Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Frost, Charles William (1882–1964)

by R. J. K. Chapman

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

Charles William Frost (1882-1964), politician, was born on 30 November 1882 in Hobart, fourth of six children of William George Frost, gentleman, and his wife Ailsa, née Cregg. In 1853 William had left his family's home, Wentworth Park, Surrey, England, and emigrated to Van Diemen's Land. With an incomplete education at the University of Oxford and his Chartist beliefs, he found difficulty in gaining employment. He turned to farming and eventually settled at Premaydena. Most of the legacy he received from his family's estate was embezzled by a solicitor. Educated at Koonya and Margate state schools, Charles left at 13 to help on his father's farm. A year or two later he walked along the Linda Track to join his elder brother Arthur in the mines on the island's west coast; while working at the Iron Blow mine, he became involved in labour politics.

At All Saints Anglican Church, Hobart, on 3 October 1906 Frost married Ruth Hornsey Young; they were to have four children. He bought an orchard at Margate and undertook contract work to supplement his income. During World War I he cleared a path and erected an electric power-line between New Town and Electrona, south of Margate, making poles from the timber he felled. He performed similar work in other parts of the State. In the mid-1920s he took part in an expedition to the Bulolo goldfields in the mandated Territory of New Guinea, but soon came home.

Frost had joined a producers' marketing arrangement, formed in 1917 and incorporated on 14 May 1918 as the Port Huon Fruit Growers' Co-operative Association Ltd; he became a director in 1923. His experience in this organization and his membership of the Australian Labor Party dominated his subsequent political life. In 1924-27 and 1929-30 he was a member of Kingborough Municipal Council (warden 1925-27 and 1929-30). Unsuccessful as a Labor candidate for the Franklin district in the House of Assembly in 1928, he won the Federal seat of Franklin at a by-election in December 1929. He was defeated in 1931 but returned in 1934.

In the House of Representatives Frost supported strong protection for Tasmania's rural industries, advocated better shipping and telephone services for the State, and promoted measures to improve housing and employment opportunities. A tough, fearless and fair debater, he loyally adhered to A.L.P. policies. In 1935 he was a member of the Australian delegation to the Empire Parliamentary Association's conference in London and in 1937-40 sat on the joint parliamentary committee on public works. He was elected to the executive of the federal parliamentary Labor Party in 1940.

When Labor came to office in October 1941, Frost was appointed minister for repatriation and minister in charge of war service homes. Although he introduced the Australian soldiers' repatriation bill (1943) which, when enacted, increased benefits to returned service personnel, his administration was criticized by sections of the press: Smith's Weekly called him 'Hoar' Frost. In 1946 he lost his seat by 73 votes to the Liberal Party's candidate C. W. J. Falkinder.

Having been a member of cabinet's sub-committee on whaling, Frost hoped to see the industry re-established in Tasmania. His contribution was so well regarded that it was rumoured he would be selected to head a proposed Australian whaling commission. Instead, in 1947 he was appointed Australian commissioner (high commissioner from 1948) to Ceylon (Sri Lanka). Prime Minister (Sir) Robert Menzies terminated his appointment in 1950 and Frost retired to New Town.

Survived by his wife, two sons and a daughter, he died on 22 July 1964 in St John's Hospital, Hobart, and was buried in Cornelian Bay cemetery. His son S. C. H. ('Jack') Frost had been a prisoner of the Japanese in World War II and was a Labor minister in the Tasmanian House of Assembly in 1972-76.

Select Bibliography

  • M. Lowe (compiler), Days Gone By in the Channel, vol 1 (Hob, 1993)
  • C. Lloyd and J. Rees, The Last Shilling (Melb, 1994)
  • private information.

Citation details

R. J. K. Chapman, 'Frost, Charles William (1882–1964)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/frost-charles-william-10254/text18135, published in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 21 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

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