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David Fairbairn (politician)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sir David Fairbairn

David Fairbairn 1969.jpg
Minister for Defence
In office
13 August 1971 – 5 December 1972
Prime MinisterWilliam McMahon
Preceded byJohn Gorton
Succeeded byLance Barnard
Minister for Education and Science
In office
22 March 1971 – 20 August 1971
Prime MinisterWilliam McMahon
Preceded byNigel Bowen
Succeeded byMalcolm Fraser
Leader of the House
In office
26 January 1966 – 28 October 1966
LeaderHarold Holt
Preceded byHarold Holt
Succeeded byBilly Snedden
Minister for National Development
In office
10 June 1964 – 12 November 1969
Prime MinisterRobert Menzies
Harold Holt
John McEwen
John Gorton
Preceded byBill Spooner
Succeeded byReg Swartz
Minister for Air
In office
27 July 1962 – 10 June 1964
Prime MinisterRobert Menzies
Preceded byLes Bury
Succeeded byPeter Howson
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Farrer
In office
10 December 1949 – 11 November 1975
Preceded byNew seat
Succeeded byWal Fife
Personal details
Born(1917-03-03)3 March 1917
Claygate, Surrey, England
Died1 June 1994(1994-06-01) (aged 77)
Canberra, Australia
Political partyLiberal Party of Australia
RelationsGeorge Fairbairn (grandfather)
Edmund Jowett (grandfather)
James Fairbairn (uncle)
ChildrenThree daughters
Alma materUniversity of Cambridge
OccupationRAAF officer
Military service
Branch/serviceAustralian Army
Royal Australian Air Force
Years of service1939–1945
RankFlight Lieutenant
Unit21st Light Horse Riverina Regiment (1939–41)
No. 79 Squadron (1941–45)
Battles/warsWorld War II
AwardsKnight Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Distinguished Flying Cross

Sir David Eric Fairbairn, KBE, DFC (3 March 1917 – 1 June 1994) was an Australian politician. He was a member of the Liberal Party and served in the House of Representatives from 1949 to 1975. He held ministerial office as Minister for Air (1962–1964), National Development (1964–1969), Education and Science (1971), and Defence (1971–1972).

Early life

Fairbairn was born in Claygate, Surrey. His grandfathers both served in the Parliament of AustraliaSir George Fairbairn served in the House of Representatives seat of Fawkner from 1906–13 and in the Senate from 1917–23, and Edmund Jowett was the federal member for Grampians from 1917 to 1922. His uncle, James Fairbairn, was one of three ministers in the Menzies government who were killed in the 1940 Canberra air disaster.[1]

Fairbairn was educated at Geelong Grammar School and Jesus College, Cambridge. In 1939, he took control of Dunraven, a pastoral property at Woomargama, Riverina, New South Wales.

World War II

During World War II, he served in the 21st Light Horse Riverina Regiment from 1939 to 1941 and joined the Royal Australian Air Force in 1941. He served both in Britain, where he located the first V-1 flying bomb launching site, and in the New Guinea campaign. In 1945 he was badly wounded and discharged with the rank of Flight Lieutenant.[1] Fairbairn had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1944.

Political career

Fairbairn in 1961.
Fairbairn in 1961.

In the 1949 election, Fairbairn was elected to the House of Representatives as the federal member for Farrer. He was appointed Minister for the Air in 1962 in the ninth Menzies Ministry. In 1964, he became Minister for National Development. After the 1969 election, he unsuccessfully challenged Prime Minister John Gorton for the leadership (along with William McMahon), and then resigned from the ministry, saying: "I have given deep thought and consideration to this decision. I have made it reluctantly. My sole concern in coming to it is the future of the Liberal Party, the Government and the Nation." According to Ian Sinclair, he was opposed to Gorton's centralism and in particular, his attempt to claim of sovereignty over Australia's territorial waters and continental shelf for the Commonwealth.[2]

Fairbairn became Minister for Education and Science in March 1971 in the McMahon Ministry and Minister for Defence from August 1971 to the government's defeat in 1972 election. He retired from Parliament at the 1975 election.[1]

From 1977 to 1980, Fairbairn was Australia's Ambassador to the Netherlands.[3][4] Media reported that the posting "deeply perturbed" staff of the Department of Foreign Affairs, which came at a time when the department was being forced to reduce its overseas representation significantly.[5]

Fairbairn died in Woden Valley Hospital in Canberra on 1 June 1994, survived by his wife, Ruth and three daughters.[6][7]


Fairbairn was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross in 1944,[8] and made a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1977.[9]


  1. ^ a b c Howe, Brian (6 June 1994). "Condolences: Fairbairn, Hon. Sir David Eric, KBE DFC". Hansard. Parliament of Australia. Retrieved 23 October 2008.
  2. ^ Sinclair, Ian (6 June 1994). "Condolences: Fairbairn, Hon. Sir David Eric, KBE DFC". Hansard. Parliament of Australia. Retrieved 23 October 2008.
  3. ^ "Netherlands envoy posted to Geneva". The Canberra Times. 5 January 1977. p. 8.
  4. ^ "Staff of embassy gets involved". The Canberra Times. 27 April 1980. p. 16.
  5. ^ Juddery, Bruce (18 December 1976). "Posting upsets staff". The Canberra Times. p. 7.
  6. ^ Fischer, Tim (6 June 1994). "Condolences: Fairbairn, Hon. Sir David Eric, KBE DFC". Hansard. Parliament of Australia. Retrieved 19 October 2007.
  7. ^ Downer, Alexander (6 June 1994). "Condolences: Fairbairn, Hon. Sir David Eric, KBE DFC". Hansard. Parliament of Australia. Retrieved 23 October 2008.
  8. ^ "Fairbairn, David Eric". It's an Honour. Government of Australia. Retrieved 19 October 2007.
  9. ^ "Fairbairn, David Eric". It's an Honour. Government of Australia. Retrieved 19 October 2007.
Political offices
Preceded by
Les Bury
Minister for the Air
Succeeded by
Peter Howson
Preceded by
Bill Spooner
Minister for National Development
Succeeded by
Reginald Swartz
Preceded by
Nigel Bowen
Minister for Education and Science
Succeeded by
Malcolm Fraser
Preceded by
John Gorton
Minister for Defence
Succeeded by
Lance Barnard
Parliament of Australia
New division Member for Farrer
Succeeded by
Wal Fife
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Frederick Blakeney
Australian Ambassador to the Netherlands
Succeeded by
James Cumes
This page was last edited on 21 November 2020, at 15:06
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