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Hogan, Edmond John (Ned) (1883–1964)

by Pam Jonas

This entry is from the Australian Dictionary of Biography

Edmond John (Ned) Hogan (1883-1964), farmer and premier, was born on 12 December 1883 at Wallace, Victoria, second son of Jeremiah Hogan, Irish immigrant and farmer, and his Melbourne-born wife Bridget, née Burke. Edmond was educated primarily at the Springbank Catholic School; in 1898 when the Hogans moved to Bunding, Edmond attended the state school there but remained only two weeks because of a difference of opinion with the teacher. (It was said of Hogan in adulthood that he resented criticism.) Although his education was often interrupted and he left school to drive a team of horses, he compensated by voracious reading.

Hogan's various jobs included road-making, timber-cutting, farm-labouring and rabbiting in addition to farm chores at home. In 1903 he began cutting timber at Walhalla for the Long Tunnel Gold Mine and in 1905 he left for Western Australia where he worked on the Kurramia timberlines supplying the Westralia Timber & Firewood Co. with wood for Kalgoorlie. Conditions on the timber-lines were appalling and after Hogan advanced from cutter to check-weigher at the company offices he became involved in the formation of the Kurramia Firewood Workers' Union. As secretary he was prominent in industrial negotiations in the strikes of 1908 and 1911. He did much to encourage the timberworkers, many of whom were Italian and Austrian, to join the union, visiting camps and conducting Sunday afternoon lessons for unionists. In 1911 he became secretary of the Kurrawang Firewood Workers' Union. For several years he was also a champion caber-tosser, weight-putter and hammer-thrower in the goldfields district.

Hogan was vice-president then president of the goldfields Social Democratic Federation in 1910-11 and was Social Democratic delegate to the Australian Labor Federation. He used his association with these groups to school himself in political organization and public speaking. He was at one time nominated for Labor preselection at Kalgoorlie but lost the ballot. In 1912 he contracted typhoid fever and pneumonia and after a long battle to regain health he left the goldfields for convalescence in Victoria. During this visit home the local State electorate of Warrenheip came up for by-election and in 1913 Hogan won the seat for Labor on a narrow margin of preference from three Liberal candidates; he held Warrenheip (Warrenheip and Grenville from 1927) for the next thirty years and became a farmer at Ballan.

Ned Hogan was a hard-working politician and a frequent and lengthy speaker both inside and outside the House. A very tall, athletically built man with piercing blue eyes and in later years a shock of grey hair, he was forthright and effective. An avowed pacifist, he was active in the anti-conscription campaigns around the Ballarat area in 1916-17. At the 1922 conference he was elected president of the Victorian branch of the Labor Party. In 1924 he was minister of railways, agriculture and markets as well as vice-president of the Board of Land and Works in the short-lived Prendergast Labor government. In 1926 he became leader of the Labor Party in Victoria and next year, when the Allan-Peacock administration resigned after the election in April, Hogan was commissioned to form a government.

He came into office on 20 May, holding 28 of 65 seats in the assembly, but supported by Albert Dunstan and the Country Progressive Party. He was known as a (John) 'Wren man', and allegedly consulted Wren before finalizing his ministry. As well as premier Hogan was treasurer and minister of markets and did much during his six months term to initiate new policy and legislation, especially in rural matters. Sir Frederic Eggleston said of him that with the economic decline he 'had to shed the revolutionary and become an Irish peasant'. He supported a compulsory wheat pool and arranged for a growers' ballot in May 1928; the proposal was narrowly defeated. He represented Victoria at the 1927 Premiers' Conference in Sydney which agreed to new financial arrangements between the Commonwealth and State governments and the establishment of the Loan Council. In November 1928 his government, having lost the support of the Country Progressive Party by the introduction of a redistribution bill, was defeated on its handling of the Melbourne waterside workers' strike. However, the McPherson ministry collapsed in October 1929 and at the subsequent election Labor won thirty seats. Hogan carried a no confidence motion and formed a government on 12 December.

His second government, supported again by the Country Progressive Party and after September 1930 by the reunited Country Party, spanned most of the worst years of the Depression. At the Premiers' Conference of May-June 1931 in Melbourne, Hogan, who had already reduced public service salaries, agreed to the Premiers' Plan; its implementation in Victoria reduced government expenditure by 29 per cent. Hogan was always at odds with the industrial section of the party, particularly with the militant Australian Railways Union, and from mid-1930 he had been continually criticized by the Trades Hall Council and the party's central executive for his refusal to give personal assurances that he would not support any plan to reduce wages and welfare payments. The strains on him resulted in periods of nervous illness and collapse and in March 1932 he voyaged to England to recuperate. On 6 April T. Tunnecliffe, as acting-premier, refused to pledge the government's continuing adherence to the Premiers' Plan and on 13 April the government fell on a vote of no confidence.

In the election of 14 May Labor suffered a crushing defeat. Hogan cabled his resignation as premier from London on 16 May; unendorsed by the Labor Party, he had retained his own seat by standing as a Premiers' Plan Labor candidate. During Hogan's absence Tunnecliffe agreed to comply with central executive demands to take action against members who contravened the resolution to reject the Premiers' Plan and in July Hogan, with John Jones, Esmond Kiernan, Henry Williams and E. E. Bond, was excluded from the Victorian branch of the A.L.P.

Having declined to remain in London as Victorian agent-general, Hogan returned home in October. In December he issued a Supreme Court writ against the central executive over his expulsion. He lost in what was a long and bitter case which left him totally alienated from the Labor Party. The final judgment, handed down by the High Court of Australia in August 1934, set a precedent of fundamental importance to Australian party politics when it made clear that grievances against executive decisions within a political party were not the province of the courts.

Hogan remained an Independent Labor member until 1935 when he joined the Country Party under Dunstan. He was minister of agriculture and mines and vice-president of the Board of Land and Works from April in the Dunstan government which, supported by Labor lasted until September 1943. Defeated at the elections, Hogan amid much controversy was appointed chairman of the Soil Conservation Board in 1945 by the Dunstan-Hollway coalition and held this position until 1953.

Hogan was a deeply religious man and a practising Catholic throughout his life. In retirement he wrote What's Wrong with Australia? (1953) and three pamphlets dealing with the menace of communism. He also worked for government funding of church schools. Hogan died on 23 August 1964 at St Vincent's Hospital, Melbourne, and was buried in the new Cheltenham cemetery. His family refused the offer of a state funeral. He was survived by his wife Molly Magdelene, née Conroy, whom he had married on 14 February 1917 at St Brigid's Catholic Church, Ballan, and by two sons. Their third son had been killed while serving with the Royal Australian Air Force in Rhodesia in 1942.

Select Bibliography

  • M. M. McCallum, Ballarat and District Citizens and Sports at Home and Abroad (Ballarat, 1916)
  • B. D. Graham, The Formation of the Australian Country Parties (Canb, 1966)
  • L. J. Louis, Trade Unions and the Depression (Canb, 1968)
  • J. Robertson, J. H. Scullin (Perth, 1974)
  • L. Ross, John Curtin (Melb, 1977)
  • K. White, John Cain and Victorian Labor 1917-1957 (Syd, 1982)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 25 Apr 1932
  • Argus (Melbourne), 4 Aug 1934
  • Age (Melbourne), 25 Aug 1964
  • Memoir of Honorable E. J. Hogan, 1884-1964 (Parliamentary Library, Melbourne).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Pam Jonas, 'Hogan, Edmond John (Ned) (1883–1964)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://labouraustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/hogan-edmond-john-ned-6697/text11555, accessed 27 September 2017.

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