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Stanley Melbourne Bruce, 1st Viscount Bruce of Melbourne, CH, MC, FRS, PC (15 April 1883 – 25 August 1967) was an Australian politician and diplomat, and the eighth Prime Minister of Australia. He was the second Australian granted an hereditary peerage of the United Kingdom, but the first whose peerage was formally created. He was the first incumbent Prime Minister to lose their seat at an election, a record later repeated by Prime Minister John Howard.

Early life

He was born in a mansion on Grey Street, St Kildamarker in 1883 however his family moved shortly after to a new mansion "Wombalano" built in Toorakmarker Kooyong Road (now owned by the Murdoch family) where his father, who was of Scottish descent, was a prominent businessman.

Stanley Bruce was educated at Glamorgan (now part of Geelong Grammar Schoolmarker), Melbourne Grammar Schoolmarker, and then at Cambridge Universitymarker. After graduation he studied law in Londonmarker and was called to the bar in 1907. He practised law in London, and also managed the London office of his father's importing business.

When World War I broke out he joined the British Army, and was commissioned to the Worcestershire Regiment, seconded to the Royal Fusiliers. In 1917 he was severely wounded in Francemarker, winning the Military Cross and the Croix de Guerre.

Political career

Bruce in the 1910s
Bruce was invalided home to Melbourne, and soon became involved in recruiting campaigns for the Army. His public speaking attracted the attention of the Nationalist Party, and in 1918 he was elected to the House of Representatives as MP for Flinders, near Melbourne. His background in business led to his being appointed Treasurer (finance minister) in 1921.

The Nationalist Party lost its majority at the 1922 election, and could only stay in office with the support of the Country Party. However, the Country Party let it be known it would not serve under incumbent Prime Minister Billy Hughes. This gave the more conservative members of the Nationalist Party an excuse to force Hughes to resign; the conservatives had only tolerated Hughes to keep Labor out of power. Bruce was chosen as his successor.
Bruce in the 1920s

Prime Minister

Bruce then entered negotiations with Country Party leader Earle Page for a coalition government. On 9 January 1923 he became prime minister at the age of only 39, at the head of a Nationalist-Country coalition government. He had to pay a very high price in the process, though; Bruce had to give the Country Party five seats in a Cabinet of 11, including the Treasurer portfolio and the second rank in the ministry for Page. These demands were unheard of for such a young party in the Westminster system. Nonetheless, Bruce readily agreed, if only to avoid forcing another election.

Bruce's appointment marked an important turning point in Australian political history. He was the first Prime Minister who had not been involved in the movement for federation, who had not been a member of a colonial Parliament, and who had not been a member of the original 1901 federal Parliament. He was also the first Prime Minister to head an all Australian-born Cabinet. With his aristocratic manners and dress – he drove a Rolls Royce and wore white spats – he was also the first genuinely "Tory" Australian Prime Minister.

He formed an effective partnership with Page, and exploited public fears of Communism and militant trade unions to dominate Australian politics through the 1920s. Despite predictions that Australians would not accept such an aloof leader, he won a smashing victory over a demoralised Labor Party at the 1925 election. He pursued a policy of support for the British Empire, the League of Nations, and the White Australia Policy:
"We intend to keep this country white and not allow its peoples to be faced with the problems that at present are practically insoluble in many parts of the world."

In his policy launch speech made at the Shire Hall in Dandenongmarker on 25 October 1925, Bruce reiterated his government's commitment to the White Australia Policy:
"It is necessary that we should determine what are the ideals towards which every
Australian would desire to strive. I think those ideals might well be stated as being tosecure our national safety, and to ensure the maintenance of our White AustraliaPolicy to continue as an integral portion of the British Empire."

Maritime Industries crisis

Strikes of sugar mill workers in 1927, waterside workers in 1928, then of transport workers, timber industry workers and coal miners erupted in riots and lockouts in New South Wales in 1929. Bruce responded with a Maritime Industries Bill that was designed to do away with the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration and return arbitration powers to the States.

On 10 September 1929, Hughes and five other Nationalist members joined Labor in voting against the Bill. The Bill was lost 34 votes to 35 when Littleton Groom, the Speaker, abstained, bringing down the Bruce–Page government and sending Australians to the polls in the 1929 election just one year after the Nationalists won the 1928 election.

Labor won a landslide victory and Bruce was defeated by Labor's Ted Holloway in his electorate of Flinders, making him the first sitting Australian Prime Minister to lose his seat. The only other sitting Australian prime minister to be defeated in his own electorate is John Howard, at the 2007 election. Bruce is also the only Australian Prime Minister to leave parliament and later be re-elected.

Later life

After his 1929 electoral defeat, Bruce went to England for personal business reasons and contested the 1931 election from that country as a member of the United Australia Party (a merger of Bruce's Nationalists and Labor dissidents). He won his seat back, becoming the only person to be re-elected to parliament who had previously been Prime Minister.

He was named a Minister without portfolio in the government of Joseph Lyons. Lyons quickly dispatched Bruce back to England to represent the government there and he led the Australian delegation to the 1932 Ottawa Imperial Conference. In 1933 Bruce resigned from Parliament in order to take the position in London as Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom. He held this post with great distinction for 12 years, playing a notable role in the Abdication Crisis triggered by Edward VIII, and representing Australia's interests in London during World War II. He was appointed a member of the Imperial War Cabinet and the Pacific War Cabinet.

In 1947 he became the first Australian created an hereditary peer when he was made 1st Viscount Bruce of Melbourne, of Westminster Gardens in the City of Westminster. (Sir John Forrest was to have been similarly honoured in 1918, and his peerage was even publicly announced, but he died before it was officially created.) He was the first Australian to take his seat in the House of Lordsmarker.

Bruce divided the rest of his life between London and Melbourne. He remained Australian High Commissioner until 1945. He represented Australia on various United Nations bodies and his name was considered for the position of United Nations Secretary-General. He was the chairman of the World Food Council for five years. Bruce was appointed as the first Chancellor of the Australian National Universitymarker and served from 1951 until 1961.

He died in London on 25 August 1967. He died childless and the viscountcy became extinct. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered on Canberramarker's Lake Burley Griffinmarker. He was 84.


He married Ethel Dunlop Anderson (born 25 May 1879) in 1913. They had no children. Viscountess Bruce died on 16 March 1967, only a few months before her husband.


In 1972 he was honoured on a postage stamp bearing his portrait issued by Australia Post.

See also



  1. ABC Ballarat
  2. Bruce of Melbourne: Man of Two Worlds - C Edwards, 1965

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