Francis Michael (Frank) Forde was deputy Prime Minister to JB (Ben) Chifley from 1944 to 1946. After he lost his Capricornia seat in 1946, he was appointed Australia’s third High Commissioner to Canada. He held this post for 7 years. From 1955 to 1957, he held a seat in the Queensland parliament. Forde lived in retirement in Brisbane for 25 years.
When the federal parliamentary Labor Party elected Ben Chifley as leader, Forde remained deputy leader, a position he had held since 1932. He had been bypassed for the leadership before – in 1934 he had lost the leadership to Curtin by 1 vote. Despite these disappointments, he served both leaders with great loyalty and strongly supported them and their policies.
After stepping down as Prime Minister on 13 July 1945, Forde was Minister for the Army and also Deputy Prime Minister in the Chifley government and Minister for Defence from August 1946, until he lost his seat at the election that year.
After leaving federal politics, Forde was appointed High Commissioner to Canada in November 1946 and held the position until 1953, under both the Chifley and the Menzies governments.
Forde re-entered state politics in 1955 as an organiser for the State Labor Party in Queensland. He stood for the seat of Wide Bay without success, then won Flinders in a by-election. He was defeated by 1 vote at the 1957 election. The party split over the expulsion of Premier Vince Gair – a post Forde’s supporters intended him to take over. After 25 years of government, Labor lost power.
In retirement, the Fordes lived in the Brisbane suburb of St Lucia. In their living room hung a large portrait of wartime US General Douglas Macarthur. On 11 April 1964, Prime Minister Robert Menzies asked Forde to represent Australia at Macarthur’s funeral in Arlington, Virgina.
Forde died in Brisbane on 28 January 1983, aged 92. The pallbearers at his funeral on 1 February at St Thomas Aquinas Church, St Lucia, included former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, leader of the federal parliamentary Labor Party, Bill Hayden and Queensland Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen.
Forde was described as a ‘masterly politician’ who was always intensely loyal to the Labor Party. Even in death, he assisted party business, for it was apparently at his funeral that party members persuaded Hayden to stand aside for Bob Hawke. Hawke became leader 10 days later, and Prime Minister the following month.
- Brown, Elaine, ‘Francis Michael Forde, in Michelle Grattan (ed.), Australian Prime Ministers, New Holland Press, Sydney, 2000.
- Hughes, Colin, Mr Prime Minister: Australian Prime Ministers, 1901–1972, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1976.
- Inteview with Frank Forde in Brisbane, 19 December 1973, interviewers E Potts and A Potts, Central Queensland University, MSA21/1726, typescript.