John Quick (politician)

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Sir John Quick
John Quick.jpg
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Bendigo
In office
29 March 1901 – 31 May 1913
Preceded byNew seat
Succeeded byJohn Arthur
Personal details
Born(1852-04-22)22 April 1852
St. Ives, Cornwall, UK
Died17 June 1932(1932-06-17) (aged 80)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
NationalityCornish Australian
Political partyProtectionist (1901–06)
Ind Protectionist (1906–09)
Liberal (1909–13)
Spouse(s)Catherine Harris
Alma materUniversity of Melbourne

Sir John Quick (22 April 1852 – 17 June 1932) was an English-born Australian politician and author, who was the federal Member of Parliament for Bendigo from 1901 to 1913 and a leading delegate to the Constitutional Conventions in the 1890s.

Early life[edit]

He was born near St Ives in Cornwall, England, the son of John Sr and Mary Quick. His life changed when he was 2 when his family migrated to Australia in 1854, where his father, a farmer, began prospecting at the Bendigo goldfields but died a few months later of a fever.

Quick was educated at a state school in Bendigo and at the age of 10, he went to work in an iron foundry at Long Gully. Quick later worked as an assistant at the Bendigo Evening News and then as a junior reporter at the Bendigo Independent. There, he gained skills in shorthand writing and improved his general education.

In 1873, Quick moved to Melbourne, graduating from the University of Melbourne in 1877 with a Bachelor of Laws (LLB). Quick was called to the bar in June 1878, but instead continued as a journalist. Soon, he became the leading parliamentary reporter at The Age.

Victoria politics[edit]

In 1880 Quick was elected the Member for Sandhurst (Bendigo) in the Victorian Legislative Assembly. He was a supporter of the radical liberal leader Sir Graham Berry. He resigned from The Age and returned to live in Bendigo, where he practised as a solicitor.

In 1882, Quick received a Doctor of Laws degree (LL.D) after an examination. In 1883, he married Catherine Harris. The couple did not have any children together.

Quick was successful in parliament, and in 1886 was offered a ministerial portfolio by the then Premier of Victoria Duncan Gillies. However, after an electoral redistribution, Quick lost his seat at the 1889 election.

He had become interested in the Australian Federation movement while in the Victorian Parliament, and in the early 1890s, he successfully persuaded the Australian Natives' Association to advocate Federation.

In August 1893, Quick attended the first informal Constitutional Convention at Corowa and proposed that a formal national convention should be established, with each of the six Australian colonies to be represented by ten elected delegates. The proposal was agreed, and in November 1893 Quick drafted a bill, which formed the basis of the deliberation at formal convention held in 1897. Quick was elected to the Adelaide convention as second on the list of ten Victorian representatives.

When Federation was inaugurated on 1 January 1901, he was knighted[1] in recognition of his services to the federation movement. On the same day, Quick and Robert Garran published The Annotated Constitution of the Australian Commonwealth,[2][3] which is widely regarded as one of the most authoritative works on the Australian Constitution.

Federal politics[edit]

At the federal election of 1901, Quick was elected to the Australian House of Representatives as Member for the Division of Bendigo. He was considered a member of the Protectionist Party. He was chairman of the first federal tariff commission, and was Postmaster-General in the third cabinet under Alfred Deakin in 1909 to 1910.

Quick was defeated in the 1913 election by the Australian Labor Party candidate, John Arthur. That year, Quick became the founding President of the first Bendigo Cornish Association.[4]

In 1922, he was appointed deputy president of the Arbitration Court, which he held until his retirement on 25 March 1930.

Later life[edit]

Quick continued to be a prolific author. In 1904, along with Littleton Groom, Quick published The Judicial Power of the Commonwealth, and in 1919 published The Legislative Powers of the Commonwealth and the States of Australia. After retiring in 1930, he worked on a book, which he intended to call The Book of Australian Authors, a bibliographical survey of various Australian authors, poets and playwrights. However, he died before he could complete the work.

Professor E Morris Miller continued the work, which was published in 1940 as Australian Literature from its beginnings to 1935.[5]


La Trobe University Bendigo established the annual Sir John Quick Bendigo Lecture in 1994 in recognition of Quick's contribution to Federation and his election as Bendigo's first Federal Member of Parliament.[6]


  1. ^ "No. 27370". The London Gazette. 1 November 1901. p. 7045.
  2. ^ "The annotated constitution of the Australian Commonwealth (1901)". Retrieved 9 March 2011.
  3. ^ The book has since been republished: the ISBN of the current edition is ISBN 0-9596568-0-4.
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 5 June 2011. Retrieved 17 November 2010.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ The book has since been republished: the ISBN of the current edition is ISBN 0-424-06920-2 (in two volumes).
  6. ^ "Who was Sir John Quick?". La Trobe University. Retrieved 29 January 2018.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Josiah Thomas
Succeeded by
Charles Frazer
Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
New division
Member for Division of Bendigo
Succeeded by
John Arthur