William Laird Smith

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The Honourable
William Laird Smith
William Laird Smith.jpg
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Denison
In office
13 April 1910 – 16 December 1922
Preceded by Philip Fysh
Succeeded by David O'Keefe
Personal details
Born (1869-09-15)15 September 1869
Westbury, Tasmania
Died 21 October 1942(1942-10-21) (aged 73)
Burnie, Tasmania
Nationality Australian
Political party Labor (1910–17)
Nationalist (1917–22)
Spouse(s) Mabel Ellen Russell
Occupation Electrician

William Henry Laird Smith (15 September 1869 – 21 October 1942), Australian politician and Minister for the Navy.

Smith was born in Westbury, Tasmania and educated in state schools in Victoria and Tasmania. He became an electrician in Devonport and later an official in the Amalgamated Engineers' Union.[1]

Smith was elected as the Australian Labor Party member for the Australian House of Representatives seat of Denison at the 1910 election. In December 1915, he married Mabel Ellen Russell—they had no children. He was an Assistant Minister during the Second Hughes Ministry from 14 November 1916 to 17 February 1917. He was a strong supporter of Prime Minister Billy Hughes and campaigned for conscription at the October 1916 plebiscite. Smith left the Labor Party with Hughes and joined the Nationalist Party when it was established. In the Fifth Hughes Ministry he was an Honorary Minister from 4 February 1920 until he was made Minister for the Navy on 28 July 1920. He was Minister for the Navy until 21 December 1921. He was obliged to carry out a significant reduction in the capacity of the Royal Australian Navy, placing more of Australia's defence in the hands of the (British) Royal Navy. In December 1921, Hughes repaid Smith's loyalty by abolishing the position of naval minister. At the 1922 election, he was opposed by Labor and two other independent Nationalist candidates and lost to Labor's David O'Keefe.[1]

Smith moved to Burnie and married his second wife Hermione Elsie Boldt in 1922. He eventually became a farmer. At the 1934 election, he ran against Prime Minister Joseph Lyons as a supporter of social credit. In 1938 he successfully applied for re-entry to the Labor Party. While officiating at an address by a Labor minister in Burnie in 1942 he suddenly died, survived by his wife and their adopted son.[1]


  1. ^ a b c Davis, R. P. (1988). "Smith, William Henry Laird (1869–1942)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: Australian National University. Retrieved 2008-01-28. 
Political offices
Preceded by
Joseph Cook
Minister for the Navy
Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
Philip Fysh
Member for Denison
Succeeded by
David O'Keefe