Saturday, January 30, 2010

Joseph Lyons

Joseph Lyons was a Prime Minister.

At least I think he was.

Lord Wiki says I'm not wrong. Lyons was the tenth Prime Minister of Australia. He had the job from 1932 until 1939. He was there when the Nazis were rising in power...not in Australia, but in Europe.

Baby Joseph was born in Stanley Tasmania on 15 September 1879. I need to look at a map. I'm not sure where Stanley is.....

It's three hours north-west of Launceston....more west than north. I've been to Launceston, so it's my point of reference for Tasmania.

Daddy and Mommy Lyon were Irish immigrants with eight children. Daddy Lyon was a farmer. Later, he did butchery and bakery stuff. It seems he did well with this, but then health issues appeared. The family ran into some financial challenges. When Joseph was nine he was forced to leave school so he could work and bring some income into the family. Lord Wiki says he became a printer's devil. I've never heard of that term, but Lord Wiki has an explanation.

Well, basically it's an apprentice in the printing business. That's pretty easy to understand...not too complicated.

Fortunately for Lyons, he had some generous aunts who helped him get back into school. Although from what Lord Wiki says, this wasn't until his University education. He attended a teacher's training school in Hobart. He became a teacher. It seems around this time he also got involved with politics. He became active in trade unions, and joined the Labor Party.

At first, Lyons was involved with state politics. He was elected to the Tasmanian House of Assembly in 1909. He would have been about thirty. While I was playing with the calculator, I checked to see how old he was when Australia became a Federation. He would have been about twenty-two. I wonder how he felt about it. I'm guessing for nonpolitical people, they probably barely noticed. But Lyons was a politically oriented guy. I'm guessing it was a big deal to him. I wonder if he was for or against the whole thing.

Anyway, back to his Parliamentary career. By 1914, Lyons was Finance Minister. He also became Minister of Education and Minister of Railways.

When he was Minister of Education, Lyons helped state school fees be abolished. He helped improve teacher's pay, and the first Tasmanian state high schools were established. It's sad that a man so passionate about school was forced to drop out when he was so young. But then again, maybe that's what made him so passionate about it. I don't know.

During his time in Parliament, Lyons got married. He met his future wife when she was fifteen. They got married when she was about seventeen. He was in his mid-thirties. I think such a relationship would be less socially accepted these days.

In 1916, the Labor Party had that big split because of conscription. Lyons was anti-conscription, and stayed in the Labor Party.

From 1923 until 1928, Lyons was Premier of Tasmania.

In 1929 he entered Federal politics. He had the seat of Wilmot. He was also given the job of PostMaster-General and Minister for Works and Railways. I wasn't sure what a PostMaster- General is responsible for. Lord Wiki says they deal with broadcasting communication. Today the job is known as Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy. The current guy in that role is Stephen Conroy. He's not loved by many because of all the Internet censorship controversies.

A very short while after Lyons joined Federal Parliament, the Depression hit. James Scullin was Prime Minister, and his cabinet was split over how to respond to the situation. Lyons preferred a more conservative approach. The treasurer at the time was Ted Theodore. Theodore supported Keynesian economics.

I know I wrote about Keynesian before in the past, but I forgot what it was. Lord Wiki reminded me that it's kind of a compromise between capitalism and socialism. Because it's in the middle, it's attacked by both the left and right. Anyway, Theodore was into that, and Lyons supported it. Then Theodore had to resign because there were accusations of corruption. Was he guilty? I don't know.

I guess Prime Minister Scullin didn't trust anyone else to be Treasurer. He took the job himself. But for five months, he went to the UK for some conference. While he was there, Lyons got to be the acting Treasurer. His ideas attracted the support of businesses, but they aliened people in the Labor Party. They didn't like his plans to cut public spending and public salaries. I'm not an expert on economics, but I think the business folks liked him because his policies would make things easier on them. It sounds very much like the Republican vs. Democrat stuff I heard during the elections. One group wants to fix the economy by providing services and opportunity to people who need it. The other wants to fix the economy by helping businesses. Then in turn, the businesses will supposedly stimulate the economy.

There's some more Treasurer drama coming up. When Scullin returned from the UK, he reappointed Theodore. I guess the whole corruption accusation had fallen through. Lyons was a bit offended by this. He felt Scullin was rejecting his policies. I can relate to that....feeling rejected when someone else is chosen for a job. It happened to me when I was teaching. There was this little girl who seemed somewhat autistic. The school felt someone should work with her individually. I had the strongest connection to her. As a teacher, I seemed to connect well to the quiet and autistic-like children. If I remember correctly, at first they were thinking of letting me have the job. But then they decided to give it to another teacher. I don't remember which teacher it was. I just remember feeling rejected...and resentful. It's one thing to be rejected, but it's much worse when you feel you'd truly be best for the job. I've been rejected for many other tasks and jobs. Honestly, in most other cases I would have thought the people complete fools for hiring me.

As for Lyons, his feelings of rejection led him to resigning from the Cabinet. Soon after he resigned from the Labor Party. He wasn't the only one. A few others joined him, and they all joined the Nationalist Party. Then they soon formed The United Australia Party. I'm going to read what Lord Wiki has to say about them.

Okay. This is the group that eventually became The Liberal Party. I thought so, but hadn't been sure.

Lyons became the leader of the party.

At this time, there was something going on with that Jack Lange character. He was part of the Labor Party, but was defecting from them as well. He ended up taking the UAP's side over the Labor Party's side. This helped UAP get into power. Lyon became Prime Minister.

When he was Premier, Lyons stuck with his conservative economic policies. If I'm understanding Lord Wiki right, in terms of foreign policies, Lyons hoped to go the diplomatic route rather than the war one. But during his Premiership, an aircraft factory was opened. So it seems he was aware of the possibility of war.

Oh. I just read down further. Lyons was a pacifist. As war began to seem more and more likely, he became depressed. Then he died in office of a heart attack. I'm not sure if depression caused the heart attack.

Lord Wiki says Lyons was fairly well-liked as a leader, and his death caused much grief. He was fairly young when he died....fifty-nine. He left behind his wife and eleven children.

Lyon's wife Enid, and some of their children entered politics. Enid Lyons became the first woman to sit in the House of Representatives. That's a pretty big honor. Two of the sons of Joseph and Enid did state politics.

I'm done with Lord Wiki. I'm going to take a break. Then I will look at the Aussie government Prime Minister site, and the Australian Dictionary of Biography. I think that will be my pattern for writing about dead Prime Ministers.

I'm back. I've decided I'm going to try and take more breaks while doing these posts. I tend to want to work straight through; or until Jack, Mu Shu, or my bladder wants my attention. The thing is I think my reading and comprehension suffers after awhile. So I'm going to try and take more breaks. I had a nice short one. I exercised while watching Jack play his video game. Then I cuddled with the cat.

Now I'm ready to read about Lyon's pre-office days on the government Prime Minister site.

Wow. This is interesting. They say what caused Lyon's early family economic troubles was a Melbourne Cup bet. Yikes. Lord Wiki says it had been caused by Daddy's Lyon's health. Maybe his health problem was a gambling addiction. Or maybe he had a health problem, AND made a bad bet.

Lord Wiki made it sound like Lyons quit school at age nine, and didn't return until he was of university age. But this site says he returned to school at the age of twelve. His aunts gave him the money needed for state school tuition. Later Lyons would help abolish those fees, so children wouldn't need to depend on generous relatives.

During his early political involvement, Lyon knew a woman named Eliza Burnell. Burnell had a daughter who was a teacher trainee. This was Enid, and she'd eventually become Lyon's wife.

Well, I read through the rest of the page. It pretty much said the same stuff that I learned from
Lord Wiki....no need to repeat all that. I'm going to move past the before-office stuff, and read the in-office stuff.

OH!!!! I just got HUGE exciting news. A few months ago, I tried to use our Disney Vacation Club points to go to the United Kingdom. After signing up for for the chance, I became extremely doubtful it would happen. Well, the Disney folks just called. We got it! If all goes well, we shall be going to London in September. I'm so excited! The funny thing is since I was so doubtful, I went ahead and used our points for a Disney World vacation as well. I had figured if we got the London thing, we could just borrow points. So this Autumn (American-time) we'll be doing London and Disney. Before that, we have Hawaii. I have so much to be excited about! Then we have Australia in 2012. Between all that we want to do some more road trips.

I'll have to put some of my three-years-in-advance Australia planning to do some London planning. I've been there once, but that was about eighteen years ago.

I should put aside all my excitement and joy, and get back to work.

The Prime Minister website says that Lyons had a successful campaign, and that was partly due to his wife. I guess people liked her. Well, obviously he had a successful election campaign. He won, didn't he?

Lyons was the first person to use an airplane for his campaigning. He was able to do a lot of traveling....meet a lot of people. This also might have helped in his popularity.

There's a bunch of economic stuff here. Honestly, I'm too excited and distracted to read too much into. I think I got enough information from Lord Wiki anyway. I don't want to go too much into depth.

The Fast Fact page of the Prime Minister site says that Lyons is the only Prime Minister to be born in Tasmania. I'm sure one day there will be another one.

All right. Now onto the Australian Dictionary of Biography. Lyons had an interesting middle name. Aloysius. I wonder what that means. Maybe it's Irish? Oh. This is funny. Lord Wiki says Aloysius is the first name of Mr. Snuffleupagus on Sesame Street.

This baby name website says Aloysius is Italian. It means famous warrior.

The biographical dictionary says that Daddy Lyons lost all the family money on a bet. Maybe this is why Lyons ended up being economically conservative. Although I think there's a huge difference between gambling and socialist-like economic policies.

It looks like Lyons got his start as an educator when he was fairly young. He was paid to help out with younger students. When I was in fifth or sixth grade, I was in some kind of program where I got to help out with first graders. I don't remember much about it, but I think I loved it. When I was a kid, I always loved younger kids. I thought they were so cute.

In his early adult years, Lyons taught at country schools. I wonder which age group he worked with. At this time, he also became involved with debating and speech-making. This paved his way into politics. Interestingly, the education department was not keen on him entering politics. I'm not sure why.

Despite his later conservative economic policies, his social policies seem much more on the left. He supported free education and medical treatment for children. Tim and I talked about the whole health care debate. For people who are so against government health care, are they also against public education? Why can't there be private health care for those who can afford it, and public/government for those who can't?

Although I know some people are against public education. I know some homeschoolers resent paying taxes when they don't use the schools. My feeling is it's not always just about you and your family. Sometimes you have to think about others. Homeschooling is not a choice that all people want to make. And not all of those folks can provide private school. I think there always needs to be a free and public option. That's just my opinion. No family or child should be deprived of school if this is what they want.

The bio-dictionary says that there WERE some slight objections to the age difference in Joseph and Enid's marriage. Her father questioned it a bit. Although I guess he liked Lyons, so he let it go. The website says, His request raised some problems for Enid's father, who pointed out that if the suitor had not been Mr Lyons there would have been objections on the grounds of age and religion. I guess he made an exception for Lyons.

Lyons hated violence. He was against capital punishment. He didn't like war.

During World War I, Lyons became passionate about his Irish heritage. I'm not sure why that happened.

He saw himself as being socialist.

As for economics, he was conservative. He felt all government debts needed to be paid. I remember reading elsewhere that Jack Lange wanted to ignore/default on some loans. Again, I think Lyons conservativeness came from his experiences in childhood.

I thought Lord Wiki had said that Lyons supported Keynesian economics. But from what I read here, and the Prime Minister site, it looks like he didn't. He saw it as being too experimental. He didn't want to take chances...yeah, like his dad had taken chances.

Here it talks about Theodore getting the role that Lyons coveted. They say that Lyons protested because Theodore had NOT been cleared of the corruption charges. Yet he got the job anyway. I don't blame Lyons for being resentful.

Lyons was the first Prime Minister to use The Lodge in Canberra as a family home. Really? Oh okay. Yeah. I thought it had been someone else. Lord Wiki says Stanley Bruce and his wife were the first Prime Ministers to live there. But since they didn't have children, they didn't count as a family. I feel that's a bit unfair. I would count them as a family. I think it would be more precise to say that Lyons was the first Prime Minister to have children living in The Lodge.

Now Scullin who was between Bruce and Lyons didn't use The Lodge. He chose to use a hotel for his residence. Most other Prime Ministers have used The Lodge. John Howard is the well known exception. Ben Chifley, as well, chose to live elsewhere.

The bio-dictionary says that Lyons and his wife had a strong marriage.

What else.....

People saw him as being like a koala. That's because he refused to eat anything except Eucalyptus leaves. No, I'm joking. I'm guessing it was more about his demeanor.

He had a limp from a car accident.

He was fairly athletic.

He visited the cinema sometimes.

He drank moderately. Scotch was his drink of choice.

I love all this personal trivia.

I was going to see if there was anything fun on Google News Archives, but I'm having trouble with that for some reason.

So I'm going to say good-bye.

2 comments:

jeni thornley said...

Re your note: " In his early adult years, Lyons taught at country schools. I wonder which age group he worked with. .."
I can tell you this: I recall a family story that he taught at a school our Nana went to (1900s) - Conara Tasmania, As far as I know); the school was a primary school and was a one teacher school; ie all age groups in the one class. He boarded with our Nan's family (the Lette Family) ; all the kids travelled to school from the farm in a horse and buggy; in winter they had hot bricks on the buggy floor from the fire wrapped in a blanket to keep warm. For more detail on Lyons and his teaching career: see "Joseph Lyons: The People's Prime Minister" By Anne Henderson.

Dina said...

Jeni Thornle,

That's fantastic! Thank you for sharing this personal family and historical story.

I love the idea of the one teacher school; and mixed aged groups. It reminds me of Little House on the Prairie.