John Spicer (Australian Politician) - Political Career

Political Career

Spicer won a seat in the Senate as a United Australia Party candidate in the 1940 election. In the Senate, he spoke frequently on tax issues and promoted "sound and honest finance", but he was defeated at the 1943 election. He strongly opposed Ben Chifley's bank nationalisation and acted for the English banks in court action on the issue. He took silk in 1948.

Spicer returned to the Senate as a Liberal Party of Australia candidate in the 1949 election, and was immediately appointed Attorney-General in the Menzies government. His first priority was to draft a bill banning the Communist Party of Australia. The Bill was eventually passed by the Parliament and became the Communist Party Dissolution Act 1950 but was later declared unconstitutional by the High Court of Australia. In 1952, he drafted an official secrets bill which included a provision permitting the death penalty for spying and wide powers of search and arrest without warrant, but this was rejected by Cabinet. He was also Minister for Transport for two weeks after George McLeay's death.

In August 1956, Spicer resigned from parliament so that he could be appointed to the Commonwealth Industrial Court. He was made a Knight Bachelor in 1963.

Spicer presided over inquiries into aviation accidents and naval disasters:

  • Trans Australia Airlines Flight 538 was a Fokker F27 Friendship aircraft that crashed into the sea in 1960 while attempting to land in Mackay, Queensland, killing all 29 people on board.
  • Ansett-ANA Flight 325 was a Vickers Viscount aircraft that crashed into Botany Bay in 1961, killing all 15 people on board.
  • Spicer chaired a royal commission in 1964 into the sinking of HMAS Voyager. He found that officers in both Voyager and HMAS Melbourne had been at fault, but a second royal commission in 1967-68 attributed blame to Voyager's officers only.
  • Ansett-ANA Flight 149 was a Vickers Viscount aircraft that crashed near Winton, Queensland in 1966, killing all 24 people on board.

Spicer died in the Melbourne suburb of Armadale, survived by his wife and son.

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