Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Mensaros, Andrew (1921–1991)

by David Black

This article was published online in 2014

Andrew Mensaros (1921-1991), lawyer, accountant, builder, and politician, was born on 25 November 1921 in Budapest and named Andor, son of Andor Mensaros, officer in the Royal Hungarian Infantry, and his wife Iren, née Angyal. Educated at private schools in Budapest, he completed a doctorate of law and political sciences at Pázmány Péter (Eötvös Loránd) University, and also studied law (1941-44) at the University of Vienna without gaining a degree. In addition, he obtained a diploma of accountancy in Budapest. He practised law in that city, specialising in company law and taxation, and tutored at his university, which, following World War II, he represented at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. On 5 April 1943 in Austria he had married Yvonne Julia Irene Stanek; they were childless and divorced in 1949. In his own words, he was active in anti-Nazi and anti-communist organisations, and, as a lawyer, acted for Jews under both regimes (fascist in 1944-45 and communist thereafter).

Arriving in Western Australia as a refugee in 1950, Mensaros Anglicised his name to Andrew and was naturalised in 1955.  He worked as an accountant until 1958. Three years earlier he had become a partner in Mensaros & Thurzo, a firm of designers and builders, of which he was sole proprietor (1960-75). After completing a course at Perth Technical College, he was registered as a builder in 1962. Having joined the Liberal Party of Australia in 1953, he was secretary of the Subiaco branch (1960-68) and the Curtin division (1962-68), a delegate to the State conference (1960-68), and a member (1962-68) of the State Council and the education policy committee. In March 1968 he was elected to the Western Australian Legislative Assembly, representing the seat of Floreat.

In his inaugural speech, Mensaros described himself as the first member of the House not to speak English as his native tongue and throughout his career his accent and relatively soft mode of delivery were to cause him difficulties in debating. The speech was notable for his detailed analysis of the issues involved in establishing systems of administrative justice. He concluded with the assertion that he was ‘the only member who has had the misfortune to live under Governments which did not believe in democracy’ (WA Parliament 1968, 227).

From 1974 to 1980 Mensaros held the crucial industrial development, mines, and fuels and energy portfolios, and for a time was also minister for electricity, in Sir Charles Court’s government. Mensaros believed in developing the State’s resources to fund social programs. He was an able minister, whom his colleagues credited with securing the future of the North-West Shelf gas project by achieving the extension of offshore exploration permits, against opposition from the Whitlam federal Labor government. From 1980 to 1983, under Court and Ray O’Connor, Mensaros held the works and water resources portfolios, while assisting the minister coordinating economic and regional development, and, for a short time, serving as minister for education. In Opposition (from 1983) he filled a variety of front-bench roles, including five years as shadow attorney-general.

Mensaros was a member of the senate of Murdoch University (1973-77), the board (later council) of Churchlands Teachers’ College (1976-81), the National Trust, and the Royal Commonwealth Society. He was a man of considerable intellect, who dressed meticulously, and lived alone. His experiences in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s undoubtedly accounted for his passionate lifelong dedication to the Westminster system and parliamentary democracy. He resigned from parliament because of illness thirteen days before he died of cancer on 29 May 1991 at Subiaco; following a requiem Mass at St Joseph’s Catholic Church, Subiaco, he was cremated.

Research edited by Rani Kerin

Select Bibliography

  • Black, David, and Geoffrey Bolton, eds. Biographical Register of Members of the Parliament of Western Australia. Vol. 2, 1930–2010. Perth: Western Australian Parliament, 2010
  • National Archives of Australia. A12032, 933
  • National Archives of Australia. K1331, 1955/Mensaros A
  • National Archives of Australia. PP892/1, W1974/34200
  • Pendrill, Lisa. ‘Veteran Mensaros—Much to Do.’ Sunday Times (Perth), 21 April 1991, 41
  • Poprzeczny, Joe. ‘MPs Pay Their Last Respects.’ Sunday Times (Perth), 2 June 1991, 20
  • Reid, Eugenie. ‘Both Sides Pay Tribute to Mensaros.’ West Australian (Perth), 31 May 1991, 30
  • West Australian (Perth). ‘New Members of Parliament.’ 25 March 1968, 11-12
  • Western Australia. Parliament. Parliamentary Debates. 6 August 1968, 223-227
  • Western Australia. Parliament. Parliamentary Debates.  30 May 1991, 2386-2489, 2420-2428

Additional Resources

Citation details

David Black, 'Mensaros, Andrew (1921–1991)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/mensaros-andrew-15452/text26664, published online 2014, accessed online 25 March 2019.

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