Long time Country Party Leader Earle Page was possibly the most important side character in Australian political history. He engineered the fall of Billy Hughes, won a coalition on generous terms that has shaped the centre-right of politics ever since, and served as second in command for the aptly named Bruce-Page Government and also for much of the Lyons Ministry. But he was also a man of vision, holding a profound belief in developmentalism, who was always on the lookout for the ‘psychological moment’ when political circumstances would suit putting his plans into action. He did not always judge such moments correctly, and his infamous attack on Menzies in 1939 spelled the end of his hold on the Country Party leadership. Nevertheless, the two men had a frosty reconciliation, and Page became an important reforming Health Minister in the Menzies Government before losing his seat and shortly afterwards his life at the nail-biting 1961 election.
In this week’s episode of the Afternoon Light podcast, Robert Menzies Institute CEO Georgina Downer talks to Stephen Wilks from the ANU’s National Centre of Biography, who is the author of the first full length examination of Earle Page’s remarkable life and career.
Stephen Wilks is based in the National Centre of Biography, in the ANU’s School of History. He is a research fellow and editor for the Australian Dictionary of Biography and the Dictionary of the House of Representatives project. He holds a 2018 doctorate in Australian history from the ANU about national economic and social development in the twentieth century, focused on the career of Earle Page. He has contributed over seventy book reviews and articles to Fairfax Media and other publishers, mainly on modern Australian, British and United States history and biography. He has published a book and several articles on Earle Page and his ideas, such as for the Australian Policy and History network. He twice won the ACT Writers Centre Reviewer of the Year Award, for which he subsequently served as judge.
To listen to the podcast: https://www.robertmenziesinstitute.org.au/afternoon-light-podcast/stephen-wilks