'A quiet giant of politics': Tributes flow for Doug Anthony

Doug Anthony, former deputy prime minister, in 1979.
Doug Anthony, former deputy prime minister, in 1979.

Former deputy prime minister and Nationals leader Doug Anthony has died at the age of 90.

Mr Anthony was leader of the Country Party/National Party for 12 years and deputy prime minister for nine, influencing Coalition policies for much of the 1970s and 1980s.

In a statement, Mr Anthony's family said he died peacefully in the Heritage Lodge aged-care home in Murwillumbah, northeast NSW.

"Although Doug was privileged to serve the people of Australia in high office, he always considered his family to be his greatest legacy and contribution to the world," the family statement said.

"He was very much a man of the Tweed region, and it is fitting that he should depart this life from within the community that he loved so much.

"His family is tremendously proud of his legacy.

"While always very humble, he made a lasting contribution to the nation, and particularly to people in country Australia."

Former deputy PM Doug Anthony with his wife Margot. Picture: supplied.
Former deputy PM Doug Anthony with his wife Margot. Picture: supplied.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison described Mr Anthony as "a quiet giant" of Australian political life.

"He was a man with no pretences who was passionate about regional Australia," he said.

Mr Anthony once explained the importance of his party as one that kept the balance.

"A strong Country Party does keep the balance - the balance of stable, dependable government, the balance of development between city and country, the balance of economic activity, a balance between the rural industries and the other sectors of the community.

"We keep a balance between the extremes of political thought."

Nationals Leader Michael McCormack said Mr Anthony was "a man of significant conviction and even more significant achievement.

"He was a man of decency, integrity, purpose and resolve … Mr Anthony never took a backwards step in advocating for our regions.

"It is because of Mr Anthony that The National Party stands today in its 100th year of existence," Mr McCormack said, adding, "Rural and regional Australia has lost one of our greatest today."

Richmond MP Doug Anthony at the North Coast National. Picture: supplied
Richmond MP Doug Anthony at the North Coast National. Picture: supplied

Mr Anthony grew up the son of the federal MP, Hubert Anthony, and spent time between Canberra and the family's home in the rural NSW town of Murwillumbah.

Following the unexpected death of his father in 1987, Mr Anthony ran for election and won the Division of Richmond seat, aged just 27.

In the years that followed, Mr Anthony served under six Australian Prime Ministers, and held the cabinet positions of Minister for the Interior, Minister for Primary Industry, and Minister for Trade and Resources.

In 1964 Mr Anthony succeeded John McEwen as party leader and served as Deputy Prime Minister under Prime Minister John Gorton.

However following Mr Gorton's election loss to Labor's Gough Whitlam and a change in Coalition leadership, Mr Anthony retired from the position after just 12 months.

With the election of Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser in 1975, Mr Anthony returned to the position of Deputy Prime Minister, and served for eight years.

As is tradition, Mr Anthony often served as acting Prime Minister while Malcolm Fraser took annual Christmas leave. Mr Anthony was famous for governing during these periods from his holiday caravan in his electorate.

Deputy Prime Minister Doug Anthony with Tim Fisher at the
Deputy Prime Minister Doug Anthony with Tim Fisher at the "Prime Ministerial caravan" where Mr Anthony ran the country while on holiday at New Brighton. Picture: supplied

Among his achievements, Mr Anthony established the Australian Wool Corporation, played a vital role in the development of the annual ANZAC Parade now held in Canberra, championed the construction of the National Library, and worked to modernise Australia's global trade.

During his time as leader, Mr Anthony described his party as one that offered balance to the nation.

Mr Anthony was made a Companion of the Order of Australia for service to the Australian parliament in 2003.

As one of the longest serving members of parliament, Mr Anthony retired in 1984 and was succeeded by his son, Larry, making the Anthony's the first three-generation family to enter Australian politics.

Mr Anthony is survived by his wife Margot, his three children, and nine grandchildren.