Thomas Playford IV

Thomas Playford IV

Infobox President | name =Sir Tom Playford
nationality =Australian

order =33rd Premier of South Australia
Elections: 1941–1965
term_start =5 November 1938
term_end =10 March 1965
deputy =
predecessor =Richard Layton Butler
successor =Frank Walsh
birth_date =5 July 1896
birth_place =Norton Summit, South Australia, Australia
death_date =16 June 1981
death_place =Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
constituency =Gumeracha
party =Liberal and Country League
spouse =Lorna Playford (nee Clark)
profession =farmer
religion =Baptist

footnotes =

Sir Thomas Playford, GCMG (5 July 1896 – 16 June 1981) was a South Australian politician and a well known farmer. He served continuously as Premier of South Australia from 5 November 1938 to 10 March 1965, the longest term of any democratically elected leader in the history of Australia. His tenure as premier was marked by a period of population and economic growth unmatched by any other Australian state. Playford took a unique, strong and direct approach to the premiership and personally oversaw his industrial initiatives. His string of election wins were assisted by a system of electoral malapportionment that bore his name, the 'Playmander'.

Born into an old political family, Playford was the fifth Thomas Playford and the fourth to have lived in South Australia. He grew up on the family farm in Norton Summit before enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force in World War I, fighting in Gallipoli and Western Europe. After serving, he continued farming until his election as a Liberal and Country League (LCL) representative for Murray in 1932. With the resignation of the LCL's leader, Richard Layton Butler, Playford ascended to the premiership in 1938.

In office, Playford used his negotiating skills to encourage industry to relocate to South Australia during World War II, and built upon this in the post-war boom years. Although a liberal conservative, his approach to economics was pragmatic, and he was derided by his colleagues for his "socialism" as he nationalised electricity companies and used state enterprises to drive economic growth. However, Playford and his party failed to adapt to changing social mores and eventually lost office in the 1965 election. He relinquished the LCL leadership to Steele Hall and retired at the next election, serving on various South Australian company boards until his death in 1981.


The Playford family heritage can be traced back to 1759, when a baby boy was left at the door of a house in Barnby Dun, Yorkshire, England, with a note to christen the child 'Thomas Playford'. The occupants of the house, who were to raise the child, were given instructions to receive money from a bank account for the deed. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =7–9] The child grew up to be a simple farmer in the village, and had a son in 1795 who he christened 'Thomas Playford'. The tradition of naming the firstborn son in the family in this way has continued since. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =8–10]

The second Playford was something of a loner, but at the age of 15 he developed a relationship with a girl five years his senior with whom he fathered a child. In order to avoid the social stigma of the situation, and on the advice of his parents, Playford enlisted in the British Army in 1810. While three years under the acceptable age, Playford's size (6 ft 2 in) enabled him to pass as eighteen.cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =10] He spent 24 years in the service of the Light Guards, fighting all over Europe in Portugal, Spain and France, including the Battle of Waterloo at the age of 20. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =10–16]

While a soldier, Playford became a devout Christian, and journeyed and listened to many different churches and sermons. He was sceptical of many pastors and church men, dismissing their "high sounding barren words". [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =15] He left the Life Guards in 1834, received a land grant in Canada for his service, and journeyed there with his wife and family. His wife and a child died in the country, so he and his remaining kin returned to England.cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =16] He worked as a historian for the Life Guards until 1844 when he migrated to the then-province of South Australia. Playford became a pastor there, built a property at Mitcham, and preached regularly for his own 'Christian Church', which was essentially Baptist in character. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =17]

The third Playford, Thomas Playford II, was born at Bethnal Green, London in 1837 to the second wife of Pastor Playford. He was raised on the Mitcham property in South Australia, was intellectual and book-minded, and wished to go the prestigious St Peter's College to study law. He was rebuked by his father and subsequently became a farmer like his predecessors, buying property at Norton Summit and growing vegetables, plums and apples. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =18–21] He was elected to the local East Torrens Council in 1863 at the age of 27; and then to the State Parliament in 1868 as a 'liberal' (parties had not yet formed), representing the constituency of Onkaparinga. He became known as 'Honest Tom' for his straightforward and blunt ways. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =20–21] He lost his seat in 1871 and regained it in 1875 only to lose it again until he was re-elected in 1887, upon which he became Premier of South Australia. He subsequently lost the premiership in 1889, regained it in 1890, and then spent a great deal of his term absent in India. After losing an election, he relocated to London to represent South Australia as Agent General to the United Kingdom. While in England, Playford was three times offered a knighthood, but declined it each time. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =22–23]

He returned to South Australia to assist Charles Kingston in his government, but ultimately crossed the floor to bring down Kingston over his plans to lessen the power of the Legislative Council. With the advent of Australian Federation, Playford became a Senator for South Australia. He was leader of the Senate and the 7th Minister for Defence. After one term as a Senator, Playford was defeated. He ran again in 1910, was unsuccessful, and retired to Kent Town, where he died in 1915 at the age of 78. [ [ Playford, Thomas. Australian Dictionary of Biography.] Accessed 25-11-2006.]

The fourth Playford, father of Sir Thomas, was born in 1861. Unlike his own father and grandfather, who had led lives as soldiers, church men and politicians, [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =24] he became a simple farmer at the Norton Summit property and was dominated by his wife, Elizabeth. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =29] He was, like his forebears, a regular churchgoer, and only once was involved in politics with a short stint on the East Torrens District Council. In comparison, Elizabeth was the local correspondent of the "The Advertiser", treasurer and chief member of the local Baptist Church, and a teacher. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =30] Four children were born to the couple; three daughters and one son, Sir Thomas. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =24–30]

Early life

Thomas Playford was the third child born to the family, with two sisters before him and one following. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =32] He started school at the age of six, going to the local Norton Summit School. The school had one room, one teacher, two assistants and 60 students, and taught children aged six to twelve. Playford, while an adept learner, frequently argued with his teacher, and was the first child to have been caned there. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =27–35] While learning, he accompanied his father down to the East End Markets with their farming produce. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =36–38] Playford would later dub the East End Markets his 'university', due to the work that he carried out there.

It was the influence of Playford's mother Elizabeth that contributed to his relative Puritanism and social habits. She was a devout Baptist Christian, and it was primarily because of her that he publicly abstained from alcohol, [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =46] smoking and gambling throughout his lifetime. However, despite her influence on his social habits, he did not regularly attend church like his family. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =210]

His father suffered a fall and a broken leg when Playford was thirteen. He requested permission to leave school and take over the family farm; this was granted, and the boy, even after his father had recovered, dominated the management of the farm. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =38–39] While out of school, Playford continued to learn; he joined the local Norton Summit Society, and took part in classes and debates in Adelaide. He won a public speaking award for a speech he made to an Adelaide literary society. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =40–41]

World War I broke out in 1914, and Playford wished to join the AIF. His parents persuaded him to assist them on the farm until close to his 19th birthday. He entered Keswick Barracks on 17 May 1915 and was placed in the 27th Battalion. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =43] The news of the bloody landings at Gallipoli had not reached Adelaide by the time Playford left on HMAT "Geelong" on 31 May. The "Geelong" picked up more soldiers at Perth, and then sailed to Suez, Egypt. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =44–46] The Australian soldiers received training in Egypt, but during the evenings left their camps to indulge themselves in the Egyptian towns and cities. Frequent fights broke out between the Australian troops and the locals, with responsible soldiers left to take the rest back to camp. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =46] Playford assisted in this and dragged Australian soldiers from the beds of Egyptian prostitutes.cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =47] Training was completed after two months and Playford landed at Anzac Cove on 12 September 1915.

After taking part in the Gallipoli campaign, Playford and his battalion left for France on 15 March 1916. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =48] He fought on the Western Front and was shot and wounded on 20 October, evacuated to London, and kept out of action for a year. Playford endured many operations during this time to remove the shrapnel that had penetrated his body, although some of it remained within him,cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =52–54] and his hearing was permanently damaged. Turning down an offer for a staff job in India, Playford returned to his battalion in October 1917 and continued fighting in Belgium and France. [cite book|last=Crocker |first=Walter |title=Sir Thomas Playford: A Portrait |pages =22]

With the end of the Great War, Playford returned to South Australia with his battalion, disembarking at Outer Harbor, Adelaide on 2 July 1919. He had received no decorations, but had nonetheless attained the rank of Officercite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =56] by the time he was honourably discharged in October. Despite Playford's intellectual capability, he shunned the Government's offer of free university education for soldiers and returned to his orchard. He continued growing cherries on the property, and engaged in his hobby of horticulture. His involvement in various organisations and clubs was renewed.cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =57]

Through relatives Playford met his future wife Lorna Clark, who lived with her family in Nailsworth. Although both families were religiously devout, the Clarks were even more so than the Playfords, and a long courtship pursued. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =58] Taking her out on his Harley Davidson motorcycle at night, the two were forced to leave the theatre half-way through performances so as to not raise the ire of the Clarks. Before their wedding on 1 January 1928, they were engaged for three years. During their engagement, Playford built their new house on his property, mostly by his own hands and indented in the hills themselves; it remained their home throughout their lives. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =57–59]

Two years later, on Christmas Day, 1930, the family's first daughter was born, Patricia. Two more children were born to the family; Margaret in 1936, and Thomas in 1945. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =60] All three of them attended private schools: Patricia attended the Presbyterian Girls' College, becoming a teacher; and Margaret attended Methodist Ladies' College, later training as a child psychiatrist. The sixth Thomas wanted to attend university, but, like a Playford before him, was rebuked and worked on the orchard. And again like a Playford before him, he became a minister of religion in his later life. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =62]

Ascendence to office

Among the organisations that Playford belonged to was the local branch of the Liberal Federation, yet until the months preceding his eventual election, he never talked of holding political office. The Liberal Federation was considering a merger with the Country Party to avoid Labor retaining office during the Great Depression. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =66] Archie Cameron, an old wartime friend of Playford's and a representative of the Country Party, influenced Playford to run for office when he heard of the merger. In 1932 the Liberal and Country League (LCL) was created, and Playford ran for the multi-member constituency of Murray in the election of 1933. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =66–67]

Along with the other LCL hopefuls, Playford journeyed around the electorate advocating his platform. The constituency had a considerable German element, [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =67] descendants of refugees who had escaped persecution in the German Empire. Grateful for the past help of Playford's grandfather, they swung their strong support behind him and he was comfortably elected to the South Australian House of Assembly. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =69] With a split in the Labor vote, the first LCL government was formed with Richard Layton Butler as Premier.

For the next five years Playford was to remain a backbencher, and to involve himself relatively little in government matters. His speeches were short, but to the point, and, running against the norm, he often attacked the government itself when he saw fit. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =72] Around Playford, much activity was occurring. Legislation provided for the tools that he was to inherit later as Premier: aggressive economic initiatives, a malapportioned electoral system and a staid internal party organisation.

The creation of the LCL was dependent on the implementation of various policies to ensure the strength of the party's country faction. There had been an electoral bias in favour of rural areas since the Constitution Act of 1857, but it was now to dramatically increase. In 1936, legislation was brought in that stipulated that electoral districts were to be malapportioned to a ratio of at least 2:1 in favour of country areas. In addition, the number of seats was reduced to 39 (from 46), and multi-member districts were abolished. The desired long-term effect was to lock the opposition Labor Party out of power; the unexpected short-term effect was a large number of dissatisfied rural independents in the March 1938 election. Although he played no part in its development or implementation, the electoral system was later christened the 'Playmander', as a result of its benefit to Playford. [cite book|last=Jaensch |first=Dean |title=The Flinders History of South Australia: Political History |pages=260–261]

Playford entered the cabinet in March 1938 as the Commissioner of Crown Lands, and held portfolios in Irrigation and Repatriation. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =76] He spent little time as a minister before becoming Premier; Butler abandoned the Premiership in November to seek election for the recently-vacated Australian House of Representatives Division of Wakefield. Elected unanimously by his peers, [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =78–80] Playford became the 33rd Premier of South Australia. [cite book|last=Crocker |first=Walter |title=Sir Thomas Playford: A Portrait |pages=32–34]

Wartime development

Playford became a wartime Premier in 1939 when Australia, as part of the British Empire, entered World War II. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =82–83] Later in the war, cut off from traditional suppliers of manufactures, the country was forced to create its own. Armaments and munitions factories needed to be created to supply the war effort, and Playford was vociferous in advocating South Australia as the perfect location for these. It was far from the battlegrounds and had the most efficient labour force in the nation. Ammunition factories were built in the northern and western suburbs of Adelaide, and construction on a shipyard began in Whyalla. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =86–87]

Salisbury, then a dormitory town to the north of Adelaide, became a defence centre;cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =87] the shipyards at Whyalla began launching corvettes in 1941 just as Japan entered the war. All of these developments were done under Playford's watch, with most of the factories being built by the Department of Manpower and the South Australian Housing Trust. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =84–87]

In order for these developments to occur, Playford personally had to attend to the bureaucracy that stood in the way. He confronted obstinate public service workers, and successfully negotiated with the heads of private companies. But it was negotiations with the Federal Government that were to prove the hardest. In his time as Premier, Playford was to confront seven different Prime Ministers: Lyons, Page, Menzies, Fadden, Curtin, Forde and Chifley. Strangely, he enjoyed best relations with the Laborite Chifley, and had a poor rapport with his fellow conservative, Menzies. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =133, 143–144] During the wartime years, Menzies' reluctance to meet with Playford initially hampered industrial efforts, but Playford's other federal colleagues made sure that deals could be made. [cite book|last=Crocker |first=Walter |title=Sir Thomas Playford: A Portrait |pages =44–45]

To Playford's advantage there was usually a disproportionate amount of South Australians in federal cabinets, both Liberal and Labor. This clout, combined with his own intensive and unconventional negotiating tactics, made sure that South Australia regularly got more federal funds than it would have been allocated otherwise. This was to Menzies' chagrin: "Tom wouldn't know intellectual honesty if he met it on the end of a pitch fork but he does it all for South Australia, not for himself, so I forgive him." [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =133]

During the war, two state elections were held, in 1941 and 1944. In the 1941 election, there was a significant decrease in the independent vote, and both the Labor Party and the LCL made gains, with Playford forming the LCL's first majority government. In 1942, compulsory voting (but not enrolment) was introduced, yet it made no significant difference to the election result of 1944, despite an increase in voter turnout from 50% to 80%. Again Playford won, but with a one-seat majority, down one from 1941. In the following years, thanks to the malapportionment, he would build up a sizeable parliamentary majority. [cite book|last=Jaensch |first=Dean |title=The Flinders History of South Australia: Political History |pages =248–249]

Power and water schemes were expanded to be able to cope with the industrial development occurring. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =102–104] South Australia's near-monopoly electricity supplier, the Adelaide Electricity Supply Company (AESC), was reluctant to build up coal reserves in case of a transportation problem. They ran on coal that was shipped over from New South Wales (NSW), where the mines were inefficient and plagued by communist-agitated industrial strife. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =105] Playford demanded that supplies be built up so the factories could keep producing; he managed to secure eight months worth of coal reserves from NSW, but even that began to dwindle due to the continued industrial action. Coal supplies were ordered from South Africa in desperation, at Playford's behest. The frustration he experienced while dealing with the AESC would later prove disastrous to the company as the Premier took action against them. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =105]


The AESC continued to snub the government. Playford advocated the use of brown coal from the South Australian Leigh Creek mine to avoid supply complications, and even made into law a bill encouraging its use. Shortly afterwards, the AESC responded by buying new boilers which would not be able to process that type of coal, only the more productive black coal. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =106] With more conflicts ensuing, and even with the company slowly relenting, Playford did not stop his struggle. A Royal Commission in March 1945 was appointed to ascertain a solution between the two parties, and presented its report in August with a recommendation that the AESC be nationalised. By then at the head of the only conservative government in the nation, when Playford requested commonwealth funds to assist in the nationalisation of the AESC Prime Minister Chifley responded with glee and enthusiasm. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =112–114] On 11 October, he presented a bill to Parliament to nationalise the AESC and create the Electricity Trust of South Australia. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =117]

Labor, astonished that such an action was to come from a Liberal Premier, resolutely supported the bill, guaranteeing it passage through the House of Assembly. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =117] However, the Legislative Council was dominated by economic conservatives, fierce adherents of free enterprise and opponents of what they considered to be undue government intervention in the economy. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =118–120] In the Council, where suffrage was reliant upon wage and property requirements, the ALP only held four seats out of twenty, [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =117] and only five LCL members supported the nationalisation. Thus, on 7 November, the bill failed to pass and it was not put to the Parliament again until 1946. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =119–121] On 6 April, after months of campaigning on Playford's part, he managed to change the mind of MLC Jack Bice, and the bill passed. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =123–126] The Electricity Trust of South Australia was formed, and was to become a major aid to post-war industrialisation. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =125]

The nationalisation of the AESC was the most prominent manifestation of Playford's economic pragmatism; although ideologically a free enterprise man like his colleagues, he saw ideology as secondary if it got in the way of his objectives. He had little time for those who objected to plans that were for the betterment of South Australia, despite these plans being contrary to particular interpretations of party ideology. [cite book|last=Jaensch |first=Dean |title=The Flinders History of South Australia: Political History |pages =252]

During the post-war boom, the methods used to set up business in South Australia were unique. Playford's government would charge little to no business tax, supply cheap electricity, land and water, and have the Housing Trust build the factories and workers' homes. Consumer goods and automotive factories were created in the northern and western suburbs of Adelaide; mining, steel and shipbuilding industries appeared in the 'Iron Triangle' towns of Whyalla, Port Pirie and Port Augusta. Prices and wages were kept relatively low to enable continued investment. The government initiatives managed to overcome the large logistic burden, as Adelaide and South Australia were far from the markets where the goods would be sold. [cite book|last=Jaensch |first=Dean |title=The Flinders History of South Australia: Political History |pages =250–251]

Many of the methods that Playford used were described by economic conservatives as 'socialism', drawing opposition from within his own party, especially in the Legislative Council. [cite book|last=Abjorensen|first=Norman |title=Leadership in the Liberal Party: Bolte, Askin and the Post-War Ascendancy |pages =128] It is even said that the Liberal leader in that chamber once referred to Playford as a ‘Bolshevik’. [cite book|last=Howell|first=P.A|title=Playford, Politics, and Parliament |pages =66] The unique economic intervention earned Playford scorn from his own colleagues, but the Labor movement was much more receptive. Indeed, Labor leader Mick O'Halloran would dine with Playford on a weekly basis to discuss the development of the state. At a dinner party, O'Halloran remarked that "I wouldn't want to be Premier even if I could be. Tom Playford can often do more for my own voters than I could if I were in his shoes." [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =218] This cooperative nature of party politics would not change until Don Dunstan's prominence in the late 1950s, when Playford would be assailed not for his economics, but for his government's comparatively low expenditure on public services such as education and healthcare.

Large projects were commenced. The city of Elizabeth was built by the Housing Trust in Adelaide's north, for the production of GM Holden motor vehicles. Populated mainly by working class English migrants, [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =179–181] it was, before its eventual economic and social decline, [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =182] a model for city planning. These ventures, despite being built by the public sector, were not done in opposition to private enterprise; mainline roads and railways would be built and modified to the wishes and needs of business. Main North Road, for example, had its alignment changed at the request of industry.

When Playford left office in 1965, South Australia's population had doubled from 600,000 in the late 1930s to 1.1 million, the highest proportionate rate among the states. The economy had done likewise, and personal wealth had increased at the same rate, second only to Victoria. [cite book|last=Crocker |first=Walter |title=Sir Thomas Playford: A Portrait |pages =38]

Don Dunstan

In 1953, the young lawyer Don Dunstan was elected to the House of Assembly as the Labor member for Norwood, ousting the LCL incumbent. Playford had landed unexpectedly in his role as the undisputed leader of his party, while Dunstan was, from the start of his parliamentary career, a stand-out among his own ranks. Dunstan had proved himself an excellent orator in parliament, and had gained notoriety as the loudest opposition voice against the death penalty being imposed upon Max Stuart, an Aborigine convicted for the rape and murder of a child. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =292, 302–303] Dunstan and Playford were each other's principal antagonists. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =313]

Playford, used to cooperating with Labor leaders more than attacking them, sensed Dunstan's promise and, predicting that one day Dunstan would be at the helm, attempted to establish bonds. So, after a late session of parliament at night, Playford would give Dunstan a lift home in his car. As Dunstan's home was situated on George Street, Norwood, it was only a small deviance from Playford's normal route to his home in Norton Summit. The topics that the two discussed were not ever completely revealed, yet Playford, according to Dunstan, would talk to him in a paternalistic manner. The two built up somewhat of a relationship and developed a respect for each other, but due to the strength of their respective views (Playford was a liberal conservative, Dunstan a libertarian socialist), did not establish the same type of bond that Playford had with earlier Laborites.cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =316–317]

To face an opposition that was becoming uncooperative was not what Playford has expected, or could satisfactorily handle. Before the effect Dunstan had on Parliament, Playford would meet with Labor leaders to discuss bills, and ensure bipartisan support in the House of Assembly for them; there was little discordance on matters. The belligerents were previously only rural independent members. [cite book|last=Crocker |first=Walter |title=Sir Thomas Playford: A Portrait |pages =98–99]

Even while the economic boom continued, the LCL vote gradually declined from 1947, and it relied on favourable preferences from minor parties and independents and the malapportioned electoral system in order to win. It did, however, win all elections, barring 1953, on a two-party-preferred basis until 1962. [ [ Past Elections, Australian Broadcasting Corporation] Accessed 3 January 2007] Labor had begun to combat the Playmander by directing its efforts at individual seats, and abandoning a statewide campaign. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =318] Slowly, seats began to whittle away: Norwood was won in 1953; West Torrens, Murray, Millicent and Frome in 1956; and Mt Gambier and Wallaroo in 1957–8 by-elections. [cite book|last=Jaensch |first=Dean |title=The Flinders History of South Australia: Political History |pages =261] Playford's dominance over the party and his ignorance of the wishes of its broad membership base brought about a degree of disillusionment, and the party machine began to decay. [cite book|last=Blewett |first=Neal |title=Playford to Dunstan: The Politics of Transition |pages=30–31]

During this period, Prime Minister Menzies recommended that Playford be bestowed with a form of honours. Playford's wish was to be made a privy councillor, yet, while entirely possible, if granted it would lead to demands from other state Premiers. Playford's grandfather had declined a KCMG, and Playford himself did initially, but under the influence of Menzies he eventually accepted the honour and was knighted in 1957. [cite book|last=Crocker |first=Walter |title=Sir Thomas Playford: A Portrait |pages =173]

Fall from power

Playford was confronted with an economic recession when he went into the election of 1962. Earlier, in late 1961, the federal Liberal-Country coalition had suffered a large swing against them, reducing their majority to two. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =321] In the 1962 state election, the Labor Party gained 54.3% of the two-party-preferred vote and 19 seats, while the LCL managed only 18. The balance of power was held by two independents, and they swung their support behind Playford and allowed his government to continue for another term. [cite book|last=Jaensch |first=Dean |title=The Flinders History of South Australia: Political History |pages =496–497] [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =329] Nonetheless, much media fanfare was made of the result, and of the detrimental effects of the 'Playmander'. Opposition leader Frank Walsh declared the result "a travesty of electoral injustice". [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =326]

While the political situation was becoming increasingly untenable, Playford himself continued with his job of building the state. Plans for Adelaide's future development, including a freeway system, [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =324] were commissioned; the state's population hit in the one million mark in 1963; and the Port Stanvac oil refinery was completed. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =329]

Electoral legislation remained unchanged. Labor introduced bills for reform, but these were defeated in both houses of Parliament. Playford introduced his own electoral legislation that would have entrenched his government further than under the Playmander. As electoral legislation was part of the South Australian constitution, it required an absolute parliamentary majority (20 seats, under the current system) to be changed. The LCL relied on independent Tom Stott in the house, so Labor could obstruct changes by keeping members away and forcing a pair. [cite book|last=Blewett |first=Neal |title=Playford to Dunstan: The Politics of Transition |pages=30] [cite book|last=Jaensch |first=Dean |title=The Flinders History of South Australia: Political History |pages =248–249] cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =228]

The conservatism of the Liberal and Country League did not keep up with the expectations of a modern-day society. There was dissatisfaction with the restrictive drinking laws; environmentalists campaigned for more natural parks and more 'green' practices; [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =329–331] police powers stood strong, 'no loitering' legislation remained in place; [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =315] gambling was almost completely restricted. [cite book|last=Jaensch |first=Dean |title=The Flinders History of South Australia: Political History |pages =346] The constituents who loudly demanded changes were mostly immigrants and their offspring, used to more libertine conditions in their countries of origin. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =332–333] Their homes, usually built by the Housing Trust, sprawled into 'rural' electoral districts that were controlled by the League. Labor pledged to introduce social legislation to meet their demands; Playford, who did not drink, smoke or gamble, had no interest in doing so. His own candidates knew that the election of 1965 would be unwinnable if Playford did not budge. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =325, 333] The economy was still going strong and incomes were still increasing, so the Premier did not change his position on social reform. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =329–333]

Playford went into the election of 1965 confident that he would build upon his previous result. Labor was continuing its practice of concentrating on individual seats: this time the effort was invested in the electorates of Barossa and Glenelg. In Barossa, northern Adelaide urban sprawl was overflowing into an otherwise rural and conservative electorate; [cite book|last=Jaensch |first=Dean |title=The Flinders History of South Australia: Political History |pages =263–264] in Glenelg, a younger generation of professionals and their families were settling. On election day, 6 March, both seats fell to Labor with substantial swings. The LCL lost power for the first time in 35 years. Playford stayed up on the night to see the result, and conceded defeat at midnight. He appeared calm when announcing the loss to the public, but wept when he told his family of it. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =334–335]


After the loss, Playford continued to lead the LCL opposition for a further one and a half years until he relinquished the leadership. In the subsequent ballot, Steele Hall, a small farmer like Playford, [cite book|last=Crocker |first=Walter |title=Sir Thomas Playford: A Portrait |pages =338] won and led the LCL to victory at the following election. [cite book|last=Jaensch |first=Dean |title=The Flinders History of South Australia: Political History |pages =296–298] Playford retired from politics at the same time, presumably for reasons of age, but stated that "I couldn't cope with the change in the attitudes of some MPs, even some in the highest places... I found I could no longer cope with the change... I can't handle a liar who doesn't turn a hair while he's lying... I decided I couldn't take it any longer". [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =219–220]

Playford retired from Parliament with a pension of $72 a week; he had resisted giving higher pensions to Ministers or longer-serving MPs throughout his tenure. He returned to his orchard at Norton Summit, and took a continued interest in South Australian politics, but did not typically raise his opinions publicly; he was still consulted in private by Liberals up until his death, however. His closeness to Labor figures did not end either, offering advice to their new South Australian ministers, and assisting in a memorial to the former Labor Prime Minister John Curtin. In 1977, when Don Dunstan celebrated his 50th birthday party, Playford was the only Liberal invited. There he socialised with former and future Labor Prime Ministers Gough Whitlam and Bob Hawke, Dunstan, and other Laborites. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =319–320]

He served on the boards of the Electricity Trust and the Housing Trust, among others. Here, unused to not being in absolute control, and having little specific scientific knowledge, he occasionally stumbled in his decisions. But his thrift, a theme throughout his Premiership, did not abate; he was constantly forcing the trusts to use cost-saving methods and old vehicles for their work. [cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |pages =342–344]

Playford had begun experiencing serious health problems since his first heart attack in June 1971, and underwent treatment and procedures for ten years. On 16 June 1981, he experienced a massive heart attack and died. [cite book|last=Crocker |first=Walter |title=Sir Thomas Playford: A Portrait |pages =350–352] Two days later his memorial service was held at the Flinders Street Baptist Church. The funeral procession carried his coffin from the city, along Magill and Old Norton Summit Roads where thousands turned out to pay their respects, to the Norton Summit cemetery where his forebears had been buried. There his gravestone was emblazoned with a simple phrase: 'a good man who did good things'. [cite book|last=Crocker |first=Walter |title=Sir Thomas Playford: A Portrait |pages =179, 352–354]

ee also

*Ernest Manning
*George Henry Murray



*cite book|last=Abjorensen |first=Norman |year=2004 |title=Leadership in the Liberal Party: Bolte, Askin and the Post-War Ascendency (Unpublished PhD thesis)|publisher=The Australian National University
*cite book|last=Blewett |first=Neal |year=1971 |title=Playford to Dunstan: The Politics of Transition |publisher=Griffin Press Limited |id=ISBN 0-7015-1299-7
*cite book|last=Crocker |first=Walter |year=1983 |title=Sir Thomas Playford: A Portrait |publisher=Melbourne University Press |id=ISBN 0-522-84250-X
*Howell, P.A., "Playford, Politics, and Parliament". In cite book|last=O'Neill et. al. (eds) |year=1996 |title=Playford's South Australia: Essays on the History of South Australia, 1933-1968 |publisher=Association of Professional Historians |id=ISBN 0-646-29092-4
*cite book|last=Jaensch |first=Dean |year=1986 |title=The Flinders History of South Australia: Political History |publisher=Wakefield Press |id=ISBN 0-9492-6852-5
*cite book|last=Cockburn |first=Stewart |year=1991 |title=Playford: Benevolent Despot |publisher=Axiom Publishing |id=ISBN 0-9594-1644-7

External links

* [ Sir Thomas Playford, Playford Memorial Trust]
* [ Thomas Playford II, Parliament of South Australia]
* [ Thomas Playford IV, Parliament of South Australia]
* [ Playford, Thomas (1837–1915), Australian Dictionary of Biography]
* ['s.htm Playford's South Australia, Flinders Rangers Research]


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