Statement from The Hon. John Howard OM AC

Tony Eggleton was a constant presence on the Australian political scene for more than five decades. His death has removed a person who was indispensable to the history of the Liberal Party. In different capacities he advised and assisted five Liberal Prime Ministers.

He was Robert Menzies’ last press secretary and arranged that Liberal giant’s final press conference at Old Parliament House in Canberra in January 1966. Menzies affectionately referred to him as “laddie”.

Eggleton became a national figure when, in the desperate hours following Harold Holt’s disappearance at Cheviot Beach in December 1967, he acted as spokesman for the Holt family.

He had become both a press secretary and close adviser to Harold Holt as Prime Minister. In that role, he experienced the genuine affinity between Holt and President Lyndon Johnson.

When John Gorton became Prime Minister, Tony Eggleton continued as a media and general adviser.

After a period attached to the Commonwealth Secretariat at Marlborough House in London, Tony Eggleton returned to Australia and was appointed Federal Director of the Liberal Party in 1975. He would hold this position until 1990. In that capacity he developed a particularly close association with Malcolm Fraser, both as Leader of the Opposition and as Prime Minister.

Tony was an invaluable adviser to me during my stint as Liberal Party Leader between 1985 and 1989. It encompassed the turbulent years of the “Joh for PM” campaign which caused enormous disruption within the Coalition. At every turn his advice was calm, measured and always designed to promote the interests of the Liberal Party.

He had left the Federal Director’s role by the time I was elected Prime Minister but remained a ready adviser and counsellor. My government appointed him as Director of the national body charged with organising the Commemoration of the Centenary of Federation.

Tony Eggleton gave to public life well beyond the sphere of the party political. Best known was his work with Care International in which he continued his partnership with Malcolm Fraser.

I found Tony Eggleton to be a person of absolute integrity, an utterly reliable confidante and someone who cared deeply for the preservation of the valuable institutions of our society.

In the numerous conversations I have had over the years, with all of those who have had the privilege of leading the Parliamentary Liberal Party, I have not encountered anyone who has spoken other than very warmly, of Tony’s decency, commitment, and professionalism. This assessment was echoed across the political divide.

Liberals throughout Australia owe him an immense debt.

Janette and I send our deepest condolences to Tony’s three children and their families.

(John Howard)
22 May 2023