Reg Withers

The Right Honourable
Reg Withers

Withers in 1991 as Lord Mayor of Perth
Senator for Western Australia
In office
1 July 1968  6 June 1987
In office
17 February 1966  25 November 1966
Preceded by Sir Shane Paltridge
Lord Mayor of Perth
In office
Preceded by Chas Hopkins
Succeeded by Peter Nattrass
Personal details
Born Reginald Greive Withers
(1924-10-26)26 October 1924
Bunbury, Western Australia
Died 15 November 2014(2014-11-15) (aged 90)
Perth, Western Australia
Nationality Australian
Political party Liberal Party of Australia
Alma mater University of Western Australia
Profession Solicitor, barrister
Military service
Allegiance Australia
Service/branch Royal Australian Navy
Years of service 1942–1946
Unit HMAS Leeuwin

Reginald Greive "Reg" Withers (26 October 1924 – 15 November 2014) was a long-serving member of the Australian Senate, a government minister, and Lord Mayor of Perth.

Early life

Withers was born in Bunbury, Western Australia. Withers was the son of Frederick Withers, a former Labor member of the Western Australian Legislative Assembly. Withers was educated at Perth Technical College. Withers served in the Royal Australian Navy from 1942 until 1946 before returning to Australia to study law at the University of Western Australia under the ex-servicemen's scheme. While at university, Withers opposed what he saw as the authoritarian stance of the Chifley Labor government and joined the Liberal Party of Australia.[1]


Returning to Bunbury to practise law, first as a solicitor and, from 1953, a barrister, Withers was elected to Bunbury Municipal Council and began to involve himself in Liberal Party affairs, serving at various times as Liberal Party State President and Vice-President and Federal Vice-President.[2]

Withers entered the Senate on 17 February 1966 to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Senator Sir Shane Paltridge, but lost his seat later that year, before returning to the Senate in 1968.

Described as having a "jovial manner and perpetual grin", Withers quickly gained a reputation as the Liberal numbers man and served as Senate Government Whip from 1969–71. After the defeat of the McMahon government in 1972, Withers became Opposition Leader in the Senate, where he retained a thin majority and acted to block much of the Whitlam Government's legislation. Withers was widely known as "The Toecutter" for his alleged approach to enforcing party loyalty and his role in the 1975 Australian constitutional crisis.

After the dismissal of the Whitlam government on 11 November 1975, Withers was appointed to Malcolm Fraser's first (caretaker) ministry, becoming Vice-President of the Executive Council as well as briefly holding the portfolios of Special Minister of State, Capital Territory, Media, and Tourism and Recreation during the period leading up to the December election. After the election, Withers became Minister for Administrative Services, and continued as Vice-President of the Executive Council until 7 August 1978.[3] He was dismissed by Fraser in the wake of the findings of a Royal Commission into aspects of a redistribution of certain federal electorates in Queensland. The royal commission found that Withers had exercised his ministerial influence in an inappropriate way.[4] At the time he commented about Fraser that "When the man who's carried the biggest knife in this country for the last ten years starts giving you a lecture about propriety, integrity and the need to resign, then he's either making a sick joke or playing you for a mug".[5]

Later career

Withers was appointed a Privy Counsellor in 1977. He retired from federal politics at the 1987 double dissolution, and was subsequently elected Lord Mayor of Perth, in which role he served from 1991 until the council's dissolution in 1994. He was also a monarchist delegate to the 1998 Constitutional Convention.[6]

Having served as President of the WA Liberal Party from 1961 to 1965, Withers made an unsuccessful attempt to return to this position in 1995.[7]


Withers died in Perth, Western Australia on 15 November 2014, aged 90.[8]


  1. "Alumni – 1950s". University of Western Australia. Archived from the original on 13 July 2009. Retrieved 3 April 2009.
  2. Faine, John (1992). Taken on oath: a generation of lawyers. Federation Press. ISBN 1-86287-101-9.
  3. "Ministerial Resignations and Dismissals Since 1901". Retrieved 3 April 2009.
  4. National Archives of Australia: Background to the 1978 Cabinet records. Retrieved 19 November 2014
  5. Tiffen, Rodney (1999). Scandals: media, politics & corruption in contemporary Australia. UNSW Press. p. 168. ISBN 0-86840-601-5.
  6. Flint, David (27 May 2006). "Australia's first republican movement". Retrieved 3 April 2009.
  8. "Former Perth lord mayor and Senator Reg Withers dies at 90". ABC News. 18 November 2014. Retrieved 18 November 2014.
Political offices
Preceded by
Gordon Bryant
Minister for the Capital Territory
Succeeded by
Eric Robinson
Preceded by
Doug McClelland
Special Minister of State
Title abolished
Preceded by
Tom Drake-Brockman
Minister for Administrative Services
Succeeded by
Peter Durack
Preceded by
Frank Stewart
Vice-President of the Executive Council
Succeeded by
John Carrick
Party political offices
Preceded by
Ken Anderson
Leader of the Liberal Party in the Senate
Succeeded by
John Carrick
Civic offices
Preceded by
Chas Hopkins
Lord Mayor of Perth
Succeeded by
Peter Nattrass
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