Neil Brown (Australian politician)

Neil Anthony Brown KC (born 22 February 1940) is an Australian former politician. He was deputy leader of the Liberal Party and deputy opposition leader from 1985 to 1987, under John Howard. He served as Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (1981–1982) and Minister for Communications (1982–1983) in the Fraser government.

Neil Brown
Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party
In office
5 September 1985 – 17 July 1987
LeaderJohn Howard
Preceded byJohn Howard
Succeeded byAndrew Peacock
Minister for Communications
In office
7 May 1982 – 11 March 1983
Prime MinisterMalcolm Fraser
Preceded byIan Sinclair
Succeeded byMichael Duffy
Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs
In office
6 April 1981 – 7 May 1982
Prime MinisterMalcolm Fraser
Preceded byIan Viner
Succeeded byIan Macphee
Member of the Australian Parliament for Menzies
In office
1 December 1984 – 25 February 1991
Preceded byNew seat
Succeeded byKevin Andrews
Member of the Australian Parliament for Diamond Valley
In office
13 December 1975 – 5 March 1983
Preceded byDavid McKenzie
Succeeded byPeter Staples
In office
25 October 1969 – 2 December 1972
Preceded byNew seat
Succeeded byDavid McKenzie
Personal details
Born (1940-02-22) 22 February 1940 (age 84)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Political partyLiberal (1955–2001)
Alma materUniversity of Melbourne

Early life edit

Brown grew up in Essendon, in Melbourne's inner north. His father Alexander Brown was an electrical mechanic. He attended Moonee Ponds Central School and University High School, and went on to study law at the University of Melbourne.[1] During his studies he worked part-time at the office of the Victorian Public Solicitor. He was admitted to the Victorian Bar in 1964, and appointed Queen's Counsel in 1980.[2]

Politics edit

Early years edit

Brown joined the Liberal Party in 1955, at the age of 15. He was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1969, standing in the Division of Diamond Valley. He was 29 years old at the time, making him the Coalition's youngest MP. He was defeated by the Labor candidate David McKenzie in 1972, and returned to his legal practice, focusing primarily on industrial law. Brown reclaimed Diamond Valley at the 1975 election in a rematch against McKenzie.[2] In 1980, he spent several weeks in Zimbabwe as the head of a team of Australian observers at the 1980 elections.[3]

Fraser government edit

In April 1981, Brown was elevated to the ministry as Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs in the Fraser government.[4] He was briefly appointed Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs following the forced resignation of John Moore in April 1982. His major act in that portfolio was the announcement of an inquiry into the "colour-television affair" which had led to the resignations of Moore and Michael MacKellar.[5] The following month Brown was promoted to cabinet as Minister for Communications. He held that position until the Fraser government was defeated at the 1983 election; he again lost the seat of Diamond Valley to a Labor candidate, in this case, Peter Staples.[6]

Opposition edit

At the early 1984 election, Brown re-entered parliament as the member for the newly created Division of Menzies. After the election he was appointed to Andrew Peacock's shadow cabinet as Shadow Attorney-General. In September 1985, Brown was elected deputy leader of the Liberal Party and thus Deputy Leader of the Opposition, roles which had been vacated by John Howard when he replaced Peacock as party leader. He defeated eleven other candidates for the position, finishing with 36 out of 70 votes on the final ballot compared with fifteen for Ian Macphee, eleven for John Moore, and eight for Peter Shack.[7] In December 1985, Brown acted as party leader for two weeks while Howard recovered from an ear operation. However, National Party leader Ian Sinclair was the acting leader of the opposition during that time.[8] Brown served as Howard's deputy until July 1987, when a leadership spill was called in the aftermath of the party's defeat at the 1987 election. After several other candidates emerged, he did not recontest the position and was replaced by Andrew Peacock (an unsuccessful challenger for the leadership against Howard).[9]

Peter Shack, who was an unsuccessful candidate to replace Brown as deputy, made a criticism of Brown as he stated that coming after the Liberals' defeat at the recent 1987 election, its third consecutive defeat, the Liberal Party needed a deputy leader who could give "visible and effective political and parliamentary support to the leader".[10]

Brown remained a Coalition frontbencher – under Howard, Peacock, and John Hewson – until his unexpected resignation from parliament in February 1991. He returned to his law practice. The resulting by-election was won by the Liberal candidate Kevin Andrews.[11]

Later life edit

In 1993, Brown published a memoir titled On the Other Hand: Sketches and Reflections From Political Life. Reviewing the book for The Canberra Times, Jack Waterford compared it to the Alan Clark Diaries and described the author as "one of the more remarkable politicians to ever reach the top, or near top, of the Liberal Party".[12]

Brown let his membership of the Liberal Party lapse in 2001, due to dissatisfaction with the actions of the Howard government.[13] As of 2006, he was a mediator and arbitrator in domestic and international commercial, trade and construction matters and in Internet domain name disputes.[14][15]

Brown writes a weekly column for The Spectator Australia.[16]

Personal life edit

Brown married in 1985,[1] and had two stepchildren from his wife's first marriage.[17] His wife Margaret was the Liberal candidate at the 1989 Greensborough state by-election.[18] They later divorced and she remarried. Brown came out publicly in 1996, when he was included (with his permission) in OutRage magazine's list of prominent homosexuals and lesbians. In a 1998 interview, he said that his wife had known about his sexuality before they married. He described himself as gay, but also agreed that the term bisexual was applicable. He was one of the first Australian politicians – serving or otherwise – to come out publicly.[17]

Honours edit

  • 1 January 2001: Centenary Medal for service to the Commonwealth Parliament and Government from 1969 to 1991[19]

References edit

  1. ^ a b "New deputy is out of the political wilderness". The Canberra Times. 6 September 1985.
  2. ^ a b "A Liberal since the age of 15: Neil Brown". The Canberra Times. 10 May 1981.
  3. ^ "Australians". The Canberra Times. 1 February 1980.
  4. ^ "Brown tight-lipped on impending Ministry". The Canberra Times. 16 April 1981.
  5. ^ "Shake-up in Customs under way". The Canberra Times. 1 February 1980.
  6. ^ "Peacock's bouncer goes for six". The Canberra Times. Vol. 60, no. 18, 238. Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 6 September 1985. p. 7. Retrieved 30 June 2023 – via National Library of Australia.
  7. ^ "Summary of yesterday's scenes and what led to them". The Canberra Times. 6 September 1985.
  8. ^ "Howard on leave". The Canberra Times. 30 November 1985.
  9. ^ "Peacock to challenge on Friday". The Canberra Times. 15 July 1987.
  10. ^ "Peacock to challenge on Friday". The Canberra Times. 15 July 1987. p. 1. Retrieved 24 October 2021 – via
  11. ^ "Beale back as Brown bows out". The Canberra Times. 26 February 1991.
  12. ^ "Vanquished minister tells (nearly) all". The Canberra Times. 17 November 1993.
  13. ^ "Running a house of ill repute". The Age. 20 March 2002.
  14. ^ Miller, Nick (19 September 2006). "Aussie by any name". The Age. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 20 April 2007.
  15. ^ Miller, Nick (19 September 2006). "Arbitrator backs claim domain name use was 'conduct in bad faith'". The Age. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 20 April 2007.
  16. ^ Neil Brown
  17. ^ a b "Queen's counsel". The Sunday Age. 14 June 1998.
  18. ^ "Bad news for Cain Govt is no help to Liberals". The Canberra Times. 27 March 1989.
  19. ^ It's An Honour, Australian Government.

External links edit

Parliament of Australia
New division Member for Diamond Valley
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member for Diamond Valley
Succeeded by
New division Member for Menzies
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs
Succeeded by
Andrew Peacock
(Industry and Commerce)
Barry Cohen
(Consumer Affairs)
Preceded by Minister for Communications
Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party of Australia
Succeeded by