Eddie Ward

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Eddie Ward bigraphy, stories - Australian politician

Eddie Ward : biography

7 March 1899 – 31 July 1963

Edward John "Eddie" Ward (7 March 189931 July 1963), Australian politician, was an Australian Labor Party member of the Australian House of Representatives for 32 years from 1931 until his death.

Born and raised in Darlington, Sydney, Ward spent time variously as a labourer, boilermaker, tarpaulin maker, tramways worker and prize boxer before his political career. Ward was first elected to the House of Representatives at a 1931 by-election for the seat of East Sydney in the midst of the Great Depression and the rise to prominence of Australian Labor Party New South Wales Premier Jack Lang, whose policies for dealing with the depression were considered radically left wing. Ward was a Lang supporter and gained notoriety soon after his election when Prime Minister and ALP leader James Scullin refused to allow Ward into the ALP caucus. In response, Lang and his supporters left the ALP to form the Lang Labor Party and voted with the opposition on a no-confidence motion to bring down the Scullin government.

Ward lost his seat later that year to the UAP at the federal election as the Labor vote was split between Ward and the official ALP candidate. As luck would have it, the sudden death of the newly elected East Sydney MP John Clasby before he even took his seat in parliament led to another by-election in early 1932, which Ward, again standing as a Lang Labor candidate, won.

Ward remained in Lang Labor until 1936, when he returned to the ALP. Nevertheless he would continue to have a prickly relationship with many of his Labor colleagues for the rest of his life.

One such issue that set Ward apart from his parliamentary colleagues was his opposition to any form of defence spending. During the 1936 budget debate, he argued that any funding earmarked for defence would be better spent on welfare and unemployment relief. In reference to a move to increase the size of the Royal Australian Navy, Ward said :

"I wonder if such vessels are really needed for the defence of Australia, or whether they are not required for the purpose of helping other peoples defend rich possessions in other parts of the world."

Although in retrospect, Ward’s opposition to defence spending appears foolhardy in view of what would occur in the following years, his stance did reflect the thinking of many Australians at the time.

While in opposition during the early years of World War II, Ward was leaked evidence of the ‘Brisbane Line’ plan, the Menzies government’s decision that, in the event of enemy invasion, Australia would have been defended by the concentration of Australian military forces on a line drawn from Brisbane to Adelaide, meaning that large tracts of Australia would have been abandoned to the Japanese. In 1941, Ward entered the ministry of new Prime Minister John Curtin.

Ward served as Minister for Labour and National Service before being moved to Minister for Transport and Minister for External Territories in 1943, considered a demotion — Curtin pointed out that "the Army had the Transport and the Japs [Japanese] had the External Territories", leaving Ward with little to administer.

Following the death of Curtin in 1945, Ward nominated for leadership of the Labor Party, which would have resulted in him becoming Prime Minister, but lost to Ben Chifley. Ward would continue to harbour leadership aspirations throughout the rest of his career. Rarely, if ever, did he have a friendly working relationship with any ALP leader.

After World War II, Ward remained in the spotlight. He vigorously opposed the Bretton Woods system and Australia joining the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction (later one of five institutions in the World Bank Group), because he believed international financiers were responsible for the Depression in Australia during the 1930s. Ward argued that signing Bretton Woods would "enthrone a World Dictatorship of private finance, more complete and terrible than any Hitlerite dream"; destroy Australian democracy; pervert and paganise Christian ideals; and endanger world peace. It was outbursts like these that would continue to stymie his leadership ambitions within the Labor Party.