Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Bulcock, Frank William (1892–1973)

by Denise K. Conroy

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

Frank William Bulcock (1892-1973), politician and administrator, was born on 6 June 1892 at Mount Arapiles, near Horsham, Victoria, third child of Thomas Bulcock, carpenter, and his wife Eliza, née Grove, both English born. Educated at the local state school, Frank studied agricultural and veterinary science at Sydney Technical College, then won a Department of Agriculture bursary to Wagga Wagga Experiment Farm where he topped the class in 1913. Next year he went to Queensland and became an active member of the Western Queensland branch of the Australian Workers' Union, assisting in the preparation of an award claim for pastoral workers. On Christmas Day 1917 he married a schoolteacher Florence Violet Edwards with Presbyterian forms at Beecroft, Sydney.

At a by-election on 20 December 1919 Bulcock won the Queensland Legislative Assembly seat of Barcoo for Labor. From 17 June 1932 until 15 December 1942 he was secretary for agriculture and stock—the first incumbent in Queensland to have had an academic and practical background in agriculture and veterinary science (in 1940 he became a registered veterinary surgeon). Making his mark in parliament as a capable speaker, tenacious debater and industrious worker, he once tabled over 150 regulations in a single day, and piloted 72 bills through the House in his career as minister.

Bulcock helped to establish a chair in veterinary science at the University of Queensland, the Tropical Research Station at South Johnstone, North Queensland, and the Milk Board. He promoted tropical grasses and legumes, accelerated research on the tick problem, improved the operations of marketing boards, introduced legislation to stabilize the dairying industry and re-organized the Agricultural Bank. Recognizing the importance of scientific contributions to the development of agriculture and horticulture, he made provision for a departmental biometrician to support the statistical analysis of field experiments. He was president (1932-42) of the Queensland Council of Agriculture and a founding member (1933-42) of the Commonwealth Agricultural Council.

In December 1942 Bulcock resigned from parliament and took up the appointment of Commonwealth director-general of agriculture. Under Prime Minister Curtin he organized the wartime planning of essential agricultural production (including machinery, fertilisers and vegetable seeds), as well as the associated organization of labour. He represented Australia abroad at food and agricultural conferences, and confirmed his capacity as a technical expert, administrator and negotiator. Following his resignation in 1952, the Federal government seconded him next year to the Scarce Commodities Committee, Washington, United States of America, with responsibility for fertilisers, phosphate rock and sulphur.

As agricultural counsellor (1952-59) to the Australian high commissioner in London, Bulcock acted as liaison officer between the Australian and British governments' departments of agriculture. During this period he led the Australian delegation to five sessions of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. He was a member (1952-59) of the Australian Agricultural Council and a life member (1943) of the Royal Agricultural Society, London; in 1956 he was awarded the medal of the Royal Society of Arts, London, for a paper on Australian pastoral industries.

Retiring to Queensland, Bulcock campaigned in elections for the Labor Party and corresponded with governments on a range of issues. A long public life 'had not blunted his integrity, his moral earnestness or his kindness'. He was cultured, deeply read and adept at quoting passages from Shakespeare, and had 'lost neither the desire nor the ability to communicate with the ordinary man'. Survived by his wife, daughter and an adopted daughter, Bulcock died on 19 January 1973 at his Mount Nebo home and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • C. Lack (compiler), Three Decades of Queensland Political History, 1929-1960 (Brisb, 1962)
  • P. Murphy, A Memorable Family Reunion (Brisb, 1973)
  • P. J. Skerman et al, Guiding Queensland Agriculture, 1887-1987 (Brisb, 1988)
  • Courier Mail (Brisbane), 22, 24 Jan 1973.

Citation details

Denise K. Conroy, 'Bulcock, Frank William (1892–1973)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/bulcock-frank-william-9619/text16961, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 25 June 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

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