The former Deputy Prime Minister and stalwart of rural politics, Doug Anthony, has died at the age of 90, in Murwillumbah, the northern NSW town where he was born.
A statement from Mr Anthony’s family yesterday advised ‘with heavy hearts’ of his passing in a local aged care facility.
The statement said, ‘Although Doug was privileged to serve the people of Australia in high office, he always considered his family to be his greatest legacy and contribution to the world.
‘He was very much a man of the Tweed region, and it is fitting that he should depart this life from within the community that he loved so much.
‘His family is tremendously proud of his legacy. While always very humble, he made a lasting contribution to the nation, and particularly to people in country Australia.
‘May he rest in peace.’
Leaders remember Mr Anthony
The current Deputy PM and leader of the Nationals, Michael McCormack, said, ‘Today we mourn the loss of one of The National Party’s greatest sons and a stalwart of Australian politics, Mr Doug Anthony, Deputy Prime Minister from 1971-72 and again from 1975-83.
‘Doug Anthony was a man of significant conviction and even more significant achievement. The outcomes he secured for regional and rural Australia have stood the test of time. He was dedicated to ensuring country Australians had a strong voice in Government and that they were not just listened to, but that they were front of mind for Government decision-makers.
‘Doug Anthony stood up for country communities and as part of the Menzies, Holt, McMahon and Fraser Governments, he opened up great opportunities for regional Australia on the world stage,’ said Mr McCormack.
‘As Trade Minister, he expanded trade with Japan and China and was heavily involved in opening up opportunities in the ASEAN countries and in the Middle East and many other countries.
‘As Primary Industry Minister, he was heavily involved in measures affecting the major rural export industries: reconstruction of the dairy industry, the introduction of wheat quotas, the establishment of a wool reserve price scheme and the Australian Wool Commission and the upgrading of Australian export abattoirs.
‘He was a man of decency, integrity, purpose and resolve. Mr Anthony never took a backwards step in advocating for our regions. It is because of Mr Anthony that The National Party stands today in its 100th year of existence.
‘Rural and regional Australia has lost one of our greatest today,’ concluded Mr McCormack.
David Littleproud, Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management, and deputy leader of the Nationals, said, ‘The National Party family is today mourning the loss of the Hon. John Douglas Anthony, giant of rural and regional politics and a legend of the National Party.
‘Together with the Deputy Prime Minister and on behalf of the entire federal Nationals parliamentary team I extend my deepest condolences to the Anthony family and to the New South Wales North Coast community that he hailed from.
‘Doug served his electorate of Richmond in Northern New South Wales as well as our nation with distinction as leader of the Country Party and National Party for over 12 years, including as deputy prime minister for almost 10 years.
‘Doug Anthony epitomised the finest qualities of leadership and service and leaves a significant legacy for future generations of National Party representatives to uphold and continue.
‘Our nation has been made richer because of the work he did and we are all poorer for his passing,’ said Mr Littleproud.
On social media, the Member for Page, Kevin Hogan, said ‘I always felt I was in the presence of a legend when I was with Doug. He was always easy with a warm smile and interest in how you were going… He is a role model of mine.’
Politics in the blood
Doug Anthony was the son of the former member for Richmond, Hubert Lawrence ‘Larry’ Anthony, who was Postmaster-General in the Menzies Government until his untimely death in 1957.
Young Doug abandoned his plan to be a dairy farmer and was elected to succeed his father at the age of 27. By 1964 he was the Minister for the Interior, where he campaigned for electoral redistribution favouring country seats.
He became the Country Party’s youngest leader after the retirement of Sir John ‘Black Jack’ McEwen.
Later, Doug Anthony became famous for carrying out his Acting Prime Ministerial duties at Christmas time from the family’s holiday caravan at New Brighton, where there was only one shared public phone to conduct the business of the nation.
He helped Malcolm Fraser defeat Gough Whitlam in the 1975 federal election (he had clashed with Whitlam over aid to PNG, believing the country deserved more), supported uranium mining for export, expanded the reach of his party throughout the country and presided over its transition to becoming the National Party.
After retiring from political life in 1984 he spoke in support of Australia becoming a republic. His name gained a new sort of fame when it became attached to the Canberra comedy trio the Doug Anthony Allstars.
Doug Anthony and his wife Margot donated the land for the Tweed Regional Gallery.
One of Mr Anthony’s sons, Larry Anthony, represented the seat of Richmond after his father and became an influential National Party figure in his own right, particularly during the Howard era. He is now a lobbyist in Canberra with the SAS Group.
With his passing, Doug Anthony leaves behind his devoted wife Margot, his children Dugald, Jane and Larry, their spouses and his nine grand-children.