|Name:||Billy E. Hughes|
|Birth Day:||September 25, 1862|
|Death Date:||28 October 1952(1952-10-28) (aged 90)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
|Birth Place:||Los Angeles, California, United States|
As per our current Database, Billy E. Hughes died on 28 October 1952(1952-10-28) (aged 90)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
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Hughes was born on 25 September 1862 at 7 Moreton Place, Pimlico, London, the son of William Hughes and the former Jane Morris. His parents were both Welsh. His father, who worked as a carpenter and joiner at the Palace of Westminster, was from North Wales and was a fluent Welsh speaker. His mother, a domestic servant, was from the small village of Llansantffraid-ym-Mechain (near the English border), and spoke only English. Hughes was an only child; at the time of their marriage, in June 1861, his parents were both 37 years old.
Hughes' mother died in May 1869, when he was six years old. His father subsequently sent him to be raised by relatives in Wales. During the school term, he lived with his father's sister, Mary Hughes, who kept a boarding house in Llandudno named "Bryn Rosa". He earned pocket money by doing chores for his aunt's tenants and singing in the choir at the local church. Hughes began his formal schooling in Llandudno, attending two small single-teacher schools. He spent his holidays with his mother's family in Llansantffraid. There, he divided his time between "Winllan", the farm of his widowed aunt (Margaret Mason), and "Plas Bedw", the neighbouring farm of his grandparents (Peter and Jane Morris).
At the age of 22, finding his prospects in London dim, Hughes decided to emigrate to Australia. Taking advantage of an assisted-passage scheme offered by the Colony of Queensland, he arrived in Brisbane on 8 December 1884 after a two-month journey. On arrival, he gave his year of birth as 1864, a deception that was not uncovered until after his death. Hughes attempted to find work with the Education Department, but was either not offered a position or found the terms of employment to be unsuitable. He spent the next two years as an itinerant labourer, working various odd jobs. In his memoirs, Hughes claimed to have worked variously as a fruitpicker, tally clerk, navvy, blacksmith's striker, station hand, drover, and saddler's assistant, and to have travelled (mostly on foot) as far north as Rockhampton, as far west as Adavale, and as far south as Orange, New South Wales. He also claimed to have served briefly in both the Queensland Defence Force and the Queensland Maritime Defence Force. Hughes' accounts are by their nature unverifiable, and his biographers have cast doubt on their veracity – Fitzhardinge states that they were embellished at best and at worst "a world of pure fantasy".
Hughes moved to Sydney in about mid-1886, working his way there as a deckhand and galley cook aboard SS Maranoa. He found occasional work as a line cook, but at one point supposedly had to resort to living in a cave on The Domain for a few days. Hughes eventually found a steady job at a forge, making hinges for colonial ovens. Around the same time, he entered into a common-law marriage with Elizabeth Cutts, his landlady's daughter; they had six children together. In 1890, Hughes moved to Balmain. The following year, with his wife's financial assistance, he was able to open a small shop selling general merchandise. The income from the shop was not enough to live on, so he also worked part-time as a locksmith and umbrella salesman, and his wife as a washerwoman. One of Hughes' acquaintances in Balmain was William Wilks, another future MP, while one of the customers at his shop was Frederick Jordan, a future Chief Justice of New South Wales.
In Balmain, Hughes became a Georgist, a street-corner speaker, president of the Balmain Single Tax League, and joined the Australian Socialist League. He was an organiser with the Australian Workers' Union and may have already joined the newly formed Labor Party. In 1894, Hughes spent eight months in central New South Wales organising for the Amalgamated Shearers' Union of Australasia and then won the Legislative Assembly seat of Sydney-Lang by 105 votes.
While in Parliament he became secretary of the Wharf Labourer's Union. In 1900 he founded and became first national president of the Waterside Workers' Union. During this period Hughes studied law, and was admitted as a barrister in 1903. Unlike most Labor men, he was a strong supporter of Federation and Georgism.
In 1901 Hughes was elected to the first federal Parliament as Labor MP for West Sydney. He opposed the Barton government's proposals for a small professional army and instead advocated compulsory universal training. In 1903, he was admitted to the bar after several years part-time study. He became a King's Counsel (KC) in 1909. (The title changed to Queen's Council (QC) on the accession of Queen Elizabeth II in 1952.)
Hughes had entered politics as a trade unionist, and like most of the Australian working class was very strongly opposed to Asian immigration to Australia (excluding Asian immigration was a popular cause with unions in Canada, the U.S, Australia, and New Zealand in the early 20th century). Hughes believed that accepting the Racial Equality clause would mean the end of the White Australia immigration policy that had been adopted in 1901, writing: "No Gov't could live for a day in Australia if it tampered with a White Australia". Hughes stated: "The position is this – either the Japanese proposal means something or it means nothing: if the former, out with it; if the latter, why have it?" He later said that "the right of the state to determine the conditions under which persons shall enter its territories cannot be impaired without reducing it to a vassal state", adding: "When I offered to accept it provided that words were incorporated making it clear that it was not to be used for the purpose of immigration or of impairing our rights of self-government in any way, [the Japanese delegate] Baron Makino was unable to agree".
At the age of 90 years, one month and three days, Hughes is the oldest person ever to have been a member of the Australian parliament. His death sparked a Bradfield by-election. He had been a member of the House of Representatives for 51 years and seven months, beginning his service in the reign of Queen Victoria and ending it in the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. Including his service in the New South Wales colonial parliament before that, Hughes had spent a total of 58 years as an MP, and had never lost an election. His period of service remains a record in Australia. He was the last member of the original Australian Parliament elected in 1901 still serving in Parliament when he died. Hughes was the penultimate member of the First Parliament to die; King O'Malley outlived him by fourteen months. Hughes was also the last surviving member of the Watson Cabinet, as well as the first and third Cabinets of Andrew Fisher.
Soon after arriving in Sydney, Hughes entered into a common-law marriage with Elizabeth Cutts, the daughter of one of his landladies. Their relationship was never formally registered or solemnised, but they lived as husband and wife and had six children together – William (b. 1891; died in infancy), Ethel (b. 1892), Lily (b. 1893), Dolly (b. 1895), Ernest (b. 1897), and Charles (b. 1898). They also raised Arthur (b. 1885), Elizabeth's son from a previous relationship, who took Hughes as his surname. Their marriage was solid, though sometimes strained by Hughes' devotion to his work and frequent absences from home. Elizabeth had little interest in politics, and was sometimes ill at ease in the social situations that obtained as her husband's career progressed. She died of heart failure on 1 September 1906, aged 42, after a long period of ill health.
His abrasive manner (his chronic dyspepsia was thought to contribute to his volatile temperament) made his colleagues reluctant to have him as Leader. His on-going feud with King O'Malley, a fellow Labor minister, was a prominent example of his combative style. Hughes was also the club patron for the Glebe Rugby League team in the debut year of Rugby League in Australia, in 1908. Hughes was one of a number of prominent Labor politicians who were aligned with the Rugby League movement in Sydney in 1908. Rugby League was borne out of a player movement against the Metropolitan Rugby Union who refused to compensate players for downtime from their jobs due to injuries sustained playing Rugby Union. Labor politicians aligned themselves with the new code as it was seen as a strong social standpoint, politically, and it was an enthusiastic professional game, which made the politicians themselves appear in a similar vein, in their opinions anyway.
In 1911, he married Mary Campbell. He was Minister for External Affairs in Chris Watson's first Labor government. He was Attorney-General in Andrew Fisher's three Labor governments in 1908–09, 1910–13 and 1914–15.
After his first wife's death, Hughes' oldest daughter Ethel kept house for him and helped look after the younger children. After a brief courtship, he remarried on 26 June 1911 to Mary Ethel Campbell, the daughter of a well-to-do pastoralist. At the time of their marriage, he was 48 and she was 37. Mary was politically and socially astute, and her husband often turned to her for advice on political matters. Unusually for the time, he insisted that he accompany her on all of his overseas trips, even those made during wartime. Through his second marriage, Hughes also became the brother-in-law of John Haynes, one of the founders of The Bulletin. His niece, Edith Haynes, lived with him and his wife as a companion for many years.
After marrying his wife Mary in 1911, the couple went on a long drive, because he did not have time for a honeymoon. Their car crashed where the Sydney–Melbourne road crosses the Sydney–Melbourne railway north of Albury, New South Wales, leading to the level crossing there being named after him; it was later replaced by the Billy Hughes Bridge.
In 1913, at the foundation ceremony of Canberra as the capital of Australia, Hughes gave a speech proclaiming that the country was obtained via the elimination of the indigenous population. "We were destined to have our own way from the beginning..[and]..killed everybody else to get it," Hughes said, adding that "the first historic event in the history of the Commonwealth we are engaged in today [is] without the slightest trace of that race we have banished from the face of the earth." But he warned that "we must not be too proud lest we should, too, in time disappear."
Following the 1914 election, the Labor Prime Minister of Australia, Andrew Fisher, found the strain of leadership during World War I taxing and faced increasing pressure from the ambitious Hughes who wanted Australia to be firmly recognised on the world stage. By 1915 Fisher's health was suffering and, in October, he resigned and was succeeded by Hughes. In social policy, Hughes introduced an institutional pension for pensioners in benevolent asylums, equal to the difference between the 'act of grace' payment to the institution and the rate of IP.
Japan was notably offended by Hughes's position on the issue. Like Jan Smuts of South Africa, Hughes was concerned by the rise of Japan. Within months of the declaration of the European War in 1914, Japan, Australia and New Zealand had seized all German territorial possessions in the Pacific. Though Japan had occupied German possessions with the blessing of the British, Hughes felt alarm at this turn of events.
The only child from Hughes' second marriage was Helen Myfanwy Hughes, who was born in 1915 (a few months before he became prime minister). He doted upon her, calling her the "joy and light of my life", and was devastated by her death in childbirth in 1937, aged 21. Her son survived and was adopted by a friend of the family, with his grandfather contributing towards his upkeep. Because she was unmarried at the time, the circumstances of Helen's death were kept hidden and did not become generally known until 2004, when the ABC screened a programme presented by the actor Martin Vaughan. Vaughan had played Billy Hughes in the 1975 film Billy and Percy, and his continuing interest in him led to the unearthing of Helen's fate.
In July 1916 Hughes was a member of the British delegation at the Paris Economic Conference, which met to decide what economic measures to take against Germany. This was the first time an Australian representative had attended an international conference.
Conscription had been in place since the 1910 Defence Act, but only in the defence of the nation. Hughes was seeking via a referendum to change the wording in the act to include "overseas". A referendum was not necessary but Hughes felt that in light of the seriousness of the situation, a vote of "Yes" from the people would give him a mandate to bypass the Senate. The Lloyd George Government of Britain did favour Hughes but only came to power in 1916, several months after the first referendum. The predecessor Asquith government greatly disliked Hughes considering him to be "a guest, rather than the representative of Australia". According to David Lloyd George: "He and Asquith did not get on too well. They would not. They were antipathetic types. As Hughes was never over-anxious to conceal his feelings or restrain his expression of them, and was moreover equipped with a biting tongue, the consultations between them were not agreeable to either".
On 15 September 1916 the NSW executive of the Political Labour League, Frank Tudor (the Labor Party organisation at the time) expelled Hughes from the Labor Party, after Hughes and 24 others had already walked out to the sound of Hughes's finest political cry "Let those who think like me, follow me." Hughes took with him almost all of the Parliamentary talent, leaving behind the Industrialists and Unionists, thus marking the end of the first era in Labor's history. Years later, Hughes said, "I did not leave the Labor Party, The party left me." The timing of Hughes's expulsion from the Labor Party meant that he became the first Labor leader who never led the party to an election.
In early 1916, Hughes established the Advisory Council on Science and Industry, the first national body for scientific research and the first iteration of what is now the CSIRO. The council had no basis in legislation, and was intended only as a temporary body to be replaced with "Bureau of Science and Industry" as soon as possible. However, due to wartime stresses and other considerations the council endured until 1920, at which point an act of parliament was passed transforming it into a new government agency, the Institute of Science and Industry. According to Fitzhardinge: "The whole affair was highly typical of Hughes's methods. An idea coming from outside happened to chime with his preoccupation of the moment. He seized it, put his own stamp on it, and pushed it through to the point of realization. Then, having established the machinery, he expected it to run itself while he turned his full energies elsewhere, and tended to be evasive or testy if he was called back to it. Yet his interest was genuine, and without his enthusiasm and drive the Commonwealth intervention would either not have come at all or would have been far slower".
At the May 1917 federal election Hughes and the Nationalists won a huge electoral victory, which was magnified by the large number of Labor MPs who followed him out of the party. At this election Hughes gave up his working-class Sydney seat and was elected for Bendigo, Victoria, becoming the first of only a handful of people who have represented more than one state or territory in the Parliament. Hughes had promised to resign if his Government did not win the power to conscript. Queensland Premier T. J. Ryan was a key opponent to conscription, and violence almost broke out when Hughes ordered a raid on the Government Printing Office in Brisbane, with the aim of confiscating copies of Hansard that covered debates in the Queensland Parliament where anti-conscription sentiments had been aired. A second plebiscite on conscription was held in December 1917, but was again defeated, this time by a wider margin. Hughes, after receiving a vote of no confidence in his leadership by his party, resigned as Prime Minister. However, there were no credible alternative candidates. For this reason, Munro-Ferguson used his reserve power to immediately re-commission Hughes, thus allowing him to remain as Prime Minister while keeping his promise to resign.
The government replaced the first-past-the-post electoral system applying to both houses of the Federal Parliament under the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1903 with a preferential system for the House of Representatives in 1918. That preferential system has essentially applied ever since. A multiple majority-preferential system was introduced at the 1919 federal election for the Senate, and that remained in force until it was changed to a quota-preferential system of proportional representation in 1948. Those changes were considered to be a response to the emergence of the Country Party, so that the non-Labor vote would not be split, as it would have been under the previous first-past-the-post system.
At a meeting of the Imperial War Cabinet on 30 December 1918, Hughes warned that if they "were not very careful, we should find ourselves dragged quite unnecessarily behind the wheels of President Wilson's chariot". He added that it was intolerable for Wilson "to dictate to us how the world was to be governed. If the saving of civilisation had depended on the United States, it would have been in tears and chains to-day". He also said that Wilson had no practical scheme for a League of Nations and added: "The League of Nations was to him what a toy was to a child—he would not be happy till he got it". At the Paris Peace Conference, Hughes clashed with Wilson. When Wilson reminded him that he spoke for only a few million people, Hughes replied: "I speak for 60,000 dead. How many do you speak for?"
On 10 March 1919 Prime Minister of Australia Billy Hughes announced a £10,000 reward to the first aviator who will fly from the United Kingdom to Australia in less than 30 days. Ross and Keith Smith won the race when their Vickers Vimy G-EAOU twin engine plane, won the £10,000 prize after they landed in Darwin.
In 1919 Hughes, with former Prime Minister Joseph Cook, travelled to Paris to attend the Versailles Peace Conference. He remained away for 16 months, and signed the Treaty of Versailles on behalf of Australia – the first time Australia had signed an international treaty.
Seth Tillman described him as "a noisesome demagogue", the "bete noir [sic] of Anglo-American relations". Unlike Smuts, Hughes totally opposed the concept of the League of Nations, as in it he saw the flawed idealism of "collective security". He declared in June 1919 that Australia would rely on the League "but we shall keep our powder dry".
After 1920, Hughes's political position declined. Many of the more conservative elements of his own party never trusted him because they thought he was still a socialist at heart, citing his interest in retaining government ownership of the Commonwealth Shipping Line and the Australian Wireless Company. However, they continued to support him for some time after the war, if only to keep Labor out of power.
At the 1921 Imperial Conference, Hughes argued unsuccessfully in favour of renewing the Anglo-Japanese Alliance.
At the 1922 federal election, Hughes gave up Bendigo and transferred to the upper-class seat of North Sydney, thus giving up one of the last symbolic links to his working-class roots. The Nationalists lost their outright majority at the election. The Country Party, despite its opposition to Hughes's farm policy, was the Nationalists' only realistic coalition partner. However, party leader Earle Page let it be known that he and his party would not serve under Hughes. Under pressure from his party's right wing, Hughes resigned in February 1923 and was succeeded by his Treasurer, Stanley Bruce. Hughes was the longest-serving Prime Minister, until his term was surpassed by Robert Menzies (in 1957).
Hughes played little part in parliament for the remainder of 1923. He rented a house in Kirribilli in his new electorate and was recruited by The Daily Telegraph to write a series of articles on topics of his choosing. In the articles he defended his legacy as prime minister and stated he would support the new government as long as it followed his principles. In 1924, Hughes embarked on a lecture tour of the United States. His health broke down midway through the tour, while he was in New York. As a result he cancelled the rest of his engagements and drove back across the country in a new Flint automobile, which he brought back to Australia. Later in the year he purchased a house in Lindfield, which was to be his primary residence for the rest of his life. In 1925 Hughes again had little involvement in parliamentary affairs, but began to portray himself as "champion of Australian industries struggling to get established against foreign competition and government indifference", with the aid of his friends James Hume Cook and Ambrose Pratt.
Hughes had a severe hearing loss that began when he was relatively young and worsened with age. He relied on a primitive electronic hearing aid, which was so bulky that it could only be worn for short periods and had to be carried around in a box. However, his deafness could sometimes be to his advantage, as he could feign misapprehension or simply turn off his device when he no longer wished to listen to someone. Physically, Hughes was short in stature and slightly built, standing 5 ft 6 in (1.68 m) and weighing around 9 stone (57 kg) at most. He had a "naturally weak constitution", suffering frequently from colds and other infections, and to compensate became a "fanatical devotee of physical fitness". He also suffered from chronic indigestion, on account of which he abstained from red meat and alcohol and rarely ate large meals. Hughes often worked himself to exhaustion, and required long periods of convalescence to recharge – sometimes weeks or even months. He was prone to bouts of depression interspersed with periods of euphoria, and following a near nervous breakdown in 1924 was diagnosed with "psychasthenia".
Hughes was furious at being ousted by his own party and nursed his grievance on the back-benches until 1929, when he led a group of back-bench rebels who crossed the floor of the Parliament to bring down the Bruce government. Hughes was expelled from the Nationalist Party, and formed his own party, the Australian Party. After the Nationalists were heavily defeated in the ensuing election, Hughes initially supported the Labor government of James Scullin. He had a falling-out with Scullin over financial matters, however. In 1931 he buried the hatchet with his former non-Labor colleagues and joined the Nationalists and several right-wing Labor dissidents under Joseph Lyons in forming the United Australia Party (UAP), under Lyons' leadership. He voted with the rest of the UAP to bring the Scullin government down.
After the 1931 Japanese invasion of Manchuria, Hughes believed that the British should remain neutral, and adopted the same attitude towards Italy's invasion of Abyssinia in 1935. Hughes believed that the British Empire was in danger because of its weakness in the Mediterranean.
The UAP won a sweeping victory at the 1931 election. Lyons sent Hughes to represent Australia at the 1932 League of Nations Assembly in Geneva and in 1934 Hughes became Minister for Health and Repatriation in the Lyons government. Later Lyons appointed him Minister for External Affairs, but Hughes was forced to resign in 1935 after his book Australia and the War Today exposed a lack of preparation in Australia for what Hughes correctly supposed to be a coming war. Soon after, the Lyons government tripled the defence budget. Hughes also wrote in Australia and the War Today that the League of Nations was broken and that it could have worked only if it had been backed by force. He believed that every nation must look to its own defences and that, as Britain was preoccupied in European affairs, Australia would have to defend itself.
Hughes was brought back to Australia by Lyons as Minister for External Affairs in 1937. In 1938 Germany requested the return of her Pacific colonies but Hughes declared that Australia should hold onto New Guinea, and in April 1939 he said that if Germany wanted colonies she would have to fight for them.
By the time of Lyons' death in 1939, Hughes was also serving as Attorney-General and Minister for Industry. He also served as Minister for the Navy, Minister for Industry and Attorney-General at various times under Lyons' successor, Robert Menzies.
Defence issues became increasingly dominant in public affairs with the rise of Fascism in Europe and militant Japan in Asia. From 1938, Prime Minister Joseph Lyons had Hughes head a recruitment drive for the Australian Defence Force. On 7 April 1939, Lyons died in office. The United Australia Party selected Robert Menzies as his successor to lead a minority government on the eve of World War Two. Australia entered the Second World War on 3 September 1939 and a special War Cabinet was created after war was declared – initially composed of Prime Minister Menzies and five senior ministers including Hughes. Labor opposition leader John Curtin declined to join and Menzies lost his majority at the 1940 Election. With the Allies suffering a series of defeats and the threat of war growing in the Pacific, the Menzies Government (1939-1941) relied on two independents, Arthur Coles and Alex Wilson for its parliamentary majority.
Unable to convince Curtin to join in a War Cabinet and facing growing pressure within his own party, Menzies resigned as Prime Minister on 29 August 1941. Although the UAP had been in government for a decade, it was so bereft of leadership that a joint UAP-Country meeting elected Country Party leader Arthur Fadden to lead the Coalition. Hughes remained in the Fadden government, serving as Attorney-General and Minister for the Navy. A month later, Coles and Wilson joined with the Labor opposition to defeat the budget and bring down the government. The independents, under prodding from Governor-General Lord Gowrie, then threw their support to Opposition Leader John Curtin, who was sworn in as Prime Minister on 7 October 1941. Going into opposition the UAP opted for a joint Coalition opposition led by Fadden, which led Menzies to resign the leadership. Hughes was narrowly elected leader on 9 October but widely regarded as a stop-gap given his age.
On 7 December, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. Soon afterwards, Hughes criticised the British government for their weakness in the Far East and declared that they were living on "fast-fading gleams of British triumphs in other wars". However, in February 1942 he said that "Britain has temporarily lost control of the seas but she has lost it in an effort to protect Australia. It would be well if those who criticise Britain would turn the searchlights on Australia". In August he criticised the defensive strategy of the Allies in the Pacific but after the Battle of the Solomons he praised the United States' armed forces. Hughes opposed the Curtin government's Statute of Westminster Adoption Act 1942, which incorporated sections 2–6 of the Statute of Westminster 1931 into law. He believed that Britain and the Dominions should instead work together for a common foreign policy.
In February 1944, the parliamentary UAP voted to withdraw its members from the Advisory War Council. Hughes and Menzies resigned, but Percy Spender chose to remain on the council and was expelled from the UAP. A few months later, Hughes rejoined the War Council at the personal invitation of John Curtin. He was expelled from the UAP on 14 April 1944, and replaced as deputy leader by Eric Harrison. Hughes and Spender sat as an independents until 13 September 1945, when they joined the new Liberal Party of Australia that had been founded earlier in the year. By that point the War Council had been abolished.
Hughes celebrated a number of milestones in his last years in parliament. In 1944, a celebratory dinner was held to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his election to the Parliament of New South Wales, and 50 consecutive years of service as an MP. Prime Minister John Curtin toasted him as someone who had "fought like hell for what he believed to be right, and for that Australia will honour him". In June 1951, Hughes was the guest of honour at a banquet marking the golden jubilee of the federal parliament. The following year, "almost every member of the House of Representatives and Senate" attended his birthday dinner. Prime Minister Robert Menzies observed that Hughes had been a member of every political party at one time or another, at which point Arthur Fadden interjected that he had never joined the Country Party. Hughes then remarked "had to draw the line somewhere, didn't I?".
Hughes died on 28 October 1952, aged 90, at his home in Lindfield. His state funeral was held at St Andrew's Cathedral, Sydney, and was one of the largest Australia has seen: some 450,000 spectators lined the streets. He was later buried at Macquarie Park Cemetery and Crematorium with his daughter Helen; his widow Dame Mary joined them upon her death in 1958.
In 1972, he was honoured on a postage stamp bearing his portrait issued by Australia Post.
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