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Robert Menzies

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Robert Gordon Menzies (December 20, 1894 - May 14, 1978) was Prime Minister of Australia from 1939 - 1941 and again from 1949 - 1966.

Born in Jeparit, a small town in the Wimmera region of south-western Victoria, he graduated in law from the University of Melbourne in 1916 and was soon after joined the Bar (qualified to practise as a barrister).

In 1928, he entered state politics as a member of the Victorian upper house, the Legislative Council, representing East Yarra. Transferring to the lower house seat of Nunawading in 1929, he rose to become a minister in the Victorian government from 1932 to 1934.

He entered federal politics in 1934, representing the United Australia Party in the federal seat of Kooyong (a Melbourne seat covering the wealthiest inner suburbs of Melbourne), almost immediately becoming federal Attorney-General in the Government of Joseph Lyons, a post he held until 1939.

He first became prime minister in 1939, leading Australia into World War II through Australia's firm alliance with the United Kingdom, a tie that Menzies felt extremely closely.

Disunity in Menzies party, the United Australia Party, saw him removed from the leadership of the party and thus the Prime Ministership by a group of party members that Arthur Coles described as "the UAP lynch-mob". The party soon lost to Labor in any case.

In 1945, Menzies was instrumental in forming a new party, the Liberal Party of Australia, which he became leader of and in 1949 led to victory, beginning a 17-year stay as Prime MInister.

Throughout the 1950s, Menzies dominated Australia's political landscape, aided by a dysfunctional opposition with mostly uninspired leadership and internal divisions, culminating in the splitting-off of the Catholic-based, virulently anti-communist Democratic Labor Party from Labor.

Menzies professed continued admiration for links with Britain, exemplified by his admiration for Queen Elizabeth II. In 1954, her first royal tour, extraordinary crowds came to see and cheer her - for example, in Melbourne, one million people reportedly viewed her, half the population of the city at the time. However, by the time of her second tour in 1963 the national enthusiasm had largely disappeared. Menzies' had, apparently not. At a function, Menzies quoted Elizabethan (Elizabeth I, that is) poet Barnabe Googe[?], "I did but see her passing by and yet I love her till I die." The nation's media reflected a collective cringe about the fawning the country largely no longer felt, and seems only a distant memory today.

It was also reflected in the Australian decision to allow Britain to test nuclear weapons at Maralinga[?] in South Australia.

much more to fill in, including Menzian pragmatism in the opening up of the immigration policy, friendship with America, growing trade ties with Asia, stifling censorship, bowing out on his own terms, personal style, etc. etc. etc.

(first term)
Previous Australian Prime Minister: Earle Page
Next Australian Prime Minister: Arthur Fadden

(second term)
Previous Australian Prime Minister: Ben Chifley
Next Australian Prime Minister: Harold Holt



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