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Moss, William Lionel (1891–1971)

by B. J. Costar

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

William Lionel Moss (1891-1971), grazier and Country Party organizer, was born on 9 October 1891 at Kaarimba, near Numurkah, Victoria, seventh child of Victorian-born parents Frederick George Moss, farmer, and his wife Isabella, née Spiers. Educated at local state schools, Bill began farming on his parents' property. He enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 1 February 1917 and served on the Western Front as a gunner in the 12th Army Brigade, Australian Field Artillery. Having been severely gassed in October 1918, he was sent home in December and discharged from the A.I.F. on 19 February 1919.

Moss resumed wheat- and wool-growing at Numurkah, and joined the newly formed Victorian Farmers' Union. Vice-president of the Victorian Wheat Growers' Association, he visited Canberra in July 1930 to lobby (unsuccessfully) for the passage of wheat-marketing legislation. Despite expressing admiration for Labor Prime Minister James Scullin's stand on the wheat-marketing issue, Moss joined the Victorian (United) Country Party and was elected to its central council in 1931. He served a second term as vice-president of the V.W.G.A. and in 1934 organized rallies at Numurkah in support of orderly marketing.

In August that year the central council of the U.C.P. ruled that all party members must sign a pledge not to enter coalition governments without permission. Rather than sign, William Caldwell Hill (the member for Echuca) decided not to contest the Federal election which was held on 15 September 1934. Moss stood as an Australian Country Party candidate (opposed to the pledge) against the U.C.P.'s endorsed candidate (Sir) John McEwen. Although (Sir) Earle Page, the federal Country Party leader, visited the electorate to offer qualified support to Moss (and stronger endorsement to another Australian Country Party candidate Galloway Stewart), McEwen secured the seat comfortably on Australian Labor Party preferences. When McEwen was expelled from the Victorian Country Party in April 1938 for accepting a portfolio in the Lyons-Page coalition, Moss chaired a protest meeting and joined the splinter Liberal Country Party which was formed at the meeting. After the rift was healed in 1943, he helped to redraft the federal party's constitution. He gained pre-selection for the Senate in 1946, but was not elected. In 1949-52 he was chief president of the V.C.P.

In 1951 the McDonald Country Party government appointed Moss a commissioner of the State Savings Bank of Victoria (chairman 1958, 1963 and 1968). He chaired the Goulburn Regional Committee and the No.2 Region Murray Valley Development League (1944-54), and also served (1939-55) on the Numurkah Shire Council (president 1943). On 17 December 1953 at the Presbyterian Church, Batesford, he married Dorothy Gertrude Hill; he was aged 62 and she was 28.

As federal president (1962-68) of the Australian Country Party, Moss was an active propagandist who regularly contributed articles to the Countryman and other newspapers. While remaining a grazier, he expanded his business interests and was company chairman of Enterprise of New Guinea Gold and Petroleum Development. He played golf and tennis, and belonged to the Victorian Amateur Turf and the Moonee Valley Racing clubs. In 1965 he was appointed C.B.E. Survived by his wife and daughter, he died on 4 June 1971 in his Camberwell home and was buried in Numurkah cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • G. H. Mitchell (compiler), Growers in Action (Melb, 1969)
  • R. Murray and K. White, A Bank for the People (Melb, 1992)
  • P. Golding, Black Jack McEwen (Melb, 1996)
  • Countryman (Melbourne), 10 Aug, 7 Sept 1934, 15 June 1971
  • Age (Melbourne), 4 Apr 1951
  • Herald (Melbourne), 17 Nov 1955.

Citation details

B. J. Costar, 'Moss, William Lionel (1891–1971)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/moss-william-lionel-11185/text19935, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 16 October 2019.

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

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