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1951 Double Dissolution Correspondence: Menzies And McKell

Last updated on January 31, 2024

These are the 1951 double dissolution letters exchanged between Prime Minister Robert Menzies and Governor-General Sir William McKell.

Menzies’ Liberal-Country Party government was elected in December 1949. Within 15 months, he called a double dissolution election, using the rejection of a banking bill as the trigger. In his advice to McKell (a former Labor Premier of NSW), Menzies argued that the Senate’s referral of the bill to a Committee constituted a “failure to pass”.

The correspondence is interesting for what it reveals about Menzies’ relationship with the Governor-General. His careful exposition of the arguments in favour of a double dissolution are a masterclass in how to prepare one’s case.

At the election, Menzies was returned comfortably, losing 5 seats in the House but gaining a majority in the Senate. Of all the double dissolutions held since Federation, this one produced the best result for the incumbent prime minister.

The documents were published in 1956.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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