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Gus Kelly (politician)

Gus Kelly
Minister for Health
In office
16 May 1941 – 30 June 1950
PremierWilliam McKell
James McGirr
Preceded byHerbert FitzSimons
Succeeded byMaurice O'Sullivan
41st Chief Secretary of New South Wales
In office
3 April 1952 – 13 May 1965
PremierJoseph Cahill
Bob Heffron
Jack Renshaw
Preceded byClive Evatt
Succeeded byEric Willis
Personal details
Christopher Augustus Kelly

(1890-08-21)21 August 1890
Obley (near Dubbo), Colony of New South Wales
Died25 March 1967(1967-03-25) (aged 76)
Mosman, New South Wales, Australia
Political partyAustralian Labor Party (NSW), Australian Labor Party (New South Wales Branch)
SpouseEileen Mary Mitchell
OccupationCement tester
Military service
Allegiance Australia
Branch/serviceAustralian Army
Years of service1910–1914
UnitFirst Australian Imperial Force
Battles/warsFirst World War

Christopher Augustus "Gus" Kelly (21 August 1890 – 25 March 1967) was an Australian politician. He was a Labor Party member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly from 1925 to 1932 and again from 1935 until his death in 1967, representing the electorate of Bathurst. He held numerous ministerial positions between 1941 and 1965 in McKell Labor Government.[1]

Early life

Kelly was born near Dubbo, New South Wales and was the son of John Kelly, labourer, and Margaret Kearney. His father died when Kelly was aged [citation needed] and his family moved to Wellington, where he was educated to elementary level at the Wellington convent by Catholic nuns.

He initially worked as a labourer with the New South Wales Government Railways and then later at the Portland, New South Wales limestone quarry. Following an accident, he became a cement tester. In 1906, Kelly joined the Australian Labor Party and held office as Portland branch secretary for 18 years and the local union organiser for the Clerk's Division of the Australian Workers' Union.[2] Kelly had active military service in the First Australian Imperial Force in Egypt and France between 1915 and 1919.[1][3]

Political career

In a pre-selection held in 1919, Kelly defeated Ben Chifley[4] and was endorsed as one of three Labor candidates to contest the multi-member electorate of Bathurst at the 1922 State election. Kelly was unsuccessful at this election,[4][5] and successfully sought endorsement (again against Chifley), and succeeded at the 1925 State election winning the third position, defeating Nationalist sitting member, Charles Rosenthal.[6]

Following a statewide electoral redistribution, Kelly retained the seat of Bathurst when New South Wales reverted to single member electorates at the 1927 state election.[7] Kelly was re-elected at the 1930 state election with over 60% of the vote, but was defeated on preferences in the 1932 State election landslide that ended the premiership of Jack Lang.[8][9]

After three years working as the gatekeeper at the Sydney Cricket Ground[1] (where William McKell sat on the Board of Trustees),[10] Kelly regained the seat in the 1935 state election on preferences from the Labor Party candidate whilst standing as a candidate for Australian Labor Party (NSW). Kelly retained the seat at the 1938, was unopposed in 1941, challenged in 1944, 1947, and 1950 state elections, again unopposed in 1953, and challenged in 1956, 1959, 1962, and 1965 state elections; winning each time.[11]

He was a member of the Australian Labor Party (NSW) while that party was separated from the Federal executive of the Labor Party between 1931 and 1936.[citation needed]

In the William McKell Labor Government that came to power at the 1941 state election, Kelly was appointed to the following portfolios during his parliamentary career spanning 38 years; 24 of which were as a Minister:[1]

  • Minister for Health (1941 to 1950 and again, during 1960)
  • Minister for Housing (1950 to 1952 and again, during 1954)
  • Colonial Secretary (1952 to 1959)
  • Minister for Immigration (1953–1959)
  • Minister for Co-operative Societies (1954 to 1959)
  • Chief Secretary and Minister for Tourist Activities (1959 to 1965)

During Kelly's service as a politician, it was alleged that some members of the McKell cabinet were involved in a large corrupt sly-grog operation, with one particular allegation (never proven but often made) that involved Kelly. In an interview not made public till 1997, McKell (who had died in 1985) alluded to discreditable actions on Kelly's part, while refusing to supply details:[10]

"Kelly became an absolute load on the party... we won't say any more than that..."

Kelly died in 1967, as the sitting member for Bathurst.[1][12] A portrait of Kelly by Australian artist Reg Campbell can be found in the permanent collection of Bathurst Regional Art Gallery.[13]


  1. ^ a b c d e "The Hon. Christopher Augustus Kelly (1890-1967)". Former members of the Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 30 April 2019.
  2. ^ Hagan, J (2007). People and Politics in regional New South Wales. Vol 1, 1856 to 1950s. The Federation Press.
  3. ^ "Attestation Paper of Persons Enlisted for Service Abroad". Australian Imperial Force. National Archives of Australia. 11 June 1910. Retrieved 31 August 2011.
  4. ^ a b Hamer, Clive. "Hope of the Vale - The Peacock Family". Retrieved 19 June 2010.
  5. ^ Green, Antony. "1922 Bathurst". New South Wales Election Results 1856-2007. Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 30 April 2019.
  6. ^ Green, Antony. "1925 Bathurst". New South Wales Election Results 1856-2007. Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 30 April 2019.
  7. ^ Green, Antony. "1927 Bathurst". New South Wales Election Results 1856-2007. Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 30 April 2019.
  8. ^ Green, Antony. "1930 Bathurst". New South Wales Election Results 1856-2007. Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 30 April 2019.
  9. ^ Green, Antony. "1932 Bathurst". New South Wales Election Results 1856-2007. Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 30 April 2019.
  10. ^ a b Cunneen, C (2000). William John McKell: boilermaker, premier, Governor-General. UNSW Press.
  11. ^ Green, Antony. "Index to candidates". New South Wales Election Results 1856-2007. Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 30 April 2019.
  12. ^ "Government Gazette Appointments and Employment". Government Gazette of the State of New South Wales. No. 92. New South Wales, Australia. 16 July 1965. p. 2239. Retrieved 7 April 2018 – via Trove.
  13. ^ "Gifted portrait artist dies". Western Advocate. Fairfax Media. 9 June 2008. Retrieved 19 June 2010.


New South Wales Legislative Assembly Preceded byCharles Rosenthal Member for Bathurst 1925 – 1927 Served alongside: Fitzpatrick, Dooley MMP abolished New districtMMP abolished Member for Bathurst 1927 – 1932 Succeeded byGordon Wilkins Preceded byGordon Wilkins Member for Bathurst 1935 – 1967 Succeeded byClive Osborne Political offices Preceded byHerbert FitzSimons Minister for Health 1941 – 1950 Succeeded byMaurice O'Sullivan Preceded byClive Evatt Minister for Housing 1950 – 1952 Succeeded byClive Evatt Preceded byClive Evatt Colonial/Chief Secretary of New South Wales 1952 – 1965 Succeeded byEric Willis Preceded byJoshua Arthur Minister for Immigration 1953 – 1956 VacantTitle next held bySteve Mauger as Minister for Youth, Ethnicand Community Affairs Preceded byClive Evatt Minister for Housing 1954 Succeeded byJohn McGrath Minister for Co-operative Societies 1954 – 1959 Succeeded byAbe Landa VacantTitle last held byJoshua Arthur as Minister in Charge of TouristActivities and Immigration Minister for Tourist Activities 1959 – 1965 Succeeded byEric Willis New title Minister for Tourist Activities 1959 – 1965 Succeeded byEric Willis
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Gus Kelly (politician)
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