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Chalk, Gordon William (Chalkie) (1913–1991)

Sir Gordon Chalk, who was a Liberal Premier of Queensland for seven days, during a political career spanning 29 years, died suddenly in Melbourne yesterday at the age of 77.

Last night the Premier, Mr Goss, paid tribute to Sir Gordon’s long and distinguished career that also saw him serve as Deputy Premier and Treasurer.

Mr Goss said: "He gained a reputation as an astute and competent Treasurer while his no-nonsense, down-to-earth style made him well known and widely admired."

He was intensely pro-Queensland, long before it became fashionable to be so.

"He was also acutely conscious of the need to vigorously pursue Queensland’s development for the benefit of the entire State."

Former Premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, who entered Parliament first with Sir Gordon in 1947, described him as a "good Treasurer who worked very hard".

"We had arguments during the time we worked together, some of it caused by Sir Gordon’s desire to keep some Treasury matters secret. I often had great difficulty in knowing just what the real financial position was," Sir Joh said. 

Sir Gordon took over, the premiership in a caretaker role in 1968 on the death of Mr Jack Pizzey, the then Country Party Premier who had succeeded Sir Francis Nicklin.

But his leadership lasted only seven days until the Country Party, the then senior party in coalition government with the Liberals, elected Sir Joh to the premiership.

Sir Gordon then resumed his duties as Deputy Premier and Treasurer, the portfolio where he made his mark, his nickname "Chalkie" becoming a household word.

He brought down Budgets that fostered Queensland’s development by encouraging mineral development and led to the electrification of Brisbane’s rail network.

One of his quirks at Budget time was to take the actual document into the Legislative Assembly in a tomato box; thereby gaining a bit of publicity for his Lockyer electorate.

The link with that electorate and the political career which began in 1947 when he was elected in a former seat known as East Toowoomba was broken in 1976 when he surprised colleagues by suddenly announcing his retirement.

He never fully explained why he took this step.

Some commentators attributed it to an inability to get on with Sir Joh and his disillusionment at always being the bridesmaid. 

Another view was that his superannuation entitlements would decrease if he continued.

Sir Gordon was born at Rosewood, near Ipswich, on May 16, 1913, and was the youngest member of Parliament when he was elected as the Liberal Member for East Toowoomba at the age of 33.

When Labor lost government in 1957, he became Transport Minister in the Nicklin Cabinet and held the post until 1965 when, under then then coalition agreement, his elevation to the Liberal leadership entitled him to the job of Deputy Premier and Treasurer.

He quickly earned the reputation of being Australia’s shrewdest State Treasurer and later was looked upon as the doyen of the Treasurers attending the annual Premiers Conferences and Loan Council meetings in Canberra.

He was the leading advocate for the states.

Queensland benefited greatly in 1971 when Sir Gordon persuaded his Cabinet colleagues to swallow State pride and apply to the Grants Commision for special grants as a "claimant state".

Sir Gordon, who was an accountant before entering politics, was knighted in 1971 and three years later Queensland University bestowed on him an Honorary Doctorate of Laws in recognition of his public service that also included responsibility for the racing industry.

On his retirement from politics, he was offered many directorships and more recently compiled for the Brisbane City Council a report on the rating system.

He is survived by Lady Chalk and a daughter.

Mr Goss said last night that funeral arrangements for Sir Gordon were still being finalised.

Original publication

  • Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 27 April 1991, p 2

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Citation details

'Chalk, Gordon William (Chalkie) (1913–1991)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/chalk-gordon-william-chalkie-15168/text26513, accessed 24 August 2017.

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