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Bertie Richard (Bert) Milliner (1911–1975)

by Manfred Cross

This article was published:

This entry is from the Australian Dictionary of Biography

Bertie Richard (Bert) Milliner (1911-1975), politician and trade unionist, was born on 17 July 1911 at Kelvin Grove, Brisbane, sixth son of Queensland-born parents Arthur Milliner, glazier, and his wife Ellen, née Batchelor. Bertie attended the local state school, served an apprenticeship as a compositor at the Queensland Government Printing Office and became a linotype-operator. On 26 March 1938 at the Ann Street Presbyterian Church, Brisbane, he married Thelma Elizabeth Voght, a schoolteacher.

Joining the Queensland Printing Employees' Union (later the Printing Industry Employees' Union of Australia and from 1966 the Printing and Kindred Industries Union), Milliner was elected in 1934 to the board of management. He was the union's industrial officer and secretary-treasurer in 1949-66 and national vice-president in 1951-68. A delegate to the Trades and Labor Council of Queensland, he was a member of the executive (from 1952) and treasurer (1960-67). He also sat (1948-61) on the Queensland Printing Trades Group Apprenticeship Committee. As trade-union adviser on the Australian delegations, he travelled to Geneva to attend the thirty-seventh (1954) and forty-eighth (1964) sessions of the International Labour Conference.

Milliner represented Small Unions (1947-50) and his own union (from 1950) on the Queensland central executive of the Australian Labor Party. An active and influential State party manager, he chaired the rules committee, held office as vice-president for a term, and was to be president in 1963-68. At the meeting called in April 1957 to consider the situation of Vince Gair, he moved that there be further negotiations before the premier's expulsion from the A.L.P. was discussed; when his proposal was rejected, he voted with the T.L.C. group to expel Gair.

As party president, Milliner worked closely with two able State secretaries, Jim Keeffe and Tom Burns. They endeavoured to overcome problems arising from the A.L.P.'s period in Opposition, to repair relations with the powerful Australian Workers' Union, and—in concert with J. E. Duggan—to foster co-operation with the Queensland Parliamentary Labor Party. Milliner was a competent chairman, courteous and fair. He tried to achieve unity, to broaden the party's electoral base, and to encourage the involvement of women and the young. His leadership proved decisive in winning party support in Queensland for Gough Whitlam in his confrontation with the A.L.P.'s federal executive in February 1966.

In 1962 Milliner had unsuccessfully sought party nomination as one of two candidates to be considered by the Legislative Assembly for a casual vacancy in the Senate. At the 1967 elections he won a seat in the Senate. His term began on 1 July 1968 and he served exactly seven years. Friendly and well informed, he was a vigorous debater, with a reputation for 'good humour, wisdom and integrity'. He sat on ten parliamentary committees. Chairman (from 1973) of the Senate publications committee and of the joint committee on the Australian Capital Territory, he was appointed temporary chairman of committees in the Senate on 10 July 1974.

Milliner was a Freemason. He assisted numerous community organizations, among them the South Queensland Prisoners' Aid Society, the Queensland Board of Adult Education, the Industries' Sheltered Workshop Committee and the State committee of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust (Australia). He enjoyed Rugby League football and supported Western Suburbs. Survived by his wife, two sons and two daughters, he died of myocardial infarction on 30 June 1975 in his Brisbane office and was cremated. (Sir) Joh Bjelke-Petersen's government replaced Milliner with Albert Field, an action which enabled the Senate to defer appropriation bills in October, thereby contributing to the dismissal of the Whitlam government. Milliner's son Glen was a member (1977-98) of the Queensland Legislative Assembly.

Select Bibliography

  • Parliamentary Debates (Commonwealth, House of Representatives), 9 July 1975, p 3549
  • Parliamentary Debates (Commonwealth, Senate), 9 July 1975, p 2687
  • Parliamentary Debates (Queensland), 27 Aug 1975, p 207, 3 Sept 1975, p 387
  • Trades and Labor Council of Queensland records (University of Queensland Library)
  • ALP records (State Library of Queensland).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Manfred Cross, 'Milliner, Bertie Richard (Bert) (1911–1975)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 15 July 2024.

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