About Ben Chifley
- Born: 22 September 1885
- Died: 13 June 1951
- Partner: Elizabeth Gibson Chifley
- Political party: Australian Labor Party
- Image: NAA: A462, 778/03 PART 2
Ben Chifley was Australia’s 16th Prime Minister. A railway engine driver in his home town of Bathurst, New South Wales, Chifley became one of the most highly regarded of Australia’s prime ministers.
First elected in the seat of Macquarie in 1928, Chifley lost his seat in 1931 and was re-elected in 1940. Chifley was Treasurer in the Curtin Labor government in 1941 and was a prime mover of the economic organisation for the war. After Curtin's death on 5 July 1945, deputy Labor leader Frank Forde was sworn in as prime minister until Labor could elect a new leader. The Labor caucus elected Chifley as party leader on 12 July 1945, and he was sworn in as prime minister the following day.
Chifley was a committed centralist. As prime minister, he introduced national projects such as the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme and the assisted immigration program. He also pushed through legislation that enabled the Commonwealth to become the collector of income tax and sought nationalisation of the private banks so that the federal government could have more control over the economy.
Chifley lost office at the 1949 federal election, after his attempt to nationalise the banks. In Opposition, Chifley was against Robert Menzies’ proposal to ban the Communist Party – a major issue at the federal election of April 1951. Chifley died on 13 June 1951.
Did you know?
- became an engine-driver at 27 years old
- was twice refused pre-selection, in a state election in 1922 and the 1937 federal election
- refused to wear ceremonial clothes and became a Privy Councillor in his own suit
- lost 2 federal elections (1931 and 1934) then won his seat back while in hospital in 1940
- died 2 days after he was re-elected leader of the federal parliamentary Labor Party on 11 June 1951