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The Menzies Ascendency: Implementing a Liberal Agenda and Consolidating Gains, 1954-1961

November 24, 2023 @ 9:30 am - 4:30 pm

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One event on November 24, 2023 at 9:30 am

Annual Conference presented by the Robert Menzies Institute 

WHERE: Old Quad, Building 150 (Parkville Campus)101 Tin AlleyParkville, VIC, 3052Australia (map)

Click here to book and see full program of topics and speakers

The period from 1954-1961 was a unique moment in Australian political history. With the Federal Opposition torn apart by the Great Labor Split, Prime Minister Robert Menzies skilfully seized a political ascendency that would see him win back-to-back landslide election victories in 1955 and 1958. Enjoying the full backing of his nation, Menzies was faced with a profound opportunity to impose his liberal vision on Australia, and he seized it with both hands. In this, the third of four annual conferences, our speakers will explore the extensive reforms which defined the era, and examine whether it was masterful political navigation or sheer luck which made them possible.

The period would see a flourishing of policy innovation in areas like immigration, healthcare, and above all tertiary education – where the Murray Report reforged and greatly expanded Australia’s university system, making it the cornerstone of an educated and competitive modern nation. The Menzies Government built enduring legacies with the founding of the Reserve Bank and the development of Canberra into a true capital city, while on issues such as nuclear power and Antarctic geopolitics, Australia confidently encountered new frontiers. Menzies’s political mastery perhaps manifested itself in over-confidence as demonstrated by his ill-fated intervention in the Suez Crisis, and the period would close with the narrowest of election victories. Nevertheless, while it lasted, ‘the Menzies Ascendancy’ was a thing to behold.


Robert Menzies Institute
(03) 8344 3411