Arthur Calwell

Arthur Calwell (1896 – 1973) politician
Arthur Calwell politician and devout Roman Catholic wrote in his memoirs “If any people are homeless in Australia today, it is the Aboriginals. Some day, I hope, we will do justice to them.”

Arthur Calwell, Australian politician, was Leader of the Australian Labor Party from 1960 to 1967. He was born in Melbourne.

A gifted high school student, Calwell was a devout Roman Catholic and joined the Australian Labor Party in his youth. Lacking the resources to pursue a university education, Calwell became a clerk in the Victorian Public Service, in which he worked for the Department of Agriculture and the State Treasury.

Active and energetic in the Labor Party, Calwell was elected President of the Victorian Labor Party in 1931. He was elected to the Australian House of Representatives for the seat of Melbourne in 1940. During World War II, Calwell served as Minister for Information in John Curtin’s Labor government, and became well-known for his tough attitude towards the Australian press and his strict enforcement of wartime censorship. This earned him the enmity of large sections of the Australian Press, and he was dubbed “Cocky” Calwell by his political foes, cartoonists of the period depicting him as an obstinate Australian cockatoo.

In 1945, Calwell became Minister for Immigration in Ben Chifley’s post-war Labor government. Thus, he was the chief architect of Australia’s post-war immigration scheme at a time when many European refugees desired a better life far from their war-torn homelands, and he became famous for his relentless promotion of it. Calwell’s adovocacy of the program was crucial because of his links to the trade union movement, and his skillful presentation of the need for immigration.

Calwell overcame resistance to mass immigration by promoting it under the slogan “populate or perish”. This due attention to the need, particularly in light of the recent war in the Pacific, to increase Australia’s industrial and military capabilities, though a massive increase in the population. In July 1947 he signed an agreement with the United Nations Refugee Organisation to accept displaced persons from European countries ravaged by war.

Despite his far-sighted immigration policies, Calwell was a staunch advocate of the White Australia Policy: while Europeans were welcomed to Australia, Calwell was deporting many Malayan, Indochinese and Chinese wartime refugees, some of whom had married Australian citizens and started families in Australia. Calwell’s enthusiasm and drive in launching the migration program was a notable feature of the second term of the Chifley government, and has been named by many historians as his greatest achievement (especially given the labour movement’s hostility to earlier migration programs).

On the night of 21 June 1966, after addressing a rowdy meeting at Mosman Town Hall, Sydney, Calwell became the victim of an assassination attempt. A 19-year-old factory worker Peter Raymond Kocan discharged a sawn-off rifle immediately after Calwell entered his car, wounding him in the jaw. Described by his defence psychiatrist as a ‘borderline schizophrenic’, Kocan was sentenced to life imprisonment. In 1968 Calwell wrote to him: ‘If there is anything I can do to help you in future in the matter of the mitigation of your sentence . . . I will do it’. Kocan was released in 1976.

Outside of the political arena, Calwell was a devotee of the North Melbourne Australian rules football team – he was the first life member of the club. He was always devoted to the Roman Catholic Church despite his many conflicts with Church leaders. He was awarded a papal knighthood (Knight Commander of the Order of St Gregory the Great) and the Grand Silver Star for his life-long service to the Church.

Survived by his wife and their daughter Mary Elizabeth who sustained him with unflinching devotion to the end, he died on 8 July 1973 in East Melbourne. He was buried in Melbourne general cemetery beside his son Arthur Andrew, whose death of leukaemia at the age of 11 in 1948 dealt Calwell the one wound, of a hard-fought life, which never healed.

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Refer also :,_Australian_Capital_Territory
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