Over the past few weeks, Crikey — inspired by the preselection of fourth-generation politician Georgina Downer — have been cataloguing Australia’s many political dynasties. Here’s our fourth installment.
Firstly, we must thank reader Richard Pennycuick, who got in contact to point out that Dan Tehan’s claim — as noted in our last installment — of being the first of a mother/son duo to be elected to Australian parliaments was actually incorrect. Tehan did not account for Dame Enid Lyons. Upon her election to the Tasmanian electorate of Darwin (now Braddon), Lyons became the first woman to be elected to the federal house of representatives — though Edith Cowan was elected to the Western Australian Parliament earlier, and Dorothy Tangey tied for federal parliament, getting a senate spot in 1943.
Lyons’ son Kevin was a speaker in the house of assembly and later the deputy premier of Tasmania from 1969 to 1972, while his younger brother Brendan was a member of the Tasmanian parliament in the 1980s. Brendan and Kevin were two of 12 children Enid had with Joseph Lyons, who was premier of Tasmania from 1923 to 1928, before going on to become the party-hopping 10th prime minister of Australia.
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Coming in third in elected mother/son double threats is former Queensland premier Campbell Newman. His late mother Jocelyn was a minister in the Howard government — first as minister for Social Security and then Family and Community Services over a 16-year career which ended in 2002. Her husband Kevin spent nine years as the Liberal member for Bass, having shockingly pried it away from Labor in 1975 after it had been held by former deputy prime minister Lance Barnard, setting loose an avalanche that would engulf the Whitlam government some six months later.
Frank Crean was one of the two deputy prime ministers Labor was able to cram in between Barnard’s resignation and Whitlam’s dismissal. It would be his last role in government, and he eventually resigned from parliament in 1977, having held the seat of Melbourne Ports for 26 years. Prior to this he’d had a brief stint in the Victoria Legislative Assembly in the mid 1940s.
He had three sons, two of whom went into politics. Simon lead the Australian Council of Trade Unions for the second half to the 1980s, before being elected to the seat of Hotham in 1990 and jumping straight into the ministry, taking on the science and technology portfolio. He remained a prominent Labor frontbencher during the early years of opposition, and became the leader of the party after the defeat in the 2001 election, before a torrid time in the polls led to his resignation in 2003. He was a minister in the cabinets of Rudd and Gillard before his role in one of series leadership crises saw Gillard sack him. After a failed tilt at deputy PM when Rudd returned, Crean announced he would resign at the next election.
His brother David spent 15 years in the Tasmanian parliament for Labor, entering the House of Assembly in 1989 as the member for Denison, before moving to the Legislative Council seat of Buckingham and holding it until it was abolished in 1999 at which point he moved to Elwick, which he held until his retirement in 2004. Even David’s romances were political — his first wife Jill Robson was the daughter of Neil Robson who held the seat of Bass for 16 years, and his current partner, Sue Mackay was a Labor senator for Tasmania from 1996 to 2005.