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Harrie Walter Wade (1905–1964)

by Kathleen Dermody

This article was published:

Harrie Walter Wade (1905-1964), by unknown photographer, 1959

Harrie Walter Wade (1905-1964), by unknown photographer, 1959

National Archives of Australia, A1200:L31860

Harrie Walter Wade (1905-1964), farmer and politician, was born on 10 January 1905 at Clear Lake, Victoria, second child of Harrie Walter Wade, farmer, and his wife Ada Louisa, née Edmonds, both Victorian born. Educated at Horsham State and High schools, young Harrie worked as a schoolteacher and a clerk before moving to Goroke and becoming an accountant. At St John's Church of England, Horsham, on 15 October 1932 he married Olive May Newton, a bookkeeper. The couple took up farming on the banks of Natimuk Lake. Wade became active in politics and in 1934 joined the United Country Party. He successfully stood for the Arapiles Shire Council in August 1941 and was elected shire president in 1948 and 1951.

In October 1941 Wade had been appointed president of the newly formed Natimuk Bush Fire Brigade. When a disastrous fire swept through parts of the Wimmera district in 1944, he organized the fire-fighting and clean-up. He was to serve as president of the Victorian Rural Fire Brigades' Association in 1954-58. Keenly interested in land settlement, he unsuccessfully proposed in 1945 the development of an irrigation scheme around Natimuk Lake for returned soldiers.

At the 1949 Federal election Wade stood as the Country Party candidate for the House of Representatives seat of Wimmera. Although defeated by W. R. Lawrence, the Liberal Party candidate, Wade, a staunch opponent of communism and socialism, remarked that he was happy about the election result because the 'main objective was to defeat the Chifley government'. He was chief president of the Victorian Country Party in 1952-54.

Selling his property at Natimuk Lake in 1954, Wade moved to Horsham and bought a farm nearby. He was president of the Wimmera Band Group, and of the Central Wimmera Football League, vice-president of the Natimuk Agricultural and Pastoral Society and of the Wimmera Trotting Club, and a member of the Horsham State School committee. In 1955-61 he was a Horsham city councillor.

On 10 December 1955 Wade was elected to the Senate; he took his seat on 1 July 1956. He spoke with authority on matters such as the wool and wheat industries, the state of country roads, and the importance of promoting Australian products and developing overseas markets. Aware of the need for Australian producers to be efficient and competitive, he stated that whether 'we produce motor cars, butter, textiles or anything else, the whole world to-day is fighting for markets, and as a young and great trading nation we have to do all we can to meet the situation'. He acknowledged that credit should be made readily available to primary producers and strongly supported the establishment of the Commonwealth Development Bank of Australia, particularly for its potential role in encouraging young men to settle on the land.

Regarding Australia as 'a western outpost of democracy in an Asian area', Wade endorsed the Colombo Plan. He advocated the Agreement on Commerce between Australia and Japan (1957) and in January 1958 joined a parliamentary delegation to Japan which helped to promote understanding and co-operation between the two countries. He stressed the need for Australia to train specialists to represent its interests in Asia.

Wade was appointed successively minister for air on 29 December 1960 and minister for health on 22 December 1961. He believed that a voluntary health insurance scheme based on self-help was 'the most appropriate to our Australian needs and way of life', though he recognized that those less able to help themselves required assistance. He initiated a number of amendments to the National Health Act (1953) to extend hospital benefits. Leader of the Country Party in the Senate from March 1961, he was promoted to the inner cabinet in December 1963.

A 'shrewd, calculating politician' with 'a dry wit' and a 'wry smile', Wade could 'grasp a situation with the alacrity of a panther'. Forceful and sincere, he 'detested intrigue and slyness in every shape and form'. In October 1964 Wade suffered a heart attack while mustering sheep on his property. He died of myocardial infarction on 18 November that year at his Horsham home; he was accorded a state funeral and was buried in the local cemetery. His wife and their son survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Lockwood, Nine Around the Table (Natimuk, Vic, 1988)
  • Parliamentary Debates (Senate, Commonwealth), 2 Oct 1957, p 306, 26 Mar 1958, p 375, 21 Oct 1959, p 1100, 23, 24 Aug 1960, pp 161, 171, 15 May 1963, p 460, 14 May 1964, p 1147
  • Horsham Times, 21 Sept 1948, 8 Nov 1949, 14 Sept 1951
  • Warracknabeal Herald, 16 Dec 1949, 11 Nov 1955
  • Countryman (Melbourne), 11 Nov 1955, 13 Jan, 6 July 1956, 3 Dec 1964.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Kathleen Dermody, 'Wade, Harrie Walter (1905–1964)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 25 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (Melbourne University Press), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

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