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Thomas Tuke (Tom) Hollway (1906–1971)

by Barry O. Jones

This article was published:

Thomas Tuke (Tom) Hollway (1906-1971), premier and lawyer, was born on 2 October 1906 at Ballarat, Victoria, third of four sons of Thomas Tuke Hollway, merchant and mayor (1910-11) of Ballarat, and his wife Annie Amelia, née Nicholl, both Victorian born. Young Tom was educated at the Macarthur Street State School and the Church of England Grammar School, Ballarat, where he was a prefect, a promising sportsman and dux in 1924. Fellow students—who included (Sir) Henry Bolte—saw him as witty and debonair, and already interested in a political career. Hollway completed his education at Trinity College, University of Melbourne (BA, 1927; LL B, 1929). He was admitted to practice as a solicitor in 1928 and joined R. J. Gribble (later Gribble, Hollway & Heinz) at Ballarat.

Interested in modern poetry, with E. H. Montgomery (a member of the Legislative Assembly in 1948-50) he published a booklet, The Moderns (1931), under the joint pseudonym 'C. J. Staughton'. Hollway was also a keen cricketer and a promoter of baseball. At St Andrew's Presbyterian Kirk, Ballarat, on 26 August 1932 he married Sheila Florence Kelsall; they were to remain childless.

In 1927 Hollway had joined the Young Nationalist Organization. As a member of the United Australia Party, in May 1932 he was elected to the Legislative Assembly for the seat of Ballaarat. In 1940 he was rapidly promoted in the ranks of the U.A.P.—first to whip, then deputy-leader, and, on the death of Sir Stanley Argyle in November, leader. He led the Opposition in 1940-42 when (Sir) Albert Dunstan's minority Country Party governed with support from the Australian Labor Party.

Retaining his seat in parliament and the party leadership, Hollway enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force on 21 February 1942. He was commissioned next month and trained as an intelligence officer. In May-August that year he served in Papua with No.100 Squadron before being transferred to the Reserve on 10 July 1943 with the rank of flying officer.

Among Liberal politicians Hollway was exceptional in the extent to which he was prepared to co-operate with the A.L.P. Strongly opposed to the gerrymander which had given the Country Party disproportionate power from the 1920s, he sought Labor's assistance in having it overturned. In 1941 he discussed redistribution with John Cain and in September 1943 they united in a no confidence motion against Dunstan, assuming that Hollway would then be commissioned to form a government which would effect electoral reform. Hollway was disconcerted when the governor Sir Winston Dugan commissioned Cain to form a government and after four days joined with Dunstan to bring it down.

On 18 September Dunstan formed a 'composite government' in which Hollway served as deputy-premier, minister of public instruction and minister of labour. In October 1945 the Liberal Party (which had replaced the U.A.P.) and the Country Party both split, and a minority government under a dissident Liberal, Ian Macfarlan, took office for seven weeks. Hollway engineered this Liberal Party split, but publicly dissociated himself from it.

Following the defeat of Cain's second ministry, on 20 November 1947 Hollway became premier and treasurer in a Liberal-Country Party coalition. (Sir) John McDonald, who had replaced Dunstan as Country Party leader in 1945, was his deputy. A journalist described the young premier as 'a dark, smooth-haired man whose 41 years sit boyishly on him. He is an unpretentious cross between a cheerful country lawyer and a professional politician. He prefers to roll his own cigarettes'. Hollway told reporters that he hated Westerns but liked to 'go to bed with a good murder'; he was a tea-drinker but not a teetotaller; and his design for living included 'a wife, a sense of humour and a garden'.

The coalition broke up on 3 December 1948 after Hollway had forced McDonald to resign for attacking the premier's conciliatory handling of transport strikes. A moderate in the Deakin tradition, Hollway enjoyed a good personal relationship with the Trades Hall Council's secretary J. V. Stout. Hollway remained as premier and treasurer, changing his party's name to Liberal and Country Party, and persuading some members of parliament to defect from the Country Party.

In the elections on 13 May 1950 Hollway's L.C.P., with 41 per cent of the vote, won 27 seats, the A.L.P. with 45 per cent won 24, and the Country Party with 10.6 per cent won 13. Labor agreed to support a minority Country Party ministry under McDonald in return for adult franchise for the Legislative Council, nationalization of the gas industry and some municipal reforms. Hollway was defeated on a no confidence motion, sought a dissolution of the Assembly which was rejected by the governor Sir Dallas Brooks, and resigned. McDonald became premier on 27 June.

Still opposed to the inequitable electoral distribution, by 1950 Hollway had the support of the executive and State council of the L.C.P., but encountered strong opposition from the Country Party and from influential members of the parliamentary party who, in a closely fought ballot in December 1951, deposed him as L.C.P. leader and elected Leslie Norman.

Despite his charm, Hollway had lost much of the support that he had previously commanded. Colleagues disliked his autocratic style of leadership and regarded him as 'unstable'. His reliance on his wife and a small group of extra-parliamentary advisers was also resented, as was his habit of conducting some parliamentary business in his suite at the Hotel Windsor. A faction, built around (Sir) Arthur Warner, plotted against him. With a small group of followers, Hollway was expelled from the L.C.P. in September 1952. Allegations of bribery were made against him and referred to a royal commission of three Supreme Court judges. It adjourned indefinitely when (Sir) Eugene Gorman raised the sub judice rule after Hollway had issued writs for libel against the Age. (These were later settled on undisclosed terms.)

Labor joined with the L.C.P. to defeat McDonald on the supply bill in the Legislative Council in October 1952. McDonald sought a dissolution, was refused, and resigned. Hollway was commissioned to form a minority government, consisting of the eight members of parliament who had left the L.C.P. and joined his Electoral Reform League. Sworn in on 28 October, he was defeated next day in a motion of censure moved by McDonald and supported by the L.C.P. He sought a dissolution which was refused. Brooks recommissioned McDonald as premier and then granted a dissolution.

In the elections of 6 December 1952 Hollway led the Electoral Reform League which contested 15 seats and won 4. He had transferred from Ballaarat to Glen Iris, and, with Labor support, defeated Norman in his own seat. He campaigned, as did the A.L.P., on the electoral formula of '2 for 1', that is, for each Federal seat in Victoria to be divided into two State seats. The A.L.P. won office and Cain introduced the '2 for 1' electoral redistribution, adopting Hollway's plan.

The seat of Glen Iris having been eliminated, Hollway stood for the new electorate of Ripponlea in the elections on 28 May 1955. He had lost his zest for campaigning, and relied on support from A.L.P. branch members and strong endorsements from the Herald and the Sun. (Sir) Edgar Tanner won the seat for the L.C.P., with preferences from the Anti-Communist (later Democratic) Labor Party.

Hollway retired to Point Lonsdale where he became president of its progress association. Travelling to Melbourne, he acted in a drama series on radio. He suffered from cirrhosis of the liver and died of a cerebral haemorrhage on 30 July 1971 at Point Lonsdale; survived by his wife, he was buried in the local cemetery. His estate was sworn for probate at $26,373.

Select Bibliography

  • S. Sayers, Ned Herring (Melb, 1980)
  • K. White, John Cain and Victorian Labor 1917-1957 (Syd, 1982)
  • L. Thompson, I Remember (Melb, 1989)
  • P. Blazey, Bolte, a Political Biography (Melb, 1990)
  • Politics, 13, no 2, Nov 1978
  • Herald (Melbourne), 8 Oct 1941
  • Sun News-Pictorial (Melbourne), 8 Nov 1947
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 10 Nov 1947
  • Smith's Weekly (Sydney), 11 Mar 1950
  • Age (Melbourne), 31 July 1971
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Barry O. Jones, 'Hollway, Thomas Tuke (Tom) (1906–1971)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 22 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (Melbourne University Press), 1996

View the front pages for Volume 14

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