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Laucke, Sir Condor Louis (1914–1993)

by Sylvia Marchant

This article was published online in 2017

Sir Condor Louis Laucke (1914–1993), flour-miller, vigneron, and politician, was born on 9 November 1914 at Greenock, South Australia, sixth child of German-born Friedrich Laucke, miller, and his South Australian-born wife Anna Louise Marie, née Jungfer. Condor was named after a German Imperial Navy cruiser that visited Adelaide. He was two when his mother died of cancer. His father had migrated to Adelaide in 1895 and four years later was in business as a miller and grain merchant at Greenock in the Barossa Valley. In March 1914 Friedrich applied for naturalisation, and he swore the oath of allegiance shortly after the outbreak of World War I.

Laucke was educated at local primary schools before attending the Lutheran school Immanuel College (head prefect 1932) and the South Australian School of Mines and Industries in Adelaide. Showing an early interest in politics, as a schoolboy he would listen to debates at Parliament House on North Terrace. After returning to Greenock to work in the family business, he became secretary of the local branch of the Liberal and Country League (LCL) (executive 1933–65). On 13 May 1942 he joined the Volunteer Defence Corps, but was discharged as medically unfit two months later. An energetic member of the community, he was auditor of the agricultural bureau; secretary of the tennis club and the Voluntary Patriotic Contribution scheme; and president of Greenock Park (1939–43) and the Greenock Institute (1946–52). He was also a vigneron and a successful flour and stock feed-miller. As Laucke Milling Co. Ltd (later F. Laucke Pty Ltd) expanded to encompass mills at Strathalbyn, Angaston, Eudunda, and Stockwell, he became general manager and remained a director throughout his later parliamentary career. On 19 June 1943 he married Rose Hambour, dressmaker, at St Augustine’s Anglican Church, Unley.

In 1956, representing the LCL, Lauke was elected, unopposed, to the House of Assembly seat of Barossa. Supporting (Sir) Thomas Playford’s government, he was a dedicated backbencher who spoke frequently in parliament, mainly along party lines. In 1962 he was appointed government whip. Active in local and State affairs, he was a council member of the University of Adelaide (1956–65) and the Institutes Association of South Australia (1960–68), and a founding member of the Barons of Barossa formed to promote the region’s wine industry. In 1965 he lost his seat when the Australian Labor Party ousted the Playford government.

Shifting to Federal politics, on 2 November 1967 Laucke was appointed to the Senate to fill the vacancy that had resulted from the death of Clive Hannaford. Although his career in the Senate was unremarkable, he considered himself to be a progressive conservative and voiced strong opinions: opposing government support for the arts; supporting the retention of the death penalty; and revealing a sensitive and humanitarian attitude when speaking in support of increased aid for Aboriginal people in 1973. He also conscientiously pursued the interests of his State in water conservation and other measures to counteract the effects of drought. Fond of good wine and generous with the contents of his cellar, he was undoubtedly influenced by his own involvement in the industry when he objected to the introduction of a duty on wine in 1970, and expressed pleasure when it was removed three years later. His parliamentary service included being deputy chairman of the select committee on air pollution (1968–69), temporary chairman of committees (1969–72), and chairman of the Senate standing committee on social environment (1971–73).

During the turbulent days of the Whitlam Labor government from 1972 to 1975, Laucke was Opposition spokesman first for pensions, repatriation, and Aboriginal affairs; and then for social development, encompassing tourism, recreation, the media, the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and Aboriginal affairs. In 1975 he was one of a small number of Opposition senators who had reservations about the blocking of supply that helped to bring down the government. Following the election of the Liberal Party and National Country Party coalition, he was appointed president of the Senate. He would be one of the last presidents that chose to wear the full regalia of the office. In some quarters he was regarded as a political lightweight, one report claiming that ‘derisive laughter’ broke out when it was announced that he was the Coalition’s candidate (O’Reilly 1976, 9). Despite the misgivings, he was a competent president, being balanced and firm. In 1978 he was appointed KCMG.

Sir Condor retired from the Senate on 30 June 1981. Continuing an active public life, he was president of Toc H Australia (1983–85) and inaugural patron of the Association of Former Members of the Parliament of Australia (from 1991). In 1982 he was appointed lieutenant governor of South Australia, a role he carried out until 1992. Laucke was a kind and gentle man who maintained a strong sense of fair play. His rise to high office reflected the esteem in which he was held by most of his colleagues. Survived by his wife, son, and daughter, he died at Greenock on 30 July 1993 and was cremated after a state funeral at Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Adelaide. His role in the State’s wine industry is recognised on a plaque at Tanunda. The annual oration of the services clubs of the Barossa Valley, and the road between Nuriootpa and Greenock were named after him.

Research edited by Nicole McLennan

Select Bibliography

  • Advertiser (Adelaide). ‘State Funeral for Sir Condor Laucke.’ 31 July 1993, 7
  • Australia. Senate. Parliamentary Debates, no. 159, 1993, 28-38
  • Fatchen, Max. ‘The Miller of Greenock.’ Advertiser (Adelaide), 18 March 1967, 19
  • Federal Gallery. ‘Association Patron Mourned.’ no. 15 (September 1993): 1–2
  • Fielding, Jean P. The Golden Grain: A history of EDWIN DAVEY & SONS Pioneer Flourmillers and Grain Merchants of South Australia at Penrice, Angaston, Eudunda, Salisbury, Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney 18651895. Melbourne: Hyland House, 1985
  • Marchant, Sylvia. ‘Laucke, Sir Condor Louis (1914–1993).’ In The Biographical Dictionary of the Australian Senate, Vol. 3, 19621983, edited by Ann Millar and Geoffrey Browne, 237–41. Sydney: University of New South Wales Press Ltd, 2010
  • O’Reilly, David. ‘The Quiet Rise of the Senate’s New President.’ Australian, 18 February 1976, 9
  • Saegenschnitter, Geoff. Greenock and District 18461986: A History of Greenock and the Surrounding Districts of Nain, Daveyston, Moppa, Walton and Seppeltsfield. Greenock: G. Saegenschnitter, 1986

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Citation details

Sylvia Marchant, 'Laucke, Sir Condor Louis (1914–1993)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/laucke-sir-condor-louis-17845/text29433, published online 2017, accessed online 19 November 2019.

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