Sir James Plimsoll
Plimsoll in 1958
|22nd Governor of Tasmania|
1 October 1982 – 8 May 1987
|Premier||Doug Lowe (1981)|
Harry Holgate (1981–82)
Robin Gray (1982–87)
|Preceded by||Sir Stanley Burbury|
|Succeeded by||Sir Phillip Bennett|
|Secretary of the Department of External Affairs|
5 April 1965 – April 1970
|Preceded by||Sir Arthur Tange|
|Succeeded by||Sir John Waller|
|Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations|
|Preceded by||Sir Edward Ronald Walker|
|Succeeded by||Sir David Hay|
|Born||25 April 1917|
Sydney, New South Wales
|Died||8 May 1987 (aged 70)|
|Alma mater||University of Sydney|
|Branch/service||Second Australian Imperial Force|
|Years of service||1942–1947|
|Battles/wars||Second World War|
Sir James Plimsoll, Permanent Representative to the United Nations (1959–1963), High Commissioner to India (1963–1965), Secretary of the Department of External Affairs (1965–1970), Ambassador to the United States (1970–1973), Ambassador to the Soviet Union (1974–1977), Ambassador to Belgium and the European Economic Community (1977–1980), High Commissioner to the United Kingdom (1980–1981), Ambassador to Japan (1981–1982), and Governor of Tasmania (1982–1987).(25 April 1917 – 8 May 1987) was an Australian diplomat and public servant. He served variously as
Plimsoll was born in Sydney, New South Wales, and educated at Sydney Boys High School from 1929 to 1933. He graduated from the University of Sydney with a Bachelor of Economics in 1938 and a Bachelor of Arts in 1941. He was then appointed to the Bank of New South Wales as an economist.
With the outbreak of the Second World War, Plimsoll enlisted in the Second Australian Imperial Force in 1942. During the war he was attached to the Directorate of Research and Civil Affairs. In 1945 he was a member of the Australian delegation to the Far Eastern Commission, established to oversee the Allied Council for Japan, which was responsible for the occupation of Japan. At the end of the war, he was on the staff of the Australian School of Pacific Administration, then with the rank of major. He was appointed a First Secretary of the Department of External Affairs in 1948.
Plimsoll was appointed the Australian representative on the United Nations Commission for Unification and Rehabilitation of Korea (UNCURK) in 1950, during the Korean War. When UNCURK was established in October 1950 the war was expected to conclude quickly. However, by the time of its first meeting in Seoul in November, China had intervened and unification and rehabilitation was no longer possible. While other UNCURK delegates wanted to leave Korea, Plimsoll persuaded them that it was important that a high-level civilian presence should remain in Korea. UNCURK then moved to the southern city of Busan, along with the Government of the Republic of Korea and played a valuable role in communicating between the Korean Government, the UN military Command and the United Nations in New York. It also observed Korean elections.
Plimsoll had a considerable influence on President Syngman Rhee, to whom he conveyed the views of the United Nations and the troop-contributing nations. He also expressed the Western nations' concerns about Rhee's undemocratic behaviour and abuse of human rights.
In 1953, Plimsoll returned to Department of External Affairs. He was appointed as Australia's Permanent Representative to the United Nations in 1959 and he became Australia's High Commissioner to India and Ambassador to Nepal in 1962. In 1965, he became head of the Department of External Affairs.
In 1970, Plimsoll was appointed as Ambassador to the United States of America, a job normally reserved in Australia for senior ex-politicians. In 1974, he became Ambassador to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. He was appointed as Ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg and the European Economic Community in 1977.
In February 1980, Plimsoll was named High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, replacing political appointee Gordon Freeth. He was the first career diplomat appointed to the position. However, in November 1980 the government announced that his term would be cut short in order to appoint another political appointee, Vic Garland. This decision proved controversial in both Australia and the UK. It was reported that the British foreign secretary Lord Carrington told a public function that Plimsoll had been "treated very shabbily", and that both Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had expressed their surprise at the shortness of his term. The Administrative and Clerical Officers Association, a leading public-sector union, described the appointment as "another example of the Fraser Government's shoddy disregard for the career Public Service". Plimsoll left London in March 1981 and took up his final diplomatic post as Ambassador to Japan.
Governor of Tasmania
In November 1981, it was announced that Plimsoll would succeed Stanley Burbury as Governor of Tasmania. His nomination as governor was one of Doug Lowe's last actions as premier. Plimsoll was sworn in as governor on 1 October 1982. He had no previous connections with Tasmania but had visited it a number of times. He was only the second bachelor to serve in the office, and he took on all the patronages normally held by the governor's spouse. He was popular in the state and his appointment was extended at the end of five years.
Plimsoll suffered a mild heart attack in May 1985. He died on 8 May 1987 following another heart attack, hours after attending a ceremony marking the anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea. His death came in the middle of a constitutional crisis relating to the Liberal Party's unwillingness to allow John Devereux to fill the casual vacancy caused by the resignation of Australian Labor Party senator Don Grimes. Plimsoll was accorded a state memorial service at St David's Cathedral in Hobart, attended by the Governor-General of Australia and four other state governors. His remains were transported to Sydney for interment.
Awards and honours
- 1956 — awarded Commander of the Order of the British Empire
- 1962 — created a Knight Bachelor
- 1978 — appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia
- 1982 — appointed a Knight of the Order of St John
- 1984 — Admitted to degree of Doctor of Science in Economics at the University of Sydney
- 1987 — Admitted to degree of Doctor of Laws at the University of Tasmania
- 2009 — A street in the Canberra suburb of Casey was named Plimsoll Drive in Sir James' honour.
- ORDER OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE (PDF), Sydney High School Old Boys Union
- Hearder, Jeremy, "Plimsoll, Sir James (1917–1987)", Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian National University, archived from the original on 28 September 2013
- World War II Nominal Roll
- "James Plimsoll and UNCURK". Out in the Cold – Australia's involvement in the Korean War. Australian War Memorial. Archived from the original on 9 September 2006. Retrieved 24 December 2006.
- CP 452: Sir James PLIMSOLL AC, CBE, KStJ, National Archives of Australia, retrieved 12 September 2014
- "Sir James Plimsoll named as envoy to Britain". The Canberra Times. 5 February 1980.
- "Five new faces in smaller Ministry". The Canberra Times. 3 November 1980.
- "'Shabby treatment' for Sir James". The Canberra Times. 13 December 1980.
- "'No comment' on post". The Canberra Times. 18 December 1980.
- "ACOA weighs into Garland controversy". The Canberra Times. 17 December 1980.
- "Plimsoll leaves London". The Canberra Times. 26 March 1981.
- Downer, Alexander (11 May 2006). "Speech: Australia and Europe: Sharing Global responsibilities". Canberra: Australian Government. Archived from the original on 12 February 2014.
- "Plimsoll's new job formally announced". The Canberra Times. 15 November 1981.
- "Japan has no plans to 'dump' Australia". The Canberra Times. 3 October 1982.
- "Governor suffers heart attack". The Canberra Times. 29 May 1985.
- "A respected diplomat". The Canberra Times. 9 May 1987.
- "Governor dies". The Canberra Times. 9 May 1987.
- "Last respects to state's governor". The Canberra Times. 11 May 1987.
- It's an Honour – Commander of the Order of the British Empire
- It's an Honour – Knight Bachelor
- It's an Honour – Companion of the Order of Australia
- Plimsoll Drive, ACT Government Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate, archived from the original on 27 February 2014
- Hearder, Jeremy (2015), Jim Plim: Ambassador Extraordinary: A Biography of Sir James Plimsoll, Connor Court Publishing, ISBN 9781925138498