Neil Pickard

Neil Edward William Pickard (13 February 1929 – 13 April 2007) was a New South Wales politician and Minister of the Crown in the cabinets of Sir Eric Willis and Nick Greiner. He was a member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly for 26 years from 17 November 1973 to 3 May 1991 for the Liberal Party until his retirement from politics upon the abolition of his seat at the election. He was appointed NSW Agent-General in London, but was recalled soon after due to expenses abuse.[1]

Neil Pickard
Neil Pickard.jpg
Pickard in 1980
Minister for Education
In office
23 January 1976 – 14 May 1976
PremierSir Eric Willis
Preceded bySir Eric Willis
Succeeded byEric Bedford
Member of the New South Wales Parliament
for Hornsby
In office
17 November 1973 – 3 May 1991
Preceded byJohn Maddison
Succeeded bySeat abolished
Personal details
Born(1929-02-13)13 February 1929
Strathfield, New South Wales, Australia
Died13 April 2007(2007-04-13) (aged 78)
Turramurra, New South Wales, Australia
Political partyLiberal Party

Early lifeEdit

Pickard was born in Strathfield in Sydney, the son of Edward Picard and Mary MacGilvray. Having left school at age 12 to support his family, Pickard gained a place to study at the Methodist Leigh College in 1951, and was educated at the University of Sydney, Wesley College, where he gained a Bachelor of Arts (BA), a Master of Education (MEd), a Diploma of Education (DipEd) and later at the University of Melbourne he gained a Licentiate in Theology (LTh) and a Diploma in Theology (DipTh).[2]

He moved to Peak Hill to serve as a Methodist Minister from 1952 to 1965. He entered politics when he was elected as became an Alderman of the Peak Hill Shire Council and it was there also that he joined the Liberal Party: "to me the Liberal Party was the party that offered the greatest freedom on a grass roots level".[3] In 1965 he became an English and History teacher at Dubbo High School. In 1969 he was also elected an Alderman of Dubbo City Council, becoming Chairman of the Country Mayors Association. Pickard also became Western Regional chairman and a member of the State Executive of the Liberal Party.[2] In May 1971, Pickard was asked by Prime Minister William McMahon to be part of the education sub-committee of the joint standing committee on Federal Policy, to examine Liberal education policy.[3]

Political careerEdit

In 1973, while teaching at Sydney University, Pickard was approached by the Premier of New South Wales, Sir Robert Askin and offered the nomination for the vacant Liberal preselection of the seat of Hornsby, when the sitting member, John Maddison, chose to contest the new seat of Ku-ring-gai. He accepted and was subsequently elected at the 1973 election with 59.97% of the vote.[4]

During the Askin and Lewis Governments he remained on the backbenches, but following the poor performance of Premier Lewis, despite a federal swing towards the Coalition after the 1975 Federal election, Pickard, along with fellow backbenchers David Arblaster (Mosman) and Keith Doyle (Vaucluse), all of whom had supported Sir Eric Willis in previous ballots, moved against Premier Lewis. At the party room meeting on 20 January 1976, Pickard moved the motion that the leadership be declared vacant. This was carried 22 votes to 11 and Willis was made Leader and Premier unopposed.[5] Willis then appointed Pickard on 23 January 1976 to the cabinet as Minister for Education, which he held until the Coalition government lost the 1976 election on 14 May 1976. At the March election he retained his seat with a significant margin of 61.56%.[6] In Opposition, he was appointed as Shadow Minister for Education under Willis and then Peter Coleman from 28 May 1976 to 7 October 1978.[7] At the 1978 'Wranslide' election he came close to defeat within his own electorate, surviving by only 562 votes and 50.85% of the vote.[8]

When Coleman lost his seat at the election, the new leader, John M. Mason, made Pickard Shadow Minister for Mineral Resources; Pickard occupied this post from 2 November 1978 to 11 July 1980. He was thereafter made Shadow Minister for Energy, a title he held from 11 July 1980 to 12 October 1981. Once John Dowd became leader, Pickard was dropped from the opposition frontbench. However, upon the election of Nick Greiner as leader, he returned as Shadow Minister for Education from 8 April 1983 to 18 February 1986, when he was appointed on 15 May as Shadow Minister for Mineral Resources.[7] Pickard was suspended for two days from parliament after losing his customarily cool temper during a rowdy session in the Legislative Assembly on 27 October 1987. Pickard, who had been upset by Labor MPs laughing during a speech by Greiner, got up and pointed at Premier Barrie Unsworth: "It's all right for you, you giggling Gert. That's all you can do is smile, you mock yourself if you can smile at all. Get your cardigan on and come out into the street and fight." Unsworth declined the invitation and the Speaker, Laurie Kelly, had Pickard expelled.[9]

Once Unsworth had lost in a landslide to the Greiner-led coalition at the 1988 election, Pickard was appointed as Minister for Mineral Resources and Energy in the new government. In this capacity Pickard came under fire for not declaring pecuniary interests which amounted to shares in two mining companies, for nine months, and taking a further three weeks to clear up the matter.[10] Pickard generated international interest when he announced to Parliament a plan to use seized marijuana crops as a cheaper alternative for coal, the plan was met with uproarious laughter from both sides.[11] He held office until 1991 when his seat of Hornsby was abolished,[12] and he subsequently retired from politics.[2]

After politicsEdit

Following his departure from parliament, Pickard was appointed by the Premier as the Agent-General for New South Wales in London. However, following allegations that he had abused his expenses while in that office, the new Premier John Fahey abolished the office of Agent-General in 1992 and Pickard was recalled in March 1993. Pickard contested the decision over a breach of contract and later won a dispute over compensation, although he never again took part in political life.[13][14]


  1. ^ "The Hon. Neil Edward William Pickard". Former Members of the Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 11 May 2019.
  2. ^ a b c "Death of the Honourable Neil Edward William Pickard, a Former Minister of the Crown". Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 14 June 2010.
  3. ^ a b Mayne, Robert, "The back-room boys". Sydney Morning Herald 10 September 1972 pg 28
  4. ^ Green, Antony. "1973 Hornsby". New South Wales Election Results 1856-2007. Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 25 July 2020.
  5. ^ Hancock, Ian (2007). The Liberals: The NSW Division 1945–2000. Sydney: Federation Press. 155. ISBN 978-1-86287-659-0.
  6. ^ Green, Antony. "1976 Hornsby". New South Wales Election Results 1856-2007. Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 25 July 2020.
  7. ^ a b "Opposition Shadow Ministries from 1973". Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 14 June 2010.
  8. ^ Green, Antony. "1978 Hornsby". New South Wales Election Results 1856-2007. Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 25 July 2020.
  9. ^ Kennedy, Peter, "The other side of Neil Pickard". Sydney Morning Herald 29 December 1987 pg 24
  10. ^ Coultan, Mark, "Remember your member". Sydney Morning Herald 6 April 1989 pg 72
  11. ^ "Is Australia going to pot?". The News 30 November 1990 pg 7
  12. ^ Green, Antony. "Elections for Hornsby". New South Wales Election Results 1856-2007. Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 25 July 2020.
  13. ^ Fahey, John; Smiles, Philip (1 September 1992). "European Trade Opportunities" (Hansard). Legislative Assembly. Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 15 February 2018.
  14. ^ Fahey, John; Carr, Bob (3 May 1994). "Former Agent-General Neil Pickard" (Hansard). Legislative Assembly. Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 15 February 2018.


New South Wales Legislative Assembly
Preceded by
John Maddison
Member for Hornsby
1973 – 1991
District abolished
Political offices
Preceded by
Eric Willis
Minister for Education
Succeeded by
Eric Bedford
Preceded by
Ken Gabb
Minister for Mineral Resources
Succeeded by
as Minister for Minerals and Energy
Minister for Energy
Preceded by
Minister for Minerals and Energy
1988 – 1991
Succeeded by
Ian Causley
as Minister for Natural Resources
Succeeded by
Robert Webster
as Minister for Energy
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Norman Brunsdon
Agent-General for New South Wales
1991 – 1993
Post abolished