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Moloney, Parker John (1879–1961)

by C. J. Lloyd

This entry is from the Australian Dictionary of Biography

Parker John Moloney (1879-1961), teacher, politician and public servant, was born on 12 August 1879 at Port Fairy, Victoria, son of Maurice Moloney and his wife Mary, née Bowe. He worked on the family farm at Boot Pool and attended school at Port Fairy and later at the Hamilton Academy. A childhood friend was Thomas Joseph Ryan. Solidly grounded in mathematics and classics, Moloney became a teacher at J. B. O'Hara's South Melbourne College in 1902 and then at University High School. His lodgings were close to the Trades Hall, and he began to mix with industrial and Labor leaders. Like his political peers, James Scullin and Frank Brennan, Moloney developed his debating skills through the Catholic Young Men's Association.

From 1906 he was principal of Beechworth College but in 1910 he won the Federal seat of Indi for Labor. He lost in 1913, but regained the seat in the Labor landslide of 1914. Moloney's strong opposition to conscription lost him rural Indi in 1917. He crossed the border to win Hume in New South Wales in 1919, as its first Labor representative. Moloney moved his residence to Melbourne, but built up strong personal support in Hume, touring regularly by bicycle and open car. On 15 April 1914 he had married Margaret Mary Mills of Bendigo.

Under Scullin, Moloney was minister for markets and transport in 1929-31. He attended the 1930 Imperial Conference in London, then went to the United States of America for trade consultations. He negotiated the first Australian trade treaty with Canada at Ottawa, an achievement that won him a parliamentary ovation. Moloney attended the crucial conferences which framed the Premiers' Plan in mid-1931, and prepared for the 1932 Imperial Economic Conference at Ottawa, but lost his seat when the Scullin government was swept from office in December 1931.

In the era before parliamentary pensions, he was left virtually destitute. He sold his house at Moonee Ponds, Melbourne, and moved his family into an aunt's home. In partnership with R. V. Keane, another defeated Labor parliamentarian, Moloney scraped together enough to buy two old mining dumps near Bendigo. When the Collins House group bought the dumps for £3000, he invested his share of £1500 in property. For some years he worked as a mining consultant from an office in Collins House. Extremely conscious of his reputation for probity, Moloney did not sell shares in the Fiji Mining Lease of Blue Mounts Alluvial purchased on the advice of an old political colleague Edward Theodore, when they fluctuated advantageously and mysteriously on the Stock Exchange.

He was Victorian State president of the Australian Labor Party in 1939. He twice stood unsuccessfully for the Senate, but withdrew from Labor's winning team in 1943. In later years Moloney lost touch with the A.L.P. and joined the Democratic Labor Party. He was chairman of the Victorian Dried Fruits Board in 1936-57, retiring only after his family surreptitiously lobbied Prime Minister (Sir) Robert Menzies for a pension, and was chairman of the Commonwealth Wheat Industry Stabilisation Board in 1947-49. Moloney was closely associated with Archbishop Daniel Mannix, who was his confessor. His principal interest outside public life was horse-racing.

Moloney died on 8 May 1961 and was buried in Melbourne general cemetery after a state funeral. His two sons and a daughter survived him. A calm, dignified man of medium height, 'bearing the stamp of the pedagogue', with a piercing, reedy voice well suited to parliamentary debate, Moloney was a distinctive representative of a generation of Catholic Labor politicians of Irish descent. Archbishop (Sir) Guilford Young described him as 'outstanding among a great generation of Catholic men who had a special Catholic ethos'.

Select Bibliography

  • Table Talk (Melbourne), 7 Aug 1930
  • Australian Worker, 4 Dec 1929
  • Punch (Melbourne), 9 June 1910, 9 May 1912
  • Parker John Moloney papers (MS 2074, National Library of Australia)
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

C. J. Lloyd, 'Moloney, Parker John (1879–1961)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://labouraustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/moloney-parker-john-7617/text13311, accessed 24 September 2017.

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