Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Former deputy PM Frank Crean has died aged 92

Former treasurer and deputy prime minister Frank Crean, 92, has died in Melbourne surrounded by his family.

Frank, the father of former Labor leader Simon Crean was first elected to the Victorian Legislative Assembly in 1945 but was defeated in 1947. He was re-elected in 1949

n 1951 Crean quit state politics to stand for the safe Labor seat of Melbourne Ports in the House of Representatives. Crean advanced rapidly, in 1956 he was elected to the Opposition front-bench and became in effect shadow Treasurer (although Labor did not have a formal shadow ministry until 1969), a position he held for 16 years.

During the 1960s Crean was sometimes considered as a possible party leader, but his rather plodding public image meant that he was overtaken by Gough Whitlam, who became leader in 1967. When Whitlam finally led Labor to office at the 1972 election, Crean became Treasurer, although Whitlam had no real confidence in him.

Crean was unfortunate that his time as Treasurer coincided with the onset of high inflation and rising unemployment. He did not trust the orthodox economic advice he was getting from the Treasury, but he lacked the authority to challenge it. The leader of the Labor Left, Dr Jim Cairns, attacked Crean's policies in the Cabinet, and in December 1974 Whitlam gave Cairns the Treasury and moved Crean to the Trade portfolio.

In July 1975 Whitlam sacked Cairns over his involvement in the Loans Affair, and Crean was elected party Deputy Leader and Deputy Prime Minister in his place. He held this position until the dismissal of the Whitlam government in November 1975. After the elections he contested the leadership but was defeated by Whitlam.

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