HISTORY RESEARCH ASSIGNMENT
Sir Robert Gordon (Bob) Menzies (1894-1978), prime minister and barrister, was born on 20 December 1894 at Jeparit, Victoria, fourth of five children of Australian-born parents James Menzies who was a storekeeper, and his wife Kate. Robert Gordon Menzies was Australia’s longest serving Prime Minister. He held the office twice, from 1939 to 1941 and from 1949 to 1966. Altogether he was Prime Minister for over 18 years – still the record term for an Australian Prime Minister. Lacking lots of formal education themselves, Menzies parents were anxious that their children should have the best of thing that could be afforded. So the eldest four—Les, Frank, Belle and Bob—were sent in turn to Ballarat's Humffray Street State School. Bob did the best with in the family, topping the State scholarship examination in 1907, and studying in consequence for two years at Grenville College, a Ballarat private school. It opened the way to another scholarship, which Menzies took at Wesley College, Melbourne. A brilliant undergraduate career followed, with a galaxy of prizes. During his early years in parliament, Robert was highly involved in international Nationalist Party matters. In 1920 he helped establish the ‘Young Nationalists’ a group that focus’ on attracting young men into politics. The head of the orginisation welcomed the idea and invited Menzie to join the central executive of the National Federation. Later on the Young Nationalists took over the State Nationalist Party orginisation. Robert then won the presidency of the Victorian National Federation in September 1931. Robert Menzies was in office twice, from 1939 to 1941 and from 1949 to 1966. Despite seven successive federal election victories, Menzies’ second period as Prime Minister was not secure. In the 1954 and 1961 federal elections, the Labor Party received a greater proportion of first preference votes for House of Representatives seats (50.03 per cent in 1954) than the Liberal and Country parties combined. Menzies was fortunate to come to office in a growing postwar economy. He also benefited from the Labor split in 1955, and skilfully exploited ‘Cold War’ fears and the threat of Communism for electoral gain.
Prime Minister 1939–41
Robert Gordon Menzies was 44 years of age when he was sworn in as Prime Minister for the first time on 26 April 1939. He succeeded to the office following the death of Joseph Lyons and headed a minority United Australia Party government. Country Party leader Earle Page was Prime Minister after Lyons’ death, but he refused to serve in a government headed by Menzies, and had withdrawn his party from the coalition. The Menzies era 1949–66
On 19 December 1949, Robert Gordon Menzies was sworn in as Australia’s Prime Minister for the second time. He celebrated his 55th birthday the following day. In light of the humiliations he had suffered in 1941, his re-election to the office marked one of the most astonishing comebacks in Australian political history. Rejected by his own party, Menzies had been forced to resign as Prime Minister and leader of the United Australia Party in 1941. He had used his years out of office to refine his political philosophy and help build a new political party, the Liberal Party.
26 Apr 1939
12th Prime Minister
Robert Menzies was sworn in as Prime Minister, after he was elected leader of the United Australia Party. Robert Menzies
03 Sep 1939
Australia declares war on Germany
After German troops invaded Poland on 1 September, Britain declared war. The Dominions, including Australia, followed with separate declarations the same day. Robert Menzies
20 Oct 1939
Compulsory military training
Six weeks after Australia entered World War II, Prime Minister Robert Menzies announced the reintroduction of compulsory defence training. It took effect on 1 January 1940. Unmarried men aged 21 were...
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