ABSTRACT

The Depression was still not over for many when Sir Frederick Stewart selected himself to revive the idea of a contributory insurance scheme. In 1935, as UnderSecretary for Employment, he sought cabinet approval to travel to Britain to investigate their welfare schemes and produced a predictably positive report. Stewart had made his fortune as a land developer in Sydney, before then moving on to being an aviation entrepreneur; his Methodism also drove him to unobtrusive philanthropic works and to convictions regarding ‘social betterment’. Something of a maverick who ‘relished his role as a gadfly’, he had sufficient standing in the UAP in NSW to frequently demand action on his conviction that contributory insurance was the answer.1 His 1935 report argued that case briskly and without fanfare. He noted that the International Labour Organization had, since 1925, been advocating social insurance for workers, and argued that the Commonwealth should return to the unfinished business of Page’s scheme.2 They did so, with spectacular failure, in the late 1930s.