Ross Free

Ross Vincent Free (born 7 March 1943) is an Australian politician, and was a Labor member of the Australian House of Representatives representing the seat of Macquarie from 1980 until 1984, then Lindsay from 1984 until 1996.[1] He served as a minister from 1990 until 1996 in both the Hawke and Keating ministries.

Ross Free
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Macquarie
In office
18 October 1980  1 December 1984
Preceded byReg Gillard
Succeeded byAlasdair Webster
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Lindsay
In office
1 December 1984  2 March 1996
Preceded byNew seat
Succeeded byJackie Kelly
Personal details
Born (1943-03-07) 7 March 1943
Bathurst, New South Wales
Political partyAustralian Labor Party
ResidenceBlue Mountains
Alma materUniversity of Sydney


He was born in Bathurst, New South Wales, and completed a Bachelor of Science (Honours) and Graduate Diploma of Education at the University of Sydney, following which he worked as a school teacher.[2]

Free won Labor preselection for the outer Sydney federal seat of Macquarie ahead of the 1980 election, and defeated the incumbent Liberal member Reg Gillard.[3] He served as a member of several house standing parliamentary committees, in opposition and then in government upon Hawke winning the prime ministership in 1983. When a redistribution ahead of the 1984 election erased most of his majority in Macquarie, he transferred to the newly created seat of Lindsay, based around Penrith. In 1985 he led a delegation to the European Parliamentary Institutions in Strasbourg and Berlin, and again in Germany in 1986.[2]

After the 1990 election, at which Hawke won a fourth term, Free was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister in the Fourth Hawke Ministry.[2]

Following Paul Keating's first, and unsuccessful, challenge for the leadership in June 1991, a number of changes were made to the ministry, with Free being promoted to Minister for Science and Technology and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Science. Hawke was ultimately defeated in a second challenge on 20 December 1991, and Free continued in the First Keating Ministry in the same portfolios. After the 1993 election, he served in the Second Keating Ministry as Minister for Schools, Vocational Education and Training.[2]

He was one of several ministers to lose his seat at the 1996 election, at which John Howard became Prime Minister. Free went into the election sitting on a seemingly daunting margin of 10.2 percent, but lost Lindsay to Liberal candidate Jackie Kelly on a swing of almost 12 percent—one of 13 Labor MPs from New South Wales to lose his seat. Kelly was subsequently found to have run while still a serving RAAF officer, and both contested the resulting by-election (as did 10 other candidates), but Free lost by a greater margin.[4]


  1. Parliament of Australia (30 September 2008). Handbook of the 42nd Parliament. p. 459. Retrieved 22 January 2010.
  2. "Biography for Free, the Hon. Ross Vincent". Parliament of Australia. Retrieved 25 January 2010.
  3. Adam Carr. "Psephos: Commonwealth of Australia — Legislative Election of 18 October 1980". Retrieved 22 January 2010.
  4. Australian Electoral Commission (3 August 2007). "Lindsay (NSW) By-Election (19 October 1996)". Retrieved 22 January 2010.


  • Free, Ross (1992). Developing Australian ideas : a blueprint for the 1990s. Australian Government Publishing Service. ISBN 0-644-25523-4. (White Paper, 52 pages)
  • Free, Ross (15 October 1992). Government response to "Genetic manipulation: the threat or the glory?": Ministerial statement. (Statement in response to Standing Committee report, 4 pages)
Political offices
Preceded by
Simon Crean
Minister for Science and Technology
Succeeded by
Chris Schacht
Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
Reg Gillard
Member for Macquarie
Succeeded by
Alasdair Webster
New division Member for Lindsay
Succeeded by
Jackie Kelly
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