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On This Day In 1966: Menzies Retires, Holt Government Takes Office

Having announced his retirement on January 20, Sir Robert Menzies officially departed the prime ministership on this day in 1966. Harold Holt’s first ministry was sworn in at the same time.

It was a historic moment 50 years ago that brought to an end the political career of Australia’s longest-serving prime minister. Menzies had been Prime Minister for two years between April 1939 and August 1941. He formed the Liberal Party in 1944 and served for six years as Opposition Leader before defeating the Chifley Labor government in December 1949.

Menzies went on to win six more elections in 1951, 1954, 1955, 1958, 1961 and 1963. When he retired, he had been prime minister for 16 years and 5 weeks.

Holt

Harold Holt took office at the age of 57 with a ministerial career that had started 26 years earlier. He had first served under Menzies in 1940 and had been Treasurer since 1958. [Read more…]


Lem Johns, LBJ Bodyguard, Dies; Witness To JFK Assassination, Spattered With Paint In Australia

Lem Johns, the United States Secret Service agent who was spattered with paint during President Lyndon Johnson’s visit to Australia in 1966, has died, at the age of 88.

Johns, with his right hand raised, can be seen in the picture below on the right hand side of Johnson’s limousine. The incident occurred during a demonstration in Melbourne.

LBJ

Johnson’s visit in October 1966 came just one month before the federal election of November 26. The election was conducted amidst vigorous public debate about Australia’s commitment of conscripted troops to the war in Vietnam. [Read more…]


Costello Hints At Benefits Of Deputies Taking On The Top Job

The Treasurer, Peter Costello, says that the elevation of a deputy leader to the leader’s position allows a government to regenerate and pursue new policy directions.

Peter Costello, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party and Member for HigginsLaunching a biography by Tom Frame of former Prime Minister Harold Holt, Costello said “when Holt became Prime Minister the Government had the opportunity to reconsider options that had previously been considered and rejected.”

After 10 years as deputy, Holt became Liberal Party leader and Prime Minister in January 1966, following the retirement of Sir Robert Menzies who had held the office for 16 years. He disappeared in the surf at Portsea on December 19, 1967. [Read more…]


John Howard Comments On Death Of Sir William McMahon

Sir William McMahon, Australia’s 20th Prime Minister, died on March 31, 1988, at the age of 80.

McMahon served as the Liberal member for Lowe between 1949 and 1982. He was a long-serving minister, having assumed office under Robert Menzies in 1951. He was Treasurer in the governments of Harold Holt (1966-67) and John Gorton (1968-69). He was Minister for Foreign Affairs under Gorton (1969-71). He replaced Gorton as prime minister in March 1971.

McMahon was defeated by Gough Whitlam and the ALP in 1972, ending 23 years of coalition government. [Read more…]


1966 Federal Election: Harold Holt Liberal Party Policy Speech

This is the Liberal Party policy speech for the 1966 Federal Election, delivered by the Prime Minister, Harold Holt.

The speech was delivered on November 8.

This was Harold Holt’s first election as leader, following the retirement of the party’s founder, Sir Robert Menzies, in January. It was the first time the Liberal Party had contested an election with a leader other than Menzies.

The chief campaign issue was the Vietnam War. The President of the United States, Lyndon Johnson, had visited Australia just prior to the election campaign.

Holt secured a 4.3% swing to the coalition. It won a landslide victory with 56.9% of the two-party-preferred vote and 82 seats in the House of Representatives to the ALP’s 41.

It was Holt’s only election as Liberal leader. He drowned a year later in December 1967.

66-11-08_holt-election-policy-speech


Sir Robert Menzies Announces His Retirement After 16 Years As Prime Minister

Sir Robert Menzies announced his retirement on January 20, 1966, after 16 years as Prime Minister.

Menzies made his announcement to the party-room at 11.21am. Shortly after midday, Harold Holt was elected unopposed as the new leader of the Liberal Party. William McMahon was elected deputy leader.

Menzies saw the Governor-General, Lord Casey, and tendered his resignation, at 4pm. Casey served as a minister under Menzies as Richard Casey between 1939-40 and 1949-60.

At 8pm, Menzies held a press conference in Parliament House. A video extract appears below. [Read more…]