In Politics

Tasmania’s 26th State Premier

Victor P Taffa

Joseph Aloysius Lyons CH served as the 10th Prime Minister of Australia and also the 26th State Premier of Tasmania.

Joe Lyons currently is the only Tasmanian to hold both the position of State Premier and Prime Minister of Australia.

Joe Lyons is the only State Premier to have served as Prime Minister of Australia since the Commonwealth of Australia was formed as a Federation of States on 1 January 1901.

Sir George Houston Reid GCB GCMG PC KC is the only other person who has been a State Premier and also later a Prime Minister of Australia.

George Reid served as Premier of New South Wales from 3 August 1894-13 September 1899 and as Prime Minister of Australia from 18 August 1904-5 July 1905.

Joe Lyons was born in Stanley, Tasmania and was a schoolteacher before entering politics. Joe Lyons was active in the Labor Party from a young age and elected to the House of Assembly in 1909.

State Parliament

Joe Lyons served as State Treasurer from 1912-14 and in 1916 became Labor Leader. In 1923 Joe Lyons became Premier of a minority government. Following the 1925 State Election, Joe Lyons led Labor to its first majority government from 1925-28.

Federal Parliament

In 1929, Joe Lyons resigned from State Parliament to enter federal politics, and won a seat in the House of Representatives at the 1929 Federal Election.

Joe Lyons was immediately appointed to Cabinet by Prime Minister James Scullin as Postmaster-General and Minister for Works and Railways.

In 1930, Joe Lyons served as acting treasurer while James Scullin was overseas, and came into conflict with the Labor Party over the government’s response to the Great Depression of which he preferred orthodox financial policies.

In early 1931, Joe Lyons and his supporters left Labor to sit as independents. His exact motivations for leaving the party have been subject to debate. A few months later his group merged with other opposition parties to form the United Australia Party and he was elected Federal Opposition Leader.

Prime Minister of Australia

Joe Lyons led the United Australia Party to victory at the 1931 Federal Election and was the first Prime Minister to win 3 consecutive elections which included the 1931, 1934 and 1937 Federal Elections.

UAP initially governed alone however a coalition was in 1934 with the Country Party.

Joe Lyons served as Federal Treasurer until 1935 and oversaw Australia’s recovery from the Great Depression.

Joe Lyons died of a heart attack in April 1939, becoming the first Australian Prime Minister to die in office.

Several years after his death, his widow Enid Lyons became the first woman elected to the House of Representatives.

Marriage

Joe and Enid Lyons married on 28 April 1915. Together they had 12 children:

  1. Gerald Desmond (1916–2000)
  2. Sheila Mary Norma (1918–2000)
  3. Enid Veronica (1919–1988)
  4. Kathleen Patricia (1920–2012)
  5. Moira Rose (1922–1991)
  6. Kevin Orchard (1923–2000)
  7. Garnet Philip Burnell (1924–1925)
  8. Brendan Aloysius (1927–2010)
  9. Barry Joseph (1928–2015)
  10. Rosemary Josephine (1929–1999)
  11. Peter Julian (b. 1931)
  12. Janice Mary (b. 1933)

Political Offices

Joe Lyons held the following political offices:

Tasmania State Opposition Leader 1916–23

Premier of Tasmania 1923–28

Tasmania State Opposition Leader 1928–29

Federal Postmaster-General 1929–31

Federal Minister for Works and Railways 1929–31

Federal Opposition Leader 1931–32

Prime Minister of Australia 1932–39

Federal Treasurer 1932–35

Federal Minister for Commerce 1932

Federal Minister for Health 1935–36

Federal Minister for Repatriation 1935–36

Federal Minister for Defence 1937

United Australia Party Leader 1931–39

State Member for Wilmot 1909–29

Federal Member for Wilmot 1929–39

Abbreviations:

CH                  Order of the Companions of Honour

GCB                Order of the Bath

GCMG            Order of St. Michael and St. George

PC                   Privy Council

KC                  King’s Counsel

QC                  Queen’s Counsel

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