Joseph Benedict Chifley

Ben Chifley’s (1885-1951) childhood in a wattle and daub hut outside Bathurst has entered Labor legend. A railway worker and locomotive driver before he entered Parliament, Chifley served as Curtin’s closest colleague and Treasurer through the Second World War. As Prime Minister he retained the respect of most Australians, even after his unsuccessful attempt to nationalise the banks, and Labor’s defeat in the 1949 election. He laid the basis for post-war economic reconstruction and established the massive program of immigration that transformed Australia into a multicultural society in the 1940s. Chifley’s sudden death in 1951 overshadowed the celebration of Australia’s first fifty years as a nation, and he lay in state in King’s Hall at Parliament House before being buried at Bathurst.

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Events

13 July 1945

Ben Chifley becomes Prime Minister

Joseph Benedict ‘Ben’ Chifley is elected by the Labor Caucus to formally succeed John Curtin, replacing Frank Forde as Prime Minister. The Chifley government establishes the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme, presides over increased migration, and establishes the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO), The Australian National University and the Commonwealth Bank. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.

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Ben Chifley c.1946