Robert Gordon Menzies – Fact sheet 78

Robert Gordon Menzies
Robert Gordon Menzies (NAA: A1773, RV490)

Prime Minister of Australia 1939–41 and 1949–66

After a brief career in Victorian state politics as Attorney-General and Minister for Railways (1928–34), Robert Gordon Menzies entered federal parliament as member for Kooyong. He became Attorney-General in the Lyons government immediately, and deputy leader of the United Australia Party (UAP) in 1935.

He resigned from all government and party posts in March 1939 as a protest against the government's decision to drop its national insurance scheme. When Prime Minister Joseph Lyons died in office in April 1939, Menzies was elected leader of the UAP and became Prime Minister. He led the UAP government (April 1939 – March 1940) and the UAP–Country Party coalition government (March 1940 – August 1941).

Following party dissension in 1941, Menzies resigned as Prime Minister to be replaced by Arthur Fadden. Labor was in power two months later, with the support of two independent members. Instrumental in forming the Liberal Party of Australia from the remnants of the UAP in 1944, Menzies become Prime Minister for the second time on 19 December 1949, when his Liberal Party, in coalition with the Country Party, beat Labor. Menzies remained Prime Minister for a record 16 years. He won a further six general elections before retiring in 1966.

His government's measures included an extensive immigration scheme, expansion of the CSIRO, establishment of medical and hospital benefits, as well as forging defence links with the United States of America after signing the ANZUS pact in 1951 and SEATO in 1955.

Appointed a Knight of the Thistle in 1963, Menzies resigned from the prime ministership in 1966 and retired from parliament one month later. He died in 1978.

Records relating to Robert Menzies held by the National Archives

The National Archives holds many records relating to Robert Menzies' parliamentary career. They include personal records, as well as records about him and the issues he was involved in.

In the tables below, reference numbers are linked to the item or series in RecordSearch, the Archives database. There you can find more information. In many cases you can view entire digitised records. The information will appear in a new browser window.

Robert Menzies’ records held in Canberra

Other selected records relating to Robert Menzies – in Canberra

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
ItemPrime Minister notes of speeches by Mr Menzies1939–41A461, AA4/1/12
ItemRG Menzies honours1939–50A463, 1969/7404
ItemPortrait of the Rt Hon. RG Menzies by Charles Wheeler1939–56A463, 1965/2336
SeriesNegative master sheets (Daily War and Menzies) inwards cables1940–41AA1979/333
SeriesSir Robert Menzies – Commissions signed appointing Sir Robert Menzies to various positions in the Australian Government1941–52A6382
ItemStatements by Rt Hon. RG Menzies, Leader of the Opposition1946–49A5954, 2214/1
ItemFederal elections – December 1949. Speeches and statements by the Rt Hon. RG Menzies, Leader of the Liberal Party.1949A5954, 2315/13
ItemMenzies anti-inflation plans curtailment of Immigration1951A462, 414/5
ItemCorrespondence from RG Menzies to the Petrovs granting them political asylum1954A6201, 16
ItemCorrespondence between Australian PMs (Menzies/Holt) and heads of other governments: nuclear power1954A6706, 50
ItemMenzies/Spry correspondence re ‘The Petrov case'1956–58A6122, 1418
ItemCorrespondence between Australian PMs (Menzies/Holt) and Heads of other governments: Indonesia1957–66A6706, 34
SeriesPhotographic negatives, single number series with ‘RGM' prefix1959A1775
ItemELDO/Blue Streak [correspondence between Prime Ministers Menzies/Macmillan re cancellation of missile project at Woomera]1959–62A6706, 24
ItemAttorney General's department – summary of achievements during term of Menzies government 1949–19611960–72A432, 1961/2522
ItemAtomic tests – Menzies statement – 13 September1961A6456, R087/096
ItemBook (Original). Book 3 – ‘The Notable War record of the Menzies Government 1939–1941’1965A5954, 765/2
ItemBook (Original) Chapter 30 – ‘An Appraisement of Prime Minister Menzies in 1941’1965A5954, 766/25
SeriesDeath of Sir Robert Menzies – condolence messages, arrangements for Memorial Service, United Kingdom1978A9257

Other selected records relating to Robert Menzies – in Sydney

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
ItemMenzies, Sir Robert (audio tape)1966C102, POL74
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