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Pie, Arthur Bruce (1902–1962)

by Paul D. Williams

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

Arthur Bruce Pie (1902-1962), businessman and politician, was born on 18 May 1902 at Coburg, Melbourne, second child of Melbourne-born parents Arthur Savoi Garibaldi Pie, clerk, and his wife Annie Gertrude, née Miller. Bruce was educated at state schools, and at Caulfield Grammar School where he showed ability at cricket, football and swimming. At the age of 15 he found a job with Harrisons, Ramsay Pty Ltd, importers, a firm for which his father also worked. In 1922 he was transferred to Brisbane as the firm's merchandising manager. On 24 June 1925 at Scots Church, Clayfield, he married with Presbyterian forms Jean Margaret Wright.

Immediately he arrived in Queensland, Pie noticed its lack of secondary industry. His passionate belief in the need to develop the manufacturing sector became a driving force in his life. With limited capital, he acquired a few knitting machines and launched Queensland Textile Co. Pty Ltd in 1927. He set up Bruce Pie & Co., importers, in 1935 and the Bruce Pie Bedding Co. in 1943. At Kedron in 1946 he established Bruce Pie Industries Ltd which specialized in spinning and knitting, and in general textile manufacture; by 1948 its annual turnover exceeded £1 million.

Standing as an Independent Democrat, Pie had won the seat of Hamilton in the Legislative Assembly on 29 March 1941, defeating H. M. Russell, the leader of the United Australia Party. In 1942 he was appointed an honorary adviser to the Commonwealth Department of War Organization of Industry. He resigned from this office and from the Queensland parliament in 1943 to contest the Federal seat of Brisbane, but was defeated by George Lawson. Pie was elected to the Legislative Assembly in 1944 as the Queensland People's (later Liberal) Party member for Windsor. After visiting Germany in 1945, he published Journey into Desolation (Brisbane, 1946); among other things, the book revealed conditions in Nazi concentration camps.

In March 1946 Pie succeeded (Sir) John Chandler as Q.P.P. leader. Announcing a 'dynamic reform policy' before the 1947 polls, he promised a 'new deal' for women through a programme which offered them refrigerators, trained home-assistants, and representation on hospital boards. He also urged an investigation into hotel ownership, advocated trade training for ex-servicemen, and supported industrial arbitration. In a fiery debate in the House later that year, he and the Q.P.P. supported a bill to introduce a 40-hour week, despite bitter opposition from the Country Party. In February 1948 he handed over leadership of the Q.P.P. to (Sir) Thomas Hiley. Following an electoral redistribution in 1949, Pie won the seat of Kedron in the 1950 general elections.

Quickly earning a reputation as a robust politician with a heightened sense of propriety, Pie objected to large salary rises for politicians in 1948 and 1950. On this issue he found himself in unlikely alliances with two colourful back-benchers, Fred Paterson and (Sir) Johannes Bjelke-Petersen. Pie resigned from the Liberal Party in 1950 on the principle that it was wrong for parliamentarians to increase their salaries between elections. He had caused a row in the House on 23 November 1949 in a speech demanding an inquiry into allegations that a winning ticket in the State's Golden Casket Art Union had been sold after the lottery was drawn. Refusing to retract his accusation that the government 'would come at anything' to prevent the appointment of a royal commission, he was suspended from parliament for two hours and became involved in a fist-fight with H. H. Collins, the secretary for agriculture.

On 8 January 1951 Pie resigned from the Legislative Assembly, ensuring that the subsequent by-election would be contested at a time when Labor was embarrassed by alleged polling irregularities in the adjacent electorate of Bulimba. President (1958) of the Brisbane Club, he was a member (1943-62) of the Queensland Turf Club and patron (1953-56) of Windsor Australian Rules Football Club. While visiting Sydney on business, he died of coronary artery disease on the night of 30/31 July 1962 at Tattersall's Club and was cremated with Anglican rites. His wife, daughter and six sons survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • C. Lack (compiler), Three Decades of Queensland Political History, 1929-1960 (Brisb, 1962)
  • Parliamentary Debates (Queensland), 22 Aug 1962, p 6
  • Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 1 Aug 1962
  • private information.

Citation details

Paul D. Williams, 'Pie, Arthur Bruce (1902–1962)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.online.anu.edu.au/biography/pie-arthur-bruce-11392/text20355, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 22 November 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

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