Tom Lewis (Australian politician)

Thomas Lancelot Lewis AO (23 January 1922 – 25 April 2016) was a New South Wales politician, Premier of New South Wales and minister in the cabinets of Sir Robert Askin and Sir Eric Willis. He became Premier following Askin's retirement from politics and held the position until he was replaced by Willis in a party vote. Lewis was first elected to the New South Wales Legislative Assembly for the Electoral district of Wollondilly for the Liberal Party in 1957, and served until his resignation in 1978.[4]

Tom Lewis

Thomas Lewis.gif
33rd Premier of New South Wales
In office
3 January 1975 – 23 January 1976
MonarchElizabeth II
DeputySir Charles Cutler
Leon Punch
Preceded bySir Robert Askin
Succeeded bySir Eric Willis
Member of the New South Wales Parliament
for Wollondilly
In office
26 October 1957 – 7 September 1978
Preceded byBlake Pelly
Succeeded byBill Knott
Personal details
Thomas Lancelot Lewis

(1922-01-23)23 January 1922
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
Died25 April 2016(2016-04-25) (aged 94)
Political partyLiberal Party
Spouse(s)Stephanie Spector,[1] Yutta (formerly Anton)[2]
RelationsEssington Lewis (uncle)
Sandy Lewis (brother)
ParentsLancelot Ashley Lewis and Grace Margaret (Gretta) Lewis nee Laidlaw[3]
Military service
Branch/serviceAustralian Army
Years of service1941–1946
RankAustralian Army OF-1b.svg Lieutenant
Unit1st Armoured Division
2/3rd Commando Squadron
Battles/warsWorld War II

Early lifeEdit

He was born in Adelaide, the son of Lancelot Ashley and Gretta Lewis, and was educated at St Peter's College, Adelaide, from 1931 to 1940. Subsequently, he managed the property of his uncle, Essington Lewis, Managing Director of BHP and Director-General of Munitions during World War II. He was a member of the Australian Imperial Force from 1940 to 1946, and served in Sydney, Celebes, Java and Borneo as a lieutenant. He was on the staff of the Embassy of Australia, Washington, D.C., from 1946 to 1951.

Early careerEdit

Lewis was elected as the member for Wollondilly representing the Liberal Party in 1957. When the Askin Government came to power in 1965, Lewis was given relatively junior portfolios of Lands and Mines. As lands minister he was responsible for setting up the National Parks and Wildlife Service in 1967. In 1970, he set up the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife as an independent not-for-profit organisation, in order to be the fundraising arm of the National Parks and Wildlife Service. In 1972, Tourism was added to his ministerial responsibilities when Eric Willis moved to Education.


Askin announced his resignation late in 1974, and Lewis was chosen as leader over Willis and Justice Minister John Maddison. He was sworn in on as Premier on 3 January 1975. He was elected during an uneasy time for the Liberal government, being engaged in almost daily warfare with the Whitlam Labor Government in Canberra, most notably over the Medibank health care scheme, to which New South Wales was the last state to sign.[5]

The defining moment of the Lewis government was the decision taken by Lewis to break with convention when Whitlam appointed his Attorney-General, Lionel Murphy, a Senator from New South Wales, to the High Court of Australia. In a break with long-standing convention, Lewis refused to appoint a replacement Senator from the same party, instead appointing the 72-year-old Mayor of Albury, Cleaver Bunton. This triggered immediate outrage, not only from the Labor Party but also the executive of the Liberal party.[5]

By the end of 1975, Lewis' image was badly damaged and he soon lost the confidence of his party. Sentiment was growing in favour of replacing him with Sir Eric Willis. At a caucus meeting on 20 January 1976, parliamentary backbencher Neil Pickard called a spill motion, which was carried 22 votes to 11. Lewis opted not to try to regain his post, leaving Willis to take the leadership unopposed. Lewis's term as Premier came to an end on 23 January 1976, his 54th birthday. Lewis was the only non-elected non-Labor premier who did not take the Coalition into an election.[6]

Later lifeEdit

Lewis served as Willis' Minister for Local Government until May 1976, when the Liberal Government was narrowly defeated by the Labor Party.[4] In opposition Lewis did not hold any position within the Shadow Cabinet and later resigned from Parliament on 7 September 1978, the vacancy becoming one of the justifications for calling the election for 7 October 1978. At the election, his seat fell to the Labor candidate Bill Knott.[5] On his departure from parliament, he was permitted by Queen Elizabeth II, on the Governor's recommendation, to continue to use the title "The Honourable".[7]

He was made an Officer of the Order of Australia on 26 January 2000 "For service to the Parliament of New South Wales, to the environment as the founder of the National Parks and Wildlife Service of New South Wales, and to the community".[8] On 1 January 2001 he was awarded the Centenary Medal.[9] Lewis died on 25 April 2016, aged 94.[10]


  1. ^ Thomas Lancelot Lewis Treasurers, The Treasury, NSW Government Archived 9 May 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ "Tom Lewis and his family". The Australian Women's Weekly. 42 (27). 4 December 1974. p. 2. Retrieved 27 April 2016 – via Trove.
  3. ^ Roger, André (2000). "Lewis, Grace Margaret (Gretta) (1892–1968)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Melbourne University Press. ISSN 1833-7538. Retrieved 30 September 2015 – via National Centre of Biography, Australian National University.
  4. ^ a b "The Hon. Thomas Lancelot Lewis (1922-2016)". Former Members of the Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 5 May 2019.
  5. ^ a b c Federation Press, The Premiers of New South Wales 1856–2005 – Volume 2, 1901–2005 (Syd, 2005)pg 387–399
  6. ^ Hancock, Ian (2007). The Liberals: The NSW Division 1945-2000. Sydney: Federation Press. 155. ISBN 978-1-86287-659-0.
  7. ^ "No. 46930". The London Gazette. 8 June 1976. p. 8115.
  8. ^ Officer of the Order of Australia, AO, 26 January 2000,
  9. ^ Centenary Medal, 1 January 2001,
  10. ^ "Former NSW premier Tom Lewis dies". AAP. 27 April 2016. Retrieved 1 May 2016.


New South Wales Legislative Assembly
Preceded by
Blake Pelly
Member for Wollondilly
Succeeded by
Bill Knott
Political offices
Preceded by
Keith Compton
Minister for Lands
Succeeded by
Milton Morris
Preceded by
Jim Simpson
Minister for Mines
Succeeded by
Wal Fife
Preceded by
Eric Willis
as Minister for Tourism and Sport
Minister for Tourism
Succeeded by
Sir Charles Cutler
Preceded by
Sir Robert Askin
Premier of New South Wales
Succeeded by
Sir Eric Willis
Treasurer of New South Wales
Preceded by
Col Fisher
Minister for Local Government
Succeeded by
Harry Jensen
Party political offices
Preceded by
Sir Robert Askin
Leader of the New South Wales Liberal Party
Succeeded by
Sir Eric Willis