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The Right Honourable
 Sir Paul Hasluck

Photograph of Paul Hasluck from the Australian Parliamentary Handbook

In office
29 April 1969 – 11 July 1974
Preceded by Lord Casey
Succeeded by Sir John Kerr

Born 1 April 1905(1905-04-01)
Gosnells, Western Australia
Died 9 January 1993 (aged 87)

Sir Paul Meernaa Caedwalla Hasluck KG GCMG GCVO KStJ (1 April 1905–9 January 1993) was an Australian historian, poet, public servant and politician, and 17th Governor-General of Australia.


Early life

Hasluck was born in Fremantle, Western Australia, into a family of Salvationists, whose values he retained throughout his career. He was educated at the prestigious Perth Modern School (where Prime Minister Bob Hawke was also educated) and at the prestigious University of Western Australia, where he graduated with a MA degree.

In 1923 Hasluck joined the literary staff of The West Australian newspaper, and also began to publish works on Western Australian history. He tutored in history at the University, and in 1939 he joined its faculty as a lecturer in history. In 1932 he married Alexandra Darker (1908-1993), with whom he had two sons. Alexandra Hasluck became a distinguished writer and historian in her own right, and was the first of only two women to be appointed a Dame of the Order of Australia.

In 1939 Hasluck established Freshwater Bay Press[1], through which he released his first book, Into the Desert. The advent of the Second World War however saw the publishing company go into hiatus. The Freshwater Bay Press was later revived by his son Nicholas, and amongst its subsequent publications it issued a second book of Paul Hasluck's poetry, Dark Cottage in 1984.

In 1941 Hasluck was recruited to the staff of the Department of External Affairs, and served on Australian delegations to several international conferences, including the San Francisco Conference which founded the United Nations. Here he came into close contact with the Minister for External Affairs in the Labor government, Dr H.V. Evatt, of whom he formed a negative impression.

After the war Hasluck returned to the University of Western Australia as a Reader in History, and was commissioned to write two volumes of Australia in the War of 1939–1945, a 22-volume official history of Australia's involvement in World War II. These volumes were published as The Government and the People 1939-1941 in 1951 and The Government and the People 1941-1945 in 1970. This work was interrupted by his decision to enter politics, a decision motivated partly by his disapproval of Evatt's foreign policy.

Political career

At the 1949 election Hasluck was elected Liberal MP for the Perth electorate of Curtin. In 1951 the Prime Minister, Robert Menzies appointed Hasluck as Minister for Territories, a post he held for twelve years. This gave him responsibility for Australia's colonial possession, Papua New Guinea, and also the Northern Territory, home to Australia's largest population of Aborginal people. Although he shared the paternalistic views of the period about the treatment of the Papua-New Guineans, and followed an assimilationist policy for the Aboriginal people, he carried out significant reforms in the way both peoples were treated. Hasluck always maintained that he was responsible for there not being an Ian Smith in Papua New Guinea.

Hasluck was briefly Minister for Defence in 1963 and 1964, and then became Minister for External Affairs. He held this office during the height of Australia's commitment to the Vietnam War, of which he was a passionate supporter. He worked to strengthen Australia's relationship with the United States and with anti-Communist governments in South-East Asia, and opposed Australian recognition of the People's Republic of China.

When the Prime Minister Harold Holt died in December 1967, Hasluck was determined that the Treasurer, William McMahon, of whom he had a very low opinion, should not become Prime Minister. Although he had no great ambition to be Prime Minister himself, he put his name forward mainly to provide an alternative to McMahon. But many Liberal MPs saw him as too old at 64 and too conservative to compete with the Labor leader, Gough Whitlam, and they chose the younger and more aggressive John Gorton.


It is alleged that Gorton was uncomfortable having a potential rival such as Hasluck remaining in the Cabinet. In early 1969, Gorton offered him the post of Governor-General, which he accepted. He resigned from Parliament on 10 February 1969, being the first Western Australian member of the House of Representatives to resign. This may have cost Hasluck a second opportunity to become Prime Minister, since in 1971 Gorton lost the Liberal leadership, and the Liberals might well have turned to Hasluck instead of McMahon had he still been available.

At the 1972 election Whitlam defeated McMahon and became Prime Minister. This created a potentially awkward situation since Whitlam and Hasluck allegedly disliked one another. (In a celebrated incident in the House of Representatives in 1965, Whitlam had thrown a glass of water at Hasluck when Hasluck said: "You are one of the filthiest objects ever to come into this chamber".) However, Hasluck and Whitlam treated each other with complete respect and they had no difficulties in their formal dealings with each other.

Hasluck granted Whitlam a double dissolution in April 1974 (with an election on 18 May) when the Liberal Opposition threatened to block the Budget bills in the Senate. Hasluck's term as Governor-General was due to expire in July 1974. Whitlam offered to extend his term, but Hasluck declined, citing his wife's refusal to remain at Yarralumla longer than the originally agreed five years.[2] Historians of the period are certain that if Hasluck had still been Governor-General in 1975, the constitutional crisis of that year would have ended differently. Hasluck himself implied this in his book, The Office of Governor-General and also in the Queale Lecture.

In 1973, Hasluck's Official Secretary Sir Murray Tyrrell retired after a career during which he had served six governors-general over 26 years. He was succeeded by David Smith.

Hasluck retired to Perth where he remained active in cultural and political affairs until his death in 1993. He was buried at Karrakatta Cemetery.

After Hasluck's death, his son Nicholas Hasluck published a selection of his father's private journals and notebooks, under the title The Chance of Politics. This book contained a number of highly critical comments, both political and personal, about many of Paul Hasluck's contemporaries. The publication of this material caused considerable offence to some people. Others saw the comments as useful historical information.

Set into the footpath along St Georges Terrace, Perth are 150 bronze tablets commemorating notable figures in Western Australia's history, completed as part of WAY 1979. One of the tablets is devoted to Hasluck.

His heraldic banner as Knight of the Garter, from St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, probably the only one in Australia, was hung in the south transept of St George's Cathedral, Perth in 1995. The Catherine wheels on the banner were taken from the Armorial Bearings granted to him by the College of Arms. The crest beneath the banner includes the seven pointed Australian Commonwealth Star and a formalised representation of West Australian Xanthorrhoea.


On 21 February 1969, as Governor-General-designate, he was appointed a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG).

During his term as Governor-General, on 29 May 1970, Queen Elizabeth II appointed him a Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCVO), an appointment within her personal gift.

On 24 April 1979, he was made a Knight of the Order of the Garter (KG).

The Federal Division of Hasluck is named jointly after Sir Paul and his wife Dame Alexandra Hasluck.



  • Into the Desert (poems), Freshwater Bay Press (Claremont, Western Australia), 1939.
  • Collected Verse, Hawthorn Press, 1969.
  • An Open Go, Hawthorn Press, 1971.
  • The Poet in Australia, Hawthorn Press, 1975.
  • Dark Cottage (poems), Freshwater Bay Press, 1984.

Political Writing

  • Black Australians: A Survey of Native Policy in Western Australia, 1829-1897, Melbourne University Press (Melbourne), 1942, 2nd edition, 1970.
  • Workshop of Security, F. W. Cheshire, 1948.
  • The Government and the People, Australian War Memorial, Volume I: 1939-41, 1951, Volume II: 1942-45, 1970.
  • Native Welfare in Australia, P. Brokensha, 1953.
  • A Time for Building: Australian Administration in Papua-New Guinea, 1951-1963, Melbourne University Press, 1976.
  • The Office of the Governor-General, Melbourne University Press, 1979.
  • Sir Robert Menzies, Melbourne University Press, 1980.
  • Diplomatic Witness: Australian Foreign Affairs, Melbourne University Press, 1980.
  • Shades of Darkness: Aboriginal Affairs, 1925-1965, Melbourne University Press, 1988.
  • The Chance of Politics, edited by Nicholas Hasluck, Text Pub. (Melbourne, Australia), 1997


  • Mucking About: An Autobiography, Melbourne University Press, 1977, published with a new foreword, University of Western Australia (Nedlands, Australia), 1994.
  • Light That Time Has Made, National Library of Australia (Canberra, Australia), 1995.


Further reading

  • Paul Hasluck, Black Australians, Melbourne University Press, 1942
  • Paul Hasluck, Shades of Darkness: Aboriginal Affairs 1925-1965, Melbourne University Press, 1988
  • Paul Hasluck, Mucking About: An Autobiography, University of Western Australia Press, 1994
  • Paul Hasluck, The Chance of Politics (edited by Nicholas Hasluck), Text Publishing, 1997
  • Robert Porter, Paul Hasluck: A Political Biography, University of Western Australia Press, 1993
Political offices
Preceded by
Richard Casey
Minister for Territories
1951 – 1963
Succeeded by
Charles Barnes
Preceded by
Athol Townley
Minister of Defence
1963 – 1964
Succeeded by
Shane Paltridge
Preceded by
Garfield Barwick
Foreign Minister
1964 – 1969
Succeeded by
Gordon Freeth
Government offices
Preceded by
Lord Casey
Governor-General of Australia
1969 – 1974
Succeeded by
Sir John Kerr
Parliament of Australia
New division Member for Curtin
1949 – 1969
Succeeded by
Victor Garland


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