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Hubert Peter (Bert) Lazzarini (1884–1952)

by E. G. Whitlam

This article was published:

Hubert Peter (Bert) Lazzarini (1884-1952), politician, was born on 8 September 1884 at Young, New South Wales, ninth child of Italian-born Pietro Lazzarini, a labourer who became an orchardist, and his native-born wife Annie, née Stubbs. Carlo Camillo Lazzarini was his brother. Pietro had emigrated after the fall (1849) of the Roman republic, first to the United States of America and then to Australia. Bert received a Catholic education at Young, worked as a draper at Germanton (Holbrook from 1915), joined the trade-union movement and set up his own store at Wellington. On 14 June 1916 at the Catholic Church, Holbrook, he married Constance Maude Williams, a dressmaker; her father was Prussian and her mother Irish.

In 1919 Bert and Maude moved to Dulwich Hill, Sydney. That year the Australian Labor Party's branch at Young nominated Lazzarini to stand for the House of Representatives seat of Werriwa. The New South Wales executive chose him in October, ahead of nominees from the Grenfell and Cootamundra branches. Two months later he defeated (by 466 votes) John Lynch who had won the seat for the A.L.P. in 1914 and held it for the Nationalists in 1917. An electoral redistribution before the 1922 polls moved Werriwa eastward, taking from it the Young, Grenfell and Cootamundra regions, and adding the coastal strip from Shellharbour to Botany Bay. Lazzarini was to hold the seat (with increasing majorities) at the elections in 1922, 1925, 1928 and 1929. In 1927 he and his family shifted to Fairfield.

Labor's J. H. Scullin was commissioned prime minister in October 1929, the month that the New York Stock Exchange collapsed. One year later the A.L.P. was elected to office in New South Wales under J. T. Lang. Acute differences arose between the two governments on methods to counter the Depression. In March 1931 a special federal conference expelled the New South Wales branch and Lazzarini became a member of J. A. Beasley's Lang Labor Party in Federal parliament. On 25 November Beasley's group, with the support of the Opposition, brought down Scullin's government. At the elections in December Lazzarini was defeated. Another redistribution in 1934 moved Werriwa northwards, with the loss of Goulburn and the addition of Liverpool. Lazzarini won the seat in September that year.

The Langites rejoined the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party in 1936 and in the following year Lazzarini was elected to the executive. In 1940 Lang formed the Australian Labor Party (Non-Communist). On 2 May Beasley unveiled a party of that name in the House of Representatives. This time Lazzarini remained with the F.P.L.P. He immediately and furiously countered the charge that those who would not again follow Beasley and Lang were pro-communist. In private Lazzarini mocked New South Wales members who sat on the fence 'with both ears to the ground'. At the polls in September he defeated seven candidates, including Rex Connor. The F.P.L.P. re-elected him to its executive.

When Labor gained power under John Curtin in October 1941, Lazzarini became minister for home security and minister assisting the treasurer J. B. Chifley. He shed his treasury responsibilities in September 1943, but Curtin gave him the additional portfolio of works in February 1945. In July that year his title was changed to minister for works and housing so that he could administer the pioneering Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement which provided homes for low-income families. The Department of Home Security was abolished in February 1946 and Lazzarini was not elected to Chifley's second ministry (formed in November 1946).

Under the 1949 electoral redistribution, Werriwa was moved farther northward, losing most of the area south of Helensburgh and Liverpool, and gaining a large portion of the municipality of Fairfield. Lazzarini at last lived in his electorate. Following the April 1951 polls, he announced that he would not contest the next. Chifley thought that a local candidate should replace him. In a protracted contest E. G. Whitlam emerged from a final scrum of nine. Lazzarini died of a cerebral haemorrhage on 1 October 1952 at Fairfield and was buried in Liverpool cemetery; his wife, son and two daughters survived him. Parliamentary colleagues paid tribute to 'Laz', emphasizing his integrity and commitment to Labor principles.

Select Bibliography

  • P. Weller (ed), Caucus Minutes 1901-1949, 3 (Melb, 1975)
  • Parliamentary Debates (Commonwealth), 2 May 1940, p 490, 1 Oct 1952, p 2495
  • Holbrook Courier, 16 June 1916
  • Southern Mail (Bowral), 9, 16 Sept 1919
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 8 Oct, 11 Nov, 15 Dec 1919, 2 Oct 1952
  • Goulburn Evening Penny Post, 18, 23 Oct, 4 Nov 1919
  • Young Witness, 21, 24, 31 Oct 1919.

Citation details

E. G. Whitlam, 'Lazzarini, Hubert Peter (Bert) (1884–1952)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 22 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (Melbourne University Press), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Bert Lazzarini, n.d.

Bert Lazzarini, n.d.

National Archives of Australia, A1200:L21440

Life Summary [details]


8 September, 1884
Young, New South Wales, Australia


1 October, 1952 (aged 68)
Fairfield, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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