Earle Page
Sir Earle Christmas Grafton Page, GCMG
Order of St Michael and St George
The Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George is an order of chivalry founded on 28 April 1818 by George, Prince Regent, later George IV of the United Kingdom, while he was acting as Prince Regent for his father, George III....

, CH
Order of the Companions of Honour
The Order of the Companions of Honour is an order of the Commonwealth realms. It was founded by King George V in June 1917, as a reward for outstanding achievements in the arts, literature, music, science, politics, industry or religion....

 (8 August 188020 December 1961) was the 11th Prime Minister of Australia, and is to date the second-longest serving federal parliamentarian in Australian history, with 41 years, 361 days in Parliament.

Early life

Born in Grafton
Grafton, New South Wales
The city of Grafton is the commercial hub of the Clarence River Valley. Established in 1851, Grafton features many historic buildings and tree-lined streets. Located approximately 630 kilometres north of Sydney and 340 km south of Brisbane, Grafton and the Clarence Valley can be reached...

, New South Wales, Page was educated at Sydney Boys High School
Sydney Boys High School
Sydney Boys High School is an academically selective public secondary school for boys, located in the City of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, with 1,180 students, from years 7 to 12...

 and the University of Sydney
University of Sydney
The University of Sydney is a public university located in Sydney, New South Wales. The main campus spreads across the suburbs of Camperdown and Darlington on the southwestern outskirts of the Sydney CBD. Founded in 1850, it is the oldest university in Australia and Oceania...

, where he graduated in medicine at the top of his year in 1901. He worked at Sydney's Royal Prince Alfred Hospital
Royal Prince Alfred Hospital
The Royal Prince Alfred Hospital is a major public teaching hospital in Sydney, Australia, located on Missenden Road in Camperdown...

, where he met Ethel Blunt, a nurse, whom he married in 1906. In 1903 he joined a private practice in Grafton and in 1904 he became one of the first people in the country to own a car. He practised in Sydney and Grafton before joining the Australian Army
Australian Army
The Australian Army is Australia's military land force. It is part of the Australian Defence Force along with the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force. While the Chief of Defence commands the Australian Defence Force , the Army is commanded by the Chief of Army...

 as a medical officer in the First World War, serving in Egypt
Sinai and Palestine Campaign
The Sinai and Palestine Campaigns took place in the Middle Eastern Theatre of World War I. A series of battles were fought between British Empire, German Empire and Ottoman Empire forces from 26 January 1915 to 31 October 1918, when the Armistice of Mudros was signed between the Ottoman Empire and...

. After the war he went into farming and was elected Mayor of Grafton.

Political career

In 1919
Australian federal election, 1919
Federal elections were held in Australia on 13 December 1919. All 75 seats in the House of Representatives, and 19 of the 36 seats in the Senate were up for election. The incumbent Nationalist Party of Australia led by Prime Minister of Australia Billy Hughes defeated the opposition Australian...

 Page was elected to the House of Representatives
Australian House of Representatives
The House of Representatives is one of the two houses of the Parliament of Australia; it is the lower house; the upper house is the Senate. Members of Parliament serve for terms of approximately three years....

 from Cowper
Division of Cowper
The Division of Cowper is an Australian Electoral Division in New South Wales. The division was created in 1900 and was one of the original 75 divisions contested at the first federal election and is named for Charles Cowper, an early Premier of New South Wales...

 in northeastern New South Wales. He ran as a candidate of the Farmers and Settlers Association of New South Wales, which in 1920 merged with several other rural-based parties to form the Country Party
National Party of Australia
The National Party of Australia is an Australian political party.Traditionally representing graziers, farmers and rural voters generally, it began as the The Country Party, but adopted the name The National Country Party in 1975, changed to The National Party of Australia in 1982. The party is...

. He became the party's leader in 1921, ousting William McWilliams
William McWilliams
William James McWilliams was the inaugural leader of the Country Party of Australia.Born in Bream Creek, near Sorell, Tasmania, the son of Irish immigrants who ran the local school. Originally trained as a teacher, McWilliams became a journalist in 1877, rising to editor of the Launceston...

. Dislike of the Hughes
Billy Hughes
William Morris "Billy" Hughes, CH, KC, MHR , Australian politician, was the seventh Prime Minister of Australia from 1915 to 1923....

 government's rural policies was one of the reasons the Country Party was formed, and when the party won the balance of power in the House at the 1922 election
Australian federal election, 1922
Federal elections were held in Australia on 16 December 1922. All 75 seats in the House of Representatives, and 19 of the 36 seats in the Senate were up for election. The incumbent Nationalist Party of Australia led by Prime Minister of Australia Billy Hughes lost its majority...

, Page demanded and got Hughes's resignation as the price for supporting the Nationalist
Nationalist Party of Australia
The Nationalist Party of Australia was an Australian political party. It was formed on 17 February 1917 from a merger between the conservative Commonwealth Liberal Party and the National Labor Party, the name given to the pro-conscription defectors from the Australian Labor Party led by Prime...


Page then began negotiations with Hughes' successor as leader of the Nationalists, Stanley Bruce
Stanley Bruce
Stanley Melbourne Bruce, 1st Viscount Bruce of Melbourne, CH, MC, FRS, PC , was an Australian politician and diplomat, and the eighth Prime Minister of Australia. He was the second Australian granted an hereditary peerage of the United Kingdom, but the first whose peerage was formally created...

. His terms were stiff; he wanted his Country Party to have five seats in an 11-man Cabinet, including the post of Treasurer
Treasurer of Australia
The Treasurer of Australia is the minister in the Government of Australia responsible for government expenditure and revenue raising. He is the head of the Department of the Treasury. The Treasurer plays a key role in the economic policy of the government...

 and the second rank in the ministry for himself. These demands were unprecedented for such a new party. Nonetheless, as the Country Party was the Nationalists' only realistic coalition partner, Bruce accepted Page's terms. For all intents and purposes, Page was the first Deputy Prime Minister of Australia
Deputy Prime Minister of Australia
The Deputy Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia is the second-most senior officer in the Government of Australia. The Deputy Prime Ministership has been a ministerial portfolio since 1968, and the Deputy Prime Minister is appointed by the Governor-General on the advice of the Prime...

 (a title that did not officially exist until 1968). Since then, the leader of the Country/National Party has been the second-ranking member in nearly every non-Labor government
Coalition (Australia)
The Coalition in Australian politics refers to a group of centre-right parties that has existed in the form of a coalition agreement since 1922...


Page continued his professional medical practice, and on 22 October 1924 he had to tell his best friend, Thomas Shorten Cole, the news that his wife Mary Ann Crane had just died on the operating table from complications of intestinal or stomach cancer – reputed by their daughter Dorothy May Cole to be "the worst day of his life".

He was a strong believer in orthodox finance and conservative policies, except where the welfare of farmers was concerned: then he was happy to see government money spent freely. He was also a "high protectionist": a supporter of high tariff barriers to protect Australian rural industries.

The Bruce-Page government was defeated by Labor
Australian Labor Party
The Australian Labor Party is an Australian political party. It has been the governing party of the Commonwealth of Australia since the 2007 federal election. Julia Gillard is the party's federal parliamentary leader and Prime Minister of Australia...

 in 1929
Australian federal election, 1929
Federal elections were held in Australia on 12 October 1929. All 75 seats in the House of Representatives were up for election, with no Senate seats up for election, as a result of Billy Hughes and other rebel backbenchers crossing the floor over industrial relations legislation, depriving the...

 (with Bruce losing his own seat), and Page went into opposition. In 1931 Joseph Lyons
Joseph Lyons
Joseph Aloysius Lyons, CH was an Australian politician. He was Labor Premier of Tasmania from 1923 to 1928 and a Minister in the James Scullin government from 1929 until his resignation from the Labor Party in March 1931...

 was able to form a UAP
United Australia Party
The United Australia Party was an Australian political party that was founded in 1931 and dissolved in 1945. It was the political successor to the Nationalist Party of Australia and predecessor to the Liberal Party of Australia...

 government without Country Party support. In 1934, however, the coalition was re-formed, and Page became Minister for Commerce
Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (Australia)
The current Australian Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry is Senator the Hon Joe Ludwig.-Portfolio responsibilities:The minister administers his portfolio through the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, and its component bodies:...

. He was made a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George
Order of St Michael and St George
The Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George is an order of chivalry founded on 28 April 1818 by George, Prince Regent, later George IV of the United Kingdom, while he was acting as Prince Regent for his father, George III....

 (GCMG) in the New Year’s Day Honours of 1938.

Prime Minister

When Lyons died suddenly in 1939, the Governor-General
Governor-General of Australia
The Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia is the representative in Australia at federal/national level of the Australian monarch . He or she exercises the supreme executive power of the Commonwealth...

 Lord Gowrie
Alexander Hore-Ruthven, 1st Earl of Gowrie
Brigadier General Alexander Gore Arkwright Hore-Ruthven, 1st Earl of Gowrie VC, GCMG, CB, DSO & Bar, PC was a British soldier and colonial governor and the tenth Governor-General of Australia. Serving for 9 years and 7 days, he is the longest serving Governor-General in Australia's history...

 appointed Sir Earle Page caretaker Prime Minister. He held the office for three weeks until the UAP elected a new leader. While ten Australian Prime Ministers were knighted (and Bruce was elevated to the peerage), Page is the only one who was knighted before becoming Prime Minister.

Page had been very close to Lyons, but he disliked Lyons's deputy, Robert Menzies
Robert Menzies
Sir Robert Gordon Menzies, , Australian politician, was the 12th and longest-serving Prime Minister of Australia....

, whom he charged publicly with having been disloyal to Lyons. When Menzies was elected UAP leader, Page refused to serve under him, and made an extraordinary personal attack on him in the House, accusing him not only of ministerial incompetence but of physical cowardice (for failing to enlist during World War I). His party soon rebelled, though, and Page was deposed as Country Party leader and replaced by Archie Cameron
Archie Cameron
Archie Galbraith Cameron , was an Australian politician. He was Leader of the Country Party 1939-40, and Speaker of the House of Representatives 1950-56.-Biography:...


Further reading

  • Hughes, Colin A
    Colin Hughes
    Colin Anfield Hughes is an Australian academic specializing in electoral politics and government.He received his B.A. and M.A. degrees from Columbia University and his Ph.D from the London School of Economics. In 1966, along with John S...

     (1976), Mr Prime Minister. Australian Prime Ministers 1901–1972, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, Victoria, Ch.12. ISBN 0-19-550471-2

External links

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