Birthday: August 5, 1908
Died At Age: 59
Sun Sign: Leo
Born in: Stanmore
Famous as: Former Prime Minister of Australia
political ideology: Political party - Liberal Party of Australia(after 1945), United Australia Party (before 1945)
Spouse/Ex-: Zara Bate
children: Andrew Holt, Nicholas Holt, Sam Holt
Died on: December 17, 1967
place of death: Point Nepean
Cause of Death: Drowning
education: Wesley College, 1930 - University of Melbourne
Who was Harold Holt?
Harold Holt was the 17th Prime Minister of Australia. Before becoming the Prime Minister in 1966, he had been a MP for 31 years—the longest wait for any Australian Prime Minister. Born in Stanmore, New South Wales, he had a difficult childhood. His parents divorced when he was 10 and his mother died, when he was 16. Due to his parent’s divorce and his mother’s early death, he grew up as a lonely and insecure child. He won a scholarship to Queen’s College at the University of Melbourne and in college, he excelled in multiple fields including cricket, football and debating. His first love, Viola Thring abandoned him for his father. Harold then graduated with a law degree but due to Great Depression, he was unable to find employment. His father wanted him to study further in England but the worsening economy stole this opportunity from him. In the early 1930s, he unsuccessfully contested a couple of times in the federal elections before finally succeeding in the 1935 by-elections. When Robert Menzies became the Prime Minister, he promoted Harold to a Minister without a portfolio and became Harold's mentor. From this point, he patiently climbed up the political ladder and became the Prime Minister himself. But here too, destiny played spoil-sport and soon he was severely criticized on a number of matters by his own party members. In the first year of his tenure, he went swimming with his friends and never came back. Even one of the largest search-operation in Australian history couldn't find him or his body
Childhood & Early Life
Harold Edward Holt was born on August 5, 1908 at Stanmore, New South Wales to Thomas James Holt and Olive May. He had a younger brother named Cliff born in 1910. His parents divorced when he was 10.
Holt began his education at Randwick Public School and studied briefly at Abbotsholme, Killara. When he turned 11, both the brothers were sent to Wesley Preparatory School, Melbourne. Harold won several awards for sports, character and leadership there.
After completing his schooling, Harold won a scholarship to Queen's College at the University of Melbourne and began his law degree in 1927. He excelled in cricket, football and became the president of the Sports and Social Club and the Law Student's Society.
He graduated in 1930 and was admitted to the Victorian Bar on November 10, 1932. Due to the Great Depression he was unable to find work as a barrister and hence started working as a solicitor in 1933.
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With a growing interest in politics, Harold Holt joined the Prahran branch of the 'United Australia Party'(UAP) in 1933 and unsuccessfully contested against former Prime Minister James Scullin for the Labor seat of Yarra in the federal elections.
In March 1935, he contested for the Victorian state Labor seat of Clifton Hill and lost. In August the same year, he won the by-election from Fawkner and became one of Australia's youngest-ever MPs. He held the seat till 1949.
In 1939, his mentor Robert Menzies became the Prime Minister and employed him as a Minister without Portfolio. Holt assisted the Minister for Supply and Development.
In October 1939, he became the Minister in Charge of Scientific and Industrial Research and for a brief period from November to December 1939, he was Acting Minister for Air and Civil Aviation.
In May 1940, he joined the Second Australian Imperial Force as a gunner, without resigning from his seat. But after the death of three Cabinet ministers in an air crash, few months later, Prime Minister Menzies recalled Holt from the Army. Holt was initially appointed as Minister without Portfolio and in October 1940, he was appointed as Minister for Labour and National Service.
In August 1941, Menzies had to resign following a front-bench revolt. Surprisingly, Holt was amongst those who withdrew their support. After two months, UAP was ousted by a 'no-confidence' vote. The party officially disintegrated in 1944.
In 1945, Menzies formed a new party called the 'Liberal Party of Australia' in coalition with the Country Party. Harold was one of the first members to join the party's Prahran branch and became the principal and outspoken champion of the anti-socialist cause.
The coalition came into power in 1949 and Harold was appointed as ‘Minister for Labour and National Service' (1949 –1958) and ‘Minister for Immigration' (1949 –1956) portfolio.
He was appointed as a Privy Counsellor in 1953 and became the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party and Leader of the House, in 1956.
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In 1958, he became the Treasurer and delivered his first budget in 1959. He established the Reserve Bank of Australia and planned for the introduction of decimal currency.
In 1960, he introduced a mini-budget to slow consumption, control inflation and reduce the deficit. The step back-fired, as economy drove into recession, stock market slumped, and unemployment rose to a 30-year high.
The coalition government was saved by a narrow win of Liberal Billy Sneeden in Bruce, in the 1961 election.
Menzies retired in 1966 and Harold became the elected leader of the Liberal Party, thus becoming the PM on Australia Day, i.e. January 26.
Holt's tenure came at the worst possible time. As the 'Cold-war' was at its peak and global political, commercial and military alignments were being re-sketched.
During Holt’s government tenure the 1967 referendum was carried out, in which an overwhelming majority of Australians voted in favour of giving the Commonwealth power to legislate specifically for indigenous Australians and to include them in the Commonwealth census.
In 1967, Holt government broke away from precedence and took the historic decision not to depreciate the Australian dollar in line with Britain's depreciation of the pound sterling.
In 1941, as Minister for Labour and National Service, Holt got the Child Endowment Act passed.
During his tenure as Prime Minister, Harold Holt did two path breaking works. Firstly, he carried out 1967 referendum, and secondly, he did not depreciate the Australian dollar in line with Britain's depreciation of the pound sterling, as was the practice earlier.
Personal Life & Legacy
Harold Holt dated Viola Thring, who was the daughter of his father's business partner. Eventually, she married his divorced father and became Harold's step-mother.
Holt dated Zara Kate Dickins during his university days. After they broke-up in 1934 she travelled to London, married a British Army Officer in March 1935 and had three boys. Her marriage ended soon and she married Harold in 1946 and he adopted the three boys.
In 1954, he was named one of Australia's six best-dressed men