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Commonwealth Government Records about the Northern Territory

5 Post-War Growth and Development

Image 15: Cecil Lambert, Secretary of the Department of Territories from 1951 to 1964, c.1964.

Image 15: Cecil Lambert, Secretary of the Department of Territories from 1951 to 1964, c.1964.
NAA: A8947, 41
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In December 1949 the Menzies Liberal Government was elected, and from 1951 three new Commonwealth principals were involved with the administration of the Northern Territory. A new Minister was appointed to head the new Department of Territories: Paul Hasluck. He would ultimately be the Territory's longest serving Minister. Donovan wrote that under Hasluck's influence 'post­war development took on a sense of sustained purpose which had been absent before'.1

There was a new Administrator in Frank Wise, the leader of the Western Australian Labor opposition, and a former State premier. At that time rumours were circulating that the current Administrator, Arthur Driver, was to be replaced. Wise passionately wanted the position, and despite the fact that a Liberal government was in office in Canberra, wrote a personal letter to Hasluck in which he said, 'The ambition of a lifetime has been, and still is, to have the administrative responsibility of the parts of Australia which, though empty, are not destined to remain empty'.2 Hasluck recorded in his memoirs that he discussed the issue with Prime Minister Menzies. They both agreed that Wise was a good candidate, and Menzies undertook to support his appointment in Cabinet.3

Cabinet approved Wise's appointment on 19 June 1951, and he held the position until 1956.4 When the appointment was announced, the Melbourne Argus said that it was a 'sign of grace…it is recognition accorded to the talents and merit of an individual, giving the latter an opportunity to do for the benefit of all something that he has it in him to do well. And Mr Wise is such an individual…he is the right man for this big job'.5

There was also a new Secretary in Cecil Lambert appointed to head the Department of Territories. Lambert had previously held appointments in the administration of rural and regional Australia, and had most recently served with the Directorate of Rural Development. He remained as Secretary until 1964.

Hasluck, Wise and Lambert would preside over a period of substantial change and development within the Territory.


Chapter notes | All notes

1 P F Donovan, At the Other End of Australia: The Commonwealth and the Northern Territory, 1911–1978 (Brisbane,1984), p. 129.

2 NLA: MS5274, 17, 27 May 1951.

3 NLA: MS5274, box 38, 'Speeches – The Northern Territory'.

4 NAA: A4909, 28, Administrator of Northern Territory, 19 June 1951.

5 Melbourne Argus, 28 June 1951, p. 2.


Chapter 5
Post-War Growth and Development