Thomas Playford II

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The Honourable
Thomas Playford
Thomas playford II.jpg
17th Premier of South Australia
Elections: 1890
In office
11 June 1887 (1887-06-11) – 27 June 1889 (1889-06-27)
Monarch Victoria
Governor Sir William Robinson
Earl of Kintore
Preceded by John Downer
Succeeded by John Cockburn
In office
19 August 1890 (1890-08-19) – 21 June 1892 (1892-06-21)
Monarch Victoria
Governor Earl of Kintore
Preceded by John Cockburn
Succeeded by Frederick Holder
Personal details
Born (1837-11-26)26 November 1837
Bethnal Green, London, England
Died 19 April 1915(1915-04-19) (aged 77)
Kent Town, South Australia

Thomas Playford (26 November 1837 – 19 April 1915) served as Premier of South Australia from 11 June 1887 to 26 June 1889 and 8 August 1890 to 20 June 1892, as well as serving as the Australian Federal Minister for Defence from 1905 to 1907.

Born in Bethnal Green, London in 1837, Playford moved to Adelaide in 1844 with his family and initially worked as a farmer prior to entering politics in April 1868 as the Member for Onkaparinga in the South Australian colonial parliament.[1] He gained the sobriquet "Honest Tom" for his forthright and straightforward manner, although these same qualities would earn him the occasional disapproval of fellow politicians and the electorate, and caused his defeat at the polls in 1871. Playford returned to Parliament in February 1875 as member for East Torrens and held the position of Reforming Commissioner for Crown Lands and Immigration before losing his seat yet again. His fortunes were on the up though in 1887 when he not only re-entered parliament as member for Newcastle[1] but did so as Premier, holding that position for the next two years. During his term, his most important achievement was considered to be the implementation of the first systematic tariff system for South Australia.[2] [3] [4]

Playford lost government in 1889 after a no confidence vote but regained it in 1890 following an electoral victory in August. During this second term as Premier, Playford also held the position of Treasurer of South Australia, and managed kudos for significantly reducing the colony's debt, although he spent much of his second term as Premier in India. Following his defeat, Playford moved to London in 1894 to act as Agent-General for South Australia before returning to South Australia in 1898 to serve in Charles Kingston's government from April 1899 as member for Gumeracha,[1] until he crossed the floor in 1899 over a potential erosion of the power of the Legislative Council, bringing down the Kingston government in the process. He also found the time to involve himself in the planning of the Federation of the Australian Commonwealth and drafting the Australian Constitution. As part of this, he proposed the title "Commonwealth of Australia" and became a Protectionist Senator in the new federal parliament.[2][3]

Playford acted first as Leader of the Government in the Senate and Vice-President of the Executive Council before becoming Minister for Defence. He was defeated in the 1906 election, the first serving Minister to suffer this fate. His term as a Senator ended on 31 December 1906, and his ministerial commission was terminated on 24 January 1907. Playford made one further unsuccessful attempt for election to the Senate in 1910. Playford died in Kent Town, Adelaide on 19 April 1915.[2][3]


His eldest daughter Annie (died 1956) married the Rev. John Henry Sexton on 30 June 1886.

Playford's grandson, Sir Thomas Playford, also served as Premier of South Australia.


  1. ^ a b c "Thomas Playford Snr". Former Member of Parliament Details. Parliament of South Australia. 
  2. ^ a b c Playford, John (1988). "Playford, Thomas (1837 - 1915)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: Australian National University. Retrieved 20 November 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c Serle, Percival. "Playford, Thomas (1837 - 1915)". Dictionary of Australian Biography. Project Gutenberg Australia. Retrieved 2007-10-20. 
  4. ^ "Thomas Playford - 1887". Members. Parliament of South Australia. Archived from the original on 2007-10-09. Retrieved 2007-10-20. 


  • Jupp, J. (2004) The English in Australia, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

External links[edit]

Parliament of South Australia
Preceded by
John Downer
Premier of South Australia
1887 – 1889
Succeeded by
John Cockburn
Preceded by
John Cockburn
Premier of South Australia
1890 – 1892
Succeeded by
Frederick Holder
Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
Richard O'Connor
Vice-President of the Executive Council
1903 – 1904
Succeeded by
Gregor McGregor
Preceded by
James Whiteside McCay
Minister for Defence
1905 – 1907
Succeeded by
Thomas Ewing