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Sloss, Albert Ross (1911–1990)

by G. N. Hawker

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

Albert Ross Sloss (1911-1990), politician and reputed criminal, was born on 15 February 1911 in Sydney, one of eleven children of William Sloss, pastry-cook from Scotland, and Brisbane-born Catherine O’Neill. After education at St Joseph’s mixed school, William Street, conducted by the Sisters of Mercy (which he later termed the ‘Old Ragged School’), and Plunkett Street Public School, Alby was employed by the Sydney City Council in 1925-39 in labouring jobs. He joined the Australian Labor Party in 1927. In 1939-41 he was an alderman and also the licensee of the inner-city Goulburn and Commercial hotels. In 1938-39 and 1940-41 he was a member of the central executive of the State ALP. Enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force on 10 December 1941, he joined a training battalion and then served as a gunner with an anti-aircraft battery in the Northern Territory from June 1943 to December 1944. He was discharged on 30 July 1945. Back in Sydney he worked as a shipping clerk and waterside labourer.

A member of the State Hughes-Evans Labor Party, Sloss unsuccessfully contested the Legislative Assembly seat of King in 1941 and the House of Representatives seat of Martin in 1943. He was said to be a fellow-traveller of the Communist Party of Australia and was denied membership of official Labor. Restored to the ALP prior to his second term (1950-53) on the city council, he faced allegations of bribery in the allocation of fruit-barrow licences in 1953. The State executive did not endorse him for the 1953 council election but a court hearing against him on another matter collapsed in 1954. By the time he was endorsed, and elected, for the seat of King in 1956, he was associated with anti-communist union groupings. He remained a member of the left in parliament, however, and contested election to the ministry on several occasions without success.

An assiduous, not to say parochial, local member, Sloss seldom allowed his questions and speeches to stray beyond local concerns—traffic conditions on William Street, parking restrictions in the city, the need for a traffic tunnel under King’s Cross, and Sydney Hospital (of which he was a director, 1958-62). He was rowdy and unruly: frequently suspended from sittings, he seldom offered apologies. His maiden speech set the tone with (Sir Robert) Askin interrupting his defence against the bribery allegations of 1953 to say that it was ‘the most disgraceful exhibition I have ever seen’. In 1967 it was revealed that Sloss’s name appeared in the ‘black book’ of a murdered criminal, Richard Gabriel Reilly.

Sloss was popular in his electorate, especially in the booths of Woolloomooloo (‘Slossville’), and he increased his vote during his tenure from 56.6 to 71.2 per cent. He was active in the local sub-branch of the Returned Services League of Australia (though after his death claims were made that he had stolen funds from it) and was dutiful enough as a parliamentarian. Characteristically, his last sally was a protest against the temporary chairman of committees, whom he called ‘Hitler’. He retired on the abolition of his seat in 1973.

In the hearings before the (Justice Athol) Moffitt royal commission into allegations of organised crime in clubs (1973-74), Sloss was mentioned in a Commonwealth police dossier as ‘Mr X’, a member of parliament who had met known criminals on three occasions at William Street, Double Bay. Sloss claimed that he had as much knowledge of the allegations ‘as His Honour, the Judge, His Holiness the Pope and the Commissioner of Police’. Moffitt concluded that the police surveillance supporting the dossier was flawed and ‘the chance of proving that the information . . . was true or false was regrettably lost’.

Accusations of criminality both large and small surrounded Sloss—from consorting with those who controlled illegal betting, sly-grog, prostitution and racketeering, to direct involvement in bribery and extortion, and to living with his extended family in public housing at favourable rents. Usually reacting imperturbably, he was never convicted of a crime. Although he won a libel action against the Sydney Sun in 1961, he became part of Sydney’s folklore as the corrupt ‘Squire of Slossville’ and sometimes ‘The Gunner’.

Sloss had married 15-year-old Katherine Penman Moffat on 24 December 1930 at St Peter’s Church of England, East Sydney; they divorced in 1975. Survived by his two daughters, he died on 26 April 1990 at Killarney Vale and was buried with Catholic rites at Palmdale lawn cemetery, Ourimbah. The Albert Sloss Reserve Playground in East Sydney is named after him.

Select Bibliography

  • R. Perdon (compiler), Sydney’s Aldermen (1995)
  • T. Reeves, Mr Big (2005)
  • Parliamentary Debates (NSW), 30 Nov 1953, p 2350, 29 May 1956, p 122, 9 Oct 1973, p 1772
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 3 Oct 1939, p 10, 22 June 1950, p 6, 7 Nov 1953, p 1, 27 Feb 1954, p 7, 17 Nov 1961, p 8
  • Sun (Sydney), 11 June 1957, p 1, 19 June 1957, p 1
  • Sun-Herald (Sydney), 6 May 1990, p 12
  • B883, item NX77884 (National Archives of Australia).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

G. N. Hawker, 'Sloss, Albert Ross (1911–1990)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/sloss-albert-ross-15746/text26934, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 26 April 2019.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

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