Harold Edward Holt – Fact sheet 83

Prime Minister of Australia 1966–67

Harold Edward Holt (NAA: A1200, L59270)

A solicitor by profession, Harold Holt entered Parliament as a member of the United Australia Party following a by-election for the seat of Fawkner (Victoria) in 1935. Holt was a backbench member of the Lyons government. He first entered the ministry in 1939 as Minister Assisting the Minister for Supply and Development in the first government of Robert Menzies.

With the outbreak of war, Holt resigned from the ministry in order to enlist in the Second AIF. He was recalled to the government following the death of three senior ministers (Fairbairn, Gullett and Street) in an aircraft accident in August 1940, and appointed Minister for Labour and National Service. He held this portfolio until the collapse of the government in October 1941.

Holt served as a minister throughout the 16 years of the Menzies government (1949–66), holding the positions of Minister for Immigration (1949–56), Minister for Labour and National Service (1949–58) and Treasurer (1958–66). On Menzies' retirement in January 1966, Holt became leader of the Liberal Party and Prime Minister.

During his time in office, Holt strongly supported United States' involvement in Vietnam. One of his first acts as Prime Minister was to increase the size of the Australian forces in Vietnam by one third.

An active sportsman, Harold Holt disappeared while swimming in heavy seas off Portsea in Victoria on 17 December 1967. His body was never recovered.

Records relating to Harold Holt held by the National Archives

The National Archives holds many records relating to Harold Holt's years in parliament, including his period as Prime Minister and the many years he spent as a minister. The personal records of Harold Holt held by the Archives are listed below. All records are held by the Archives in Canberra.

The Archives also holds many records about Harold Holt and the issues he was involved in during his years in government. Information about Holt will also occur in the records of a range of Commonwealth departments, especially those of the Departments of Immigration, Labour and National Service and the Treasury.

Personal records of Harold Holt

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
SeriesBriefcase, wallets and related personal papers of Harold Holt1924–97M4298
SeriesPress cuttings booklet of Harold Holt1926–67A1728
SeriesCorrespondence files maintained by Holt as Prime Minister1929–67M2684
SeriesMinisterial correspondence collected by Harold Holt1935–40B3230
SeriesGeneral correspondence files relating to Harold Holt as Assistant Minister for Supply and Development1939–40B3229
SeriesPapers relating to youth unemployment maintained by HE Holt as Assistant Minister for Supply and Development1939–40MP392/4
SeriesPersonal papers of Harold Holt1941–67M4299
SeriesCorrespondence files of HE Holt as Treasurer and Prime Minister1943–67M2606
SeriesPersonal papers of Harold Edward Holt1943–68M4295
SeriesFolders of speeches and articles1946–65M2607
SeriesFolders of minutes of the meetings and related documents of the Organising Committee for the XVIth Olympiad and sub-Committees1950–57M946
SeriesCorrespondence files of HE Holt as Treasurer1950–66M2568
SeriesTravel diaries and letters of Harold Holt1952–65M2608
SeriesPen sketches of Harold Holt and William McMahon by Paul Hasluck1959A2668
SeriesPress cuttings relating to the Seven Nation Summit conference, Manila, Philippines, 24–25 October 19661966A1664
SeriesSet of two facsimile manuscripts by Jose Rizal presented by the President of the Philippines and Mrs Ferdinand E Marcos1966A1666
SeriesPress cuttings regarding the Commonwealth prime ministers' conference1966A1729
SeriesPress cuttings relating to Holt's succession as Prime Minister1966A1730
SeriesFolders of papers maintained by Holt while Prime Minister1966–67M2684
SeriesAppointment diaries maintained by Private Secretary1967A2587
SeriesCorrespondence files of the Prime Minister relating to foreign affairs1966–67A7854
SeriesPress reports on the visit of Holt to the Republic of China, 4–6 April1967A1665
SeriesAppointment diary maintained by Assistant Private Secretary1967A2588
SeriesPapers contained in the briefcase of Holt at the time of his death1967M1945
SeriesCondolence letters and books sent on the death of the Rt Hon. HE Holt1967–68M2655
SeriesSpeeches and related papers of HE Holt1967M4249

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