Joseph Aloysius Lyons

(1879—1939) prime minister of Australia

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(b. 15 Sept. 1879, d. 7 Apr. 1939).

Prime Minister of Australia 1932–9

Early career

Educated in his native Stanley (Tasmania), he became a teacher until he was elected to the Tasmanian state parliament in 1909. Lyons served as Tasmanian Treasurer and Minister for Education from 1914, and was elected leader of the state Labor Party in 1916 because of his opposition to the introduction of compulsory military service. As premier of Tasmania (1923–8), he became noted for his successful reform of the state's financial structure. In 1929, he was elected to the federal parliament, where as Postmaster-General he became a senior member of Scullin's Cabinet. As acting Treasurer (1930–1), Lyons was heavily criticized by his colleagues and the parliamentary caucus for his orthodox financial policies, though he became well-respected for his principled policies outside Labor.

In office

Agonized by the opposition from his own party, he left Labor and started to cultivate citizens' groups, thus creating grass-roots support for a new movement, the United Australia Party (UAP). He led the UAP to a landslide victory in December 1931, and won convincing victories in 1934 and 1937. His orthodox policies brought considerable financial and political stability during the years of the Great Depression. The financial difficulties of these years precluded him from undertaking any striking reform initiatives, for which he was often criticized. The main achievement underpinning his long tenure lay in his tireless organization and motivation of the loosely structured and relatively short-lived UAP. During the last months of his life he was increasingly criticized for his seemingly hands-off style of government, but he remained in office until his death.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).

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