University of Tasmania
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Scourge of the establishment : Albert Ogilvie and Tasmanian society, 1890-1939

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posted on 2023-05-27, 11:29 authored by Briggs, JF
This thesis examines the life of Albert George Ogilvie, the former Premier of Tasmania, and seeks to demonstrate that he was unique among Tasmanian leaders, before or since, in his drive and determination to succeed, while deliberately placing himself outside the local Establishment. Ogilvie was the grandson of convicts on both sides and grew up in Tasmania, far from high society or privilege. His humble beginnings did not prevent him from becoming a brilliant scholar, lawyer and politician and he became a thorn in the side of conservative politics and everything that implies. Ogilvie's battles with the forces of conservatism were often bitter and he made many enemies, sometimes within his own Labor Party, as well as the old Establishment, which he hated. It was an attitude richly reciprocated by traditionalists. Ogilvie was born in a bedroom of the Victoria Tavern in 1890, where his parents were publicans. He died at the age of 49, while in office. He was one of the then youngest men to be elected to the Tasmanian Parliament and was the youngest King's Counsel in the Commonwealth. Ogilvie was impatient to reform Tasmania and to prod away at those more willing to march to the beat of a slower drum. Ogilvie was many decades ahead of most contemporaries, mooting no fault divorce when a young Attorney-General in the Lyons Government, a stance opposed by his leader, a devout Roman Catholic. Ogilvie sought to abolish the ultra-conservative Legislative Council, along with the office of Tasmanian Governor. He brought in changes to hotel closing time and gambling restrictions. He promised, and delivered, the abolition of high school fees and delivered free medical services and cheap medicine. Among Ogilvie's major targets were those he branded 'wowsers' and his battles with these people, both inside and outside the Parliament, were entertaining and often bitter. Ogilvie was a champion of the downtrodden in the post-Great Depression years when he was in office. He created employment through 'work for the dole' projects such as the road to the pinnacle of Mount Wellington and industrialisation of the state through hydro-electric schemes. He helped bring Jewish refugees to Australia, who were fleeing the Nazi and Fascist regimes in Europe. He also promoted tourism as a major panacea for a depressed economy, displaying a vision for Tasmania, previously only lightly touched. This thesis is thematic, rather than chronological, and seeks to display the anti-Establishment aspect of his time in public life, rather than delving into the day-to-day political struggles.


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