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The Honourable
 Sir Percy Spender

In office
1937 – 1951
Preceded by Sir Archdale Parkhill
Succeeded by Francis Bland

In office
1951 – 1958
Preceded by Norman Makin
Succeeded by Sir Howard Beale

Born October 5, 1897(1897-10-05)
Australia Sydney, New South Wales
Died May 3, 1985 (aged 87)
Sydney, New South Wales
Political party Liberal Party of Australia
Occupation politician

Sir Percy Claude Spender, KCVO, KBE, QC, KStJ (5 October 1897 - 3 May 1985), was an Australian diplomat, politician and jurist.

Spender was born in Sydney, Australia and educated at the University of Sydney, he joined the Commonwealth Public Service in 1915. He was admitted to the New South Wales Bar in 1923 and was made a King's Counsel in 1935.

Spender entered politics at the 1937 election when he was elected to the House of Representatives as member for Warringah. He ran as an independent, defeating the sitting member, Sir Archdale Parkhill. Soon after his election, he joined the government party, the United Australia Party, and held the seat until his resignation from federal politics in 1951. From 1944 was a member of the Liberal Party.

Spender held a number of ministries in the Menzies wartime government. He was Minister without portfolio assisting the Treasurer from April 1939 until November 1939, Vice-President of the Executive Council from January 1940 until March 1940, then Treasurer until October 1940 and then Minister for the Army until the fall of the Fadden government in October 1941. He was also a member of the Economic Cabinet (1939-1940), War Cabinet (1939-1941) and the Advisory War Council (1940-1945).

Upon Menzies return to power in 1949 Spender was made Minister for External Affairs (19 December 1949 - 26 April 1951) and Minister for External Territories. Spender's greatest influence on Australian politics occurred during this period. He led Australian delegations to the British Commonwealth Conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka and to the Fifth Session of the United Nations General Assembly (of which he was the Vice-President).

At the conference in Colombo, Spender was instrumental in the development of the Colombo Plan (which had originally been known as the Spender Plan). He also played a large part in the signing of the ANZUS Pact[1] and the Japanese Peace Treaty (1951).

Spender expressed more desire to secure alliances with 'great powers' than contribute to collective security, stating that international organisations like the UN may "contain those who are at work to disrupt the order we believe in".[2] In this sense Spender was more akin to the realist tradition of Australian foreign politics linked to former Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies.[3]

On leaving politics Spender was appointed Australia's second Ambassador to the United States (1951-1958). He was the first Australian appointed to the International Court of Justice in The Hague (1958-1964) and was the Court's President from 1964 to 1967.

Spender was internationally well respected, receiving a variety of recognitions. He was conferred the Grande Ufficiale Order of Merit by the Republic of Italy in 1976. He also received ten honorary doctorates. However, a personal rift between himself and Menzies prevented him from receiving the honour which he most desired, appointment to the Privy Council. Spender died in May 1985, aged 87 years.


  1. ^ Penrose, Sandra (29 September – 1 October 2004) (PDF). Percy Spender and the origins of ANZUS: an Australian initiative. University of Adelaide. Retrieved 2008-02-08.  
  2. ^ Lowe, D. 2003, 'Percy Spender, Minister and Ambassador', in, Beaumont, J. Waters, C. Lowe, D. and Woddard, G. Ministers, Mandarins and Diplomats: Australian Foreign Policy Making, 1941-1969, Melbourne University Press,p70
  3. ^ Gyngell, A. and Wesley, M. 2007, Making Australian Foreign Policy (Second Edition), Cambridge University press, Melbourne, p11
Political offices
Preceded by
James Fairbairn
Vice-President of the Executive Council
Succeeded by
Henry Gullett
Preceded by
Robert Menzies
Succeeded by
Arthur Fadden
Preceded by
Philip McBride
Minister for the Army
1940 – 1941
Succeeded by
Frank Forde
Preceded by
H.V. Evatt
Minister for External Affairs
1949 - 1951
Succeeded by
Richard Casey
Preceded by
Eddie Ward
Minister for External Territories
1949 - 1951
Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
Sir Archdale Parkhill
Member for Warringah
1937 – 1951
Succeeded by
Francis Bland
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Norman Makin
Australian Ambassador to the United States
1951 – 1958
Succeeded by
Sir Howard Beale


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