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60th Anniversary of the death of Ben Chifley



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60th Anniversary of the death of Ben Chifley MON 13 JUNE 2011

Prime Minister

Julia Gillard has paid tribute to Australia’s 16th Prime Minister, Joseph Benedict (Ben) Chifley, who died in Canberra 60 years ago today.

“Ben Chifley was one of our nation’s greatest leaders - a statesman of humility and courage who laid the foundations for Australia’s post-war success.”

Mr Chifley was born in 1885 and was brought up in tough circumstances in the Central West region of NSW. He became a train driver and union delegate, eventually losing his job for his advocacy of workers’ rights.

He was elected to the Australian Parliament as Member for Macquarie in 1928, serving briefly as Minister for Defence before losing his seat in the federal election of 1931.

He returned to politics as Member for Macquarie in 1940, and became Treasurer in the Curtin Government (1941-45).

He succeed as Prime Minister upon Curtin’s death in July 1945 and was re-elected in 1946 before being defeated by Menzies in the election of 1949.

In increasing ill-health, Chifley made his final major speech (“fight for the right, and truth and justice will prevail”) to the NSW Labor Party conference on 10 June 1951, and three days later died in Canberra Community Hospital following a massive heart attack.

His wife Elizabeth (“Lizzie”) lived until 1962. They had no children.

Mr Chifley’s achievements included establishing the Snowy Mountains Scheme, the founding of ASIO, the Australian National University and Australia’s post-war immigration program and, as well as key social reforms including the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, the first Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement and the Commonwealth Employment Service.

“Chifley’s achievements will never be equalled. His vision of fairness and opportunity still resonates today.”

“I join the Chifley family and the whole Labor Movement in honouring the memory of Ben Chifley. He was a giant of Australian politics. He will never be forgotten.”