Stanley Melbourne Bruce (15 April 1883 - August 25 1967), Australian politician and diplomat, later Viscount Bruce of Melbourne and Westminster, was the eighth Prime Minister of Australia. He was born in Melbourne, Victoria, where his father was a prominent businessman of Scottish descent. He was educated at an exclusive Melbourne school and then at Cambridge University. After graduation he studied law in London and was called to the bar in 1907. He practised law and London, and also managed the London office of his father's importing business. When World War I broke out he joined the British Army. In 1917 he was severely wounded in France, winning the Military Cross and the Croix de Guerre.
Bruce was invalided home to Melbourne, and soon became involved in recruiting campaigns for the Army. His public speaking attracted the attention of the Nationalist Party, and in 1918 he was elected to the House of Representatives as MP for Flinders, near Melbourne. His background in business led to his being appointed Treasurer (finance minister) in 1921. When the Nationalist Party lost its majority at the 1922 election, the Country Paty demanded that Prime Minister Billy Hughes resign as the price of joining a coalition government, and Bruce found himself Prime Minister at the age of 40.
Bruce's appointment marked an important turning point in Australian political history. He was the first Prime Minister who had not been involved in the movement for federation, had not been a member of a colonial Parliament, and had not been a member of the 1901 federal Parliament. With his aristocratic manners and dress - he drove a Rolls Royce and wore white spats - he was the first genuinely "Tory" Australian Prime Minister.
Bruce formed an effective partnership with the Country Party leader, Dr Earle Page, and exploited public fears of communism and militant trade unions to dominate Australian politics through the 1920s. Despite predictions that Australians would not accept such an aloof leader, he won a smashing victory over a demoralised Labor Party at the 1925 election. He pursued a policy of vigorous national development and, in foreign affairs, support for the British Empire and the League of Nations.
The Bruce-Page government won another term in 1928, but in 1929 Bruce, frustrated by a series of bitter industrial disputes, introduced legislation to dismantle the federal system of industrial arbitration. Hughes led a group of backbenchers who voted against the bill and brought the government down. At the subsequent election Labor won a landslide victory and Bruce lost his own seat - the only Australian Prime Minister to suffer such a fate.
In 1931 Bruce won his seat back and became a minister without portfolio in the government of Joseph Lyons. But Lyons wanted Bruce out of politics and in 1933 he was dispatched to London as High Commissioner. He held this post with great distinction for 12 years, representing Australia's interests in London during World War II. He was appointed a member of the Imperial War Cabinet and the Pacific War Cabinet. In 1947 he was created Viscount Bruce of Melbourne and Westminster.
Bruce divided the rest of his life between London and Melbourne. He represented Australia on various United Nations bodies and sat on the boards of many companies. He died in London on 25 August 1967.
William Morris Hughes
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