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Pizzey, Jack Charles (1911–1968)

by Paul D. Williams

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

Jack Charles Allan Pizzey (1911-1968), schoolteacher and premier, was born on 2 February 1911 at Childers, Queensland, second child of John Thomas Pizzey, bookseller, and his second wife Ellen Elliott, née Brand, both Queensland born. Educated at Childers State, Maryborough Central Boys' and Bundaberg High schools, Jack became a pupil-teacher at Bundaberg South State School in 1927. He went on to teach at Childers and Leichhardt Street (Brisbane) State schools, at the former from 1932 and the latter from 1935. In his youth he played tennis and Rugby League football, but it was as a cricketer that he showed most potential, winning a place (1929-30) as a spin bowler in the Queensland Colts. In 1931 he was selected for the Sheffield Shield team to play Victoria, but the match was washed out. He was later a founding member (1959-68) of the Queensland Cricketers' Club. At the Presbyterian Church, Childers, on 27 March 1937 he married Mabel Audrey Kingston, a shop-assistant; they were to have two children.

Mobilized in the Militia as a gunner on 15 July 1940, Captain Pizzey transferred to the Australian Imperial Force on 30 September 1942. He served in Australia, mainly with the 5th Field Regiment in which he held the post of quartermaster (from January 1944). During this time he continued his studies at the University of Queensland (B.A., 1942; Dip.Ed., 1954). After his A.I.F. appointment ended on 25 January 1945, he returned to teaching, at Ayr High and Intermediate School. Appointed district organizer for the Board of Adult Education in 1946, he supervised the establishment of centres at Townsville and Maryborough.

In 1949 Pizzey resigned from the Department of Public Instruction to become manager of the Childers Cane Farmers' Co-Operative and secretary to the Isis District Cane Growers' Executive. The experience gained in representing sugar-farmers fired his ambition for a parliamentary career. In 1950 he won the safe Country Party seat of Isis in the Legislative Assembly. Made responsible for education matters on the Opposition front-bench, he gained a reputation as an 'analytical critic' and a 'hard debater'. Although he maintained 'friendly' relations with his political opponents, he frequently became 'red-faced' in debate.

Following the split in the Queensland branch of the Australian Labor Party in 1957, the conservative parties took office in August, for the first time in almost twenty-five years, under (Sir) Francis Nicklin. Pizzey was elected deputy-leader of the Country Party and appointed minister for education, a post he held until January 1968; he also held the migration portfolio (1960-68), and had responsibility for Aboriginal and Island affairs (1962-68) and police (1962-68).

Pizzey focused his attention on secondary education, an area largely neglected by previous governments. He was convinced that secondary schooling should be available to all, rather than to the comparative few who passed the scholarship examination. That examination was abolished in 1962 and the minimum school leaving age was raised to 15 in 1964. Spending on education expanded significantly from £15 million in 1957-58 to £19 million in 1959-60. The number of high schools more than trebled, a university college was established (1961) at Townsville, and planning began for a second university in Brisbane. Pizzey came to be regarded as an 'enlightened' education minister. He even forged an unprecedented link between the Country Party and continuing education. The substantial advances made in the State's secondary education were his most important achievement. In 1962 the University of Queensland conferred on him an honorary LL.D.

Intervention in education matters did not always bring Pizzey praise. A dispute arose over whether the State's senior and junior certificate examinations should be set and marked by the University of Queensland or the Department of Education. Pizzey's Education Act (1964) gave increased authority to the department. Under pressure in 1966 from the Queensland Teachers' Union to ameliorate wage discrimination against female teachers and reduce classroom workloads, he inflamed the teachers by asserting that radicals had corrupted their union. Conflict over the employment of under-qualified teachers strained relations between the department and teaching staff. The situation so deteriorated that it led to Brisbane's first teachers' strike in 1968.

Less sympathetic than Nicklin towards issues of civil liberty, Pizzey proposed that the police should be given more powers. When mass arrests occurred during anti-Vietnam War demonstrations in 1966-67, he was accused of making 'arbitrary use' of the Traffic Act to quell leftist protest. In the face of growing demands for cultural self-determination for Aborigines, he remained an ardent supporter of assimilation. He continued to represent sugar interests, and in May 1968 was appointed deputy-leader of the Australian mission to the international sugar conference, held in Geneva.

Nicklin retired on 17 January 1968, allowing the loyal Pizzey to succeed him as Country Party leader and premier. (Sir) Johannes Bjelke-Petersen was elected deputy-leader of the parliamentary party. The new premier's tasks as a leader were daunting, given the resolute style and long incumbency of his predecessor. Like Nicklin, and unlike Bjelke-Petersen, Pizzey maintained an amicable working relationship with his Liberal coalition partners, and more than once advocated an amalgamation of the two parties. Survived by his wife, and their daughter and son, he died suddenly of myocardial infarction on 31 July 1968 at Chermside, Brisbane. He was accorded a state funeral and was cremated with Anglican rites.

Select Bibliography

  • C. Lack (compiler), Three Decades of Queensland Political History, 1929-1960 (Brisb, 1962)
  • R. Fitzgerald, A History of Queensland from 1915 to the Early 1980s (Brisb, 1984)
  • A. Patience (editor), The Bjelke-Petersen Premiership 1968-1983 (Melb, 1985)
  • Parliamentary Debates (Queensland), vol 249, 1968, p 5
  • Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 1 Aug 1968, 19 Mar 1981.

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Citation details

Paul D. Williams, 'Pizzey, Jack Charles (1911–1968)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/pizzey-jack-charles-11433/text20375, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 27 November 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

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