Steele Hall

Raymond Steele Hall (born 30 November 1928) is a former Australian politician who served as the 36th Premier of South Australia from 1968 to 1970. He also served in the federal Parliament as a senator for South Australia from 1974 to 1977 and federal member for the Division of Boothby from 1981 to 1996.

Steele Hall
Hall in 1968
36th Premier of South Australia
In office
17 April 1968  2 June 1970
MonarchElizabeth II
GovernorSir Edric Bastyan
Sir James Harrison
Preceded byDon Dunstan
Succeeded byDon Dunstan
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Boothby
In office
21 February 1981  29 January 1996
Preceded byJohn McLeay
Succeeded byAndrew Southcott
Senator for South Australia
In office
18 May 1974  16 November 1977
Preceded byNancy Buttfield
Succeeded byJanine Haines
Treasurer of South Australia
In office
2 March 1970  2 June 1970
PremierSteele Hall
Preceded byGlen Pearson
Succeeded byDon Dunstan
Leader of the Opposition in South Australia
In office
2 June 1970  15 March 1972
Preceded byDon Dunstan
Succeeded byBruce Eastick
In office
13 July 1966  17 April 1968
Preceded bySir Thomas Playford IV
Succeeded byDon Dunstan
Leader of the Liberal and Country League
In office
13 July 1966  15 March 1972
Preceded bySir Thomas Playford IV
Succeeded byBruce Eastick
Member of the South Australian Parliament
for Goyder
In office
10 March 1973  8 June 1974
Preceded byJames Ferguson
Succeeded byDavid Boundy
Member of the South Australian Parliament
for Gouger
In office
7 March 1959  10 March 1973
Preceded byRufus Goldney
Succeeded byKeith Russack
Personal details
Raymond Steele Hall

(1928-11-30) 30 November 1928
Balaklava, South Australia, Australia
Political partyLiberal and Country League (1959–73)
Liberal Movement (1973–76)
Liberal Party of Australia (1976–96)
Anne Fletcher
(m. 1956; div. 1978)

Joan Bullock
(m. 1978)

Hall was a state parliamentarian from 1959 to 1974, serving as Liberal and Country League (LCL) leader from 1966 to 1972 and premier from 1968 to 1970. He introduced electoral reform, removing the Playmander which favoured the LCL, which contributed to his party's loss at the 1970 South Australian state election. In 1972 he founded the Liberal Movement (LM), and resigned from the LCL when the LM split from the LCL in 1973. He continued as a state parliamentarian until he resigned his seat in 1974 to be the LM's lead senate candidate at the 1974 Australian federal election.

Hall won a senate seat for the LM at both the 1974 and 1975 elections. After the LM disbanded in 1976 he rejoined the Liberal Party, as it was now called in South Australia, and he resigned from the senate in 1977 to contest the seat of Hawker at the 1977 Federal election, but was unsuccessful. In 1981 he won the seat of Boothby at the 1981 by-election, and remained the Liberal member for Boothby until his retirement in 1996.

Early life

Hall was born on 30 November 1928 in Balaklava, South Australia, the son of Florence (née Fisher) and Sidney Hall. He attended primary school in Owen and subsequently graduated from Balaklava High School. After leaving school he worked on the family property in Owen, an 800-acre (320 ha) sheep and wheat farm.[1]

Political career

State politics

Hall was elected to the South Australian House of Assembly as the Liberal and Country League (LCL) member for Gouger, based on Balaklava, at the 1959 election. Quickly gaining a reputation for his independence and strength of his views, Hall rose through the LCL parliamentary ranks to assume party leadership following Sir Thomas Playford's retirement in July 1966. Playford, who had earlier served as premier for 26 years, endorsed Hall as his successor. Although Hall was considerably more progressive than Playford, the two men shared a background as small farmers, rather than members of the rural elite or the Adelaide establishment. Playford realised that the LCL needed a new image and new leader to broaden its appeal.

Hall served as Leader of the Opposition for two years before leading the LCL into the 1968 election. Considered young and handsome, he was also the first Australian state premier to sport sideburns. Indeed, the 1968 election, fought between Hall and his Labor opponent Don Dunstan, was described by the Democratic Labor Party as the battle of "the matinee idols". The election resulted in a hung parliament, with Labor and the LCL winning 19 seats each. LCL-leaning independent Tom Stott announced his support for the LCL. Dunstan and Labor were defeated in the legislature on 17 April, and Hall was sworn in as premier later that day.

Hall immediately set out to deal with the issue of electoral reform. Deliberately inequitable electoral boundaries, called the Playmander, had greatly advantaged the LCL over the past 40 years. Since 1932, the House of Assembly had 39 members—13 from the Adelaide area and 26 from country areas. However, by the 1960s, even though Adelaide accounted for two-thirds of the state's population, a vote in Adelaide was effectively worth only half a country vote. Hall was highly embarrassed that the LCL had been in a position to win government despite winning 43.8% of the first preference vote compared to Labor's 52%. He was also concerned by the level of publicity and growing public protest about the issue. This made him all the more committed to the principle of a fairer electoral system.

Hall sponsored an electoral reform bill which expanded the House of Assembly to 47 seats, including 28 in the Adelaide area. It fell short of "one vote one value," as Dunstan and Labor had demanded, since rural areas were still overrepresented. As mentioned above, Adelaide now contained two-thirds of the state's population. Nevertheless, it was a much fairer system than its predecessor. Hall undertook this knowing that it would considerably strengthen Labor's hand. Even at the height of the LCL's popularity under Playford, Labor had dominated Adelaide, with the LCL only able to win a few seats in the "eastern crescent" and around Holdfast Bay. With Adelaide now electing a majority of the legislature, conventional wisdom held that Hall pushed for electoral reform knowing that he was effectively handing the premiership to Dunstan at the next election.

Whatever the public outcry over the electoral inequalities, Hall's political bravery in introducing legislation to reform the House of Assembly to a more equitable system of representation should not be underestimated. It ranks as one of the few instances in Australian political history when a politician initiated a reform knowing full well that it would put his own party at a disadvantage.

In addition to electoral reform, Hall also introduced improvements in social welfare, aboriginal affairs and abortion regulation.[2] Hall also began the distribution of fluoridated water in South Australia in 1968.

Hall with Prime Minister John Gorton in 1970.

Hall served as his own Treasurer for two months in 1970. Hall and Stott soon fell out over the location of a dam. Stott wanted the dam built in his electorate while Hall thought it more use to locate it elsewhere. Constituent anger forced Stott to vote against the Hall government, forcing an election for June 1970. As expected, Labor regained power, taking 27 seats to the LCL's 20. As a measure of how distorted the Playmander had been, Labor won easily despite picking up a swing of only 0.1 percent.

Hall remained Leader of the Opposition for two years before resigning from the LCL on 15 March 1972, claiming that the party had 'lost its idealism [and] forgotten...its purpose for existence'. He founded the Liberal Movement, a progressive liberal party that initially included about 200 former LCL members. Hall and his fellow LM members helped the Dunstan Government introduce adult suffrage and proportional representation for Legislative Council of South Australia elections.[3]

After much of his base was transferred to the Yorke Peninsula-based seat of Goyder before the 1973 state election, Hall ran as the Liberal Movement candidate there and won.

Federal politics

Hall won a federal Senate seat for the Liberal Movement at the double dissolution 1974 election, after resigning his state seat, which sparked a Goyder by-election. At the Joint Sitting of Parliament, Hall supported the Labor government's three electoral reform Bills, citing his experience as South Australian Premier.[4] During the 1975 Australian constitutional crisis, though opposed to the Whitlam government, Hall joined Labor (and independent Cleaver Bunton) in voting against the deferral of supply bills.

Hall was re-elected at the 1975 election. He became a member of the Liberal Party in June 1976 after the Liberal Movement reintegrated into the LCL, which was renamed to match with its interstate counterparts. He resigned from the Senate on 16 November 1977 to unsuccessfully contest the seat of Hawker in the House of Representatives.[5][6] Premier Dunstan appointed Janine Haines of the Australian Democrats to replace him.

After four years out of politics, Hall won the 1981 Boothby by-election as the Liberal Party's candidate.

In August 1988, after the then opposition leader John Howard expressed his wish to control Asian immigration in Australia,[7][8][9][10] Steele Hall (along with Ian Macphee and Philip Ruddock) dissented by crossing the floor of parliament and voting with the Labor government on a motion against the use of race as a criterion for selecting immigrants.[11]

Steele Hall addressed the Parliament, saying:

"The question has quickly descended from a discussion about the future migrant intake to one about the level of internal racial tolerance. The simple fact is that public opinion is easily led on racial issues. It is now time to unite the community on the race issue before it flares into an ugly reproach for us all."[11]

Hall held Boothby until his retirement at the 1996 election. He had been instrumental in blocking Liberal Senate leader Senator Robert Hill to succeed him in the Liberal preselection contest for Boothby. The preselection went instead to Andrew Southcott, who succeeded Hall in the seat in 1996.[12]

Unusually for a former state premier, Hall spent most of his time as a federal Liberal MP on the backbench. His long-standing antagonism to Malcolm Fraser kept him out of cabinet during the last term of the Fraser government. In Opposition, Liberal leader Andrew Peacock appointed him to the frontbench as Shadow Special Minister of State in 1983.

However, he returned to the backbench in 1984, where he remained for the remainder of his parliamentary career including when fellow South Australian Alexander Downer became leader in 1994. Hall had defeated Downer for Liberal preselection for the 1981 Boothby by-election.[3]

Personal life

Hall married schoolteacher Anne Fletcher in 1956, with whom he had one son and three daughters.[1] They were divorced in 1978, and later that year he married his research assistant Joan Bullock.[13] The couple had one son and one daughter together. Joan was elected to the South Australian parliament in 1993.[1]


  1. Bennett, Scott (2017). "Hall, Raymond Steele (1928– )". The Biographical Dictionary of the Australian Senate. Vol. 4. Department of the Senate.
  2. Ainsley Symons (2014), "Anti-Abortion Campaigning and the Political Process", in Recorder (Melbourne Branch, Australian Society for the Study of Labour History), No. 279, March, p. 2
  3. The Biographical Dictionary of the Australian Senate, Vol. 4, 1983-2002, Department of the Senate, 2017, pp. 252–255
  4. "Joint Sitting 6 August 1974" (PDF). Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). Commonwealth of Australia.
  5. Australian Parliamentary Handbook Archived 1 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  6. Gleeson, Andrew (2 February 1987). "Steele Hall throws down the gauntlet for another battle". The Age. Retrieved 14 November 2012.
  7. "Asian influence spices up contest". The Australian. 27 February 2007. Retrieved 27 July 2007.
  8. "IMMIGRATION POLICY: Suspension of Standing and Sessional Orders". Parliament Hansard. 25 August 1988. Archived from the original on 19 July 2005. Retrieved 3 August 2007.
  9. "Howard turns dissent into democracy". The Age. 21 June 2005. Retrieved 3 August 2007.
  10. "Speeches by The Hon RJL Hawke AC". UniSA. 8 May 2001. Archived from the original on 17 September 2007. Retrieved 3 August 2007.
  11. "The lost art of crossing the floor". The Sydney Morning Herald. 21 August 2007. Retrieved 21 August 2007.
  12. Wright, Tony (8 November 1994). "Robert Hill falls foul of the Steele Hall factor". Sydney Morning Herald. p. 19.
  13. "Former Premier weds". The Canberra Times. 6 August 1978.


  • Felicia: The Political Memoirs of Don Dunstan, D. Dunstan (1981), MacMillan, South Melbourne. ISBN 0-333-33815-4
  • The Flinders history of South Australia. Political history, ed. D. Jaensch, 1986, Wakefield Press, Netley, South Australia. ISBN 1-86254-003-9
  • Playford's South Australia : essays on the history of South Australia, 1933–1968, ed. B. O'Neil, J. Raftery & K. Round. 1996, Association of Professional Historians, Adelaide. ISBN 0-646-29092-4


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