Guide to the Papers of Neil O'Sullivan


MS 8639

National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record

Collection Summary

Neil O'Sullivan
Papers of Neil O'Sullivan
Date Range
Collection Number
MS 8639
1.12 metres (8 boxes)
Language of Materials
National Library of Australia


Scope and Contents

Apart from some business papers, the collection relates almost entirely to O'Sullivan's career as a Queensland Senator and Minister in the Menzies Government. They include correspondence, reports, subject files, notes, speeches, cuttings, photographs, invitations, menus and publications. The papers are most extensive for the period 1956-59, when O'Sullivan was Attorney-General and Chairman of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review.

Conditions Governing Access

Please refer to the collection's catalogue record for the access conditions (

Conditions Governing Use

Copying and publishing of unpublished manuscript material is subject to copyright restrictions. For such material, written permission to publish must be obtained from the copyright holder(s). Copying of unpublished material for research purposes is permissible 50 years after the death of the creator of the material.

Preferred Citation

Items from this collection should be cited as '[Title or description of manuscript item], Papers of Neil O'Sullivan, National Library of Australia, MS 8639, [box number and series and/or file number]'.


The papers of Sir Neil O'Sullivan were presented to the National Library by his son, Mr Michael O'Sullivan, in 1993.

Biographical Note

Neil O'Sullivan was born in Brisbane on 2 August 1900. He was educated at St Joseph's College, Nudgee, and after serving articles in Brisbane and Warwick was admitted as a solicitor in 1922. He became senior partner in the Brisbane legal firm Neil O'Sullivan and J.J. Rowell. He was President of the Brisbane Chamber of Commerce in 1935-36 and President of the Property Owners Association in 1937-38. He served in the RAAF in 1942-45.

O'Sullivan successfully stood for the Senate in 1946 as a Liberal Party candidate and took his place in the Senate in July 1947. When the Menzies Government was returned to power in December 1949 he became Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister for Trade and Customs. He led overseas trade delegations in 1953 and 1954. In January 1956 he became Minister for the Navy, holding the office for ten months. In August 1956 he was appointed Attorney-General and in November 1956 Vice-President of the Executive Council. He gave up office in December 1958 and retired from the Senate in 1962. He was made a K.B.E. in 1959.

O'Sullivan was a director of several companies, including L.J. Hooker Investment Corporation, Queensland Press Ltd, Amalgamated Petroleum and Coachcraft Ltd. He died in Sydney on 4 July 1968.

Item Descriptions

Series 1. General correspondence, 1952-62

The series contains a small group of letters on miscellaneous political subjects. Correspondents include Robert Menzies, Shane Paltridge, Sir Owen Dixon, Reg Wright, Douglas Menzies and Magnus Cormack. There is also an undated Christmas card list.

1 folder

Series 2. Congratulatory letters, 1949-56

Letters and telegrams congratulating O'Sullivan on his appointment as Minister for Trade and Customs (1949), Minister for the Navy (1956) and Attorney-General (1956). There are also copies of a few letters of congratulation sent by O'Sullivan to other people. The correspondents include Sir John Latham, Sir Owen Dixon, Sir Edward McTiernan, Sir Richard Boyer, Sir Frank Kitto, Sir John Collins and Magnus Cormack.

2 folders

Series 3. Invitations, menus and programs, 1952-62

The series mainly contains menus of lunches and dinners for political dignitaries and other visitors to Canberra. They include a menu for a dinner given by Government Senators to O'Sullivan and Sir Walter Cooper on 23 February 1959, signed by many of the Senators.

Other menus and invitations can be found in Series 11 (viii).

1 folder

Series 4. Speeches and Interviews, 1956-60

Manuscript and typescript copies of a small number of speeches made by O'Sullivan, including a speech at a Legal Convention Dinner (1957) and an address to the Royal Institute of Public Administration. There is also a transcript of a 'Meet the Press' interview (1958).

1 folder

Series 5. Newspaper cuttings, 1950-60

The series contains some miscellaneous cuttings referring to O'Sullivan or reporting speeches that he had made. Some cuttings describe changes in the Menzies Government in 1958.

1 folder

Series 6. Photographs

Five photographs of O'Sullivan and other public figures, including R.G. Menzies, H.V. Evatt, R.G. Casey and Archbishop Daniel Mannix.

1 folder

Series 7. Senate, 1952-61

O'Sullivan was a Senator for Queensland from 1946 to 1962 and was Leader of the Government in the Senate in 1949-58. The papers in this series mostly date from 1956-58 and include papers on salaries and facilities available to Senators, procedural papers, correspondence, draft motions, programs, notes and printed items. The correspondents include Robert Menzies, Sir Walter Cooper, Harold Holt and N.E. McKenna. There is also a report by J.E. Richardson on restrictive trade practices legislation in the United States, Canada and Britain (Dec. 1960).

4 folders

Series 8. Minister for Trade and Customs, 1949-50

O'Sullivan was Minister for Trade and Customs for six years, but there are very few papers relating to his portfolio. The series contains a copy of the Government Gazette announcing his appointment (19 Dec. 1949), a telegram and letter from Robert Menzies, and a copy of the Handbook of Cabinet and Cabinet Committees.

1 folder

Series 9. Attorney-General, 1956-58

O'Sullivan was appointed Attorney-General in August 1956 and gave up office in December 1958. The series contains correspondence and legal opinions on uniform company law, the powers of the Senate, the powers of the Development Bank and the Reserve Bank, the financing of hire purchase operations, the filling of Senate

vacancies, the law of the sea, matrimonial legislation, broadcasting and other matters. The writers include Sir Kenneth Bailey, Sir Garfield Barwick, J.Q. Ewans, K.A. Aickin, S.V. Toose and O'Sullivan. There are also notes on a proposed Law Reform Committee, with a covering minute by Bailey (Jan. 1958) and some printed items including the Newsletter of the International Commission of Jurists and a statement by Harold Holt on equal pay for women (May 1958).

4 folders

Series 10. Joint Committee on Constitutional Review, 1956-59

Following the appointment of John Spicer as Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Industrial Court in October 1956, O'Sullivan was appointed Chairman of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review. Its first report was presented to Parliament in October 1958 and its second report in November 1959. They dealt with such matters as Commonwealth legislative machinery, concurrent legislative powers, Commonwealth-State financial relations, new States, and the alteration of the Constitution.

The series contains the reports of the Committee and three volumes of transcripts of its proceedings. There are a wide range of background papers, including reports of earlier Parliamentary committess on constitutional subjects (1929-54), papers on civil aviation, navigation and shipping, industrial relations, the New States Movement, the Interstate Commission, trade and commerce, copyright and patents, State taxes, road transport, the report of the New South Wales Joint Committee on the Australian Constitution (1958), a report by J.R. Odgers on the United States Senate, and an opinion by Sir Garfield Barwick and Douglas Menzies on emoluments of Assistant Ministers and Parliamentary Officers (Feb. 1958). Other papers include letters of Harry Alderman, Jack Richardson and the Constitutional Association of Australia, a draft press statement and a draft article by O'Sullivan on the report, and a file of press cuttings on the first report.

13 files and volumes

Series 11. Subject Files, 1948-62

(i) Australian Labor Party: Liberal Party Research Bulletins on disputes in the ALP (1955) and newspaper cuttings (1957). 1 folder

(ii) Commonwealth-State relations: A speech by the Queensland Treasurer T.A. Hiley, correspondence of Queensland Federal Government Back Benchers, a submission by the Queensland Premier and other papers on Commonwealth-State financial relations (1959). 1 folder

(iii) Education: Correspondence, minutes, press cuttings and other papers on State aid to Church schools (1950-57). Correspondents include Archbishop Eris O'Brien, J.P. Kelly, E.G. Clancy, A.W. Stephenson, G.H. Blackburn, W.H. Frederick and J. Casey. There is also a paper on the Commonwealth Scholarship Scheme (1950). 4 folders

(iv) Miscellaneous Political Papers: Papers on South Africa, the Commowealth Public Service, a Tariff Board inquiry on crude oil, pay-roll tax, the Dairy Industry Committee of Inquiry, and speeches by R.G. Menzies (1948-62). 1 folder

(v) Nationality and Citizenship: Papers on the 1948 Nationality and Citizenship Bill, including an explanatory memorandum and a copy of an article by Robert Menzies on the British Nationality Act. 1 folder

(vi) 1953 Oversea Visit: A letter from Robert Menzies and a program of O'Sullivan's visit to England in June 1953 to attend the Coronation. 1 folder

(vii) 1954 Overseas Visit: Program of O'Sullivan's visit to Switzerland and England in November 1954. 1 folder

(viii) Royal Visits: Programs, menus, invitations and other papers concerning the visit to Australia of Queen Elizabeth II in 1954 and also the visit of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in 1958. 1 folder

(ix) Suez Canal: Speeches and statements by Robert Menzies on the Suez Canal crisis (Aug.-Sept. 1956), a speech by John Foster Dulles, a diary of events (Oct.-Nov. 1956), a minute by W.C. Wentworth, reports to Cabinet, and Department of External Affairs sitation reports on the Middle East (1956-57). 2 folders

Series 12. Business Papers, 1962-65

(1) L.J. Hooker Investment Corporation: O'Sullivan was a director of the Company. The papers comprise agenda papers of six meetings of the Board of directors and a few miscellaneous papers (1962-65). 7 folders

(ii) Coachcraft Ltd: O'Sullivan was a director of Coachcraft Ltd. The papers comrise agenda papers, reports and a memorandum (1964-65). 1 folder

Series 13. Publications

Pamphlets, journals, reports , articles and other publications mostly on political topics.