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Arthur Calwell

Arthur Augustus Calwell (August 28, 1896 - July 8, 1973) was an Australian politician born in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. His father was an officer in the Victoria state police service, and Arthur's ancestry was dominated by Irish and Welsh antecedents.

A gifted high school student, Calwell became a devout Roman Catholic and a supporter of socialism early in his life. He joined the Australian Labor Party in his youth which at the time was very socialist in outlook.

Lacking the resources to pursue a university education, Calwell became a clerk in the Victorian Public Service[?], in which he worked for the Department of Agriculture and the State Treasury.

Active and energetic in the Labor Party, he became the President of the Victorian state branch of the party in the 1930s. He was elected to the Australian House of Representatives in 1940 as the Member for the electorate of Melbourne - he was to hold the electorate until 1972.

During World War Two, Calwell was the Minister for Information, and became infamous for his heavy-handed tactics towards the mass-circulation print media, including The Sydney Morning Herald, in regards to wartime censorship.

In 1945, he became Australia's first Minister for Immigration. Calwell was the chief architect of the national post-war immigration scheme at a time when Europe was teeming with refugees who desired a better life far from their war-torn poverty-stricken homelands. This immigration program co-incided with a period of Australian history in which the doctrine of 'populate or perish' was widespread and Australian industry was growing at a breathtaking pace. The Australian economy was also suffering from massive shortages of skilled and semi-skilled labour at the time due to the post-war economic boom.

Despite his liberal and far-sighted immigration policies, Calwell was a staunch advocate of the White Australia Policy for the remainder of his life - while hundreds of thousands of Europeans were welcomed with open arms to Australia in the late 1940s, Calwell was also deporting many Malayan, Indochinese and Chinese wartime refugees - some of whom had married Australian citizens and started families in Australia.

Calwell ceased to be Minister for Immigration in 1949 after Prime Minister Ben Chifley's devastating loss to the Liberal Party of Australia (led by Robert Menzies) on December 10th of that year. After Ben Chifley's death in the middle of 1951, Herbert Vere "Doc" Evatt[?] became the Federal leader of the Labor Party (and therefore the Opposition Leader[?]), and Calwell was elected Deputy Opposition Leader by his fellow Labor Members of Parliament.

"Doc" Evatt resigned from Parliament to become Chief Justice[?] of the State of New South Wales in 1960, and Arthur Calwell was elected as the Federal Opposition Leader in the year by his fellow Labor Party parliamentarians. Calwell very nearly defeated Menzies in the December 1961 Federal election due to widespread discontent at Menzies' deflationary economic policies. The election was decided by approximately 800 votes - around 100 in the suburban Brisbane electorate of Moreton and around 700 in the suburban Melbourne electorate of Maribyrnong were all that stopped Calwell from becoming the first Labor Party Prime Minister of Australia since Ben Chifley was defeated by Menzies in 1949. The Liberal Party/Country Party Coalition led by Menzies gained sixty-two seats in the House of Representatives, while Arthur Calwell and the Labor Party had to be content with sixty seats.

Arthur Calwell remained Opposition Leader until 1967 when he was replaced by Gough Whitlam, who went on to become Prime Minister from 1972 to 1975. The Labor Party suffered heavy losses in the 1963 and 1966 Federal elections, which hastened Calwell's demise as Labor's leader.

Calwell retired from the Australian Parliament in 1972 after serving as an MP for thirty-two years.

Outside of the political arena, Calwell was a devotee of the North Melbourne Kangaroos[?] Australian Rules[?] football team - he was the first life member of the Kangaroos club. Arthur Calwell also became infamous throughout his political career for very public difficulties with the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church in Australia, many of whom were vehemently anti-Labor during the anti-Communist hysteria of the Cold War era. However these difficulties did not prevent Calwell from being awarded a papal knighthood[?] in the 1960s by the Vatican for his life-long service to the Roman Catholic Church.

Calwell is also remembered for being the first victim of a political assassination attempt in Australia. A young mentally disturbed man, Peter Kocan[?], attempted to fire a shotgun at Calwell's head one night in 1966 shortly after an anti-Vietnam War rally in Mosman, a North Shore suburb of Sydney. Calwell was inside a motor vehicle at the time, so he only suffered superficial wounds to his face and neck from the bullet-shattered car window.

Two books that were authored by Arthur Calwell include 'Labor's Role In Modern Society' and his 1972 autobiography 'Be Just And Fear Not'. Arthur Augustus Calwell died in 1973.

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