Drummond's attempts to gain Commonwealth support for technical education may have failed, but by the middle of 1936 he could still look with some satisfaction on his ministerial efforts. In no case had his plans been completely successful, but he had made substantial progress. However, over the remainder of the decade his efforts would be increasingly overshadowed by the growing threat of war and by growing disunity within the Government parties. The first halted some of his programs, forcing him to adopt new priorities. The second increasingly hindered his efforts, and led finally to the Government's defeat.
During the coalition's first years, the UAP maintained its unity, and worked with the Country Party well enough. However, as we saw in Chapter seven, the UAP's decision to run candidates against Thorby and Thompson at the September 1934 Federal elections led to an outburst of inter-party feuding. Drummond, angry at the campaign against Thompson, attacked the UAP with singular venom. This led a number of UAP State parliamentarians to demand his dismissal. Following the Federal election there were moves to repair the breach between the two parties in New South Wales. Bruxner and Stevens negotiated agreements for the 1935 State election which not only said that sitting members from each party would be unopposed by the other, but also stated that future by-elections would be contested only by the party which had held the seat and required the party leaders to campaign against any members of their own party who broke the agreements.
These were amazing conditions for a Country Party that just three years before had contemplated government in its own right. They limited it to contesting Labor-held seats, and since Labor held just five seats outside Sydney and Newcastle this meant an absolute restriction on the growth of the party. There was no way that either Bruxner or Drummond of the past would have accepted such agreements, but now the need to maintain the Government overrode all other considerations. When the agreements were submitted to Central Council on 6 February 1935, they met immediate opposition. The Northern and Western Divisions, firmly under the control of the parliamentary leadership, had already approved the pact, but it was strongly opposed by Riverina. The Farmers and Settlers' Association delegates also opposed it. Bruxner was forced to threaten resignation to gain its acceptance: 'If he had made a misjudgment and was out of step with the Party, he would get out', he told them.
The unity moves had the desired effect, and the Government parties went seemingly united into the election of 11 May 1935. This gave Labor five more seats, but left the Government with an overwhelming majority. The tensions within the UAP now began to surface, as the large UAP backbench became restless. In addition to two ex-ministers (R.W.D. Weaver and J.R. Lee), resentful over their exclusion from the new ministry, the backbenchers included some like A.E. Reid who had not forgiven Bruxner for his 'socialistic' handling of metropolitan transport, as well as those who felt that their ministerial preferment was blocked by the presence of Country Party ministers. Such a backbench would have been difficult to control in any case, for there was no way of meeting their grievances. The UAP could not govern without the Country Party, nor could Stevens split the backbenchers via selected ministerial appointments. At the same time, Bertram Stevens' personality added to his Government's problems.
Stevens had many strengths. 'He was a man of tremendous energy, amazing energy', Drummond said later. 'He could work almost day and night and seemed never to flag'. Since this energy was combined with an eye for detail, a good memory and an unrivalled knowledge of the State's finance, it made Stevens a formidable figure in debate. But there were also weaknesses. Stevens had risen to prominence through the public service, and did not fully understand either the political system or his colleagues. Drummond, who liked and admired him, nevertheless felt that he had over-much vanity, a vanity that ultimately led him into errors of personal judgement that would destroy him. Certainly many of his colleagues resented his priggish and self-righteous manner and his growing reliance on the strength and loyalty of the Country Party.
The dissidents made their first move in the new year. In March 1936 Stevens went overseas, leaving Bruxner as acting-Premier. Preliminary skirmishes broke out immediately, but it was Cabinet's decision to send Drummond overseas that triggered the first major outbreak. The New Education Fellowship was to hold its Seventh World Conference at Cheltenham in England from 31 July to 14 August 1936. It was a major conference - 2000 delegates were expected to attend - and there was also the possibility that the Fellowship might hold a Conference in Australia the following year. A few days before Stevens left, Cabinet considered the matter and decided Drummond should attend.
As news of Cabinet's decision spread, it seems to have met increasing opposition. The dissidents took advantage of this. On 20 May, Weaver moved an urgency motion condemning the trip as an unwarranted and unjustified expenditure of public money. He stressed that he had no personal animosity towards Drummond. 'I have not been a member of Cabinet', he told the House, 'without realising quite clearly the earnestness of the Minister of Education in the administration of his department'. It was the principle that was important. If someone had to go abroad it should be permanent officer, not a minister. Such an officer could remain in the service, and his trip would be of continuing benefit. But a minister was here today, gone tomorrow.
As Acting-Premier Bruxner rose to defend the trip, stressing its importance and the contribution Drummond could make. However, it was clear from the beginning that Drummond's trip was not the real issue; what was at issue was the dissidents' accumulated resentments. Weaver waxed sarcastic: the Conference was on the new freedom (its official title was 'Education and a Free Society'), he told them. Well, the Minister could find out about this by staying home. There were many who could enlighten him. Had not he (Weaver) himself been booted out by Cabinet into a new freedom?
Weaver was sarcastic, but he did limit himself largely to the question in hand. Later speakers were less restrained. Lee, in particular, attacked the Country Party directly. For the Labor opposition it was a heaven-sent opportunity: they supported Weaver's motion happily, adding their attacks to those coming from the Government's own supporters. An initial attempt to gag the debate failed, and the motion itself was finally just defeated, forty-one votes to thirty-eight.
The trouble within the Government continued over coming months, before dying down for a period. However, for David Drummond his immediate worries were over. With the defeat of the motion his way was clear: on 6 June 1936 he and his eldest daughter Edna - he was paying her way, taking her instead of an official secretary - sailed for Europe.
The voyage was the first extended break Drummond had had since entering politics, and gave him precious time in which to relax. He and Edna enjoyed the trip, stopping briefly at Singapore and in Egypt where Will Drummond had trained twenty years before. At Lisbon, the last port before Portsmouth, they received a first forcible reminder of the gap between peaceful Australia and the old world, for there the ship was joined by refugees from the Spanish Civil War.
Drummond's first duty in Europe was to attend the new Education Fellowship Conference which opened at Cheltenham in Gloucestershire on 31 July 1936. Drummond seems to have enjoyed the Conference. He was invited to attend the meetings of the Fellowship's Council that were planning the proposed Australian Conference, and was thus able to brief the Council on the attitudes of the various Australian governments, assuring them that they would receive a cordial welcome. He attended not only the formal sessions but also the informal meetings and social functions that formed an important part of Conference life. To Drummond, the informal side was particularly important, for it allowed him to meet educationists from all over the world.
Following the Conference Drummond turned to the second part of his program, to find out as much as he could about overseas practices in the areas covered by his portfolio. Before leaving Australia he had set himself detailed terms of reference, including school leaving ages, education of the unemployed, library organisation, organisation and methods in technical education, the working of borstal institutions, and aviation, with particular reference to the coordination of aviation training with the requirements of civil aviation and defence. The inclusion of this last item was a sign of an important new interest for Drummond.
Interest in aviation, and more particularly aviation in relation to defence, had been growing in Australia for some time. During the Depression, defence spending had been cut heavily, and by 1933 the Australian defence system had reached its lowest point for twenty years. The airforce in particular was reduced: it had an approved establishment of less than 1000 officers and men plus a Citizen Airforce of 300, and its twenty-eight front line aircraft were primitive; these, Charles Hardy said, would be 'about as effective as a box of crazy kites bought in a toy shop.' From 1933 interest in defence, and with it Government spending, began to grow.
Drummond shared this growing interest. As a first step, he asked his Department to carry out a survey into existing provisions for the training of students in aviation. This revealed that only fifty aircraft mechanics and ten engineers were being trained in New South Wales, while the equipment used to train them was limited and outdated. Drummond then saw Stevens to tell him that they did not have 'a starter's chance' of doing anything for under 20,000 pounds. Stevens felt that aviation was largely a Commonwealth matter, and Drummond therefore approached the Commonwealth Government for funds, but without success. In the face of this impasse, Drummond resorted to his familiar technique. Using a deputation from the Australian Air League (which had come to see him to ask for assistance to aviation) as an excuse, on 24 April 1936 he established a committee to investigate aviation needs.
This committee had not yet reported when Drummond went overseas in June, but he still set aviation training and, in particular, the way in which training for commercial aviation could be linked with defence as a major term of reference. However, for political reasons he did not make this objective public. Despite the growing interest in defence matters, there was still (in Drummond's words) 'a phobia against anything providing for defence'. The Labor Party was generally opposed to increased defence spending, as were many in the UAP.
Following the completion of the New Education Fellowship Conference, Drummond made aviation his first priority. Unfortunately, his efforts here were blocked; 'it was quite obvious to me that somebody had been moving adversely against me, writing me down because I could get nowhere'. In Drummond's view, his failure here flowed from the New South Wales controversy over his trip, although he did not explain exactly what happened. In the circumstances there was no point wasting further time in London, so on 16 August the Drummonds left for the continent.
It was a successful if whirlwind trip. Over the next four weeks Drummond visited forty-one educational, trade and welfare institutions in six countries, observing and asking questions; 'by being a very simple type of person I learned a very great deal', he later recalled. He found the Germans particularly helpful, and Germany itself impressive, but it was a depressing visit. The 1936 Olympics had been in progress - the Drummonds arrived in Berlin the day after they finished - and German nationalism was much in evidence. They saw regular troop movements, and were also taken to watch young unemployed men - Drummond had some doubts about the 'unemployed' part - being trained as glider pilots. Drummond was impressed, but when he later followed up the issue in Britain and the United States he was assured that gliding training was of limited use in training for powered flight; the United States' attitude was that gliding was largely 'an amusement of the wealthy.' Drummond retained doubts: it seemed to him that in such schools boys were 'being taught sound principles of aircraft mechanics and interest also in aviation.'
The Drummonds returned to London on 13 September. On the way they stopped at the Villers Bretonneux war cemetery: there the quiet graves of one generation of Australians (including Morris Drummond) killed in a European war stood as a reminder of the horrors that seemed to be coming.
Drummond was determined this time that he would not be blocked. He went to the Australian High Commissioner, S.M. Bruce, and bluntly told him of his troubles. Bruce promised to attend to the problem, and did so with speed: the next day the Director of Civil Aviation rang Drummond and asked him where they could meet. When Drummond said that he would meet him, the Director replied, 'No, you nominate the place.' Drummond needed this cooperation, for he now had only a week left in Britain; the arrangements for the US and Canadian leg of the trip had been set and could not be varied. Over the remaining week he visited as widely as he could and, with full cooperation now laid on, accumulated an immense amount of information. Despite the pressure, he and Edna found time to visit the Scottish branch of their family: Morris and Will had re-established contact with them during the war, and now the links were further strengthened.
From Britain the Drummonds travelled to North America. Again Drummond saw as much as he could, visiting thirty-seven institutions in thirteen Canadian and United States cities. In Canada, he and Edna had a private lunch with the Governor-General, Lord Tweedsmuir, who, as the novelist John Buchan, had done so much to foster the Round Table's ideals. Of particular importance to his portfolio were his discussions with Dr. F.P. Keppel and his staff of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, a charitable foundation whose donations had played and would continue to play an important part in the development of educational and cultural activities in the British dominions including Australia.
From North America, the Drummonds returned to Australia, arriving in Sydney on 11 December 1936. The opposition to his trip had made Drummond sensitive to the charge that this type of ministerial visit was a waste of public money. A first draft of his trip report, typed by Edna, was ready within three weeks of their return, and the final draft was then published in the new year. It was a substantial document, eighty-four printed pages, containing dozens of recommendations. These cannot be discussed in detail here, but some of the main recommendations should be mentioned because of their importance for Drummond's actions over the remainder of his term.
In his remarks on the Cheltenham Conference, and in his final conclusion, Drummond stressed the need for Australian educationists to travel overseas in order to overcome Australia's isolation from the main currents of international thought. 'Education, to be an effective instrument of social welfare and national wealth and progress must be a living thing, responsive to the growing needs of young nations', he wrote in his final paragraph. 'In my opinion, this result cannot be achieved except by a policy which makes possible comparative assessment through personal visits overseas.' The prominence placed on the value of overseas travel was no doubt influenced by the circumstances surrounding his own trip, but it was nevertheless a deeply-held view, and one he did something about. In 1937 Drummond prepared a Cabinet submission seeking Cabinet's approval for the introduction of a scheme of financial assistance for Education Department officers travelling overseas on worthwhile purposes. In May 1938 Cabinet accepted the proposals, introducing them on a service-wide basis.
Turning now to the education system itself, Drummond concluded that the primary and secondary divisions compared well with the overseas examples he had seen. The main difference in the secondary area lay in the rigidity of the New South Wales external examinations. However, the changes visualised in the New South Wales Act introduced before his departure overseas would bring New South Wales largely into line with overseas developments. The biggest weakness he saw in the New South Wales system, and one that was unacceptable in a comparatively undeveloped State, was the failure to provide adequate playing fields and sports grounds.
Drummond devoted much space to a discussion of school leaving ages. He pointed out that most overseas countries were in advance of New South Wales in this area. However, he also pointed out that it was going to cost 900,000 pounds in the first year to increase the compulsory leaving age just to 15. Excluding this cost, he already needed to find 2.4 million pounds to bring Departmental facilities up-to-date. He therefore concluded that 'it would not be in the interest of the State to consider raising the compulsory school age to fifteen years, until the existing arrears, in accommodation and equipment have been overtaken.' It would be 1940 before Drummond felt able to move in this area. In that year he introduced the Youth Welfare Act, which provided for the progressive extension of the school leaving age.
While Drummond concluded that New South Wales primary and secondary education generally compared well with overseas examples, he found the opposite to be true for technical education. 'In this section', he reported, 'the facilities provided in New South Wales are not comparable even to the average elsewhere'. To overcome this problem he made a considerable number of specific recommendations covering all aspects of technical education.
Drummond's attempts to reform technical education became one of his major pre-occupations, and will be looked at in some detail later in this chapter. In the meantime, upon his return Drummond recommenced work on two major projects, both of which remain today as monuments to him: the New South Wales Public Library system and the University of New England.
In 1937 public library systems throughout Australia were woefully inadequate. The New South Wales system can be taken as typical, for it was certainly no worse and in some cases was better than those existing in the other states. There was one state library in Sydney, the Public Library of New South Wales, which was not in fact a public library in the normal sense of the word, but a reference library. This attempted to serve the whole state, despatching books direct to country readers, including the small country schools. Considering the size of its collections and the range of services provided, the Public Library was probably the worst housed of all the state libraries.
Outside the Public Library there were only two libraries which even began to approach the municipal libraries common in other countries, the Sydney Municipal Library which was funded by the City Council alone but which attempted to serve the whole metropolitan area, and the Broken Hill Municipal Library. Elsewhere the population was serviced only by commercial subscribing libraries or by libraries maintained by Mechanics' Institutes or Schools of Arts; these last provided limited collections to subscribers often more interested in the billiard-room than the library. The situation was worse for children: judged by overseas standards, there was not an acceptable children's lending library in the whole country. Beyond the problems of books and facilities was that of trained staff. Trained librarians were rare, and indeed in the medium size towns and suburbs, the School of Arts' librarians often acted as combination librarian, billiard marker and janitor.
Drummond became interested in the problems of the State library system during his first term. Early in that term he discovered that the Government made a grant of 6,500 pounds to support libraries other than the Public Library. However, he was astonished to discover that of this, 50 per cent was allocated immediately to the Sydney Mechanics' Institute, and a further 25 per cent to the Manly School of Arts, leaving only 25 per cent (of which Newcastle got half) to be distributed amongst Schools of Arts throughout the rest of the State. As a strong new stater this distribution struck Drummond as being 'unutterably unfair', and he determined to do something about it as soon as it was politically feasible. His opportunity came in 1929-30 when, under the growing influence of the Depression, the Treasury requested expenditure cuts. Drummond promptly cancelled the grant.
By this action, Drummond left the majority of the State's library system, imperfect as it may have been, without any form of Government support. His problem, then, was to find a new way to support and reshape the system, particularly in country districts. In this regard, Drummond was now convinced 'that unless you could tie the libraries in the country to the local government authorities... you'd get no vitality, no life, no real interest and the whole thing would be on an attenuated hand out.'
In 1934 the Carnegie Corporation appointed Ralph Munn, the Director of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburg, to carry out a survey of Australian and New Zealand libraries. For his Australian study, Munn was joined by Ernest R. Pitt, the Chief Librarian of the Public Library of Victoria. Their report, published in January 1935, was a devastating indictment of the library system throughout Australia. The problem had arisen, they suggested, because most Australians knew nothing about a modern library system. Their solution was a system of rate or tax supported public libraries.
The publication of the Munn-Pitt report provided Drummond with an opportunity to develop his plans. These involved a three-tiered library structure. At the apex would be the Public Library which would act as a central repository for reference material that was either rare or required on an irregular basis. Then there were to be regional libraries, which would hold relatively large book stocks, could borrow from the Public Library, and would on-lend as required to the smaller libraries. Finally, there would be local libraries. The Government would pay all the costs, as before, of the Public Library, would finance the regional library buildings and would subsidise the running costs of the regional and local libraries with local government providing the balance.
With a state election to be held on May 1935, Drummond was able to persuade the Government to accept his proposals in principle. In his policy speech the Premier announced that extensions would be carried out to the Public Library. He went on:
This is the first step in a scheme to bring proper library facilities to every important centre in the state. We propose to establish a system of regional libraries, based upon this extended public library system.
Following the elections, Drummond set out his proposals in a fourteen page minute, starting with the principle that the 'development of an adequate free library serving the people of N.S.W. is the natural corollary to the system of free and compulsory education'. However, no formal government action had been taken on his recommendations by the time he went overseas.
While Drummond was developing his plans, a new movement, The Free Library Movement, emerged dedicated to the free library cause. Over the next three years, the Movement mounted a sustained campaign (funded in part by a grant of 25,000 dollars from the Carnegie Corporation to the Australian Council For Educational Research) that grew in intensity and sophistication. An office was opened in Sydney, branches were formed in various parts of New South Wales, a press propaganda campaign was organised, a series of booklets was printed supporting the cause, and sister organisations were formed in Victoria, Tasmania and Queensland.
Drummond gave active support to the growing Movement. His trip report provided ready ammunition to free library campaigners. He was guest speaker at the Movement's second general meeting in March 1937. In April he spoke at a public meeting in Wagga called to form a branch of the Movement; the first president was the Major, Drummond's old friend H.E. Gissing. Then in August he spoke to the Annual Conference of the Federation of Parents and Citizens' Association of N.S.W. at Goulburn. Other Government ministers joined Drummond in his campaign: E.S. Spooner, the Minister for Works and Local Government, told the 28th Annual Conference of the Association of Local Government Clerks that the establishment of good libraries would be a municipal service of the very highest order.
With the Free Library campaign well underway, Drummond's problem was to find a way to capitalize upon it. In June 1937 he announced the appointment of a Library Advisory Committee to inquire into the library system, the means by which it might be extended, and to draft any necessary legislation. The new Committee's report was effectively determined in advance. Its chairman was W.H. Ifould, the Principal Librarian at the Public Library. As with many of his senior officers, the working relationship between Drummond and William Ifould was extremely close. Ifould, who had been given copies of Drummond's papers prior to his appointment, accepted Drummond's general approach, and the two men collaborated in the Committee's appointment. Again, those selected could be expected to favour Drummond's position. Alek Hicks (who was vice president of the Free Library Movement) once more represented the Departmental interest, while of the remaining five members four were connected with the Movement.
While the Committee studied the general problem, Drummond took preliminary steps towards the solution of a related problem, the lack of school libraries and of trained school librarians. Early in 1938 the State Library ran a vacation course in librarianship for forty country school teachers. This was followed in February by a special course for eleven newly graduated teachers who were then appointed to schools as teacher librarians with special authority to introduce modern library methods.
In December 1938 Drummond released the report of the Library Advisory Committee. Its recommendations followed the approach set out in the Pitt-Munn report and developed in Drummond's memorandum. It recommended that a system of shire and municipal libraries should be established, that these libraries should be subsidised by the state, that regional libraries should be introduced, and that the State Library building should be completed as soon as possible. To supervise the new system, the Committee recommended that a Library Board should be created. The Report was an immediate best seller, with a print-run of over 5000 just to meet pre-publication demand. On 18 January 1939 Cabinet approved the Report's recommendations and decided to introduce legislation to give effect to them; this legislation, duly passed later in the year, was the first such legislation in Australia: it was quickly followed by similar Acts in other states. Cabinet also decided to establish immediately a training school for librarians.
With the passage of the legislation, responsibility for libraries passed to the Library Board and its new chairman, Geoff Remington. Their task was a substantial one, for they had to persuade local government to adopt the program. 'They worked extremely hard', Drummond later recalled, 'to get this sold to the local government people'. These efforts were largely successful. However, the Board - and Drummond - did suffer a major setback. The growing financial problems associated with the war led the Government to delay proclamation of part of the legislation. It was left to the new Labor Government to proclaim the remaining sections. Even then, part of Drummond's plan remained in limbo, for his proposed regional library network was not established.
The free library campaign was not Drummond's only success during the latter part of the thirties. In particular, he was able to fulfil another long-held Northern dream, the foundation of a Northern University. In retrospect, this was a remarkable achievement. The obstacles to the establishment of a University in a small country city - Armidale's population was then about 7000 were immense. But for once timing worked in Drummond's favour, for the decision to establish the New England University College was taken in that brief period between the ending of the worst of the Depression and the onset of war. But this timing was possible only because of previous campaigns by Drummond and the other Northerners.
In essence, the University campaign drew together two streams from Drummond's past. He was able once again to draw active support for his plans from his wide circle of friends and associates in Sydney and the North. In addition, the separatist campaigns of the twenties and thirties provided the basic framework within which the University campaign operated. The establishment of the Armidale Teachers College, one of the tangible results of the first wave of separatist agitation, was a necessary precondition for the establishment of the new University College. Not only had it strengthened Armidale's position for the embryo College. Apart from the establishment of the Teachers' College, the separatist campaigns of the twenties and thirties had formed links and established common ideas among the Northern leaders, links and ideas which were now drawn upon by the University movement. The separatist movement was in limbo during the later stages of the university campaign, but its influence was pervasive throughout: the separatists may have failed in their main efforts, but in the New England University College they left a tangible monument.
As described in Chapter five, the establishment of the Armidale Teachers' College had renewed interest in the establishment of a university in the city. With the onset of the Depression the campaign had lapsed, only to revive again after 1932. Between 1932 and 1934 there were discussions between Drummond and a group including C.B. Newling (the Principal of the Armidale Teachers College), Professor R.W. Hawken of the University of Queensland, Macdonald Holmes, Bishop Moyes, Roy Blake (the editor of the Armidale Express), Eustace Simpson (an Armidale solicitor), and two Armidale doctors, R.B. Austin and R.J. Jackson. It was C.B. Newling who provided the catalyst that turned these informal discussions into formal organisation. Faced with a Teachers' College largely empty of students, Newling suggested that the College should be used for university courses. One evening in July 1934 he, Moyes, Simpson, Jackson and Blake met in Drummond's Armidale home to discuss ways of giving effect to their plans. It was agreed that, as a first step, Drummond as local member should approach himself as Minister for Education to ask him to receive a deputation. Drummond promised to do his best to arrange the appointment, and the meeting broke up in an atmosphere of hilarity.
Following the meeting a new organisation, the Provisional Council for the Establishment of a University College in the North, was formed, and firm proposals were drawn up and circularised throughout the North. These contained one distinct feature: for the first time the proposed college was entitled the New England University College. In 1929 Drummond had referred to a University of Northern New South Wales but since then the separatists had formally adopted the name New England for the North. The new title for the College simply reflected this change.
On 11 August 1934 the promised meeting between the deputation and Drummond took place. The Provincial Council's attempts to gain wide support had been successful, for the deputation's members came from Armidale, Inverell, Quirindi, Tenterfield, Lismore, Scone and Moree. The main case was presented by Moyes, supported by a number of speakers including Ern Sommerlad, who acted as chairman. In response Drummond stressed again the need to raise finance: if they could assure him in six weeks that they had raised 10,000 pounds, then this would assist him in gaining Cabinet support. He also told them that Ifould had advised him that 2,000 pounds would be necessary to launch an efficient and sufficient library.
Drummond had not set the 10,000 pound target arbitrarily. His suggestion that a university college might be founded in Armidale had been received coldly by a Cabinet still concerned with the financial problems flowing from the Depression. He had therefore looked for an argument to buttress his case, and had found it in the provisions of the University and University Colleges Act 1900. This provided in part that if any church or body raised a minimum of 10,000 pounds and spent it on a university college, then the state would subsidise it pound for pound up to a maximum state contribution of 20,000 pounds. The Act did not apply exactly to the New England case, but it did provide Drummond with a valuable precedent.
With an appeal for funds underway, Drummond turned to the other steps necessary if the plan was to succeed. Since the proposed college was to be affiliated with Sydney University, that institution had to approve the plan, and Drummond therefore wrote to the University Senate to ask it to indicate its attitude. The Senate's approval could not be taken for granted. Drummond did have some supporters within the Senate: Robert Wallace, the Vice Chancellor, would support him, as would Armand Bland and Macdonald Holmes. But there was also opposition, particularly from within the University itself. The Senate did not respond immediately to Drummond's request probably, Drummond surmised, because it was awaiting the outcome of the State elections to be held during the first half of 1935. In the event, the elections returned the Stevens-Bruxner Government, and the Senate then decided in October 1935 that it would support the proposal, subject to certain conditions.
While not all the conditions were acceptable to the New Englanders, this was still an important step forward. Unfortunately, the Provisional Council was unable to take immediate advantage of it. Whatever the political reasons that had led Drummond to set the 10,000 pounds target, it was a very large sum for a voluntary organisation to raise in the depressed economic conditions of the time. Just as importantly, the Teacher's College had started to fill with students; by the end of 1935 the University College's proponents had neither a building nor even sufficient funds to finance the College's library.
In those cheerless months the dream seemed as far-off as ever. There had always been those within the North sceptical about the chances of success. Now doubts increased. Even Phillip Wright, normally such a strong supporter of New England causes and later a major benefactor to the University College, doubted the value of the project. At this blackest point, the actions of one man, Thomas Richmond Forster, saved the project.
In 1933 Forster's mother-in-law Sarah While had died, leaving vacant Booloominbah, the magnificent family home on the outskirts of Armidale. Forster now offered to purchase this and the surrounding part of approximately seventy hectares from the Estate and give it to the University of Sydney to act as headquarters for the University College. In March 1936, following an inspection of the property by a Sydney University team, Robert Wallace told Drummond that the estate 'would admirably serve the purposes of a University College', but doubted whether it would be wise for the University to accept Forster's offer since the University could not finance the College from its own funds. Drummond could not given any financial assurances, but promised that the matter would be brought before Cabinet. This he did on 3 April. Unfortunately, with the Premier overseas (Stevens had left in March for an official visit to England) Cabinet was loath to commit the Government to any major acts of policy, and therefore asked Drummond for further details. At this point, and therefore asked Drummond for further details. At this point it was fortunate for the College's protagonists that Forster (and the trustees of the White estate) were prepared to extend and re-extend Forster's option over the property, for considerable difficulties still lay ahead.
The continued failure of the University College Appeal had not gone unnoticed amongst Drummond's colleagues. Late in April 1936 one of the other ministers moved to have the item struck from the Cabinet list. 'I was thunderstruck', Drummond later wrote in A University is Born, 'realizing that if carried the news would get round and irremedial damage would be done to the cause'. The political situation was extremely delicate because of the growing tensions between the United Australia and United Country Parties. Bruxner, as acting Premier, was trying to hold the Government together and therefore could not intervene. Desperately Drummond used the Parliamentary device and talked out time. At 12.45pm he suggested to Cabinet that the decision was too important to be rushed, and gained an adjournment until after lunch.
With defeat staring him in the face, Drummond had an inspiration. he knew that G.F. Nott, one of Armidale's leading builders, was in town, and went straight to Nott's hotel to ask him for help. Nott did not argue; he immediately offered 500 pounds in cash and another 500 pounds in bricks. Armed with this offer, Drummond returned to the Cabinet meeting. When his colleagues suggested that they had now better settle the matter, Drummond broke in. He had, he told them, been able to raise 1000 pounds within fifteen minutes of leaving the room. If the Government would give a firm undertaking to go ahead then the people of the North would do the rest. Cabinet did not give a firm commitment, but the item remained on the agenda.
Between then and Drummond's return from overseas in December 1936, no further action was taken by the Government. Upon Drummond's return, Cabinet again considered the matter briefly, but decided that further discussions should be held with the University and other interests. However, for the first time there was an official ray of hope, for in asking Forster to again extend his offer, Bertram Stevens advised him that Ministers were generally favourable to the proposal.
During the first months of 1937 activity continued on two fronts. At the official level Alek Hicks, 'my [Drummond's] right hand man and counsellor through the entire proceedings in the Department', held discussions with T.H. Kelly, the Treasury Under-Secretary, on costings. These were not encouraging. 'I hope things will turn out a little better than they appear at present', Hicks wrote to Drummond at the end of February. 'T.H. Kelly appears anxious to do something - but he feels his responsibility as Controller of Accounts'. The problems at the official level made the results on the second front, the fund raising campaign, still more important. There, too, there were problems. Despite the continued efforts by the University College's supporters, including Robert Wallace who spent a week campaigning in the Armidale district, money came in slowly.
Late on the evening of 7 April 1937, Justice Halse Rogers (Deputy-Chancellor of Sydney University), Wallace, Stevens, Forster and Drummond met in the Premier's room to discuss the problems. Following extended discussion, Stevens suggested that as an interim scheme Booloominbah might be carried on as a university hostel with tutors. Forster, who had remained silent to that point, reacted immediately.
'Mr Premier', he said, 'the north is entitled to a University College with the two facilities of Arts and Science, and I will be satisfied with nothing less'.
Stevens, after thinking for a moment, then said if the 10,000 pounds was raised by 30 June he would engage, subject to the concurrence of Cabinet, to give the project full support and to arrange for the passage of the necessary legislation. If the money was not raised, then that was the end of the matter.
This set the University Movement a major challenge. It had taken nearly four years to raise just over 5,000 pounds, and now they had to raise a further 5,000 pounds in ten weeks. For a while the task seemed impossible, but then the money started to flow. At 3.30pm on 30 June 1937, Drummond received a telegram from Roy Blake: 'Delighted to inform you University College Fund fully subscribed - cheers.'
With the money now in hand, Drummond could turn his attention to the formal establishment of the University College. This involved a number of related steps. Formal Cabinet approval had to be obtained, and the necessary legislation passed. Then all the administrative steps, including the appointment of necessary staff, had to be put in place. The relationships between the new institution and the Armidale Teacher's College and Sydney University had to be defined. Finally, it was desirable to continue fund raising to give the College a better base.
In July Cabinet approved the formation of the College, with the necessary legislation being passed in December. By then, Dr. Edgar Booth had been appointed as the first Warden. With the academic year due to begin in March 1938, Booth had barely two months to recruit his staff and prepare the buildings for then and the students. In Drummond's view, only 'a man of his extraordinary energy, executive and organising ability could have succeeded, as he did'.
While Booth was organising the College, Drummond turned to the definition of the relationships between the new institution and the Armidale Teachers' College and University of Sydney. The relationship between the Teachers' and University Colleges was simple enough. In the earlier discussions the tie between the two institutions had been visualised as close, a view still strongly held within a section of the Education Department. Drummond had always had some reservations about linking the two institutions together, and these gradually hardened into a feeling that such a tie would be fatal to true university independence and not in the interests of the Teachers' College either. Apart from defining the respective roles of the two institutions in relation to common students, he therefore left it to Booth and Newling to work out the best relationship. This was a wise decision, for the two men worked well together.
The relationship between Sydney University and the University College was necessarily more difficult. Some of the senior staff of Sydney University were opposed to the idea of a country college and, if there had to be one, would not want to give it the autonomy Drummond considered desirable. Since Sydney University was an autonomous institution, Drummond's ability to intervene directly was limited. In the beginning the close relationship between Drummond and Robert Wallace, aided by Wallace's abilities as an academic politician and by Drummond's success in 1937 in persuading Cabinet to increase the University's annual endowment from 30,000 to 100,000 pounds, limited any problems. However, the relationship remained uneasy.
In addition to his other efforts, Drummond did his best to maintain the fund raising program. In September 1937 he persuaded William Dixson to give 2,500 pounds to establish a college library. Then, early in 1938, he had a further success, which added to the College's furnishings if not its funds, when he persuaded James McGregor (a trustee of the State Art Gallery) to give the College a number of paintings.
With the first lectures underway, the College was officially opened on 30 April 1938 by Lord Wakehurst. In his own speech, Drummond, after thanking all those who had worked for the dream, went on to outline his own Northern faith:
The future of this University, for such it is destined to become, is firmly based on the spirit of sacrifice, of unselfishness and desire for higher education to which I have already made reference. Situated in the centre of northern New South Wales, it is destined to become a factor in its cultural progress and material prosperity.
To all who are here gathered today, I appeal for a generous continuance of that spiritual and financial support, and for that unfaltering faith in the north which has carried us safely through all vicissitudes to date and which will enable us to surmount all obstacles in the future.
By these things we shall firmly establish a university not only in noble buildings worthy of its high purpose, but in the very hearts of our people.
This was a bold statement. The College's establishment was a major achievement, but for the present it was a University College in name only, with few students, staff or facilities.
Despite the problems the College did develop much as Drummond had forecast. Its establishment, combined with the progressive extension of Teachers' College scholarships, allowed Northern students to gain a tertiary education that might not otherwise have been open to them. The problems themselves created tight bonds between students and staff. Partially at least as a consequence of this, academic results at Armidale were notably better than at Sydney even though the students had, on average, lower Leaving Certificate passes. The very paucity of books and research material forced students and staff to turn of local topics. As a result, the College did indeed make a significant contribution to the cultural progress and material prosperity of the North.
As he had done with the Armidale Teacher's College, Drummond guarded his new baby jealously. During the second half of 1938 he and Wallace carefully selected the members of the College's Advisory Council. They needed to appoint sufficient Armidale members to allow for the proper functioning of committees and sub-committees, but Drummond also wanted to give the College the widest possible regional membership 'to give real meaning to the name of the University College of New England'. In the result members came from Upper Hunter, Lismore, Tenterfield, Armidale, Taree, Inverell, Casino, Tamworth, Glen Innes, Grafton and Gunnedah. The new members also brought with them useful media connections, for they had links with newspapers and/or radio in Armidale, Lismore, Tamworth and Grafton. Since Drummond was still on the Board of Northern Newspapers, which controlled the Inverell Times and Glen Innes Examiner, media coverage was almost complete. In addition, an attempt was made to get political balance, although this was more difficult since so many of the Northern activists were Country Party. However, W.H. Watson, a former Mayor of Armidale and veteran local Labor leader, was included.
The careful selection of the Council, and the Council's subsequent appointment of Earle Page as foundation chairman, gave the College strong friends. But this did not necessarily impress the academic staff at Sydney University when it came to questions concerning the University's relationship with the College. This was particularly so when, as in the case of honours courses in Armidale, the relationship involved the interrelated issues of academic standards and academic status. As early as February 1938, Drummond, in a letter headed 'Private, Personal and Unofficial', had written to Wallace stressing the need for the College to be able to offer honours courses. This became a major issue in March 1940 when an Armidale student, Keith Leopold, showed such proficiency in languages that his Sydney professor decided to transfer him to Sydney. In Drummond's words, 'the battle for our right to full and untrammelled development as a University College was immediately joined'. Drummond, joined by Sydney's Chancellor (Halse Rogers) and Wallace, supported the New England case, and in the end result an acceptable compromise was reached. Sydney got Leopold, subsequently Professor of German at the University of Queensland, and New England received its right to all future honours students.
During New England's first years, Drummond was able to follow up another of his interests. Despite the years which had passed since he left Maxwellton, he had retained his love of the land and his interest in farming and pastoral techniques. By 1937 he had become particularly interested in the problem of animal parasites on the Tablelands and in the relationship between the nutritional value of pasture, the condition of the sheep and the presence of parasites. In 1937 Drummond discussed the problem with Wallace and then, with the College's establishment, he took his interest a step further. A CSIRO officer, Ian Montgomery, had been posted to Armidale, working in conjunction with the College. Now Drummond tried to increase CSIRO's involvement, enlisting Ern Sommerlad to help him. Their efforts bore fruit with a nutrition expert joining Montgomery in 1939: over coming years the involvement of CSIRO with the College grew, assisted by a local willingness to offer tangible support. Phillip Wright gave the University a farm, Mary White gave land to increase its size, while the White family gave CSIRO a 2023 hectare property south of Armidale as a research station.
While Drummond's desire to increase research into the problems of the pastoral industry was part of his general concerns, from May 1939 he had a practical interest as well. In that month he purchased Forglen, a 991 hectare property twenty-seven kilometres east of Armidale. With Forglen he was able to carry out his own experiments, particularly into pasture improvement, following the example already set by Harold White and Phillip Wright. As always, Drummond wanted to spread what he had learnt; in 1950 the results of his experiments were summarised in a series of articles, his aim 'to stimulate interest and discussion on the value of pasture improvement to New England'.
In the short term, the purchase of Forglen severely strained the Drummond family's finances, leaving them heavily in debt. For Pearl, therefore, Forglen meant a return to the skimping and saving of their early years. But for David Drummond it was the achievement of another dream. As Mary Gilmore wrote to him in 1949:
That love of land, of the soil that next to water, or with it, gives us everything is as much of the spirit as anything the forgetful churches preach... I can understand that sense of something that lies beyond it all and needs no form to be itself, and which you feel between you and the breathing, breeding earth. I think religion came from the earth, not from the stars... so, David, I know what you feel for the earth you own, and which you have brought from the unformed to the informed - the informed of your own brain'.
On any analysis, Drummond could justly claim that his ministerial career in the period after his return to Australia in December 1936 was a success. The establishment of the New England University College in 1938, and the passage of the Library and Child Welfare Acts in 1939 were all major achievements. In addition, there were a number of smaller ones, such as the establishment of Farrer Agricultural High School near Tamworth in 1939, a school that Drummond hoped would act as a base for a Northern agricultural college similar to Hawkesbury.
But despite all these successes, the things that stand out to the later observer in the period between 1937 and 1942 are the troubles and failures. As the world alternately drifted and rushed towards war, so did the United Australia Party - United Country Party Government towards electoral disaster. For Drummond himself, the area of his portfolio to which he devoted most of his attention - technical education - was an area of, at best, partial success. And yet, in the grim early days of the war, his partial successes were perhaps his most important achievements.
In 1937 the Government still seemed secure. However, there were already signs that the United Country party was heading towards electoral trouble. The divisional organisation adopted at the time of the formation of the United Country Movement in 1932 delegated major responsibilities to the divisions. With the collapse of new state support during and immediately after the Nicholas Commission, the divisional structure began to collapse. Early in 1936 Victor Thompson - still loyal to the cause - suggested that the divisional structure should be abolished. In his view the self-government movements should never have merged with the Country Party. There should be, he suggested, 'no party flavour about this great national project'; by merging with the Country Party the movements had lost their force and would not regain it until they again became non-party.
In March 1936 the New England Division rejected a motion calling for the abolition of the divisions, but did advocate a general party conference to consider constitutional amendments. This was a sensible suggestion: apart from the need to reorganise the Party's organisation, there was also a pressing need to find a way to make constitutional change easier, for the Party was still saddled with the system introduced in the twenties whereby constitutional changes required a three-fifths majority vote at each of the Party, FSA and Graziers' Association Conferences. At the Central Council meeting in June 1936, Drummond suggested that the Party's constitution should be amended so as to allow the three executives to approve alterations. This proposal was ultimately adopted, but it left the organisational problems untouched.
In May 1937, following a bitter by-election campaign, the Party lost the Federal seat of Gwydir to Labor. At the Federal elections the following October the United Australia Party - Country Party Government was returned, but the Senate informal vote was high in country seats. Charles Hardy was one of the victims. Then in December the State party lost the seat of Corowa to an independent at another by-election.
The electoral agreement with the UAP added fuel to the growing discontent and disorganisation within the Party, for it prevented it contesting UAP held seats. The 1936 FSA conference reaffirmed the Association's (and Party's) traditional position that the Country Party should not enter into agreements which stopped it contesting seats. Bruxner was unmoved. While aware of the growing discontent, he believed that the agreement should be maintained for the sake of the Government. In February 1938 he asked Central Council to agree to its re-endorsement. Central Council was divided, but in the end gave Bruxner a blank cheque to do as he wished. The decision met with opposition. At Yass, Country Party supporters rejected it out-of-hand and announced their own candidate. As in 1935, Bruxner was forced to threaten resignation to bring them to heel.
Disenchantment was growing even in the Party's Northern heartland. For the moment, the separatist cause was dead, but the underlying grievances continued. In February 1938, 5000 people attended a public meeting at Glen Innes to renew the campaign for an east-west rail link. Bruxner angered the crowd by suggesting that better roads could serve the purpose of a railway. Reflecting this disenchantment, E.D. Ogilvie, a prominent Northern grazier, tried to oppose Bruxner's pre-selection arguing that the Country party had deserted country people. Ogilvie's nomination was rejected, an action defended by Colonel White on the grounds that the Party could not afford to finance two candidates. White's defence showed how far the Party had moved from its original platform, for as chairman at Drummond's 1920 pre-selection meeting he had refused to allow a pre-selection ballot to exclude candidates on the grounds that the Party was opposed to pre-selection.
Despite the problems, the State elections held in March 1938 saw the Government return and the Party hold its seats. The Labor Party was still to disorganised to mount an effective challenge. But it had been a warning. The Party had to rebuild its position or face defeat. However, in the absence of renewed separatist agitation this was not going to be easy, for it was the separatist cause that had first given the Party its strong Northern base and which had then allowed it in the thirties to broaden its base elsewhere in the State.
Drummond was aware of the weakness in the organisation and of the decline in popular support for the Party, but he probably did not realise the full extent of the problems facing them. Certainly, he took no action. From a Party viewpoint this was unfortunate. Drummond's emphasis on painstaking research, his ability to develop new ideas, and his own sense of purpose had helped give form and direction to the Party. Reflecting these things, with Buttenshaw's retirement at the 1938 elections, the Parliamentary Party elected him Deputy Leader.
Drummond's failure to give the Party a new lead partly reflected political staleness. But it also reflected a new an growing pre-occupation which directed his attention from internal political considerations. As mentioned earlier, Drummond returned from abroad convinced that war was inevitable and that education (and particularly technical education) would be crucial to the defence effort. He therefore renewed his campaign for increased education spending, arguing that this would strengthen 'the first line of defence - a well-educated and virile people capable of utilising the national resources.'
Drummond's trip report itself marked the start of his new campaign; of its eighty-four pages, thirty-one were devoted to technical education, with a further seventeen pages devoted specifically to aviation. This last section incorporated the report of the committee of inquiry Drummond had appointed before his departure overseas. The report painted a frightening picture. Quoting T.W. Leech of Sydney University, who had been seconded to help the committee, it suggested that for defence purposes Australia needed a minimum of 400 first line aircraft with a further 100 training machines. To construct and maintain such a fleet would require 4,000 mechanics and forty aeronautical engineers. However, as at 31 December 1935 there were only 333 aircraft registered in Australia, there were only 1099 pilots and only 956 aircraft mechanics. Even if aeronautical training was expanded immediately, it would take some years to train the necessary staff.
During 1937 and early 1938 Drummond's efforts in technical education met with some success. He was able to persuade Cabinet to increase spending on technical education from 230,943 pounds in 1936 to 450,376 in 1937, an increase of 95 per cent. Given the state's limited financial resources, this was an important achievement. But it was not sufficient to overcome the deficiencies in the technical education system, and Drummond therefore renewed his campaign for federal funding. In January 1938 he called for 'a commission of inquiry into every phase of Australian education'. Stressing the need for increased defence spending, he went on to argue that increased spending on education was an integral part of the nation's defence. This stance was supported by the Australian Teachers' Federation but ignored by the Federal Government. Drummond then lobbied his old friend Victor Thorby, now Deputy Leader of the Federal Country Party and Minister for Defence, arguing particularly for greater expenditure on aeronautical training. Thorby was sympathetic, but still nothing was done. In November Drummond repeated his claim that support of technical education could be related to defence needs, and this time drew a frosty response from the Commonwealth: it was but 'an old claim in new guise'; New South Wales should raise extra revenue by its own taxation.
The problem now facing Drummond was complex, for in the short term at least his attempts to gain Federal support were running against a number of streams in Australian thought. The events of the Spanish Civil War had divided Australians, revealing that the isolationist strain in Australians thought was still strong, as was the anti-war movement and opposition to increased defence spending. In the climate of the time, Drummond's praise of German efficiency - intended as a warning - led to him being labelled as a fascist, a labelling made all the easier because of his strongly expressed anti-communist views. But while this did not help Drummond's case, it is not enough to explain the failure of his efforts during 1938 to attract Federal support. The Lyons-Page Government was still temporizing on the international scene, and there was still great unwillingness to accept that war was inevitable, but nevertheless defence spending had begun to rise sharply. The estimates for 1937-38, released in August 1937, provided for defence spending of 11.5 million pounds, up 46 per cent from expenditure in 1936-37. As international tensions worsened during 1938, the Government announced further expenditure plans.
The key problem was that while Australia was re-arming, there was as yet not sense of extreme urgency, nor were adequate planning mechanisms yet in place. Consequently, the importance of Drummond's case - and as we shall see shortly, it was important - was simply not recognised. In addition, Thorby's own position in Cabinet was not strong. The Melbourne manufacturing and financial interests that had such a strong influence on the United Australia Party were still opposed to the Country Party, and Thorby came under continuing attack from Sir Keith Murdoch. Finally, in November 1938, Thorby was removed from Defence. Robert Menzies and Richard Casey lobbied for it, but it was finally given to Geoffrey Street, another member of the Melbourne establishment.
On the UAP side, the key influence was probably Menzies, the Attorney-General. Menzies saw himself and was seen by many others as a future Prime Minister. But to Drummond, who admired his brilliance, Menzies lacked integrity and sensitivity. He was too ready with the quick and superficial statement, too ready to attack others. As Attorney-General, Menzies adopted a very narrow view of the Commonwealth's powers. In his opinion the Commonwealth had no power to assist or subsidise education. Given this view, Lyons - who respected Menzies' opinion as a constitutional lawyer - was unlikely to back Drummond's plans in the absence of very pressing reasons so to do.
Drummond did not accept the Commonwealth's rejection, but in the short term he had to make do with what he could get from the State. And here conflicting demands were growing. Whatever doubts may still have existed in the minds of the Commonwealth Government, by the beginning of 1938 State Cabinet at least seems to have been convinced of the probability of war. In this Bruxner probably played a part. In March 1937 he too had gone overseas. Like Drummond, he was disturbed by what he saw in Germany and returned convinced that war was inevitable.
While the Commonwealth was responsible for defence, the states had important associated responsibilities. They had to provide assistance to the defence services in measures connected with the mobilisation and active prosecution of the war, and were also largely responsible for civil defence. Overall, there was barely an element in the war effort which did not require state cooperation. There had been some discussions between Commonwealth and states since 1935 on civil defence, although these had been desultory and lacking in purpose. Now, well in advance of any Commonwealth request, New South Wales began to prepare for war. By April 1938 the New South Wales Air Raids Precaution Committee had a basic organisation in place, including the training of the necessary personnel. This organisation was now strengthened. In addition Stevens, at Bruxner's suggestion, invited all New South Wales Departments to submit suggestions as to how the State's resources might be best used should war break out. When Bruxner learned that the use of the railways heavy engineering workshops would be hindered by obsolete equipment, he sent the railways' chief mechanical engineer to the United States to buy what new equipment he could. Drummond did the same: he and Alek Hicks toured the State looking at all kinds of buildings which could hold tool-making machinery, and then purchased as much equipment as they could. They also increased enrolments in motor mechanics courses as a partial substitute for increased aviation training.
There seem to have been some preliminary discussions between the Commonwealth and the states as 1938 proceeded, but it was October before the Commonwealth really began to move. On 13 October, Thorby asked the Secretary of his Department for a list of essential defence works which the Commonwealth could place before the states while asking them to 'postpone the construction of as many non-essential undertakings as possible with a view to assisting the Commonwealth financially and otherwise to carry out works which will be of definite defence value'. In response the various Commonwealth departments proposed a list of works and also asked for a loan of state plant and professional officers. The Controller-General of Munitions Supply also drew attention to a critical shortage of toolmakers, suggesting that the state technical schools should be subsidised. Despite this suggestion, Commonwealth support for technical education was still some time off.
On 21 October the Commonwealth and states met together to discuss national defence cooperation. The meeting was held in conjunction with the Loan Council meeting, and the traditional Commonwealth/State distrusts were very much in evidence. For the states' part, this was not without cause. Albert Dunstan, the head of the Victorian Labor-supported Country Party Government, pointed out that Commonwealth revenue was up 7.5 million pounds but only a third of that increase was being spent on defence; two thirds of that increase was being spent on postal services and social welfare. And now the states, which had the heaviest social services load, were being asked to direct their loan funds to defence projects. The Conference agreed that there should be close cooperation between Commonwealth and states on defence works, but achieved little in the short term. Discussion continued between state and Federal officials, but the question of who should pay remained a vexed issue. In the meantime, New South Wales proceeded with its own planning.
On 3 November 1938 Stevens informed Lyons that New South Wales was willing to transfer all necessary manpower to urgent defence and development needs, but proposed also that there should be an early conference between the Commonwealth and the states to discuss financial arrangements. On 21 December he wrote again to Lyons suggesting that there should be a conference between the New South Wales police force and the military authorities to discuss ways in which the police might assist the military in the event of hostilities. He followed this a week later with a further letter. In this he pointed out that there were many minor ways in which state departments could adjust their arrangements or equipment to fit in more readily with defence requirement. Noting that some departments, including education, had already held discussions with the military authorities, he proposed a further conference to coordinate arrangements.
State planning continued in the early months of 1939. On 10 January, following a report by Stevens on civil defence planning, Cabinet decided to ask Bruxner to undertake the task of establishing an organisation which could give effective protection to the civil population in the event of a national emergency. Bruxner accepted with enthusiasm: by the time war was declared in September, the basic framework of the National Emergency Services was well established.
In February 1939 State Cabinet returned to the question of the defence works program. On the 7th it appointed a Cabinet sub-committee to review the works programs of all departments to decide which works were essential and which might be suspended. Four days later Stevens wrote to Lyons pointing out that although detailed lists of defence works had been prepared in consultation with the military authorities, and although the State was in a position to start these immediately, the questions of apportionment of costs and the provision of additional funds had still not been dealt with. Again there was no immediate response, but this time events would soon force the Commonwealth Government into a more cooperative stance.
By the end of 1938, expenditure on the Commonwealth's defence program was falling well behind schedule. With defence spending rising elsewhere in the world, the purchase of armaments and capital equipment was becoming increasingly difficult; in time, this would make New South Wales' own purchases of great value. But domestic expenditure on defence works was also falling behind schedule. The program was simply too large for the newly created Commonwealth Works Department to handle. This increased the pressure for Commonwealth/State cooperation, as did the need to complete the Commonwealth War Book. The Book, which set out all the steps to be followed upon declaration of war, required state cooperation at almost every point. With Commonwealth preparations for the Book completed, it was now necessary to prepare the parallel state plans.
As a consequence, a Commonwealth/State Conference was convened on 31 March 1939. This time there was a distinct air of urgency, for on the day invitations to the Conference were sent out, German troops crossed the Czechoslovakian frontier. Cooperative arrangements, if still imperfect, were now worked out, and the states were handed copies of the Commonwealth War Book. A provincial New South Wales State War Book was ready within a fortnight, and the completed Book was approved by Cabinet on 20 May.
As war preparations continued, the Commonwealth and New South Wales coalition governments became increasingly unstable. In both cases, the strains created by the defence effort worsened existing tensions. In the Federal sphere the trouble centred on Menzies and Page. During 1938 and the first months of 1939 Menzies, ambitious and also genuinely impatient with Lyon's lack of leadership, came increasingly into conflict with his ministerial colleagues. When Lyons died suddenly in April 1939, Page, who had become very close to Lyons, blamed Menzies and decided that he must not become UAP leader. He therefore delivered an angry public attack on Menzies, an attack so venomous that it destroyed Page's own position, split the Country Party, secured Menzies the UAP leadership and destroyed the coalition, leaving Menzies as head of a minority UAP Government.
Events in New South Wales followed a not dissimilar pattern. The UAP rebels such as Weaver and Lee became increasingly dissatisfied with Stevens' leadership and with the coalition. Throughout 1938 and into 1939 they made life difficult for the Government, using the rules of Parliamentary debate to challenge without destroying. On one evening in April 1939 they stopped the Government three times from adjourning the House. As the rebellion grew, the rebels looked increasingly to Eric Spooner, the able and ambitious Minister for Local Government and Public Works. At first Spooner played a waiting game, but then events forced his hand. In the resulting brawl Stevens was forced to resign.
This decision marked the start of a period of intense lobbying, as those for and against Spooner gathered their supporters. Bruxner quickly made the Country Party position clear: when asked by the Governor (Lord Wakefield) what would happen if the UAP elected Spooner as leader, he replied, 'I'd put him out next day, sir'. To the rebels this response was a further mark against the Country Party, and led to demands for an end to the coalition. Stevens, who had refused almost to the last to accept that Spooner was working against him, now applied all his still enormous energy to organising the Party against Spooner. These efforts were successful: after a series of confused party meetings the UAP elected Mair as leader. In the end Spooner would not even allow his name to be put forward.
The Country Party had watched in glum silence as the UAP tore itself to bits. For Drummond, the episode strengthened that ever-present dislike of the UAP (or its equivalents) which persisted throughout his whole career. In 1965 he attacked the 'aimless expediencies of the Liberal Party'. In his view it had gone through its many aliases - Liberal, Nationalist, UAP, Democratic, Liberal - without any clear perception of where it was going. 'Even to-day State Liberalism in NSW moves from one shallow expedient to another.' In Drummond's view, Stevens was one of the few really capable leaders the UAP had ever had.
During the troubles days of 1939 Drummond concentrated on his ministerial responsibilities. We have already seen how new Child Welfare and Library Acts were introduced, but these were only a part of his program during the year. On 2 February he brought two measures before Cabinet. The first, a proposal for the protection of Aboriginal Relics and Implements, had been drawn up by the Trustees of the Australian Museum. During 1936 Museum staff had carried out an archaeological reconnaissance of the State which revealed 'a great deal of wanton vandalism by the public and private collectors'. In the Trustees' view, 'the public has shown that it cannot be trusted to regard such relics with due respect', and they therefore suggested to Drummond that legislative protection should be introduced. Drummond was entirely in sympathy with their suggestions, and therefore brought the matter before Cabinet. Cabinet accepted Drummond's proposals in principle, but asked him to consult with the Minister for Lands (Colin Sinclair) on costs. His report on this issue was ready in October and circulated to Ministers the following month, but time could not be found for it by Cabinet until January 1940. Cabinet then accepted the proposals, and directed Drummond to have the necessary legislation prepared.
The lag between the preparation of the report and its subsequent consideration by Cabinet was not unusual, and was one of the reasons for the delays often noticeable between Drummond's development of ideas and their formal implementation in legislation. Cabinet met regularly, but even so items had to queue for listing on Cabinet agenda. Further, Cabinet approval was only the first step. Legislation had then to be drawn up and time found for it in the Parliamentary session. As we saw in the case of the Child Welfare Bill, this could cause further delays. While these delays were always there, they seem to have increased as the war situation worsened.
The second Drummond submission, considered by Cabinet on 2 February 1939, was the Technical Education Bill. This Bill was still very similar to that discussed earlier. It aimed to provide for a measure of local autonomy in technical education by partial decentralisation of administration, to relate technical education more closely with trade, commerce and community life of each district, and to retain for the Minister for Education certain powers of coordination. To achieve these objectives, the Bill provided (among other things) for the formation of technical education districts in Sydney and Newcastle to control technical education facilities in those areas. In addition, a Technical Education Board was to be formed to advise the Minister generally upon technical education issues and also discharge the functions of the district councils in areas outside Sydney and Newcastle where councils were yet to be formed. The new councils were to be funded from consolidated revenue but could also raise funds from other sources, including donations and benefactions.
Cabinet accept this proposal, and legislation was introduced in March. It was immediately attacked by the opposition. William Davies, reflecting Labor's traditional belief in strong central control, opposed the idea of outside councils, objecting to the corporate and employer influence that would be introduced by Drummond's proposals. Drummond ultimately withdrew this Bill to allow for further consultations.
The new Bill, introduced the following year, was very similar to the first, but with one important difference. It now provided for the creation of an Institute of Technology with separate campuses and to which the district councils would be affiliated. By creating the Institute, which would have the power to grant degrees, Drummond was trying to establish an integrated, if decentralised, system of technical education with the trades school at the base and the technical university at the apex.
In introducing the Bill, Drummond appealed for a non-party vote on the grounds that the war had made expansion of technical education more urgent than ever. But the measure was still too radical to commend itself to the Labor opposition. They argued that Drummond was giving up the principle of state control of education: 'Why should big business, monopolies or combines be permitted to come between these pupils and the Department of Education?', asked the Sydney K.C., Clive Evatt. Despite the opposition, this time the measure was passed.
While considerations of the Technical Education Bill proceeded, on 7 February 1939 Drummond brought another of his pre-occupations to the attention of Ministers. He told them that engineering manufacturers in the State had been tentatively consulted by the Federal Government 'with a view to the establishment of factories for the rapid enlargement of output of material for defence, with special reference to aircraft'. However, one of the manufacturers had told him that there appeared to be an almost complete failure on the part of those putting the proposals forward to realise the important part that trained men must play in any special scheme. As Drummond summed up the manufacturer's words: 'If you can give me a sufficiency of trained men, I can make shift to provide machinery and other plant, but any scheme will break down and will fail if there is insufficiency of trained staff'. Given this problem, Drummond had ordered a report prepared on aviation training which showed clearly the inadequacy of present facilities.
The report - an update of the report Drummond had ordered in 1936 - revealed that the situation was not much improved from that the State had faced in 1936. There were, for example, still only 117 students studying aviation-related technical subjects. The report stressed the need for Federal and State cooperation if the problem was to be overcome. It presumed (ironically?) that the defence authorities must have some well considered plan for providing the personnel both for the permanent airforce and the reserve, before noting: 'Unfortunately, however, the authorities controlling Technical Education in this State, at least, have no knowledge of that Department's plans or requirements'. It then went on to make a number of recommendations to improve the general situation.
The State did not have the money to carry out these recommendations. Instead, Drummond recommended that discussions be held with the Commonwealth authorities and that in the meantime certain minor steps should be taken: the special class for minor executives and foremen already approved by him should be expanded if necessary to meet defence needs, while the fees for the Air Transport Pilots course should be halved and thirty free places introduced. He also told Cabinet that the opinion previously expressed by him on the necessity for completing a register of people able to assist in the fabrication of defence equipment had been confirmed by industry. However, he considered that no further action should be taken on this matter until it had been discussed with the Commonwealth Government. Cabinet accepted Drummond's recommendations, but decided to proceed immediately with the skills register.
The problem Drummond - and the State - still faced was that while the needs were crystal clear to those directly involved in technical education, they were still not clear to others. Just over a week after Cabinet decided to approach the Commonwealth on aviation training, the State received a formal answer to its earlier requests for assistance for technical education. 'The position is not such', wrote Prime Minister Lyons, 'as would justify the diversion of funds from defence projects of much greater importance and urgency for the purpose of increasing the facilities for technical education in the several states'. It would be August 1939 before State and Federal officials even began to discuss the question of cooperation in technical education. By then, as Paul Hasluck pointed out in his official history of the war, another year had been lost in an activity vital to munitions expansion. Yet there was still no universal acceptance within the Commonwealth of the need to provide funds for technical training. When, on 25 September 1939, interested Commonwealth departments met to survey the facilities available for training, there was no agreement amongst officials as to whether the Commonwealth should use state facilities or establish its own.
Early in 1940, Drummond resumed his campaign for Commonwealth assistance. On 16 January Cabinet agreed, after a long discussion of the problems faced by the State technical education system, that Drummond should try to secure unanimity among state ministers at the forthcoming Australian Council of Education meeting for another approach for Commonwealth assistance.
Early in February state ministers gathered in Hobart for the Council meeting. In the past they had refused, despite Drummond's efforts, to invite the Commonwealth to send an observer. This time they did agree, and the Commonwealth was represented by the Federal Treasurer, Percy Spender, and by Harold Holt. 'Mr Spender made a typically clever speech that might have meant everything we wanted but might have meant nothing at all', Drummond later recalled. Spender and Holt then left the room, leaving the state ministers to their discussions. The ministers, unsure of the Commonwealth position, decided to take Spender at his apparent word and worked out a resolution that covered what they needed.
When this was read to him Mr Spender completely lost his head and finally Sir John Harris [the Victorian Minister] brought that stage to a conclusion by saying 'Don't point your finger at me young man'.
Holt stepped in, promising to put their case before the Commonwealth Government.
The Commonwealth took no action, but this time the set-back was temporary. Following the fall of Dunkirk the deteriorating war situation led to the state ministers being invited to Canberra to meet Spender. This time the need for greater expenditure on technical education was recognised, and following further discussions at official level the Commonwealth Defence Training Scheme was launched.
In addition to the various proposals we have just discussed, Drummond also began a number of other moves during 1939, of which one is worthy of special attention. In May he turned again to the public inquiry technique, but this time with a new twist. His new proposal involved the appointment of a Parliamentary Select Committee to inquire into education. This, he hoped, would give the opposition a better understanding of the Government's problems. However, it would also place it in a better position to criticise the Government, and Cabinet initially rejected the proposal. Drummond persevered, and in August Cabinet finally gave its approval.
The new Committee's terms of reference were broad, and reflected Drummond's pre-occupations. It had to examine school leaving ages, the impact of Commonwealth policies on the State education system, educational problems arising from economic and technical change, and the advisability of decentralising certain administrative aspects of education to provincial centres. This last reflected a new phase in Drummond's thinking. In 1928 he had argued against decentralisation in his Department on practical grounds, suggesting that this must create problems in a state the size of New South Wales with its sparse population and varying degrees of development. His solution then had been new states, which would have allowed smaller if still centralised systems.
Drummond's opposition to decentralisation in education had never been a rigid rule. In both technical and tertiary education he had begun to introduce decentralised systems. Now he turned to the next stage, the decentralisation of the Department's administrative structures. He had already asked the Department to prepare a plan for a regional administration along the lines already introduced in the Department of Agriculture and the Main Roads Board. This action was followed by the insertion of the topic in the Committee's terms of reference. Drummond did not have his new system in place by the time he left office, and it was finally introduced by the following Labor Government in 1946. To H.C. Coombs (unaware of its earlier history) this move was one of the major achievements flowing from the new ideas associated with post-war reconstruction.
The new Committee attracted considerable interest - the Department itself (Alek Hicks) gave evidence as did the Teachers' Federation - but does not seem to have achieved a great deal. Its report, completed in 1940, recommended increased child endowment and a shorter working week as well as a higher leaving age. The Premier responded by promising a compulsory age of fifteen and the necessary legislation was quickly passed.
While Drummond continued his general efforts in his portfolio, his and his colleagues' overwhelming pre-occupation from the latter part of 1939 was war. Australia declared war on the evening of Sunday 3 September 1939. State Cabinet met the next day to start putting in place all the necessary steps involved with movement to a war footing. Thereafter war and war-related matters dominated the Cabinet list.
In the beginning the war opened new and re-opened old divisions within New South Wales society. Despite the declaration of war, there was still a strong body of opinion favouring a negotiated peace. In early October, following the German and Soviet occupations of Poland, Hitler announced peace proposals. These were quickly rejected by Commonwealth nations, but the possibility of peace continued to be discussed. Late in October there was growing agitation among left-wing unions for a negotiated peace, including the passage of resolutions in its favour by the Ironworkers Union, the Waterside Workers Federation and the Miners Federation. The Communist Party, which had swung behind the position adopted by the Soviet Union since the signing of the Russo-German non-aggression pact of September, distributed more than 145,000 leaflets in New South Wales calling for a negotiated peace. As the year progressed this type of view spread widely throughout Australia, reinforced in November by peace calls from Belgium and the Netherlands.
These doubts were not shared by Drummond or his Party colleagues. To them, the peace calls were close to traitorous. They reserved particular venom for the Communist Party, for its actions had confirmed their basic belief that the Party was an alien organisation, its members agents of another country. In retrospect, the long held view of Drummond and other members of the Government that war was inevitable was justified by events. But there was a hysterical element in their immediate reaction to the war, and particularly in their search for subversive elements.
Late in 1939 the war tensions dragged Drummond into his last and greatest fight with the Teachers' Federation. Throughout 1939 the Federation had pressed for improved conditions in the schools and for better pay and conditions for teachers. When war began it was attacking the Government's spending on education, and it reacted quickly to the suggestion that sacrifices must be made for the war, and to the Government's reduction of the primary school vote by 76,000 pounds, 'It is up to Mr Mair the Premier to preserve civilisation in our schools', claimed the Federation's Deputy President, Arthur McGuinness, on 7 October. 'A man who deliberately reduced expenditure is disloyal to democracy and civilisation'. These were strong words, and Drummond's reaction was just as strong. On 24 November he summoned the Federation's executive to his office and, after complaining about the Federation's activities, severed relations with it.
The dispute between Drummond and the Federation dragged on during the early months of 1940. Since it involved conflicting questions of principle there was no way in which it could be easily resolved. Drummond required that the Federation withdraw its attacks, including McGuinness' remarks of October. This the Federation could not do, for it believed that to do so would conflict with the right of free speech. A solution was finally found in July when Drummond and McGuinness, now the Federation's President, issued press statements which made no apologies or withdrawals on either side, but allowed the matter to drop.
In the middle of the dispute (on 20 March 1940), Drummond celebrated twenty years in State Parliament. Congratulations poured in. 'You of all men', wrote Bertram Stevens, 'have nothing upon which to reproach yourself for the quality and the character of the service you have rendered'. A few days later Ern Sommerlad wrote in similar terms:
Your monument is already built, and if by some mischance you cease to be Minister for Education tomorrow you would leave behind you a record of achievement that has never been approached by any of your predecessors, and is unlikely to be approached again while Australian politics are constituted as they now are.
Drummond could take some pride in his achievements, but as 1940 progressed he had little time to contemplate them. During the dispute with the Teachers' Federation Drummond had defended the Government's spending record in education, but as the war situation deteriorated and funds tightened, his ability to gain money for his portfolio declined. On 21 August 1940 Cabinet considered a letter from Drummond to the Premier, drawing attention to the lack of adequate funds for his Department in respect of new buildings and repairs to old buildings, all of which had become urgent. After discussion the Premier advised that he would announce at an early date that because of war requirements all Departments must live within the funds already allocated. From this point the position deteriorated. The decision to introduce the new examination arrangements and the higher school leaving age had to be deferred, while proclamation of parts of the Library Act was also deferred.
The Government tired under the strain. Mair had proved a reasonably successful Premier, but although the war had helped patch the UAP together, the divisions in the Party still existed. Further, the split had destroyed the Party's sense of purpose and damaged its reputation. In addition, the Government's overwhelming concentration on the war effort, while important earlier when the Commonwealth was still disorganised, was now increasingly irrelevant. It was also electorally damaging, for its diverted Ministers' attention away from other policy needs and from the changing demands of the electorate.
By the end of 1940 the electoral climate had changed dramatically. At the Federal elections in September, the New South Wales Country Party suffered a heavy defeat when Thorby lost Calare and Horrie Nock Riverina. The elections also saw the defeat of Victor Thompson by a rival Country Party candidate. Although Thompson had been made an assistant minister in 1937 - a promotion that gave him great pleasure - he had not made a great impact within the Federal House. In the middle of 1940 moves began to have him replaced, spearheaded by the New South Wales Graziers' Association, which had clashed with Thompson over the possible formation of a national government. As a consequence, Thompson was challenged for pre-selection by Don Shand, a young Tablelands grazier, and by J.P. Abbott, a member of a prominent Upper Hunter family and the Graziers' Association's choice. Joe Abbott fitted the traditional Northern pattern: he had been an active new stater, was heavily involved in local affairs and was a member of the Council of the New England University College. He was also a close friend of Drummond.
The New England Electorate Council followed the traditional - if not always observed - Country Party practice and decided to endorse all three men. Drummond could have stayed neutral, but in the end decided to back Abbott. The decision deeply hurt Thompson and his family and puzzled and upset Drummond's own family; they could not understand why Drummond should wish to desert Thompson. Drummond would not be moved. He told his family that he felt Abbott was a better candidate, and that in the difficult conditions of the time the Party needed strong candidates.
Labor had little chance of winning the seat, and the real campaign was therefore between the three Country candidates. This was a vicious affair which set paper against paper and supporter against supporter. Thompson did have his own strong supporters but they were not enough. 'The graziers beat me, not Joe', he wrote in a bitter but resigned letter to a Scone friend. 'Do not feel upset about it. I shall continue my journalistic work from Tamworth and shall wield considerable influence in northern affairs in my own way'. This he did, supporting his traditional causes to the end.
Whatever the arguments for and against Thompson, it was a signal defeat. By launching the separatist campaign twenty years before, Thompson had helped propel the Country Party to power and had made a major mark on Northern history. His defeat marked the end of an epoch, for while Abbott was a new stater, Thompson's defeat suggested that considerations of party were now the overriding concern.
The Federal Party's loss of Calare and Riverina was not the only sign of electoral trouble. Colin Sinclair, R.H. Hankinson and Harry Carter were all retiring. They were strong members and the Party found it difficult to obtain suitable replacements. This was a sign of a far more serious trouble in New South Wales: the resurgence of the Labor Party in country districts. In September 1939 the Labor Party had finally replaced Lang. Its new leader, W.J. McKell, was both impressive and moderate. Under his leadership the Party began to seek out and attract strong country candidates: farmers and graziers active in local government and with impeccable country qualifications, in fact the type of men who had given the Country Party much of its strength. This in turn made it increasingly difficult for the Country Party to type Labor, as it had once so easily done, as just another city party.
The Country Party leaders were aware of the electoral difficulties facing them, but did nothing to overcome them. The burst of energy and new ideas that had emerged in the decades up to 1920 and which had given the Party its birth and run its course. The Party needed to find new policies and a new sense of direction to replace them but could not. Neither could it do anything to overcome the continued divisions within the UAP.
The Government decided to go to the people on 10 May 1941. It put forward a plan for post-war reconstruction but suggested in the meantime that nothing must interfere with the war effort. By contrast Labor largely ignored the war, promising benefits now. The Government could do little to counter Labor's attractive package, and its efforts were not helped by its own growing disintegration. The result was electoral disaster - Labor was returned with fifty-four seats, compared to fourteen for the UAP and twelve for the UCP.
In 1932 some Country Party supporters had dreamed of forming a Country Party Government. Even though the electoral agreement with the UAP had ruled this possibility out, the United Country Movement's reform campaign had delivered almost all of the country New South Wales to the UCP. Now this achievement lay in ruins. Outside the Party's Northern heartland - Upper Hunter, the Tablelands and North Coast - it retained just two seats, Lachlan and Temora.
Despite all the signs, Drummond had not really expected Labor to win the election, and the result surprised and disappointed him. But his biggest disappointment was the loss of the portfolio that had been a central part of his life for more than a decade. As time passed, Drummond's disappointment deepened over the Labor Party's treatment of his portfolio. Despite continued financial constraints associated with the war, the new Government was able to continue and even extend some of his reforms such as the public library service and later school leaving age. However, taken together, Drummond's changes were too radical for the Labor Party to accept. The proposal to introduce a new school examination system, which Drummond had been obliged to suspend temporarily, was quietly shelved, only to re-appear many years later as the Wyndham scheme. More importantly, the Government quickly repealed the Technical Education Act.
The proposed Institute of Technology itself was finally established in 1949, if in somewhat different form. Drummond had envisaged it as an institution rather like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, forming the natural apex of the technical system. Instead, it emerged as a Technical University which, as the University of New South Wales, eventually became another conventional university.
While the Institute ultimately survived, the core of Drummond's proposal did not, for local control remained unacceptable to Labor. Unfortunately Labor had no alternative to put in place, so the repeal of Drummond's Act simply restored the original status-quo. It was not until 1949 that the Labor Government itself changed the technical education system by creating a separate Department of Technical Education. However, this change did not fully address one of Drummond's underlying objectives, the need to give technical education a higher public profile in order to ensure greater public support. Consequently, while expenditure on technical education expanded, the technical system remained, as it had been for much of its history, the cinderella of public education.
Drummond did not blame Labor for the repeal of his Act. He believed that the older group of officers in the Department, who had no time for decentralisation, had persuaded Clive Evatt, his successor, to repeal the Act. In general, with the exception of Evatt whom he regarded as incompetent, Drummond's judgement of the Labor Party's administration of the Education Department was tolerant. He had an extremely high opinion of R.J. Heffron, who was Minister from 1944, and of his later successor, Ernest Wetherell. He also believed that they had simply consolidated and extended his own policies.
Drummond's regard was reciprocated. His relationships with both Heffron and Wetherell were extremely cordial up to his death in 1965. In February 1965 when he took up the case of an Education Department employee, Wetherell responded immediately. 'I have just opened your letter and will take up the case of Miss Mulligan at once', he wrote to Drummond. 'It is Friday afternoon and will get this letter away so that you will know that your letter is not in a pigeon-hole'.
Labor's treatment of his portfolio may have disappointed Drummond in the years immediately after May 1941, but his main attention was elsewhere. The elections had left the Party in tatters; it had to find a way to rebuild and in doing so contain the Labor Party. Labor now recognised that it must win in the country if it was to hold power, and during the 1940s it transformed itself into a neo-Country Party, adopting Country Party policies and even its rhetoric. The Country Party responded by transforming itself into a mass political party, drawing its strength from a huge if generally inactive membership base. In this process, Drummond's organisational and constitutional skills played the same role as they had done in the thirties.
While the Country Party was transforming itself, support for the separatist cause was also rising. In 1949 the growing support led to the re-formation of the New England New State Movement. This, too, was a different organisation for the separatists had learned the lessons of the past. From the beginning the Movement retained paid staff, which allowed it to maintain a growing campaign despite the rise and fall of popular enthusiasm. It was also resolutely non-party political.
As before Drummond maintained his active involvement in the Movement, becoming in time its elder statesman. He was troubled by the continued presence of local jealousies, of which he was particularly aware since his growing involvement in the New England media had made him the pivotal figure in the main but loosely organised Northern radio, television and newspaper network. He was also troubled by the unwillingness of some Country Party members to support the new state cause. But he remained hopeful. As the Northern Daily Leader, still the main separatist mouth-piece, put it on his retirement in 1963;
But there was a hopeful rather than disappointed note in his deep, resonant voice as he looked back over the long struggle - "I am very happy we have got a strong and particularly virile movement still in existence and still battling after all these years".
It was fitting that Drummond's retiring words should have re-affirmed his support for the separatist cause. In 1941 Drummond had been only at the mid-point in his parliamentary career. Over the next twenty years there would be new challenges, including a move to Federal politics in 1949. But the central drives and interests in Drummond's life remained the same: a concern for the North, a love for the land and those who worked it, a desire to improve his society, and a radical liberalism which respected constitutional and social norms but still wanted change. Above all else, he retained his belief that all this could be brought about through legal, peaceful and parliamentary efforts to change the Constitution to create more appropriate units within which people could live. Thus he remained true to the end to the cause he had adopted almost fifty years before.
This post continues my story of the life of the New England Leader David Henry Drummond. You will find a full list of posts here.
The agreements are described in D.A. Aitkin, The Colonel: A Political Biography of Sir Michael Bruxner, Australian National University Press, Canberra, 1969, p.165. The general political material in the following paragraphs is drawn from Aitkin, pp.165-170.
The description of Stevens is largely drawn from the Interview Transcript. For a rather nice description of the man see: Aitkin, The Colonel, pp.151-153.
Detail on Cabinet's decision is drawn from New South Wales State Archives, Premier's Department, Cabinet Documents 9/3028.2.
NSWPD, Vol.148, p.3909. For the whole debate see pp.3909-3951.
Information on the trip is drawn from Edna Belshaw's own diary, the Interview Transcript, and D.H. Drummond, Report of Inquiries Made Into Various Aspects of Education During A Visit to the United Kingdom, Europe, The United States of America, and Canada, and Proceedings of the 1936 New Education Fellowship Conference at Cheltenham, England, Government Printer, Sydney, 1937.
The material in this and the next paragraph is drawn from D.P. Mellor, The Role of Science and Industry, series four (Civil), Vol.V, Australia in the War of the 1939-1945, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1958, Chapter 18, p.381ff; P. Hasluck, The Government and the People 1939-1941, Series four (Civil), Vol.1, Australia in the War of 1939-1945, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1952, pp.40-47.
Cited Hasluck, The Government and the People, p.41.
Cabinet submission dated 5 November 1937. For the submission plus decision see: New South Wales State Archives, Premier's Department, Cabinet Documents 28 April to 31 December 1938, 9/3030.
G. Cooke, 'Public Opinion, Political Activity and Ministerial Influence in Education, N.S.W., 1873-1941', MEd (Hons) thesis, University of Sydney, 1967, p.409.
The description of the New South Wales library system is drawn from: R. Munn and E.R. Pitt (with an introduction by F. Tate), Australian Libraries. A Survey of Conditions and Suggestions for their Improvement, Australian Council of Educational Research, Melbourne, 1935.
Unless otherwise cited, the description of Drummond's views and activities in this area is taken from the Interview Transcript.
This amount is drawn from Report, p.21. The Interview Transcript gives the sum as 6,850 pounds.
The material in this and the next paragraph is drawn from: Free Public Libraries, The Free Library Movement, Sydney, 1936.
Cited in Free Public Libraries, p.18.
Minute of 12 September 1935. Cited Cooke, 'Ministerial Influence in Education', p.384.
Details on the history of the Free Library Movement are taken from: the Report of the Council of the Movement for the years ending 31 March 1936, 1937, 1938 and 1939. (In Mitchell Library Sydney); the introductions to the Free Library Movement, Constitution of the Free Library Movement with an Introductory Note and A Model Branch Constitution, second edition (1936), third edition (1938), The Free Library Movement, Sydney; Free Public Libraries, The Free Library Movement, Sydney, 1936; G.C. Remington, The Free Library Movement, New Century Press, Sydney 1937; and G.C. Remington and J. Metcalfe, The Free Library Movement 1935-1945, New Century Press, Sydney, 1945.
See, for example: E. Salter Davies, Libraries and Citizenship. Extracts from a Public Lecture delivered at Canberra under the auspices of the New Education Fellowship, Free Library Movement, Sydney, 1937; I.L. Kandel, The Free Library Movement and its Implications, The Free Library Movement, Sydney, 1937; C. Hartley Grattan, Libraries: A Necessity for Democracy, The Free Library Movement, Sydney, 1938.
Second Annual Report of the Council.
Third Report of the Free Library Movement.
For descriptions of the relationship between the two men see Interview Transcript and Cooke, 'Ministerial Influence in Education', p.384, footnote 7.
The recommendations are set out in Remington and Metcalfe, The Free Library Movement, p.3.
Cabinet Documents, 10 January to 31 May 1939, New South Wales State Archives, Premier's Department, 9/3031.
See Cabinet Meeting 3 April 1941. Cabinet Documents, 18 October 1940 to 10 April 1941, New South Wales State Archives, Premier's Department, 9/3035.
Unless otherwise cited, the material on the foundation of the New England University College is drawn from D.H. Drummond, A University is Born: the story of the founding of the University College of New England, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1959. See also: B. Mitchell, 'Origins of the New England University College', Armidale and District Historical Society Journal and Proceedings, No.25, March 1982, pp.115-132; A. Harris, Abington: A History of a Station and its People, The University of New England, Armidale, 1982, pp.119-127, 48.
At the 1933 Census Armidale's population was 6794, at the 1947 Census 7809.
Drummond discusses the opposition to the College briefly (see particularly A University is Born, pp.102-103) but does not detail the main sources of the opposition. Mitchell ('Origins' pp.125-131) provides a further if still short analysis. Mitchell is presently writing a full history of the University of New England and the problem will be further discussed there.
Interview with Edna Belshaw.
For Biographical detail on Forster see Harris, Abington, and from Drummond, A University is Born, p.41.
Drummond, A University is Born, p.21.
Cited ibid, p.31.
For a description of the College at this period see: J.P. Belshaw and P.E.H. Barratt, 'Some Reminiscences about the New England University College', Armidale and District Historical Society Journal and Proceedings, No.23, March 1981, pp.1-17.
There has been no study to date of the influence of the College on the North, so this paragraph is drawn from scattered sources. R.M. Hartless, in a brief talk to the History Department at the University of New England in 1981, described the early student body. B. Mitchell (who is writing the history of the University) commented on the lower socio-economic backgrounds of the students at New England compared with the metropolitan universities; this was still a feature of the University when the writer entered it in 1963. Belshaw, Reminiscences, pp.10-11 describes the College's academic results. The contribution of the University College (and later the University) to Northern life can be seen in a variety of areas. Two examples should suffice. As a result of work done in the University's History Department, some aspects at least of Northern history are relatively well covered as compared with the position in other regions. Work done in soil and animal science (often in conjunction with the CSIRO) has made an important contribution to the local pastoral industry.
Drummond, A University is Born, p.68. Details of Advisory Council members are set out in pp.XI to XXI, and pp.68-69.
11 February. Cited ibid, p.60.
The material on Forglen is drawn in part from discussions with Edna Belshaw and in part from a series of typescript articles prepared by Drummond in 1950 entitled 'Pasture Improvement on New England'. Original in FP.
17 February 1949. Original in FP.
Political material in this and following paragraphs is drawn from: U.R. Ellis, The Country Party: a Political and Social History of the Party in New South Wales, F.W. Cheshire, Melbourne, 1958, pp.198-199, 204-205; U.R. Ellis, A History of the Australian Country Party, Melbourne University Press, Parkville, 1963, pp.218-219; D.A. Aitkin, The Colonel: pp.214-221.
Ellis, The New South Wales Country Party, p.205.
Sydney Morning Herald, 18 January 1938. Cited Cooke, 'Ministerial Influence in Education', p.412.
For technical education see pp.23-48, 67-73, for aviation see pp.49-66.
D.P. Mellor, The Role of Science and Industry, p.177.
Sydney Morning Herald, 18 January 1938. Cited Cooke, 'Ministerial Influence in Education', p.412.
Daily Telegraph, 20 January 1938. Cited ibid, p.413.
Sydney Morning Herald, 14 November 1938, 16 December 1938. Cited Cooke, 'Ministerial Influence in Education', pp.389-390.
General background material on political thought in the period leading up to the war has been drawn from: R. Ward, A Nation for a Continent, Heinemann Educational Australia, Richmond, 1977, pp.223-233; J.R. Robertson, '1930-1939', F.K. Crowley (ed), A New History of Australia, William Heinemann Australia, Melbourne, 1974, pp.450-457; and P. Hasluck, The Government and the People 1939-1941.
Interview with Edna Belshaw.
Or so Drummond believed. Interview Transcript.
C. Hazlehurst, Menzies Observed, George Allen & Unwin, Hornsby, 1979, pp.107-196, gives a picture of Menzies during this period.
Sydney Morning Herald, 30 January 1939. Cited Cooke, 'Ministerial Influence in Education', p.413.
Hasluck, The Government and the People, pp.125-137, describes the relationship between the Commonwealth and the states in the war effort. Other general material is drawn from Mellor, The Role of Science and Industry.
In addition to Hasluck's account, Bertram Stevens' minute to cabinet of 9 January 1939 summarises the history of the discussions. The material on New South Wales' preparation is drawn from this minute. New South Wales State Archives, Premier's Department, 9/3031 Cabinet Documents, 10 January to 31 May 1939.
Aitkin, The Colonel, p.237.
Cited Hasluck, The Government and the People, p.127.
Copy attached to Stevens' minutes to Cabinet in air raid precautions dated 7 January. New South Wales State Archives, Cabinet Documents, 10 January to 31 May 1939, Premier's Department, 9/3031.
28 December. Attached to ibid.
Stevens' minute of 7 January 1939 was considered on 10 January.
Aitkin, The Colonel, p.238. When Aitkin wrote this biography State Cabinet records were not available, and there are discrepancies between his account of events - probably based on Bruxner's recollections - and that revealed by Hasluck and official records.
New South Wales State Archives, Cabinet Documents, 10 January to 31 May 1939, Premier's Department, 9/3031.
Sydney Morning Herald, 3 April 1939.
New South Wales State Archives, Cabinet Documents, 10 January to 31 May 1939, Premier's Department, 9/3031.
Material on the troubles within the Federal Government is drawn from: Ellis, The Australian Country Party, pp.233-249; Hazlehurst, Menzies Observed, pp.107-171; T.H. Kewley, Social Security in Australia: The Development of Social Security and Health Benefits from 1900 to the present, Sydney University Press, Sydney, 1965, pp.143-169.
Unless otherwise cited, the material on the political troubles of the New South Wales Government is drawn from Aitkin, The Colonel, pp.221-237.
Aitkin, The Colonel, p.235.
This material is drawn from the DM, pp.128-129.
The material in this paragraph is drawn from New South Wales State Archives, Cabinet Documents 10 January to 31 May 1939, Premier's Department, 9/3031.
New South Wales State Archives, Cabinet Documents, 9 January to 29 May 1940, Premier's Department, 9/3033.
For a brief summary of this last phase see: B.K. Hyams and B. Bessant, Schools for the People? An Introduction to the History of State Education in Australia, Longman Australia, Camberwell, 1972, pp.153-154; and Cooke, 'Ministerial Influence in Education', pp.390-391.
In addition to the Cabinet records, see Sydney Morning Herald, 3 February 1939.
NSWPD, Vol.157, 2 March 1939, pp.3850-3853; Vol.161, 14 March 1940, p.7618.
NSWPD, Vol.161, 14 March 1940, pp.7634-7636; 2 April 1940, pp.7670-7694; 3 April 1940, pp.7726-7760; 30 April 1940, pp.8186-8200; 1 May 1940, pp.8221-8255; 2 May 1940, pp.8272-8278; 7 May 1940, pp.8325-8336; 8 May 1940, p.8351.
NSWPD, Vol.161, 1 May 1940, p.8249.
New South Wales State Archives, Cabinet Documents, 10 January to 31 May 1939, Premier's Department, 9/3031.
Lyons to Stevens, 15 February 1939. Cited Hasluck, The Government and the People, p.137. The material in the next two sentences is drawn from this same reference.
D.P. Mellor, The Role of Science and Industry, p.178.
New South Wales State Archives, Cabinet Documents, 9 January to 29 May 1940, Premier's Department 9/3033.
The material on the Hobart Conference is drawn from the Interview Transcript.
Mellor, The Role of Science and Industry, p.178.
Considered first by Cabinet on 26 May 1939, see New South Wales State Archives, Cabinet Documents, 10 January to 31 May 1939, Premier's Department, 9/3031. Reconsidered by Cabinet on 7 August 1939, New South Wales State Archives, Cabinet Documents, 7 June to 21 December 1939, Premier's Department, 9/3032. See also Daily Telegraph, 9 August 1939. Cited Cooke, 'Ministerial Influence in Education', p.386.
See Ministerial Letter Book, Drummond Papers, University of New England Archives, A248/V2133.
H.C. Coombs, Trial Balance, The MacMillan Company of Australia, South Melbourne, 198, p.73.
Material on the Committee's report is drawn from Cooke, 'Ministerial Influence in Education', p.386.
New South Wales State Archives, Cabinet Documents, 7 June to 21 December 1939, Premier's Department, 9/3032. For details on Cabinet's other war decisions see also: Cabinet Documents, 9 January to 9 May 1940, 9/3033; Cabinet Documents, 5 June to 9 October 1940, 9/3034; Cabinet Documents, 8 October to 10 April 1941, 9/3035.
The material in this and the following paragraphs on the reaction to the war is drawn from Aitkin, The Colonel, p.239 and from Hasluck, The Government and the People, pp.193-197.
Unless otherwise cited, the material on the dispute between Drummond and the Federation is drawn from Mitchell, Teachers, Education and Politics, pp.148-150.
Unless otherwise cited, the political background in the following paragraphs is drawn from Aitkin, The Colonel, pp.241-244.
Interview Edna Belshaw. The material on Thompson's downfall is drawn from this interview and from letters in the W.T. Seaward Papers, Scone and Upper Hunter Historical Society Archives, Scone. Seaward was a strong Thompson supporter.
Thompson to W.T. Seaward, 26 September 1940. Ibid.
Interview between Drummond and Geoffrey Cooke, 22 May 1965. Cited Cooke, 'Ministerial Influence in Education', p.422.
For a description of the original Wyndham Scheme concept see: Report of the Committee Appointed to Survey Secondary Education in New South Wales, Government Printer, Sydney, 1957.
26 February. In FP.
D.A. Aitkin, 'The Organisation of the Australian Country Party (N.S.W.), 1946 to 1962', PhD thesis, Australian National University, 1964, p.40ff, D.A. Aitkin, The Colonel, p.245ff.
For a summary of new state activity after the Second World War see: K. Richmond, 'The New England New State Movement: Electoral Activity in 1968 and '71', Armidale and District Historical Society Journal and Proceedings, No.23, March 1980, pp.95-111; J.D. Belshaw, 'Journalist, Political Agitator and Theorist, Public Servant and Historian - An obituary of Ulrich Ellis', Armidale and District Historical Society Journal and Proceedings, No.25, March 1982, pp.147-160; reprinted in Canberra Historical Journal, New Series, No.10, September 1982.
1 November 1963.