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Paltridge, Sir Shane Dunne (1910–1966)

by B. K. De Garis

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

Shane Dunne Paltridge (1910-1966), by unknown photographer, 1958

Shane Dunne Paltridge (1910-1966), by unknown photographer, 1958

National Archives of Australia, A1200:L26262

Sir Shane Dunne Paltridge (1910-1966), politician, was born on 11 January 1910 at Leederville, Perth, son of South Australian-born parents Archer Dunn Paltridge, bank clerk, and his wife Florence Marjory, née Thomas. Educated at government schools in Western Australia, Queensland and New South Wales (including Fort Street Boys' High School, Sydney), Shane obtained a job with the National Bank of Australasia Ltd. He worked at branches in New South Wales (1926-29) and Western Australia (1929-36) before managing his aunt's hotel at Victoria Park, Perth.

On 12 February 1940 Paltridge enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force. He failed flying training and was discharged in December 1941. After joining the Australian Imperial Force on 5 January 1942, he completed a number of courses and was posted as a gunner to the 2nd/7th Field Artillery Regiment in November 1944. He sailed to Morotai in April 1945, then served on Tarakan Island, Borneo. Returning to Australia, he was discharged from the army on 5 November. At the Sacred Heart Church, Highgate, Perth, on 21 January 1947 he married with Catholic rites Mary (Molly) Elizabeth McEncroe.

Paltridge was a foundation member (1946) of the Victoria Park branch of the Liberal and Country League of Western Australia, and a member (from 1947) of the State executive. He won pre-selection as a candidate for the Senate and at the general elections on 28 April 1951 narrowly gained the tenth and last place. Having served on two joint committees—public accounts (1952-55) and the broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings (1953-55)—he was minister for shipping and transport (1955-60) and for civil aviation (1956-64) under (Sir) Robert Menzies. He was admitted to cabinet in 1958 and appointed deputy-leader of the government in the Senate in 1959.

In his first years in parliament Paltridge was a stern critic of Australian communists. Describing them as fifth-columnists intent on 'industrial destruction', he strongly endorsed Menzies' efforts to proscribe the Communist Party of Australia. He spoke in support of Western Australia's economic interests, particularly North-West development and the air-beef scheme, and on defence issues, such as the spread of communism in Asia. As minister for shipping and transport, he won a reputation for hard-working competence. The Australian National Line was established, roll-on roll-off shipping was introduced, and services between Tasmania and the mainland were improved. As minister for civil aviation he was involved in the selection of the Boeing 727 and Fokker Friendship aircraft for domestic airlines, and in negotiating reciprocal landing rights with other countries for Qantas Empire Airways Ltd.

Appointed minister for defence in April 1964, Paltridge became leader of the government in the Senate in June. It was his lot to hold the defence portfolio at a time when Australia edged itself into the Vietnam War, and to be responsible for implementing significant and controversial defence decisions. On 8 June he announced that Australia's military presence in the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) was to be expanded, and that Australian army instructors would not only train South Vietnamese soldiers but accompany them into action as advisers. In November 1964 Paltridge brought a paper to cabinet which stated that conscription would probably have to be introduced, but he suggested that the army should be allowed one final chance at voluntary enlistment. Cabinet, however, decided on the immediate introduction of compulsory national service, with conscripts selected by ballot and liable to serve overseas. At a meeting of cabinet's foreign affairs and defence committee on 7 April 1965, Paltridge was one of the 4:2 majority which decided to inform the United States of America that Australia was willing to offer a battalion of troops for service in South Vietnam.

Later that year Paltridge fell gravely ill. He was converted to Catholicism. On 1 January 1966 he was appointed K.B.E. He resigned from the ministry on the 19th. Survived by his wife and two daughters, he died of cancer on 21 January 1966 in Shenton Park; he was accorded a state funeral and was buried in Karrakatta cemetery. Sir Shane was of middle height, heavily built, and genial and open in manner. One of Menzies's few close confidants, he was also liked and respected by politicians of all parties.

Select Bibliography

  • S. Brogden, Australia's Two-Airline Policy (Melb, 1968)
  • P. Edwards, Crises and Commitments (Syd, 1992)
  • P. Hasluck, The Chance of Politics (Melb, 1997)
  • West Australian, 22 Jan 1966
  • private information.

Citation details

B. K. De Garis, 'Paltridge, Sir Shane Dunne (1910–1966)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/paltridge-sir-shane-dunne-11335/text20243, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 19 October 2018.

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

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