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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Diplock, Leslie Frank (Les) (1899–1983)

by Kieran McConville and Simon Paton

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

Leslie Diplock, n.d.

Leslie Diplock, n.d.

Queensland Government Archives

Leslie Frank Louis (Les) Diplock (1899-1983), schoolteacher and politician, was born on 16 September 1899 in South Brisbane, eldest child of Louis Diplock, a Queensland-born house-painter, and his wife Louisa May, née Lucas, who came from New South Wales. Educated at Rockhampton State and Grammar schools, in 1914 Les became a pupil-teacher in the Department of Public Instruction, at Rockhampton. He taught (1918-24) at schools there and at Toowoomba and Bribie Island, and on 20 December 1920 at Taroom married with Anglican rites Olive Constance Becker. From 1925 to 1953 he was head teacher successively at Bribie Island, Emu Park, Pine-lands (Crow’s Nest), Finch Hatton, Warwick East and Dalby. He was acting district inspector of schools, south-west region, in June-December 1952. On 7 March 1953 he was elected to the Legislative Assembly as Australian Labor Party member for the seat of Condamine.

A cabinet reshuffle in June 1956—forced by the resignation of Tom Foley less than a month after the third Vince Gair ministry was sworn in—led to Diplock’s appointment as minister for public instruction. On 21 March next year he introduced into parliament a bill which, among other things, provided for the establishment at the University of Queensland of a new appointments and promotions appeal board to be chaired by a government appointee. This clause incurred the wrath of the Opposition and of university staff members, who viewed it as an assault on academic integrity and university self-government, especially in relation to the appointment of staff. Despite a storm of protests, a deputation of students to the minister and a public petition with 30,000 signatures, the legislation was passed. Next year (Sir) Frank Nicklin’s new Country Party-Liberal Party coalition government repealed the controversial provisions.

In the aftermath of the Labor split in 1957, Diplock supported Gair. He joined the Queensland Labor Party and in the election that year retained his seat. In 1960 he transferred to the Dalby-based electorate of Aubigny, defeating the sitting Country Party member (Sir) James Sparkes. Advertisements in the early 1960s used catchphrases such as `It’s the Proven Stimulant Diplockium: Containing All the Vitamins Essential to Growth and Development’. The QLP’s electoral support dwindled, and by 1963 Diplock was its sole representative in State parliament. The party had formally aligned with the Democratic Labor Party in 1962, but he continued to stand as a QLP candidate until the 1969 election, when he represented the DLP. In an electoral redistribution two years later Aubigny was abolished and he did not contest the poll in April 1972.

Unusually for a DLP politician, Diplock was a staunch Anglican and a Freemason. He had a slightly dour face, reminiscent of the actor Noel Coward, and his political persona was that of a fatherly teacher or family physician. In 1972 he was appointed CMG. Living in retirement at Scarborough, near Redcliffe, he played bowls and golf. He was chairman (1962-75) of Napier Bros Ltd, Dalby. Survived by his wife and their two sons and two daughters, he died on 6 November 1983 at Sandgate, Brisbane, and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • C. Lack (compiler), Three Decades of Queensland Political History (1962)
  • M. I. Thomis, A Place of Light & Learning (1985)
  • R. Fitzgerald and H. Thornton, Labor in Queensland (1989)
  • Parliamentary Debates (Queensland), 1956-57, vol 216, pp 1572, 1609, 1957-58, vol 219, p 1463, 1983-84, vol 292, p 29
  • Diplock personal file (Queensland State Archives).

Citation details

Kieran McConville and Simon Paton, 'Diplock, Leslie Frank (Les) (1899–1983)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 12 August 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

View the front pages for Volume 17

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