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Peter Coleman

In office
11 April 1981 – 5 June 1987
Preceded by Robert Ellicott
Succeeded by John Hewson

Born 15 December 1928 (1928-12-15) (age 81)
Caulfield, Victoria
Nationality Australian
Political party Liberal Party of Australia
Spouse(s) Verna Scott
Alma mater University of Sydney
London School of Economics
Occupation Writer, journalist

William Peter Coleman (born 15 December 1928) is an Australian writer/journalist and former politician. Coleman was born in the Melbourne suburb of Caulfield and educated at the selective North Sydney Boys High School. He graduated from the University of Sydney with a BA in 1950 and from the London School of Economics with an M Sc in 1952. He married Verna Scott (biographer) in April 1952 and they have two daughters (Tanya, lawyer and wife of Peter Costello, and children's book author Ursula Dubosarsky) and a son (William, economist). He subsequently taught for a year in Sudan.[1]


Writer and Journalist

Coleman was associate editor of The Observer (a fortnightly magazine founded in 1958, absorbed by The Bulletin in 1961)[2] between 1958 and 1960, editor of The Bulletin between 1964 and 1967 and editor of Quadrant for twenty years between 1967 and 1990.[3] Coleman has published many books. The best known are a history of Australian censorship Obscenity Blasphemy Sedition (1962); biographies The Heart of James McAuley (1980), The Real Barry Humphries (1991), and Bruce Beresford (1992); a study of the Cold War and the intellectuals The Liberal Conspiracy. The Congress for Cultural Freedom and the Struggle for the Mind of Postwar Europe (1989). He published the autobiographical Memoirs of a Slow Learner in 1994. He has also edited a number of books of which the best known are Australian Civilization (1962) and Six Incorrect Essays (1999).

Public life

Coleman was elected as the Liberal member for Fuller in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly in February 1968 being returned with increasing majorities at the subsequent three elections.[4]

He was Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer from October 1975 to January 1976 and Chief Secretary from January 1976 until the defeat of the Willis government in May 1976. Coleman was the parliamentary leader of the Liberal Party from 16 December 1977 until he lost his seat in the 1978 election.[1]

He was an executive member of the Australian Association for Cultural Freedom from 1967 to 1989; a member of the Australian Council for the Arts from 1968 to 1973, councillor of the National Institute of Dramatic Art from 1970 to 1985, and chairman of the Interim Council of the National Film and Television School from 1971 to 1973.

In September 1979, Coleman was appointed as Administrator of Norfolk Island. Following the resignation of Robert Ellicott, he gained Liberal Party pre-selection for the federal seat of Wentworth and was elected in a by-election in April 1981. He retired from parliament before the 1987 election[5] and resumed his literary career.


  • Coleman, Peter (1974). Obscenity, blasphemy, sedition: censorship in Australia. Brisbane: Jacaranda Press. 211 pages. ISBN 1875989722.  
  • Coleman, Peter; Les Tanner (1978). Cartoons of Australian history. West Melbourne: Thomas Nelson. ISBN 0170052753.  
  • Coleman, Peter (1980). The heart of James McAuley: life and work of the Australian poet. Sydney: Wildcat Press. 132 pages. ISBN 0 908463 05 7.  
  • Coleman, Peter (1984). Memoirs of a slow learner. Pymble: Angus and Robertson. 166 pages. ISBN 0207182485.  [5]
  • Coleman Peter, The Liberal Conspiracy. The Congress for Cultural Freedom and the Struggle for the Mind of Postwar Europe,New York, The Free Press (Macmillan), 1989, 333, ISBN 0-02-906481-3
  • Coleman Peter; Costello Peter, The Costello Memoirs, Melbourne University Press, 2008.



  • Peter Coleman, "Leaves from the Diary of a Madman", in "Confessions and Memoirs" edited by Michael Wilding & David Myers, Central Queensland University Press 2006; reprinted in Quadrant December 2006.
  • Peter Coleman,"Adventures among the Trendies and Uglies", Quadrant January–February 2008.
  • Peter Coleman, "No Road to Damascus. A Political Formation" in Quadrant April 1972, reprinted in "Australian Politics. A Third Reader" edited by Henry Mayer and Helen Nelson, Cheshire(Melbourne) 1973
Parliament of New South Wales
New district Member for Fuller
Succeeded by
Rodney Cavalier
Political offices
Preceded by
Sir Eric Willis
Leader of the Opposition of New South Wales
Succeeded by
John Mason
Party political offices
Preceded by
Sir Eric Willis
Leader of the New South Wales Liberal Party
Succeeded by
John Mason
Government offices
Preceded by
Desmond Vincent O'Leary
Administrator of Norfolk Island
Succeeded by
Ian Hutchinson
Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
Robert Ellicott
Member for Wentworth
Succeeded by
John Hewson


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