.

Also in 1939, Hasluck established Freshwater Bay Press,[1] through which he released his first book, Into the Desert. The advent of the Second World War, however, saw the publishing company go into hiatus. The Freshwater Bay Press was later revived by his son Nicholas, and amongst its subsequent publications it issued a second book of Paul Hasluck's poetry, Dark Cottage in 1984.

In 1941 Hasluck was recruited to the staff of the Department of External Affairs (it acquired the name "Foreign Affairs" only in 1970), and served on Australian delegations to several international conferences, including the San Francisco Conference which founded the United Nations. Here he came into close contact with the Minister for External Affairs in the Labor government, Dr H.V. Evatt, towards whom he conceived a permanent aversion, fully reciprocated by Evatt's attitude to him.

After the war Hasluck returned to the University of Western Australia as a Reader in History, and was commissioned to write two volumes of Australia in the War of 1939–1945, a 22-volume official history of Australia's involvement in World War II. These volumes were published as The Government and the People 1939–1941 in 1951 and The Government and the People 1941–1945 in 1970. This work was interrupted by his decision to enter politics, a decision motivated partly by his disapproval of Evatt's foreign policy.

Political career

At the 1949 election Hasluck won Liberal preselection for the newly created Perth-area seat of Curtin. Although it was notionally a Labor seat, it was located in natural Liberal territory in Perth's wealthy beachside suburbs, and Hasluck won it with a resounding swing of almost 14 percent as part of the Coalition's large victory that year.

In 1951 the Prime Minister, Robert Menzies appointed Hasluck as Minister for Territories, a post he held for twelve years. This gave him responsibility for Australia's colonial possession, Papua New Guinea, and also the Northern Territory, home to Australia's largest population of Aboriginal people. Although he shared the paternalistic views of the period about the treatment of the Papua-New Guineans, and followed an assimilationist policy for the Aboriginal people, he carried out significant reforms in the way both peoples were treated. Michael Somare, who became Papua New Guinea's first Prime Minister, said that his country had been able to enter self-government without fear of having to argue with an Ian Smith "simply because of Paul Hasluck".[2]

Hasluck was briefly Minister for Defence in 1963 and 1964, and then became Minister for External Affairs. He held this office during the height of Australia's commitment to the Vietnam War, of which he was a passionate supporter. He worked to strengthen Australia's relationship with the United States and with anti-Communist governments in South-East Asia, and opposed Australian recognition of the People's Republic of China.

When the Prime Minister Harold Holt died in December 1967, Hasluck was determined that the Treasurer, William McMahon, of whom he had a very low opinion, should not become Prime Minister. Although he had no great ambition to be Prime Minister himself, he put his name forward mainly to provide an alternative to McMahon. But many Liberal MPs saw him as too old at 64, too conservative, and insufficiently telegenic to compete with Labor leader Gough Whitlam. Accordingly, they chose the younger and more aggressive John Gorton.


It is alleged that Gorton was uncomfortable having a potential rival such as Hasluck remaining in the Cabinet. In early 1969, Gorton offered him the post of Governor-General, which he accepted. He resigned from Parliament on 10 February 1969, being the first Western Australian member of the House of Representatives to resign. This may have cost Hasluck a second opportunity to become Prime Minister, since in 1971 Gorton lost the Liberal leadership, and the Liberals might well have turned to Hasluck instead of McMahon had he still been available.

At the 1972 election Whitlam defeated McMahon and became Prime Minister. This created a potentially awkward situation since Whitlam and Hasluck had bitterly resented one another for years. In a celebrated incident in the House of Representatives in 1965, Whitlam had thrown a glass of water at Hasluck after Hasluck said: "You are one of the filthiest objects ever to come into this chamber".[3] Improbably enough in view of this, the Governor-General and the PM treated each other with complete civility that soon became genuine mutual respect. They had no difficulties in their formal dealings. An indication of the change which had taken place occurred soon after Whitlam's victory. Normal practice called for McMahon to stay on as caretaker Prime Minister until Labor could choose a full ministry at its first caucus meeting. However, Whitlam was unwilling to wait that long, and asked Hasluck to have Whitlam and his deputy leader, Lance Barnard, sworn in as an interim two-man government once Labor's victory was beyond doubt. Hasluck promptly agreed, and Whitlam and Barnard held 27 portfolios between them until the full Labor ministry was sworn in.

In 1973, Hasluck's Official Secretary Sir Murray Tyrrell retired after a career during which he had served six governors-general over 26 years. He was succeeded by David Smith.

Hasluck granted Whitlam a double dissolution in April 1974 (with an election on 18 May) when the Liberal Opposition threatened to block the Budget bills in the Senate. Hasluck's term as Governor-General was due to expire in July 1974. Whitlam had offered to extend his term, but Hasluck declined, citing his wife's refusal to remain at Yarralumla longer than the originally agreed five years.[4] Historians of the period are certain that if Hasluck had still been Governor-General in 1975, the constitutional crisis of that year would have ended differently.[5] Hasluck himself implied this in his book, The Office of Governor-General, and also in the Queale Lecture.

Hasluck's last official act as Governor-General was to open the 29th Parliament on 9 July 1974. Two days later, his successor Sir John Kerr was sworn in.[6] Hasluck retired to Perth where he remained active in cultural and political affairs until his death in 1993. He was buried at Karrakatta Cemetery.

The coat of arms of Paul Hasluck

After Hasluck's death, his son Nicholas Hasluck published a selection of his father's private journals and notebooks, under the title The Chance of Politics. This book contained a number of highly critical comments, both political and personal, about many of Paul Hasluck's contemporaries. The publication of this material caused considerable offence to some people. Others saw the comments as useful historical information.

Set into the footpath along WAY 1979. One of the tablets is devoted to Hasluck.

His heraldic banner as Catherine wheels on the banner were taken from the Armorial Bearings granted to him by the College of Arms. The crest beneath the banner includes the seven pointed Australian Commonwealth Star and a formalised representation of West Australian Xanthorrhoea.


Hasluck was appointed a Privy Counsellor in 1966. On 21 February 1969, as Governor-General-designate, he was appointed a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG).

During his term as Governor-General, on 29 May 1970, Queen Elizabeth II appointed him a Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCVO), an appointment within her personal gift.

Hasluck received the Commemorative Medal of the 2500th Anniversary of the founding of the Persian Empire on 14 October 1971.[7]

On 24 April 1979, he was made a Knight of the Order of the Garter (KG).

The Federal Division of Hasluck is named jointly after Sir Paul and his wife Dame Alexandra Hasluck.



  • Into the Desert (poems), Freshwater Bay Press (Claremont, Western Australia), 1939.
  • Collected Verse, Hawthorn Press, 1969.
  • An Open Go, Hawthorn Press, 1971.
  • The Poet in Australia, Hawthorn Press, 1975.
  • Dark Cottage (poems), Freshwater Bay Press, 1984.

Political writing

  • Black Australians: A Survey of Native Policy in Western Australia, 1829–1897, Melbourne University Press (Melbourne), 1942, 2nd edition, 1970.
  • Workshop of Security, F. W. Cheshire, 1948.
  • The Government and the People, Australian War Memorial, Volume I: 1939–41, 1951, Volume II: 1942–45, 1970.
  • Native Welfare in Australia, P. Brokensha, 1953.
  • A Time for Building: Australian Administration in Papua-New Guinea, 1951–1963, Melbourne University Press, 1976.
  • The Office of Governor-General, (PDF) Melbourne University Press, 1979.
  • Sir Robert Menzies, Melbourne University Press, 1980.
  • Diplomatic Witness: Australian Foreign Affairs, Melbourne University Press, 1980.
  • Shades of Darkness: Aboriginal Affairs, 1925–1965, Melbourne University Press, 1988.
  • The Chance of Politics, edited by Nicholas Hasluck, Text Pub. (Melbourne), 1997


  • Mucking About: An Autobiography, Melbourne University Press, 1977, published with a new foreword, University of Western Australia (Nedlands, Australia), 1994.
  • Light That Time Has Made, National Library of Australia (Canberra), 1995.


  1. ^ Freshwater Bay Press
  2. ^ "Pukka sahibs of Moresby" Sydney Morning Herald – 18 July 1976
  3. ^ "Parliamentary Speech", Professor Ken Inglis, Papers on Parliament No. 28, November 1996
  4. ^ 'How one strong woman changed the course of Australian history, The Age, 2 January 2010
  5. ^ Wurth, Bob (January 2, 2010). "How One Strong Woman Changed The Course Of Australian History". The Age. Retrieved 18 October 2015 – via Whitlam Dismissal Dot Com. 
  6. ^ Gavin Souter, Acts of Parliament, p. 523
  7. ^ Badraie

Further reading

St Georges Terrace, Perth bronze tablet
  • Hasluck, Paul (1942), Black Australians, Melbourne University Press.
  • Hasluck, Paul (1988), Shades of Darkness: Aboriginal Affairs 1925–1965, Melbourne University Press.
  • Hasluck, Paul (1994), Mucking About: An Autobiography, University of Western Australia Press.
  • Hasluck, Paul (1997), The Chance of Politics (edited by Nicholas Hasluck), Text Publishing.
  • Porter, Robert (1993), Paul Hasluck: A Political Biography, University of Western Australia Press. ISBN 1-875560-20-3

External links

  • Paul Hasluck's Australian theatre credits at AusStage
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Norman Makin
as Head of Delegation
Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations
Succeeded by
John Hood
Parliament of Australia
New division Member for Curtin
Succeeded by
Victor Garland
Political offices
Preceded by
Richard Casey
Minister for Territories
Succeeded by
Charles Barnes
Preceded by
Athol Townley
Minister for Defence
Succeeded by
Shane Paltridge
Preceded by
Garfield Barwick
Foreign Minister
Succeeded by
Gordon Freeth
Government offices
Preceded by
Lord Casey
Governor-General of Australia
Succeeded by
Sir John Kerr
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