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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Corser, Bernard Henry (1882–1967)

by Elaine Brown

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

Bernard Henry Corser (1882-1967), by Fegan Studios, c1928

Bernard Henry Corser (1882-1967), by Fegan Studios, c1928

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an24081988

Bernard Henry Corser (1882-1967), farmer, grazier and politician, was born on 4 January 1882 at Maryborough, Queensland, fourth child of Edward Bernard Cresset Corser, a merchant who had emigrated from England as a boy, and his native-born wife Mary Jane, née Brown. Educated at the Christian Brothers' School, Maryborough, St Ignatius' College, Riverview, Sydney, and Queensland Agricultural College, Gatton, young Corser became a dairy-farmer in the Burnett district, near Gayndah. In his twenties he chaired Rawbelle Shire Council. He married Marie Glissan on 22 May 1912 at St Stephen's Catholic Cathedral, Brisbane.

That year Corser won the seat of Burnett, joining his father, who then represented Maryborough, in the Queensland Legislative Assembly; both were Ministerialists. In his maiden speech Bernard stated: 'I come from the land, and I do not come from the stump. I come as a member representing the agricultural industry . . . as a fair man, in the interests of every section of the community'. A founder (1920) of the parliamentary Country Party in Queensland, he was its deputy-leader in 1923-24. He also served on the royal commission on public works (1923-28) and was joint Opposition whip (1926-28). In 1915 'E.B.C.' had entered Federal parliament as member for Wide Bay, a seat which he held until his death in 1928; Bernard then immediately resigned from the assembly. Unopposed, he won his father's seat in the House of Representatives and held it from 1928 to 1954.

Putting principle before party ties, in the late 1930s Corser voted against the national insurance scheme proposed by the United Australia Party-Country Party coalition government of J. A. Lyons. Following Lyons's death in April 1939, the Country Party leader Sir Earle Page tried to prevent the U.A.P.'s (Sir) Robert Menzies from becoming prime minister. On 20 April Page made an intemperate attack on Menzies in parliament. Corser dissociated himself from Page's remarks and, with (Sir) Arthur Fadden, resigned from the Country Party. Oliver Badman and Tom Collins joined the rebels, all of whom returned to the party in November, after Page had been replaced as leader. Corser was joint government whip (1940-41), joint Opposition whip (1941-43) and Country Party whip (1943-51), and a member (1946-49) of the joint committee on the broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings.

An articulate speaker, he had a good sense of humour and a penchant for playing practical jokes on fellow politicians. At times of stress during his prime ministership in World War II, Menzies would send for Corser and Collins whose light-hearted company enabled him to relax. Corser's constituents found him enthusiastic, obliging, courteous and efficient. A tall, dark-haired man with grey eyes, Bernie was a popular local member. His combination of Catholicism and conservatism was then unusual in Australian politics. He retired for reasons of health in 1954.

Retaining his interest in agricultural and pastoral pursuits, Corser had acquired what remained of Wetheron station in 1931, a farm at Cobargo, New South Wales, in 1933, and later a grazing property, Yandra, at Nimmitabel. In retirement he lived in Sydney. A widower, he died on 15 December 1967 at Killara and was buried in Northern Suburbs cemetery. His son and daughter survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • C. A. Bernays, Queensland Politics During Sixty (1859-1919) Years (Brisb, nd, 1919?)
  • E. Page, Truant Surgeon, A. Mozley ed (Syd, 1963)
  • R. G. Menzies, The Measure of the Years (Melb, 1970)
  • Parliamentary Debates (Queensland), 1912, p 259, 1928, p 265
  • Maryborough Chronicle, 1, 14, 16, 17 Aug 1928, 22 Jan, 22 May 1954, 16 Dec 1967
  • Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 16 Dec 1967
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 29 Apr, 10 Nov 1939
  • private information.

Citation details

Elaine Brown, 'Corser, Bernard Henry (1882–1967)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 25 September 2020.

This article has been amended since its original publication. View Original

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

View the front pages for Volume 13

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