Francis George Anstey

(1865—1940) politician and author

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(1865–1940) was the principal left-wing figure in the federal Labor caucus of the 1920s. He was born into a poor London family that moved frequently, allowing him little formal education. Anstey stowed away at the age of 11, jumped ship in Sydney and spent 10 years as a seaman. He eventually moved to Melbourne in the early 1890s. Anstey became a well-known advocate for labour and served as local member for East Bourke (later Brunswick) 1902–10, then moved into federal parliament as member for Bourke. During his time in East Bourke he became a mentor to John Curtin. Anstey represented the populist Labor tradition; he advocated public ownership, attacked bankers and financiers, and supported the creation of the Commonwealth Bank. His antagonism to financial monopolies, with its anti-Semitic overtones—apparent in his books, The Kingdom of Shylock (1915), and Money Power (1921)—is discussed by in Labour and the Money Power (1984). Anstey wrote for the radical Tocsin and Labor Call and campaigned against conscription in the 1916 and 1917 referendums. His account of the Russian Revolution, Red Europe (1919), was written after a lengthy tour of Europe. Anstey became minister for health and repatriation in the Scullin government of 1929–31, until he was dropped for criticising the government's financial policies. His memoirs, edited by Peter Cook (HS, 1979), provide a trenchant account of this period. Anstey retired, disillusioned, in 1934.

From The Oxford Companion to Australian History in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Australasian and Pacific History.

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