Richard Casey, Baron Casey

Richard Casey, Baron Casey

Infobox Governor-General | name=The Rt Hon. The Lord Casey

order=16th Governor-General of Australia
term_start=22 September 1965
term_end=30 April 1969
predecessor=The Viscount De L'Isle
successor=Sir Paul Hasluck
birth_date=birth date|1890|8|29|df=y
birth_place=Brisbane, Queensland
death_date=death date and age|1976|6|17|1890|8|29|df=y
death_place=Berwick, Victoria

Richard Gardiner Casey, Baron Casey KG GCMG CH DSO MC, (29 August 1890–17 June 1976) was an Australian politician and diplomat and 16th Governor-General of Australia.

Early life

Casey was born in Brisbane, Queensland. His father, also named Richard Gardiner Casey, was a wealthy pastoralist and Queensland state politician of Irish descent. His mother, Evelyn, was the daughter of George Harris, another wealthy pastoralist and Queensland state politician. His father moved the family to Melbourne in 1893 and became a rich company director. Casey was educated at Cumloden School, St Kilda, and at Melbourne Grammar. He enrolled for first year engineering at the University of Melbourne in 1909, but then travelled to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he completed a Bachelor of Arts in 1913, graduating with second-class honours in the mechanical sciences tripos and a Master of Arts in 1918.Australian Dictionary of Biography|last=Hudson |first=W. J. |authorlink=|year=1993|id=A130426b.htm|title= Casey, Richard Gavin Gardiner [Baron Casey] (1890 - 1976)|accessdate=2007-08-25]

At the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Casey joined the First Australian Imperial Force as a lieutenant, and served at Gallipoli as aide-de-camp to Major General Sir William Bridges. Casey was standing next to Bridges when Bridges was killed by a sniper. Later he served in France, where he observed operations and sifted information, earning the Military Cross [London Gazette: [ (Supplement) no. 29886, page 44,] 29 December 1916] and promotion to brigade major of the 8th Brigade. This position involved dangerous visits to the front line and he received a Distinguished Service Order in 1917. [London Gazette: [ (Supplement) no. 30450, page 28,] 28 December1917] He resigned his commission in June 1919 and transferred to the Reserve of Officers, serving as a part-time intelligence officer in Melbourne.

Casey's father died in 1919 and he returned after the war to Melbourne to take over his father's business interests including engineering and mining firms. He did this until 1924, when Prime Minister Stanley Bruce appointed him his political liaison officer in London, a position he held until 1931, sending home confidential reports on political and economic matters, both for Bruce and for his Labor successor, James Scullin. In 1926 he married Ethel Marian Sumner (Maie) Ryan, with whom he had two children.

Political career

In 1931 Casey returned to Australia and was elected to the House of Representatives as the United Australia Party (UAP) Member for the Geelong-based seat of Corio. Prime Minister Joseph Lyons appointed him an assistant minister in 1933, and in 1935 he became Treasurer.

In 1939 Robert Menzies became Prime Minister for the first time. He saw Casey as a rival, and moved him to the lesser portfolio of Supply and Development. In 1940 Casey resigned from parliament when Menzies appointed him as the first Australian Ambassador to the United States. This was a vital posting in wartime, but it also served to remove Casey from domestic politics. Casey was in Washington when the US entered the war, and played an important role in establishing the alliance between the US and Australia.

Casey moved to Cairo in 1942 when Winston Churchill appointed him Minister Resident in the Middle East, to the annoyance of Prime Minister John Curtin and some in the British Foreign Office. In this role he played a key role in negotiating between the British and Allied governments, local leaders and the Allied commanders in the field. In 1944, when the Middle East ceased to be a military theatre, the British government appointed Casey Governor of Bengal, a province of India. Casey held this post until 1946.

In 1946 Casey returned to Australia in the hope of being elected to parliament in the 1946 election and becoming the leader of the new Liberal Party that Menzies had formed in 1944, as part of his reorganisation of conservative politics in Australia. Casey had turned down the offer of a British peerage to preserve his political chances. However, he was too late to organise his pre-selection for a seat. He was persuaded to become Federal President of the Liberal Party in September 1947 and proved to be a very effective fundraiser, partly as a result of his past social and business connections. Although Menzies still saw Casey as a rival, and although Casey undoubtedly saw himself as a future Prime Minister, they formed an effective partnership.

The Liberals won the 1949 election, and Casey returned to the House of Representatives as Member for the outer Melbourne seat of La Trobe. Menzies appointed him Minister for Supply and Development and Minister for Works and Housing. In March 1950 he became Minister for National Development, gaining functions from Eric Harrison's abolished porfolio of Postwar Reconstruction and losing supply to Howard Beale. In 1951, when the Minister for External Affairs, Percy Spender (another Menzies rival), was dispatched to the Washington embassy, Casey succeeded him. Casey held the External Affairs post during the height of the Cold War, the Suez Crisis, the war in Indo-China and other major world events. He formed close relations with Anthony Eden, John Foster Dulles and other leaders. Casey was also Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) from March 1950, and he was committed to its success.

In January 1960 Casey was made a life peer of the United Kingdom House of Lords; next month he resigned from the ministry and parliament. For most Australians, Britain was still the mother country, but it was by then becoming something of an anomaly that an Australian should be appointed to another country's parliament. Lord Casey made annual trips to London and put in appearances in the House of Lords, but he had no obvious constituency. He was also appointed to the executive of the CSIRO in 1960.


In 1965 the Queen, on Menzies' recommendation, appointed Casey Governor-General to succeed Lord De L'Isle. This was the first time a conservative Prime Minister had recommended an Australian for the post, but it also marked the end of the appointment of non-Australians to the office of Governor-General. One of the arguments "against" appointing an Australian, particularly a former politician, had always been that they would be too closely involved with Australian personalities and issues to perform their constitutional role impartially. This became an acute issue for Casey in December 1967, when Prime Minister Harold Holt died.cite book
last =Reid
first =Alan
title =The Power Struggle
publisher =Tartan Press
year =1972
location =Sydney
pages =195
isbn =072640005X
] cite book
last =Hudson
first =W. J.
title =Casey
publisher =Oxford University Press
year =1986
location =Melbourne
pages =361
isbn = 0195547306
] Casey could have commissioned the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, William McMahon, as acting Prime Minister or Caretaker prime minister, but instead he appointed John McEwen, the leader of Liberals' coalition partner, the Country Party. In this he was following a precedent set in 1939, when Sir Earle Page was appointed Prime Minister following the death of Joseph Lyons. But it was later alleged that Casey appointed McEwen in order to prevent McMahon having an advantage in the Liberal Party's ballot for a new leader, since he shared the view of some Liberals that McMahon would not be a suitable successor. This matter was aired in a 1969 book, "The Power Struggle", by veteran political journalist Alan Reid. Casey's biographer, W.J. Hudson says (in his 1986 book "Casey") that Casey was concerned to preserve the Liberal-Country Party coalition, and that he knew (because McEwen had told him) that the Country Party would not serve under McMahon. (McEwen publicly confirmed his party's position on McMahon the day after his swearing-in.) If this was his motive for commissioning McEwen rather than McMahon, it suggests that he did take political considerations into account in making his decision. On the other hand, if the coalition were to disband, there would have been no party that could command a majority in the parliament and it could well have become unworkable.

Casey's Official Secretary throughout his term was Murray Tyrrell, who was knighted in 1968.

Casey left office in 1969 and he and his wife retired to their farm at Berwick in Victoria. Casey never fully recovered from a car accident in 1974, and died in June 1976, survived by his wife, daughter and son.


Casey received a Military Cross, a DSO and was twice Mentioned in Despatches during World War I. He was appointed a Companion of Honour in 1944. In 1960, he was created "Baron Casey, of Berwick in the State of Victoria and the Commonwealth of Australia, and of the City of Westminster", becoming the second and last Australian politician (after Bruce) to be elevated to the House of Lords (Sir John Forrest is sometimes mentioned in such lists, however his peerage was never formally established). He was appointed GCMG in 1965, and KG in 1969.

The municipality which includes Berwick is now called the City of Casey. There is also federal Electoral Division of Casey (in a different part of Melbourne). The Canberra suburb of Casey and Casey Station, a base in the Australian Antarctic Territory, were named in Casey's honour. The R.G. Casey Building in Canberra is the headquarters of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.


* Mr Richard Casey (1890-1918?)
* Mr Richard Casey DSO MC (1918?-1931)
* Mr Richard Casey DSO MC MP (1931-1933)
* The Hon Richard Casey DSO MC MP (1933-1939)
* The Rt Hon Richard Casey DSO MC MP (1939-1940)
* The Rt Hon Richard Casey DSO MC (1940-1944)
* The Rt Hon Richard Casey CH DSO MC (1944-1949)
* The Rt Hon Richard Casey CH DSO MC MP (1949-1960)
* The Rt Hon The Lord Casey PC CH DSO MC (1960-1965)
* The Rt Hon The Lord Casey GCMG PC CH DSO MC (1965-1969)
* The Rt Hon The Lord Casey KG GCMG PC CH DSO MC (1969-1976)


Further reading

*cite book
last =Casey
first =Richard Gardiner
authorlink =
coauthors =Millar, T. B.
title =Australian foreign minister: the diaries of R.G. Casey, 1951-60
publisher =Collins
year =1972
location =London
pages =352
isbn = 0002110016

*cite book
last =Casey
first =Richard Gardiner
authorlink =
coauthors =
title =Personal experience, 1939-1946
publisher =David McKay Co
year =1963
location =New York
pages =256
isbn =

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