Richard Butler (Australian politician)

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Richard Butler
Sir Richard Butler (Australia).jpg
23rd Premier of South Australia
Elections: 1905, 1906
In office
1 March 1905 – 26 July 1905
Monarch Edward VII
Governor Sir George Le Hunte
Preceded by John Jenkins
Succeeded by Thomas Price
13th Leader of the Opposition (SA)
In office
1905–1909
Preceded by Thomas Price
Succeeded by John Verran
Personal details
Born (1850-12-03)December 3, 1850
Stadhampton, England, UK
Died April 28, 1925(1925-04-28) (aged 74)
South Croydon, England, UK
Political party Conservative

Sir Richard Butler (3 December 1850 – 28 April 1925) was an Australian politician and Premier of South Australia.[1]

Early life[edit]

Butler was born at Stadhampton, near Oxford, England, elder son of Richard Butler, pastoralist, and his wife Mary Eliza, née Sadler. The family emigrated to South Australia, arriving in Adelaide on 8 March 1854. Butler was educated at St Peter's College, Adelaide, then spent many years as a farmer and grazier. He was a Justice of the Peace before he was 30.

Political career[edit]

Butler attempted to enter parliament early in 1890 when he stood for Yatala but was defeated. A few months later he won the seat at a by-election caused by the death of one of the seat's sitting members, James Cowan. On 13 April 1898 he succeeded Cockburn as minister of agriculture in the Kingston ministry which resigned in December 1899. Yatala was abolished in 1902 and Butler represented Barossa from 3 May 1902 to 4 April 1924.[1]

Butler became the parliamentary leader of an informal group of country members supported by the Farmers and Producers Political Union in 1904. Butler was Treasurer of South Australia in the Jenkins ministry from 15 May 1901 to 1 March 1905, and was also Commissioner of Crown Lands and Immigration from 1 April 1902 to 1 March 1905. Jenkins then went to London as Agent-General. Butler succeeded him as Premier, still keeping his previous portfolios. His ministry was defeated soon after the 1905 election where Labor formed government under Thomas Price and retained government at the 1906 election, relegating Butler to opposition until a year before the 1910 election, when Labor lost government resulting from Price's death. The Liberal and Democratic Union (LDU) insisted on taking the premiership. On 22 December 1909 Butler joined the first Peake LDU ministry as Treasurer and Minister for the Northern Territory, but the ministry was defeated following the 1910 election. Following the 1912 election, Butler was Commissioner of Public Works in the second Peake ministry from 17 February 1912 to 10 November 1914 and Minister of Mines and of Marine from 17 February 1912 to 3 April 1915.[1] The Peake government was defeated at the 1915 election, however Labor split over conscription in 1917 which brought down the government. Butler was Treasurer once again and Minister of Railways in Peake's third ministry from 14 July 1917 to 7 May 1919, and Minister of Agriculture 19 December 1918 to 7 May 1919.[1]

Butler left the ministry in controversial circumstances. The report of the Royal Commission on the Wheat Scheme appeared to reflect on the actions of Butler while he was the minister in charge of it, and Peake asked Butler to resign. He refused to do so because he considered that that would admit the justice of the charges. The Executive Council, on the advice of the government, thereupon dismissed Butler from his offices. The report of another royal commission presented some 14 months later was, however, accepted as clearing him of guilt; also the fact that he was elected Speaker of the South Australian House of Assembly in 1921 suggests there had been injustice. Butler was defeated in his seat at the 1924 election after having represented the same district area for 34 years.[1]

Late life[edit]

At the beginning of 1925 Butler went on a trip to England and died at South Croydon on 28 April 1925. Butler was made a knight bachelor in 1913. He had married Helena Kate Layton in 1878 and Ethel Pauline Finer in 1894, who survived him. He had eight children by his first marriage and three by his second.

Butler's son, Richard Layton Butler, was twice premier of South Australia (1927–30 and 1933–38). His great-grandson Mark Butler is a Labor member of the Australian House of Representatives.

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Political offices
Preceded by
John Jenkins
Premier of South Australia
1 March 1905–26 July 1905
Succeeded by
Thomas Price
Preceded by
Frederick Coneybeer
Speaker of the House of Assembly
1921–1924
Succeeded by
John McInnes
Parliament of South Australia
Preceded by
James Cowan
Member for Yatala
1890–1902
Served alongside: William Gilbert
Electorate abolished
Preceded by
James Hague
Member for Barossa
1902–1924
Served alongside:
Coombe, Crosby, Gilbert, Hague, Rudall
Succeeded by
George Cooke