Thomas Paterson

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The Honourable
Thomas Paterson
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Gippsland
In office
16 December 1922 – 7 July 1943
Preceded by George Wise
Succeeded by George Bowden
Personal details
Born (1882-11-20)20 November 1882
Aston, England
Died 24 January 1952(1952-01-24) (aged 69)
Nationality English Australian
Political party Australian Country Party
Spouse(s) Elsie Jane Tyrrell
Occupation Farmer

Thomas Paterson (20 November 1882 – 24 January 1952) was an Australian farmer and politician.

Paterson was born in Aston, near Birmingham, England and educated at King Edward's School, Birmingham and Ayr Grammar School. He became a shoe salesman in 1897 and later a branch manager, but resigned in 1908 to study farming. In November 1908, he married Elsie Jane Tyrrell and next day set out to Australia with his wife, mother, brother and cousin, where he joined two other brothers on a dairy farm at Springfield, near Romsey, Victoria.[1]

Political career[edit]

Paterson joined the Victorian Farmers' Union in 1916, became its president in March 1922 and in November 1922 chaired a conference that led to the creation of the Victorian Country Party. He stood unsuccessfully for the Senate in the 1919 elections and for the Victorian Legislative Assembly in 1920 but in 1922 elections he won the federal seat of Gippsland, defeating the Nationalist George Wise. In parliament, he campaigned for a subsidy for dairy exports to be paid for by a tax on Australian consumers and known by opponents as "Paterson's Curse" (referring to the Australian name for Echium plantagineum). £20 million were paid under this scheme between 1926 and 1933.

Paterson was Minister for Markets and Migration from June 1926 to January 1928, Minister for Markets from January to December 1928 and Minister for Markets and Transport from December 1928 to October 1929. He was deputy leader of the parliamentary Country Party from 1929 to 1937 and was acting leader for several months in 1933. He was appointed Minister for the Interior in the Lyons coalition government in November 1934. Also in November 1934 he made an exclusion order against Czech writer Egon Kisch which was later overturned by the High Court. He resigned as minister and deputy party leader after the 1937 elections, as a result of the 1936 controversy over the exclusion from Australia of Mabel Freer, a white British woman born in India, who, under the terms of the 1901 Immigration Restriction Act, had failed a dictation test in Italian.[2]

During his time as Minister for the Interior, Paterson was praised by William Cooper of the Australian Aborigines' League for his goodwill and support of the League's requests for greater government assistance to Aboriginal people.[3]

Paterson remained prominent in Country Party affairs and helped form a breakaway party from the Victorian Country Party that was loyal to the federal parliamentary Country Party in March 1938. He helped reconcile the federal and Victorian parties in 1943, but did not stand for re-election in 1943 elections. He died of coronary vascular disease at his Melbourne home, survived by his wife and elder son.[1]


  1. ^ a b Costar, B. J. (1996). "Paterson, Thomas (1882–1952)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: Australian National University. Retrieved 3 November 2007. 
  2. ^ Robertson, Kel (2005). "Dictating to One of ‘Us’: the Migration of Mrs Freer". Macquarie Law Journal. Australasian Legal Information Institute. Retrieved 2017-04-26. 
  3. ^ Attwood & Markus, pp. 95-96.


  • Attwood and Markus (2004) Thinking Black: William Cooper and the Aborigines' Advancement League, Aboriginal Studies Press: Canberra. ISBN 0 85575 459 1.
Political offices
Preceded by
Victor Wilson
Minister for Markets and Migration
Minister for Markets
Minister for Markets and Transport

Succeeded by
Parker Moloney
Preceded by
Eric Harrison
Minister for the Interior
Succeeded by
John McEwen
Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
George Wise
Member for Gippsland
Succeeded by
George Bowden
Party political offices
Preceded by
William Gibson
Deputy Leader of the
Country Party of Australia

Succeeded by
Harold Thorby