HANNAFORD, Douglas Clive (1903–1967)
Senator for South Australia, 1950–67 (Liberal Party of Australia; Independent)

Douglas Clive Hannaford, who spoke out against his party’s support of the Vietnam War, was born to Walter Hannaford and Clara Evelyn, née Bowden, on 11 January 1903 in the South Australian town of Riverton. A member of the Legislative Council of South Australia for almost thirty years, Walter was a farmer and pastoralist on the family property, Broad Oak. Walter’s father established the property in 1855, soon after arriving from Devonshire, England.

Clive, as he was usually known, was educated at Riverton Primary and Riverton and District High School, completing his education with a year at Prince Alfred College, Adelaide. He went on to become a successful wheat farmer and to manage Broad Oak. On 15 March 1926, at the Methodist Church, Pirie Street, Adelaide, he married Edna May (Bessie) Scutt, known as Wood, a nurse. Bessie later wrote that she ‘always felt his first love was the land’.[1]

Hannaford entered public service in 1936 as a member of the Gilbert (later Riverton) District Council representing the Peter’s Hill ward, serving in 1949 as chairman. His father and grandfather before him had occupied the same post. Twice president of the Riverton Institute, he also served as chairman of the Riverton and District High School Council. During World War II he was the district’s Coordinator of Civil Defence, following his rejection for military service in 1941 due to poor health. He became a life member of the Agricultural Bureau of South Australia. Hannaford took an early interest in politics, serving as president and vice-president of the Riverton branch of the Liberal and Country League (LCL) from 1940, as a member of the LCL state executive (1937–50), and as deputy chairman of its organising committee. He unsuccessfully sought preselection for the South Australian House of Assembly in 1940 and 1943, and for the Legislative Council in 1940. In 1946 Hannaford tied with another candidate in a preselection contest for Stanley in the House of Assembly election for the following year. Both candidates stood for Stanley, and both lost.

In 1949 he was elected in sixth place as a Liberal Party senator for South Australia. In his first speech, on 2 March 1950, he stated that one of the primary duties of senators was ‘to represent State interests adequately’. He referred to the necessity of dealing with soil conservation on a national basis. He called for a balanced economic strategy, and stated: ‘Neither I nor any other honorable senator on this side of the chamber believes in unbridled private enterprise … We are perfectly honest when we say that we, as a party, are not opposed to a certain amount of State control’.[2]

Nor was he reluctant to support Labor initiatives when he thought they were sound. During debate on the States Grants (Additional Tax Reimbursement) Bill 1950, he said a proposal by Labor senators Don Willesee and Nick McKenna for the establishment of a Senate committee to review Commonwealth–state financial relations was ‘worthy of consideration’. In a later speech on the Wheat Industry Stabilisation (Refund of Charge) Bill 1950, he recorded his support for the scheme introduced by the former Labor government. On 4 November 1954 he crossed the floor with six other Liberal and Country Party senators to vote for an unsuccessful amendment proposed by Senator Seward to the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Bill.[3]

Always interested in the operation of the Parliament, he soon became involved in parliamentary committees, the ‘extravagances’ of public funding being a major theme in his approach to this work. As a member of the Printing Committee, he took a keen interest in Hansard. In a speech on the Appropriation Bill 1953–54 he opposed an allowance of £10 000 to enable Hansard to be printed in volumes unique to each house. His view was ignored, as was his suggestion for a reduction in the printing of parliamentary papers. Earlier he had raised the difficulty of assessing properly the expenses of federal government departments, particularly the Department of Works, and was severely critical of the lack of accountability for work at the Woomera Rocket Range in South Australia. In 1954 he pointed to the necessity of synchronising elections in the House of Representatives and the Senate. He was concerned with the degeneration of the Senate into a party house.[4]

On 25 August 1965 Hannaford joined the maverick Liberal senator Reg Wright and Democratic Labor Party senators Frank McManus and Vincent Gair in crossing the floor of the Senate to support the Labor Opposition’s motion for disallowance of the Government’s amendment to the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations. The amendment, which had been designed to defend the Government’s two-airline policy against the threat of a legal appeal by the freight company IPEC, delegated powers from the Minister for Civil Aviation, then Senator Henty, to the Director-General. In proposing the disallowance motion, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Nick McKenna, suggested that Henty was not comfortable with Cabinet’s decision regarding the regulation.

Hannaford did not speak during the debate (due to his health) but later told the Australian Financial Review:

I am an orthodox Government supporter … I have never before objected to its actions on important matters. It gave me no joy to do what I did, but if I had not registered a protest against the way this regulation was introduced, I would have felt even worse than I did.[5]

The following year Hannaford decided that he could no longer support the Government’s involvement in the Vietnam War, and in February 1967 notified the South Australian LCL of his decision to sit on the cross benches as an independent. With his term due to expire on 30 June 1968, he also indicated his intention not to stand for the Senate at the next election. On 9 March 1967 he told his fellow senators:

I want to make it quite clear that this was not a hasty decision. It goes back to June of last year when I first declared that I was not in favour of the Government’s policy of intervention in Vietnam or of sending conscripts there. I continued to support the Government but I felt that continuation of that course might give the impression that I was condoning the policy on Vietnam, and that I will never do. I can assure honourable senators that the night prior to making my final decision to break with the Government Parties was one of torment to me … On the Tuesday morning before the opening of Parliament I went along to Senator Henty [Leader of the Government in the Senate] and explained my position … I was treated very sympathetically by Senator Henty … He said: ‘Where it is a matter of conscience I would not try to influence a member who has made a very serious decision’.

Hannaford ‘read incessantly about the problem of Vietnam and its implications’. He had also received a ‘tremendous number of letters’ since he had first declared his position, and only two had expressed outright opposition to it. ‘I have come to the conclusion that we would have been much better served had we remained out of this struggle’, he said. As far as national service was concerned, he had always felt it was important and should be supported, but he had an important qualification: ‘I believe that national service is justified in an emergency but is not justified in an undeclared war, in which an emergency has never been shown to me clearly to exist’. Hannaford said he would continue to support the Government on general economic policy, as he had always done.

In the months that followed, Hannaford made fewer contributions to parliamentary debate. He continued to sit on the cross benches, sometimes drawing criticism from government senators. On 4 April 1967 the Minister for Repatriation, Senator G. C. McKellar, told the Senate:

I have no respect for a person who, having been put here by an organisation, turns on that organisation and resigns from the ranks of the Government that that organisation supports, and remains in the Parliament. That sort of conduct is not befitting any man who has the interests of the country at heart.[6]

On 7 September Hannaford spoke in the debate on the Defence Force Protection Bill, which made it an offence to send or take money or goods to certain bodies outside Australia who were opposed to Australian troops in Vietnam. He said he had originally planned to vote for the legislation, but what he had heard in the debate had convinced him that he must protest against it. ‘It could mean that I completely alienate myself from my former Party colleagues’, he said, ‘I do not think it will, but if so, I cannot help it’. He was the only one of the 184 senators and members of the House of Representatives who opposed the bill.

Hannaford said the debate had shown him that the bill had been used ‘as a whipping post for the purpose of a political attack on the Labor Opposition and those people, including myself, who think similarly in regard to the Vietnam conflict’. He did not blame the Labor Opposition for not opposing it. ‘It would bring joy to the Government’, he declared, ‘if it could be said that Labor was against giving protection to our fighting men in Vietnam … it would be shouted from the housetops, on the hustings and everywhere else’. Hannaford’s stand against Australian involvement in the Vietnam War had considerable impact on public opinion in South Australia, inspiring the founding of the Campaign for Peace in Vietnam in July 1967, and stimulating debate on university campuses.[7]

On Sunday 22 October 1967 Hannaford joined a march of approximately 9000 people in Sydney opposing the Vietnam War, and was one of the speakers at a meeting in the Rushcutters Bay stadium, despite medical advice that he should not attend. During Question Time on 24 October Hannaford rose to assert the peaceful nature of the Sydney demonstration. A few minutes later he collapsed and was dead on arrival at the Canberra Community Hospital.

In the House of Representatives, the Prime Minister, Harold Holt, saw Hannaford’s action as democratic:

We can imagine the anxiety of mind which led him finally to a decision which severed his connection with his colleagues on this side of the House. It must have been a great wrench for him … We respect the moral courage and the deep conviction which led him to that decision. This really is the kind of courage and earnestness which makes democracy function as it should, with people being willing to stand up for what they believe in regardless of the consequences.

Hannaford was survived by Bessie and their four children. In 1949, when first preselected for the Senate, Hannaford had declared that he was proud to call himself ‘a member of an old Liberal family that had never departed from Liberal principles’.[8]

John Graham

[1] Riverton Centenary Celebrations, 5th, 6th, 7th Oct. 1956, Junction Print, Hamley Bridge, SA, 1956; Riverton: Heart of the Gilbert Valley, Griffin Press, Netley, SA, pp. 14, 20, 33, 60, 70; Caroline Guerin, One Hundred Years on the Land: The History of the Agricultural Bureau of South Australia, Advisory Board of Agriculture, Adelaide, 1988, p. 258; Rosemary Shearer, A Jubilee Pictorial History of Riverton and District 1986, District Council of Riverton, Riverton, SA, 1986; ‘Bessie’s Story of Broad Oak’, in Ronda Hannaford, Susannah Hannaford and Her Family, Gould Books, Gumeracha, SA, 1988, p. 77; The editor acknowledges the assistance of David Cornish, Prince Alfred College, Adelaide.

[2] Advertiser (Adel.), 7 Dec. 1955, p. 11; Liberal Party, SA division, Records, SRG 168/1/36, 42–4, SLSA; The editor acknowledges the assistance of Chris Read, Research Team, SLSA; Liberal and Country Party Monthly Newsletter (Adel.), 1 Oct. 1947, p. 2, 1 Oct. 1948, p. 4, 6 May 1949, pp. 1, 3; SMH, 25 Oct. 1967, p. 5; CPD, 2 Mar. 1950, pp. 268–71.

[3] CPD, 14 Nov. 1950, p. 2278, 5 Dec. 1950, pp. 3597–8, 4 Nov. 1954, p. 1230–1.

[4] CPD, 15 Oct. 1953, pp. 581–2, 585, 589, 21 Oct. 1953, pp. 763–4, 11 Aug. 1954, pp. 142–4, 24 Oct. 1963, pp. 1406–8.

[5] CPD, 25 Aug. 1965, pp. 77–120; Australian (Syd.), 26 Aug. 1965, p. 1; AFR (Syd.), 27 Aug. 1965, p. 20.

[6] Australian (Syd.), 22 Feb. 1967, p. 1; CPD, 9 Mar. 1967, pp. 417–24, 4 Apr. 1967, p. 484.

[7] CPD, 7 Sept. 1967, pp. 617–18, 626; Australian (Syd.), 8 Sept. 1967, p. 4; The editor is indebted to John Bannon.

[8] SMH, 23 Oct. 1967, p. 3, 20 Oct. 1967, p. 6; CT, 23 Oct. 1967, p. 1, 25 Oct. 1967, p. 1; Australian (Syd.), 25 Oct. 1967, p. 1; SMH, 25 Oct. 1967, p. 1; CPD, 25 Oct. 1967 (R), pp. 2211–13, 25 Oct. 1967, pp. 1916–20; SMH, 26 Oct. 1967, p. 12; Liberal and Country Party Monthly Newsletter (Adel), 6 May 1949, p. 3.

This biography was first published in The Biographical Dictionary of the Australian Senate, vol. 3, 1962-1983, University of New South Wales Press Ltd, Sydney, 2010, pp. 193-197.

HANNAFORD, Douglas Clive (1903–1967)

National Archives of Australia

Commonwealth Parliament

Senator for South Australia, 1950–67

Senate Committee Service

Printing Committee, 1950–60

Committee of Disputed Returns and Qualifications, 1950–65

Select Committee on the Development of Canberra, 1954–55

House Committee, 1960–65

Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory, 1965–66