AUSTRALIAN HISTORY - MENZIES HAD A BROTHER
Howard’s biggest brother has always been Robert Gordon Menzies,
founder of the Liberal Party and Prime Minister during the years,
1950-65, that Howard values as Australia’s golden age, before his own.
Howard can therefore take comfort that his intervention in the business affairs of his brother Stan as Chairman of National Textiles has a precedent in his mentor. On 21 December 1932, Menzies used his official stationery as Victorian Attorney-General to appeal to prime minister Joseph Lyons on behalf of the eldest Menzies brother, Les.
The letter began: ‘During our very pleasant
political association I have refrained from asking you for any favours
because I know from my own experience that the asking of favours can be
very embarrassing, but I hope that you will permit me to break the rule
The phrase ‘our very
political association’ was code for how Lyons had got to be prime
minister and why Menzies felt confident that his request would be met.
During 1931, Lyons had been convinced to leave the Commonwealth Labor
government to front an anti-Labor coalition. The transition was managed
by six prominent Melburnians, who styled themselves the ‘group’. The
points-man for their operation was Robert Gordon Menzies in alliance
with the managing editor of the Melbourne Herald,
Keith Murdoch (Rupert’s dad), and the stockbroker, Staniforth
On the principle that one good turn deserved
another, Menzies continued his letter to Lyons: ‘There is now an
opportunity of rectifying what I consider to have been a real injustice
to my eldest brother, by appointing him to a classified position’.
On Les Menzies’ return from the Trade
Commission in New York, he had been listed as an ‘“excess officer”
… I have always felt very disturbed about this position, because in a
period of retrenchment an “excess officer” may very well find
himself an “ex” officer … I hope it would not be asking you too
much to request that you should, if you can, further his claims at the
present time. In the absence of some ministerial direction he may even
now be overlooked, because, unlike myself, he possesses a decent and
modest and retiring disposition’.
Menzies concluded by assuring Lyons that
‘You may, as usual, rely upon the wholehearted support of myself and
those who are politically associated with me’. Was this a promise or a
On Chrismas Eve, the prime
minister replied that the request would be granted.