John McEwen

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Sir John "Black Jack" McEwen, GCMG, CH (29 March 1900 – 20 November 1980), was an Australian politician and the 18th Prime Minister of Australia.

McEwen's stern demeanour earned him the nickname "Black Jack" (Sir Robert Menzies called him "Le Noir").


Early life

McEwen was born at Chiltern, Victoria, where his father was a pharmacist. He was educated at state schools and at 15 became a junior public service clerk. He enlisted in the Army immediately upon turning 18 but the First World War ended while he was still in training. He commenced dairy farming at Stanhope, Victoria, near Shepparton.

Political career

McEwen was active in farmer organisations and in the Country Party. In 1934 he was elected to the House of Representatives for the electorate of Echuca, switching to Indi in 1937 and Murray in 1949. Between 1937 and 1941 he was successively Minister for the Interior, Minister for External Affairs and simultaneously Minister for Air and Minister for Civil Aviation. In 1940 when Archie Cameron resigned as Country Party leader he contested the leadership ballot against Sir Earle Page: the ballot was tied and Arthur Fadden was chosen as a compromise.

When the conservatives returned to office in 1949 under Robert Menzies after eight years in opposition, McEwen became Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, then Minister for Trade and Industry. He pursued what became known as "McEwenism" – a policy of high tariff protection for the manufacturing industry, so that industry would not challenge the continuing high tariffs on imported raw materials, which benefitted farmers but pushed up industry's costs. This policy was a part (some argue the foundation) of what became known as the "Australian Settlement' which promoted high wages, industrial development, government intervention in industry (both as an owner- Australian governments traditionally owned banks and insurance companies and the railways and through policies designed to assist particular industries) and decentralisation. In 1958 Fadden retired and McEwen succeeded him as Country Party leader.

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