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Edward William Mattner (1893–1977)

by Frank Bongiorno

This article was published:

Edward William Mattner (1893-1977), by unknown photographer, 1956

Edward William Mattner (1893-1977), by unknown photographer, 1956

National Archives of Australia, A1200:L21684

Edward William Mattner (1893-1977), soldier, farmer and politician, was born on 16 September 1893 at Oakbank, South Australia, third of four children of South Australian-born parents William Charles Mattner, gardener, and his wife Emily Louisa, née Hocking. Educated at Adelaide High School, Ted became a pupil-teacher. He attended the Teachers' Training College and the University of Adelaide in 1914, and in the following year was appointed an assistant-teacher at Kadina Public School.

On 7 September 1915 Mattner enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. Sent to the Western Front in March 1916, he served in the 6th Army Brigade, Australian Field Artillery. At Ploegsteert, Belgium, on 1 June 1917 Corporal Mattner braved enemy shells and exploding ammunition to extinguish fires in the brigade's gun-pits; he won the Military Medal and was promoted sergeant. After his battery commander was hit during heavy German shelling on 26 September at Hooge, he took charge, evacuated the wounded and kept the Australian guns in action; he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. On 8 October he was commissioned. He won the Military Cross for his actions nineteen days later, at Zillebeke, when he again risked enemy shell-fire and led a party which rescued wounded infantrymen. In January 1918 he was promoted lieutenant. His A.I.F. appointment terminated in South Australia on 27 October 1919.

Buying a farm at Balhannah, Mattner pioneered summer potato-cropping, ran dairy cattle, bred fat lambs and grew subterranean clover. At the Methodist Church, Pirie Street, Adelaide, on 6 October 1923 he married Lorna May Prince (d.1970), a 22-year-old nurse. He was president of the Onkaparinga sub-branch of the Returned Sailors' and Soldiers' Imperial League of Australia and of the Onkaparinga district committee of the Liberal and Country League. In 1941-42 he served in the A.I.F. He rose to temporary major and acted as second-in-command of the 13th Field Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery, in Port Moresby before being invalided home. Having stood unsuccessfully for the Senate, he was chosen by the South Australian parliament as a senator to fill (from 10 October 1944) a casual vacancy. He criticized aspects of the Labor government's conduct of the war, complaining that Australian forces in New Guinea were inadequately equipped.

Defeated in 1946, Mattner was re-elected in 1949. On 12 June 1951 he became president of the Senate. He lost the government nomination in 1953 after some Liberal senators came to believe that he had allowed himself to be unduly influenced by Archie Cameron, the Speaker of the House of Representatives. That South Australians held both the speakership in the lower house and the presidency in the Senate may have occasioned discontent, but coalition politicians also complained about the restrictions Mattner had imposed on the provision of meals and the sale of beer and cigarettes at Parliament House. His relationship with the press gallery was stormy, and his health in the early 1950s was poor.

Mattner served on various parliamentary committees and delegations until his retirement in 1968. Five ft 9½ ins (177 cm) tall, with hazel eyes and dark hair, he was a good all-round sportsman: he had played cricket for his university and football for Sturt; later in life he enjoyed tennis and was active in the racing fraternity. He died on 21 December 1977 in the Repatriation General Hospital, Daw Park, Adelaide, and was cremated; his two daughters and four sons survived him. (Sir) Ivor Hele's portrait of Mattner is held at Parliament House, Canberra.

Select Bibliography

  • G. Long, The Final Campaigns (Canb, 1963)
  • P. Hasluck, The Government and the People 1942-1945 (Canb, 1970)
  • Commonwealth Parliament, A Tribute to the Memory of Edward William Mattner (Canb, 1978)
  • M. Mattner et al, The Mattners in Australia 1839-1980 (priv pub, Adel, 1981)
  • C. J. Lloyd, Parliament and the Press (Melb, 1988)
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 22 Dec 1977
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Frank Bongiorno, 'Mattner, Edward William (1893–1977)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 17 June 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

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