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Davis Hughes

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Sir William Davis Hughes (24 November 1910 – 16 March 2003) was an Australian politician and bureaucrat.

Early life

Hughes was born in Launceston, Tasmania and was educated at Launceston High School and the University of Tasmania, although he did not graduate.[1] He married Joan Johnson in 1940 and they had one son and two daughters. He was a school teacher in Tasmania from 1927 until 1935, at Caulfield Grammar in Melbourne, from 1936 until he enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF),[2] and at The Armidale School from 1947 until 1950. He served in the RAAF from 1939 until 1945, achieving the rank of squadron leader.[3]

Political career

Hughes was elected as a member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly for Armidale from 1950 to 1953 and 1956 to 1973 for the Country Party. He was chosen to lead the party in 1958, but his term of office was brief because he was forced to resign in 1959 after it was revealed that he did not have the university degree which he claimed.[4]

With the election of the Askin government in 1965, Hughes became Minister for Public Works,[3] with responsibility for, among other things, the completion of the Sydney Opera House. Hughes refused to accept Jørn Utzon's approach to managing the Opera House project and, specifically, the construction of plywood prototypes for its interiors. Hughes refused to pay a fee claim for £51,000, which meant that Utzon could not pay his staff. After a heated discussion about the claim, Utzon sent a letter of withdrawal to Hughes on 28 February 1966, stating: "You have forced me to the leave the job".[5] In his media announcement made only hours after receiving the letter, Hughes claimed it was Utzon's 'resignation'.

The Opera House was completed by another architect, Peter Hall, whose altered designs did not fully realise Utzon's original vision.

Upon his resignation from parliament in January 1973, Hughes was appointed NSW Agent-General in London.[6] He died at Erina, New South Wales.

He died in 2003, aged 92.


Hughes was knighted in 1975, two years after resigning from parliament.[7]


  1. ^ "Our History- No 68. Skulduggery in the 1959 State Election". The Armidale Independent. Archived from the original on 27 March 2012.
  2. ^ Pitt, Helen (15 February 2018). "Barnaby Joyce's seat of New England is no stranger to controversy". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 16 February 2018.
  3. ^ a b "Sir Davis Hughes (1910–2003)". Former Members of the Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 13 May 2019.
  4. ^ Farrelly, Elizabeth (1 December 2008). "High noon at Bennelong Point". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 17 October 2013.
  5. ^ P.Drew, 1999. p.350
  6. ^ "Sir Davis Hughes". The Telegraph. 28 April 2003. Retrieved 17 October 2013.
  7. ^ "Death of the Honourable Sir Davis Hughes". Hansard. Parliament of New South Wales. Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-05-01.
New South Wales Legislative Assembly
Preceded by
David Drummond
Member for Armidale
1949 – 1953
Succeeded by
Jim Cahill
Preceded by
Jim Cahill
Member for Armidale
1956 – 1973
Succeeded by
David Leitch
Party political offices
Preceded by
Sir Michael Bruxner
Leader of the New South Wales Country Party
1958 – 1959
Succeeded by
Sir Charles Cutler
Preceded by
William Chaffey
Deputy Leader of the New South Wales Country Party
1968 – 1973
Succeeded by
Leon Punch
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Sir John Pagan
Agent-General for New South Wales
Succeeded by
Peter Valkenburg
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Davis Hughes
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