REID, David Donald (1933– )
Senator for Western Australia, 1974 (Australian Country Party)

David Donald Reid, farmer and landcare practitioner, was born on 10 May 1933 at Bridgetown, Western Australia, the only son of Donald Phillip Reid, primary producer, and his wife Marion Fraser, née Davies. He was educated at Bridgetown Primary School and Denmark Agricultural College from which he graduated with a Diploma of Agriculture in 1949 (in later years he completed part of a postgraduate Diploma in Business Administration by external study at the Western Australian Institute of Technology). Having no other goal at that time other than to be ‘a good farmer’, he then worked on the family mixed farming property at Bridgetown. Reid also completed a term of national service training, after which he joined the Citizen Military Forces. On 19 October 1957, at St Mary’s Anglican Church, West Perth, he married Jacynth Claire Horley, a trained nurse. They were to have three children.

By the mid-1960s Reid realised that diversification was the only way out of rural recession. Instead of merely sending produce to the city, rural centres needed their own processing plants. To that end he helped set up the Manjimup Canning Co-operative, of which he became chairman. Interaction with politicians showed him how their exercise of power could influence the future of the rural sector. He was president of the Western Australian Fruitgrowers’ Association from 1970 to 1972 and a deputy representative of his state on the Apple and Pear Board in 1970.[1]

In 1965 Reid had joined the Country Party and on 20 February 1971 was elected to the Western Australian Legislative Assembly as the Member for Blackwood, a south-west seat in the apple-growing district. Within twelve months the seat was abolished in a redistribution, and Reid resigned in October 1972 to contest the federal seat of Forrest at the House of Representatives election on 2 December. He was unsuccessful. A little over a year later, following the resignation of Western Australian Country Party senator Edgar Prowse, the Governor-in-Council appointed Reid to fill the consequential Senate vacancy on 16 January 1974. Again his parliamentary tenure was to be short-lived. Sworn in the Senate on 28 February 1974, his service ended when both houses of Parliament were dissolved on 11 April. On 18 May, in second place on the Country Party ticket, Reid failed to secure re-election. When a further double dissolution occurred on 11 November 1975, Reid tried again, but was unsuccessful at the election of 13 December.[2]

During his brief Senate career he made three speeches. On 12 March, in his first speech on the Address-in-Reply, he said that, ‘After some reflection’, he would focus on the role of the Senate, which for him amounted to asserting and maintaining the principles underlying federalism in Australia. As a ‘third generation Western Australian I am proud indeed to come here to fight to preserve the rights of Western Australia against Federal Government encroachment’, he said, but made it clear that this did not make him a secessionist. He considered that talk of secession was ‘absolute nonsense and an argument of the lunatic fringe’. Effective federalism could save the nation, and all governments should try to make the system work. He suggested that the states set up offices within Parliament House, ‘to co-ordinate State legislation with that of the Federal Government’. The other major theme of his speech was an appeal for an adjustment of tax rates to provide greater incentive to those working in remote mining areas. A week later Reid entered the debate on a bill for a referendum on a proposal to allow the Commonwealth to refer particular powers to the states (the referendum was eventually deferred). Reid argued that the issues involved should all be referred directly to the states prior to the Senate agreeing to the legislation providing for the referendum. Underlying his contribution was a profound fear of Commonwealth erosion of state powers, and Reid returned again and again to his belief that the object of the Senate was to protect states’ rights.[3]

Reid’s last and most controversial speech to the Senate centred on events arising from the tumultuous rally in Forrest Place in Perth on 25 March, shortly before a state election. Many irate farmers were present, protesting against the proposed withdrawal of the superphosphate bounty and, as he addressed the meeting, the Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, was pelted with objects thrown from the crowd. Speaking on what had been dubbed ‘the Feud of Forrest Place’, Reid claimed that the hostility of the crowd was attributable to extremely provocative remarks made by Whitlam and by one of his ministers, Fred Daly. Reid took particular exception to Whitlam’s alleged assertions that the protests were coming from ‘hundreds of young farmers [who] can afford to take the whole day off and come into town … in the midst of the week … asking all the other people here to subsidise [them]’. Reid’s speech provoked a furious response from government senators, including John Wheeldon, who accused Reid of ‘justifying mob violence’. Reid also expressed his indignation that the Government had not sent a representative to a gathering of farmers being held (simultaneously with the Forrest Place event) at Subiaco Oval, to which he alleged formal invitations had been issued. In the debate that ensued, the central issue was whether Daly and Whitlam had themselves instigated the heated exchange or whether they were responding in kind to agitators who had arrived earlier. Bitter feelings persisted. Following his subsequent defeat in the 1974 election, Reid received a telegram from Daly saying, ‘You spent too much time in Forrest Place. Easy come, easy go’.[4]

During his three months in the Senate, Reid served on the Joint Committee on Prices, established ‘in response to complaints from the general public’. He joined the committee on 7 March. In its report tabled on 10 April the committee focused on its inability to complete its task until after the scheduled election, the main thrust of its recommendations being to seek more government intervention.[5]

After leaving the Senate Reid became state president of the Country Party from 1974 to 1975, a turbulent period for the party in Western Australia. After a short-lived and electorally disastrous alliance with the state Democratic Labor Party the leaders of the state parliamentary party made a sudden decision to withdraw from the Liberal–Country coalition. By his account, Reid was stunned when presented with this fait accompli and was left ‘to put the pieces back together’. Reid’s powers to deal with the parliamentary wing were limited, but he attempted to foster dialogue both within the party and with its former coalition partner. After much internal debate, and intervention by senior Country Party figures from interstate, a return to the coalition was negotiated, but on punitive terms set by the Liberal Premier Sir Charles Court. These events deepened existing divisions within the party and led eventually to a formal split in 1978, which saw the National Country Party and the National Party of Western Australia vying for the rural vote. Reid resigned from the party, and was a member of the Liberal Party from 1984 to 1987.

Between 1987 and 1993, Reid served on the Bridgetown–Greenbushes Shire Council, including two years as president from 1989. His other activities in the 1990s included nine years as inaugural chairman of the Blackwood Basin Group and four years as inaugural chairman of the South West Catchments Council. In 1999 he received a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust fellowship, which enabled him to research and write a report on the ‘The Thrust for Integrated Sustainable Management of Catchment Resources’. Reid was also a member of the WA Regional Committee from 2001 to 2002, and Busselton representative on the Whicher Water Resources Management Committee. Since 2003 Reid has resided in Busselton while maintaining farming properties in Bridgetown and Boyup Brook. He is chairman of the Busselton Water Board, and in December 2008 was elected to the Busselton Shire Council.

Despite the brevity of his time in the Senate, Reid was ‘so glad’ to have had the opportunity to serve during a dramatic period of in federal politics. Speaking in 2005, he said that he also relished his short time in state Parliament and declared his passion to be ‘fighting for the advancement of the south west. I’d like to be known for that’.[6]

David Black

[1] David Donald Reid, Transcript of oral history interview with Ron Chapman, 2005, Western Australian Parliament Parliamentary Oral History Project, OH3484, SLWA, pp. 1–9; Country News Bulletin (Perth), Sept. 1975, p. 3; Reid, David Donald, Record of Service, Citizen Military Forces, MT1128/1, 5700251, NAA; Western Australian Fruitgrowers’ Association, Annual reports and proceedings, 1960, 1968–73.

[2] WAPD, 26 Oct. 1972, p. 4534, 31 Oct. 1972, p.4566; Press release, ‘Appointment of new WA Senator, Statement by the Leader of the Country Party, Mr. Anthony’, 16 Jan. 1974; Age (Melb.), 1 Mar. 1974, p. 4; SMH, 17 Jan. 1974, p. 8.

[3] CPD, 12 Mar. 1974, pp. 231–41, 19 Mar. 1974, pp. 388–91.

[4] CPD, 2 Apr. 1974, pp. 586–94; WA (Perth), 26 Mar. 1974, p. 1; Australian (Syd.), 29 May 1974, p. 12; Press release, Senator David Reid, 27 Mar. 1974, CPL; Fred Daly, From Curtin to Kerr, Sun Books, South Melbourne, 1977, pp. 204–5; WA (Perth), 19 Apr. 1974, p. 3; SMH, 29 May 1974, p. 8.

[5] CPP, 64/1974, 335/1974.

[6] Country News Bulletin (Perth), Sept. 1974, pp. 1–5; David Black (ed.), The House on the Hill: A History of the Parliament of Western Australia, 1832–1990, Western Australian Parliamentary History Project, Parliament of Western Australia, Perth, 1991, pp. 210–13; WA (Perth), 20 Nov. 1974, p. 6; Brian Costar and Dennis Woodward, Country to National: Australian Rural Politics And Beyond, George Allen & Unwin, North Sydney, 1985, pp. 43, 48, 51–2, 109–10; Reid, Transcript, pp. 26–44; David Reid, Integrated Catchment Management: People, Communities and Partnership—The Thrust for Sustainable Management of Catchment Resources, Winston Churchill Memorial Trust of Australia, Perth, 1999.

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. 532-535.

REID, David Donald (1933– )

Parliament of Western Australia

Commonwealth Parliament

Senator for Western Australia, 1974

Western Australian Parliament

Member of the Legislative Assembly, Blackwood, 1971–72

Senate Committee Service

Joint Committee on Prices, 1974