John McEwen House and the company that built it – Paul Davey


A book about a company that constructed a building, then redeveloped it and later sold it might sound rather ordinary. Where’s the story in that? But a new book, John McEwen House and the company that built it, is quite the opposite.



This book brings together the financial challenges and sometimes conflicting political priorities that faced the company, John McEwen House Pty. Limited, in developing and maintaining the National Party’s federal secretariat in Canberra, John McEwen House, for more than 50 years.

In so doing, it reveals many previously unknown facts.

It was McEwen who first told the then Australian Country Party federal council in January 1964 that it needed a ‘standing secretariat’, to match those of the Liberal and Labor parties.

This led to an extraordinary fund raising drive across all levels of business and industry. John McEwen House was built, virtually debt free, and opened by the then Prime Minister, John Gorton, on 4 November 1968. It was redeveloped from a single to three storey building in 1996 and re-opened on 8 November that year by McEwen’s widow, Lady Mary McEwen.

When the company announced in April 2020 that John McEwen House had been sold, many in the party were saddened, even though state parties had often regarded the federal secretariat as a drain on their funds. One compensation was that the name of the building would be preserved ‘in perpetuity’.

Published by The Page Research Centre, John McEwen House and the company that built it, was researched and written by Paul Davey, who has authored several books on various aspects of National Party history.