Annabelle Rankin

Annabelle Jane Mary Rankin (1908-1986) senator, was born on 28 July 1908 in Brisbane, daughter of Annabelle Davidson (born Thompson) and Colin Dunlop Wilson Rankin, cane grower and Member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly. Annabelle attended state schools at Childers and Howard and the Glennie Memorial School, Toowoomba. She returned to Howard, where her father had become manager of Queensland Collieries Co. Ltd; there she was involved in church activities and Girl Guides.

After overseas travel in 1936-37, to China and Japan as well as to Europe and Britain, she worked in Brisbane as a clerk. On the outbreak of war she joined the Voluntary Aid Detachment of the Girl Guides and in February 1942 was appointed State secretary of the Girl Guides' Association. As assistant commissioner war services in the YWCA, in 1943 she was attached to the Army with responsibility for welfare services for servicewomen. When discharged in May 1946 she became State organiser for Junior Red Cross. In the 1946 election she stood as an endorsed Liberal-Country Party candidate for the Senate and was elected, one of three Liberal-Country Party senators to be elected, all from Queensland. She had grown up in a political household and her work with the YWCA and the Red Cross had made her widely known in Queensland. She was also a member of the CWA, the Victoria League and the Royal Empire Society.

Because the Senate electoral system then tended to produce extreme results, when she took her place as Senator in July 1947 she was one of only three Opposition Senators. In other circumstances she would probably have been overlooked in the distribution of party offices, but when the three met the position of party whip fell to Annabelle. When the following election swung in favour of Liberals, she lost the position but in 1952 she became Government whip, retaining the position until given ministerial responsibility 14 years later - on Australia Day 1966 she became Minister for Housing. In her own words, the whip needs the 'patience of Job, the wisdom of Solomon and the diplomacy of the most diplomatic person ever'. It is testimony of her sunny personality and negotiating skills that she held the position for so long. When she left politics in May 1971, she was appointed Australian High Commissioner to New Zealand, the first Australian woman to hold a diplomatic appointment. She retired to Deception Bay, Queensland, in 1974. She died on 30 August 1986.

Her main political contribution was as an effective whip. In Parliament she showed herself to be sensitive to the needs of housewives, mothers, the aged and the young - lending support to Enid Lyons (q.v.) on child endowment, speaking on matters such as education and health and, as Minister for Housing, the extension of the aged housing scheme; she guarded the interests of Queensland, and especially of Queensland industries; on foreign affairs she was firmly anti-Communist. An effective rather than an eloquent speaker, she was remembered by the present Senator Bjelke-Petersen for the brevity of a speech, opening the Kingaroy show. Senator Rankin was created DBE in 1957.

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