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Maguire, Bernard Joseph (1897–1957)

by Manfred Cross

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

Bernard Joseph Maguire (1897-1957), public servant, was born on 4 June 1897 in Brisbane, eldest child of Irish-born parents Peter Maguire, baker, and his wife Maria, née Gannon. Educated at Chermside State School and St Joseph's College, Gregory Terrace, Bernard entered the Queensland Public Service on 19 July 1915 as a junior draftsman in the survey office, Department of Public Lands. At Holy Rosary Church, Bundaberg, on 8 September 1924 he married Veronica Josephine Blake (d.1956) with Catholic rites. Promoted assistant notings officer in 1926, he served as secretary to electoral boundaries commissions for local authorities (1928 and 1933), the Commonwealth (1931 and 1934) and the State (1932 and 1935). In July 1939 he was appointed principal electoral officer. He was to supervise Queensland's general elections in 1941, 1944, 1947 and 1950.

In 1949 the Hanlon Australian Labor Party government enacted legislation which divided Queensland into four zones and increased the number of electorates from sixty-two to seventy-five. The measure discriminated in favour of electorates in the outback and provincial cities where Labor enjoyed strong support. One of three commissioners appointed to carry out the ensuing redistribution, Maguire was the principal architect of the changes which gave the A.L.P. a majority of nine seats, even though the party received only 46.87 per cent of the votes at the general elections on 29 April 1950.

Labor's R. J. Gardner had defeated the Liberal Party candidate J. E. Hamilton by forty-four votes to win the Legislative Assembly seat of Bulimba. (Sir) Alan Mansfield, judge of the Elections Tribunal, declared Gardner's election void. He found that eleven fraudulent absentee ballot papers—submitted before polling day at the chief electoral office and purporting to cast votes for Gardner—had been substituted for papers containing valid votes for Hamilton. In parliament the Liberal Party leader (Sir) Thomas Hiley named Maguire as the person most likely to have perpetrated the fraud. Inspector F. E. Bischof investigated the allegations and charged Maguire with eight counts of forging ballot papers.

Maguire was suspended from duty on 8 March 1951. Between April and September he was tried three times in the Supreme Court of Queensland. T. M. Barry and Dan Casey appeared for the defence. On each occasion the jury failed to agree on a verdict. The crown prosecutor entered a nolle prosequi and Maguire was discharged on 7 September. Handwriting experts, whose evidence was central to the case, gave conflicting accounts. Lax security procedures at the chief electoral office could have allowed other persons to gain access to the ballot papers. Maguire's friends raised funds to meet his legal costs.

Cabinet lifted his suspension and in December he was appointed registrar of co-operative societies, Department of Labour and Industry. Maguire was a devoted family man and a practising Catholic. Thin and of average height, he smoked heavily and long suffered from coronary disease. He died of acute heart failure on 21 November 1957 at his Wooloowin home and was buried in Lutwyche cemetery; his two sons and three daughters survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • C. Lack (compiler), Three Decades of Queensland Political History, 1929-1960 (Brisb, 1962)
  • Parliamentary Debates (Queensland), 1951, p 1792
  • Telegraph (Brisbane), 8 Mar 1951, 21 Nov 1957
  • Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 19 Apr 1951
  • staff file (Queensland State Archives)
  • private information.

Citation details

Manfred Cross, 'Maguire, Bernard Joseph (1897–1957)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/maguire-bernard-joseph-11037/text19633, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 19 November 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

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