30 May, 2018

Sir Henry Gullett


Sir Henry Somer Gullett was an Australian politician who served as a member of the House of Representatives from 1925 until his death in the 1940 Canberra air disaster. He was a minister in the governments of Stanley Bruce, Joseph Lyons, Earle Page, and Robert Menzies, including as Minister for External Affairs under Menzies.

Gullett was born at Toolamba West, Victoria and educated at state schools, but left school at twelve on the death of his father. He began writing for newspapers. In 1908 he travelled to London as a journalist and in 1914 published a handbook on Australian rural life, The Opportunity in Australia to promote emigration to Australia.

In 1915, Gullett became an official Australian correspondent on the Western Front. In July 1916, he joined the first Australian Imperial Force (AIF) as a gunner. From early 1917 he worked with Charles Bean in collecting war records and later with the AIF as a war correspondent in Palestine. In 1919, he was briefly director of the Australian War Museum. He started writing volume VII of The Official History of Australia in the War of 1914–1918, covering the Sinai and Palestine Campaign, which he completed in 1922. In 1920, Billy Hughes appointed him head of the Australian Immigration Bureau, but he resigned in February 1922 over disagreements in relation to immigration policy and returned to journalism.

Gullett failed to win a seat at the 1922 election, but he won the seat of Division of Henty for the Nationalist Party in 1925 election and held it for the rest of his life. He was Minister for Trade and Customs from November 1928 in the third Bruce Ministry until its fall in October 1929. On the 1931 election of the United Australia Party government, he was again Minister for Trade and Customs and attended the British Empire Economic Conference in Ottawa, which attempted to establish Imperial Preference, a system of tariff concession within the British Empire. As a result, he was made Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George in January 1933, but he resigned as minister on the same month on health grounds. In October 1934, he became minister without portfolio, with responsibility for trade treaties, in the second Lyons Ministry and he negotiated several trade agreements. He resigned in March 1937 over disagreements with Cabinet over trade policy.

In April 1939, Gullett became Minister for External Affairs in the first Menzies Ministry and Minister for Information from September 1939. However, when Robert Menzies formed a coalition with the Country Party in March 1940, he was moved to Vice-President of the Executive Council, and Minister in charge of Scientific and Industrial Research. He was killed in the Canberra air disaster in August 1940.

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