John McDonald portrait

John McDonald, premier 1950-52
Title Premier John McDonald
Artist John Perry
Date 1983
Medium Oil on canvas
1230 x 970 x 65 mm

Premier 31st October 1952 – 17th December 1952

Premier 27th June 1950 – 28th October 1952

Sir John Gladstone Black (Jack) McDonald (1898-1977), the 37th Premier of Victoria, was born Scotland, emigrating to Australia with his family in 1912. In March 1916 McDonald enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force and served on the Western Front.

An orchardist in Shepparton, McDonald’s involvement in agricultural and community organisations led to a comfortable victory in the 1936 by-election for Goulburn Valley in the Legislative Assembly. A member of the Country Party, McDonald was party whip from 1938-1943 and in 1945 transferred to the seat of Shepparton.

McDonald was Minister without Portfolio in the Dunstan-Hollway coalition government from June to September 1943, and Minister of Water Supply and of Electrical Undertakings from September 1943 to October 1945. During John Cain’s Labor government (1945-1947), he was leader of the County Party and opposition, and in October 1947 McDonald became deputy premier and Minister for Lands, Water Supply and Soldier Settlement in Thomas Hollway’s Liberal-Country Party coalition government (1947-1948).

In June 1950 McDonald negotiated with Labor and became premier in a coalition government, however the conservative approach of the Country Party caused tensions in the coalition. The refusal of cabinet to commute Jean Lee’s death sentence in 1951, the handling of industrial relations and McDonald’s resistance to the redistribution of seats left him in a precarious position.

McDonald survived a no-confidence motion in September 1952. In retaliation he established a royal commission to investigate bribery allegations against the motion’s leader Thomas Hollway. One month later, Labor and Hollway supporters blocked Legislative Council supply and McDonald resigned as premier. Hollway formed a Government lasting three days, and McDonald was re-commissioned premier by the Governor on the 31st of October and was granted dissolution of parliament.

Labor won its first majority government in the December 1952 election and McDonald continued on in parliament for another term, retiring in 1955. McDonald’s achievements as premier included establishment of the Mental Hygiene Authority, the Gas and Fuel Corporation Authority, the expansion of the Eildon Weir and the extension of votes in the Legislative Council for all adults. In 1957 he was knighted.

John McDonald died on 23 April 1977 at Mooroopna and received a state memorial service. He was survived by his wife Mary and three children.

This portrait by John Perry was painted posthumously.


© John Perry