Josiah Thomas

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Josiah Thomas
Josiah Thomas - Swiss Studios 03 (cropped).jpg
Minister for External Affairs
In office
14 October 1911 – 24 June 1913
Prime MinisterAndrew Fisher
Preceded byLee Batchelor
Succeeded byPaddy Glynn
Senator for New South Wales
In office
14 November 1925 – 30 June 1929
In office
1 July 1917 – 30 June 1923
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Barrier
In office
29 March 1901 – 26 March 1917
Preceded byNew seat
Succeeded byMichael Considine
Personal details
Born(1863-04-28)28 April 1863
Camborne, Cornwall, England
Died5 February 1933(1933-02-05) (aged 69)
Croydon Park, New South Wales, Australia
Political partyLabor (to 1917)
Nationalist (from 1917)
Henrietta Ingleby (m. 1889–1901)

Clara Ingleby (m. 1909)
OccupationMiner, trade unionist

Josiah Thomas (28 April 1863 – 5 February 1933) was an Australian politician. He was elected to the House of Representatives at the inaugural 1901 federal election, representing the Labor Party. Thomas served as a minister in Andrew Fisher's first two governments, as Postmaster-General (1908–1909, 1910–1911) and Minister for External Affairs (1911–1913). He joined the Nationalist Party after the 1916 Labor split and transferred to the Senate at the 1917 election, serving as a Senator for New South Wales from 1917 to 1923 and from 1925 to 1929.

Early life[edit]

Thomas was born in Camborne, Cornwall, England, the son of Josiah Thomas Sr. and Ann Rablin. He went to Mexico as a child with his father, a mine manager, and later worked in mines in Cornwall. He travelled to Australia in the mid-1880s and worked at the Barrier Range, near Broken Hill. He was appointed as a member of a royal commission on collieries in 1886 and worked as a mining captain and assayer in 1890. He married Henrietta Lee Ingleby in July 1889 and they subsequently had two sons and one daughter.[1][2]

Thomas was elected to the executive of the Amalgamated Miners' Association (AMA) in July 1891 and became president of its Broken Hill branch in 1892. He was a member of the Defence Committee formed during the 1892 Broken Hill miners' strike. As a result of his criticism of the magistracy in relation to the arrest of eight fellow committee-members on conspiracy charges, he was dismissed as a Justice of the Peace. The mining companies refused to give him work and he had to take up labouring, although as president of the AMA, he was appointed to a New South Wales Legislative Assembly inquiry into lead poisoning at the mines in 1892.[1]

New South Wales politics[edit]

Thomas was elected as the Labor Party member for Alma, covering part of Broken Hill in the Legislative Assembly in 1894,[2] where he campaigned for improvements to workplace health and safety. He opposed the bills for the federation of Australia because he considered their referenda provisions inadequate.[1]

Federal politics[edit]

Thomas was elected to the Australian House of Representatives in the inaugural election in 1901 for the seat of Barrier. He was appointed Postmaster-General in Andrew Fisher's first ministry from November 1908 to June 1909 and his second ministry from April 1910 to October 1911, when he became Minister for External Affairs on the death of Lee Batchelor.[1] His appointment was welcomed by the Russian consul-general Alexander Abaza, who wrote to the Russian foreign ministry that "from the point of view of the foreign representatives here, this seems quite a felicitous choice, as the new Minister for External Affairs is known for his broad horizons – rather uncommon in Australia – and has none of that narrow Australian exclusivity".[3] He held the position until the defeat of the government at the 1913 federal election.[1]

Thomas visited England as a member of the Imperial Parliamentary Association in 1916 and was thus absent during Labor's split over conscription. On his return he joined Billy Hughes' Nationalist Party of Australia. Thomas was elected to the Senate in 1917, becoming the first New South Welshman to have served in both houses of federal parliament. He lost his seat in 1922. He was re-elected in 1925 but lost again in 1928.[1]

Personal life[edit]

After politics, Thomas was active as a Methodist preacher opposed to gambling, smoking and drinking and in particular supporting prohibition of alcohol. He participated in the establishment of Sydney radio station 2CH by the New South Wales Council of Churches. Thomas' first wife died in 1901 and he married her sister Clara Ingleby in 1909. One of his sons with Henrietta was killed on the Western Front during World War I. He died of heart disease in the Sydney suburb of Croydon Park. He was survived by his second wife and a son from each of his marriages.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Pennay, Bruce (1990). "Thomas, Josiah (1863–1933)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: Australian National University. Retrieved 2 October 2007.
  2. ^ a b "Mr Josiah Thomas (1863–1933)". Former Members of the Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 13 May 2019.
  3. ^ Massov, Alexander; Pollard, Marina; Windle, Kevin, eds. (2018). "Alexander Abaza" (PDF). A New Rival State?: Australia in Tsarist Diplomatic Communications. ANU Press. p. 291.
Political offices
Preceded by
Samuel Mauger
Succeeded by
John Quick
Preceded by
John Quick
Succeeded by
Charlie Frazer
Preceded by
Lee Batchelor
Minister for External Affairs
Succeeded by
Paddy Glynn
New South Wales Legislative Assembly
Preceded by
New division
Member for Alma
Succeeded by
William Williams
Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
New division
Member for Barrier
Succeeded by
Michael Considine