|3rd Prime Minister of Australia|
27 April 1904 –18 August 1904
|Preceded by||Alfred Deakin|
|Succeeded by||George Reid|
|Treasurer of Australia|
27 April 1904 –17 August 1904
|Preceded by||Sir George Turner|
|Succeeded by||Sir George Turner|
|Leader of the Labour Party|
20 May 1901 –30 October 1907
|Preceded by||Position created|
|Succeeded by||Andrew Fisher|
|Leader of the Opposition|
18 August 1904 –5 July 1905
|Prime Minister||George Reid|
|Preceded by||George Reid|
|Succeeded by||George Reid|
|Member of the Australian Parliament for South Sydney|
12 December 1906 –19 February 1910
|Preceded by||George Edwards|
|Succeeded by||Edward Riley|
|Member of the Australian Parliament for Bland|
30 March 1901 –12 December 1906
|Preceded by||Division created|
|Succeeded by||Division abolished|
|Member of the|
New South Wales Parliament
17 July 1894 –30 March 1901
|Preceded by|| John Gough and|
|Succeeded by||George Burgess|
John Christian Tanck
c. 9 April 1867
|Died||18 November 1941 74) (aged|
Double Bay, New South Wales, Australia
|Political party|| Labor (to 1916)|
National Labor (1916–1917)
Nationalist (from 1917)
Ada Low (m. 1889–1921)
Antonia Dowlan(m. 1925)
John Christian Watson (born John Christian Tanck; 9 April 1867 –18 November 1941), commonly known as Chris Watson, was an Australian politician who served as the third Prime Minister of Australia. He was the first Prime Minister from the Australian Labour Party, and led the world's first Labour Party government, indeed the world's first socialist or social democratic government, at a national level. From paternal German and maternal British ancestry, he is the only Australian Prime Minister not born in a Commonwealth country.
First elected to the Parliament of New South Wales seat of Young from the 1894 colonial election, Watson moved to the Parliament of Australia seat of Bland at the inaugural 1901 federal election following the Federation of Australia, where the state Labour parties received a combined 15.8% of the first past the post primary vote against the two more dominant parties. The Caucus chose Watson as the inaugural parliamentary Labour leader on 8 May 1901, just in time for the first sitting of parliament. Labour led by Watson increased their vote to 31% at the 1903 federal election and 36.6% at the 1906 federal election, the latter of which saw Watson move from his abolished seat of Bland to South Sydney. Labour held the balance of power since 1901 and usually provided confidence and supply to the Protectionist Party governments of Edmund Barton and Alfred Deakin and frequently supported their legislation in exchange for Labour policy implementation.
Watson's term as Prime Minister was brief – only four months, between 27 April and 18 August 1904. The Watson Government did pass a handful of bills, but more importantly it set the precedent of a Labour Party Prime Minister. He resigned as Labour leader in 1907 and from Parliament in 1910. Labour led by Andrew Fisher would go on to win the 1910 federal election with over 50% of the primary vote, representing a number of firsts: it was Australia's first elected federal majority government; Australia's first elected Senate majority; the world's first Labour Party majority government at a national level; and after the 1904 Watson minority government, the world's second Labour Party government at a national level.
According to Percival Serle, Watson "left a much greater impression on his time than this would suggest. He came at the right moment for his party, and nothing could have done it more good than the sincerity, courtesy and moderation which he always showed as a leader".Alfred Deakin wrote of Watson: "The Labour section has much cause for gratitude to Mr Watson, the leader whose tact and judgement have enabled it to achieve many of its Parliamentary successes".
John Christian Watson had claimed that his father was British-born miner George Thomas Watson. However, historical records have since indicated that his biological father was Johan Cristian Tanck, a Chilean national of German descent. His British-born mother, Martha, married Tanck on 19 January 1866, who as chief officer of the ship Julia had arrived in New Zealand a month earlier. On 2 February 1866, the couple commenced departure to South America, with Martha giving birth on 9 April 1867 in Valparaíso, Chile. The couple separated in 1868 however and Martha returned to New Zealand with her son, where she re-married to British-born George Thomas Watson on 15 February 1869, and made her 22-month-old son part of her new family. The Constitution of Australia required all federation parliamentarians to be "subjects of the Queen", defined at the time as the subject's biological father having been born, or born themselves, in the British Empire − upon becoming Prime Minister of Australia he wrote that "when a child, he removed with his British parents from South America to New Zealand", which if correct would have duly classified him as a subject of the Queen. His actual paternal genealogy was not publicly known during his life and it is not known whether he was aware of it.A biography later claimed that his mother "went to considerable lengths to invent a British pedigree". In a 1993 interview, his daughter Jacqueline Dunn née Watson claimed he was born at sea in international waters off Chile.
Watson attended the state school in Oamaru, North Otago, New Zealand until ten years of age when he left to become a rail nipper. Then after a period of helping on the family farm, at thirteen years of age he was apprenticed as a compositor at The North Otago Times, a newspaper run by prominent reformist politician William Steward, with the public affairs exposure augmenting his minor formal schooling. Following the death of his mother and the loss of his job, he migrated to Sydney in 1886 at nineteen years of age. He worked for a month as a stablehand at Government House, then found employment as a compositor for a number of newspapers including The Daily Telegraph, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian Star. Through this proximity to newspapers, books and writers he furthered his education and developed an interest in politics and became active in the printing union. He married Ada Jane Low, a British-born Sydney seamstress, at the Unitarian Church on Liverpool Street in Sydney on 27 November 1889.
Stemming from the nascent Australian labour movement, Watson was a founding member of the originally named Labour Electoral League of New South Wales in the months prior to the 1891 colonial election at which Labour would win the balance of power and provide confidence and supply to the Protectionist Party minority government led by Premier George Dibbs which brought down the incumbent majority government of the Free Trade Party led by Premier Henry Parkes. Watson was an active trade unionist, and became Vice-President of the Sydney Trades and Labour Council in January 1892. In June 1892, he settled a dispute between the Trades and Labour Council and the Labour Party and as a result became the president of the council and chairman of the party. In 1893 and 1894, he worked hard to resolve the debate over the solidarity pledge and established the Labour Party's basic practices, including the sovereignty of the party conference, caucus solidarity, the pledge required of parliamentarians and the powerful role of the extra-parliamentary executive. At the 1894 colonial election where the Protectionist Party government was defeated, Watson was elected to the New South Wales Legislative Assembly for the country seat of Young.
The incumbent Free Trade Party minority government led by Premier George Reid increased their support at the 1895 colonial election but remained several seats short of a majority. Labour at this time had a policy of "support in return for concessions", and Watson voted with his colleagues to strategically provide such legislative support to the incumbent government. Following the 1898 colonial election, despite a significant swing against the incumbent government, Watson and Labour leader James McGowen decided to allow the incumbent government to remain so that it could complete the work of establishing the Federation of Australia.
Watson assisted to shape party policy regarding the movement for federation from 1895, and was one of ten Labour candidates nominated for the Australasian Federal Convention on 4 March 1897, however none were elected. The party, perforce, endorsed federation, however they took a view of the draft Commonwealth constitution as undemocratic, believing the Senate as proposed was much too powerful, similar to the anti-reformist Colonial state upper houses, and the UK House of Lords. When the draft was submitted to a referendum on 3 June 1898, Labour opposed it, with Watson prominent in the campaign, and saw the referendum rejected.
Watson was devoted to the idea of a referendum as an ideal feature of democracy. To ensure that Reid might finally bring New South Wales into national union on an amended draft constitution, Watson helped to negotiate a deal, involving the party executive, that included the nomination of four Labour men to the New South Wales Legislative Council.
At the March 1899 annual party conference, Billy Hughes and Holman moved to have those arrangements nullified and party policy on Federation changed, thus thwarting Reid's plans. Watson, for once, got angry; he 'jumped to his feet in a most excited manner and in heated tones … contended … that they should not interfere with the referendum'. The motion was lost. The four party men were nominated to the council on 4 April and the bill approving the second referendum, to be held on 20 June, was passed on 20 April.
Labour, including Watson, opposed the final terms of the Commonwealth Constitution, however their voting status was not enough to stop it from proceeding, and unlike Holman and Hughes, he believed that it should be submitted to the people. Nevertheless, with all but two of the Labour parliamentarians, he campaigned against the 'Yes' vote at the referendum. When the Constitution was accepted, he agreed that 'the mandate of the majority will have to be obeyed'. He had made an essential contribution to that democratic decision.
Watson was elected to the new federal Parliament at the inaugural 1901 federal election, in the House of Representatives rural seat of Bland.
Arriving in May in the temporary seat of government, Melbourne, Watson was elected the first leader of the Federal Parliamentary Labour Party (usually known as the Caucus) on 8 May 1901, the day before the opening of the parliament.
In the federal Parliament, where Labour was the smallest of the three parties, but held the balance of power, Watson pursued the same policy as Labour had done in the colonial parliaments. Watson Labour provided confidence and supply to the Protectionist Party minority governments of Edmund Barton and Alfred Deakin in exchange for legislation enacting the Labour platform, such as the immensely popular White Australia policy which left the free Trade Party led by George Reid to form the opposition.
Watson, as a Labour moderate, genuinely admired Deakin and shared his liberal views on many subjects. Deakin reciprocated this sentiment. He wrote in one of his anonymous articles in a London newspaper: "The Labour section has much cause for gratitude to Mr Watson, the leader whose tact and judgement have enabled it to achieve many of its Parliamentary successes."
Labour under Watson doubled their vote at the 1903 federal election and continued to hold the balance of power despite all three parties holding about the same number of seats. In April 1904, however, Watson and Deakin fell out over the issue of extending the scope of industrial relations laws concerning the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill to cover state public servants, the fallout causing Deakin to resign. Reid declined to take office, which saw Watson become the first LabourPrime Minister of Australia, the world's first Labour head of government at a national level (Anderson Dawson had led a short-lived Labour government in Queensland in December 1899), indeed the world's first socialist or social democratic government at a national level.He was aged only 37, and remains the youngest Prime Minister in Australia's history.
Billy Hughes later recalled the first meeting of the Labour Cabinet with characteristic sharp wit:
Mr Watson, the new Prime Minister entered the room, and seated himself at the head of the table. All eyes were riveted on him; he was worth going miles to see. He had dressed for the part; his Vandyke beard was exquisitely groomed, his abundant brown hair smoothly brushed. His morning coat and vest, set off by dark striped trousers, beautifully creased and shyly revealing the kind of socks that young men dream about; and shoes to match. He was the perfect picture of the statesman, the leader.
Despite the apparent fitness of the new Prime Minister for his role, the government hung on the fine thread of Deakin's promise of 'fair play'. The triumph of the historic first Australian Labour government was a qualified one – Labour did not have the numbers to implement key policies. The 'three elevens' – the lack of a definite majority in the parliament after the second federal election – dogged Watson just as it had Deakin.
Six bills were enacted during Watson's brief government. All but one – an amended Acts Interpretation Act 1904 – were supply bills. The most significant legislative achievement of the Watson government was the advancement of the troublesome Conciliation and Arbitration Bill.Another accomplishment was the appointing of a Royal Commission on a Bill related to Navigation and Shipping, whose report (presented a couple of years later) led to “major redrafting of the Navigation Act” and improvements in conditions for Australian seamen. Once he became the Prime Minister Watson recognized the limitations of his position in the Labour caucus and endorsed the concept of a deputy leader. Andrew Fisher won the position by one vote over the more dynamic Billy Hughes.
Although Watson sought a dissolution of parliament so that an election could be held, the Governor-General Lord Northcote refused. Unable to command a majority in the House of Representatives, Watson resigned the premiership less than four months after taking office, his term ending on 18 August 1904 (Deakin was later defeated on a similar bill).Reid became Prime Minister and four months later his government managed to pass the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill after compromising to extend the scope to state public servants as Watson had proposed.
Deakin again became Prime Minister after Reid lost confidence of the parliament in July 1905. Watson led Labour to the 1906 federal election and improved their position again. At this election the seat of Bland was abolished, so he shifted to the seat of South Sydney. But in October 1907, mainly due to concern over the health of his wife Ada, he resigned the Labour leadership in favour of Andrew Fisher.
Watson retired from politics, aged only 42, prior to the 1910 federal election, at which Labour won with 50 percent of the primary vote. It was the first time a party had been elected to majority government in the House of Representatives, it was also the first time a party won a Senate majority, and it was the world's first Labour Party majority government at a national level. The ALP vote had risen rapidly, going from 15 percent against two larger and more established parties in 1901, to 50 percent in 1910, after a majority of the Protectionist Party merged with the Anti-Socialist Party, creating the Commonwealth Liberal Party which received 45 percent.
Out of the Parliamentary arena, Watson continued to work for Labor, becoming Director of Labor Papers Ltd, publishers of The Worker, the Australian Workers' Union paper. He also pursued a business career and was also a parliamentary lobbyist.
Resulting from the Australian Labor Party split of 1916, some MPs were expelled from the party for supporting World War I conscription in Australia. Watson sided with ex-Labor Prime Minister Billy Hughes and the conscriptionists and had his party membership terminated as a result. Watson remained active in the affairs of Hughes' Nationalist Party until 1922, but after that he drifted out of politics altogether.
Watson devoted the rest of his life to business. He helped found the National Roads and Motorists Association (NRMA) and remained its chairman until his death. He was also a founder of the Australian Motorists Petrol Co Ltd (Ampol). His wife Ada died in 1921.
On 30 October 1925 Watson married Antonia Mary Gladys Dowlan in the same church as his first wedding. She was a 23-year-old waitress from Western Australia whom he had met when she served his table at a Sydney club.In 1927, they had one daughter, Jacqueline Dunn née Watson.
Watson died on 18 November 1941 at his home in the Sydney suburb of Double Bay.
In April 2004 the Labor Party marked the centenary of the Watson Government with a series of public events in Canberra and Melbourne, attended by then party leader Mark Latham and former ALP Prime Ministers Gough Whitlam, Bob Hawke and Paul Keating. The Canberra suburb Watson and the federal electorate of Watson are named after him. In 1969 he was honoured on a postage stamp bearing his portrait issued by Australia Post.
The Australian Labor Party (ALP), also simply known as Labor and historically spelt Labour, is the largest centre-left political party in Australia. The party has been in opposition at the federal level since the 2013 federal election. The party is a federal party with branches in each state and territory. Labor is in government in the states of Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, and in both the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory. The party competes against the Liberal/National Coalition for political office at the federal, state and sometimes local levels. It is the oldest political party in Australia.
Andrew Fisher was an Australian politician who served three separate terms as Prime Minister of Australia – from 1908 to 1909, from 1910 to 1913, and from 1914 to 1915. He was the leader of the Australian Labor Party from 1907 to 1915.
Sir Edmund "Toby" Barton, was an Australian politician and judge who served as the first Prime Minister of Australia, in office from 1901 to 1903. He resigned to become a founding member of the High Court of Australia, where he served until his death.
Sir George Houston Reid was an Australian politician who led the Reid Government as the fourth Prime Minister of Australia from 1904 to 1905, having previously been Premier of New South Wales from 1894 to 1899. He led the Free Trade Party from 1891 to 1908.
Sir Joseph Cook, was an Australian politician who served as the sixth Prime Minister of Australia, in office from 1913 to 1914. He was the leader of the Commonwealth Liberal Party from 1913 to 1917, after earlier serving as the leader of the Anti-Socialist Party from 1908 to 1909.
The Free Trade Party which was officially known as the Australian Free Trade and Liberal Association, also referred to as the Revenue Tariff Party in some states, was an Australian political party, formally organised in 1887 in New South Wales, in time for the 1887 colony election, which the party won. It advocated the abolition of protectionism, especially protective tariffs and other restrictions on trade, arguing that this would create greater prosperity for all. However, many members also advocated use of minimal tariffs for government revenue purposes only. Its most prominent leader was George Reid, who led the Reid Government as the fourth Prime Minister of Australia (1904–05). In New South Wales it was succeeded by the Liberal and Reform Association in 1902, and federally by the Anti-Socialist Party in 1906. In 1909, the Anti-Socialist Party merged with the Protectionist Party to form the Commonwealth Liberal Party.
The Protectionist Party was an Australian political party, formally organised from 1887 until 1909, with policies centred on protectionism. It advocated protective tariffs, arguing it would allow Australian industry to grow and provide employment. It had its greatest strength in Victoria and in the rural areas of New South Wales. Its most prominent leaders were Sir Edmund Barton and Alfred Deakin, who were the first and second prime ministers of Australia.
The Commonwealth Liberal Party was a political movement active in Australia from 1909 to 1917, shortly after Federation. The CLP came about as a result of a merger between the two non-Labor parties, the Protectionist Party and the Anti-Socialist Party which most of their MPs accepted. The CLP is the earliest direct ancestor of the current Liberal Party of Australia.
The Watson Ministry (Labour) was the 3rd ministry of the Government of Australia, and the first national Labour government formed in the world. It was led by the country's 3rd Prime Minister, Chris Watson. The Watson Ministry succeeded the First Deakin Ministry, which dissolved on 27 April 1904 after Labour withdrew their support and Alfred Deakin was forced to resign. The ministry was replaced by the Reid Ministry on 17 August 1904 after the Protectionist Party withdrew their support over the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill.
Sir William John Lyne KCMG was an Australian politician who served as Premier of New South Wales from 1899 to 1901, and later as a federal cabinet minister under Edmund Barton and Alfred Deakin. He is best known as the subject of the "Hopetoun Blunder", unexpectedly being asked to serve as the first Prime Minister of Australia but failing to form a government.
Allan McLean was an Australian politician who served as the 19th Premier of Victoria, in office from 1899 to 1900. He was later elected to federal parliament, where he served as a government minister under George Reid.
The 1901 Australian federal election for the inaugural Parliament of Australia was held in Australia on Friday 29 March and Saturday 30 March 1901. The elections followed Federation and the establishment of the Commonwealth of Australia on 1 January 1901. All 75 seats in the Australian House of Representatives, six of which were uncontested, as well as all 36 seats in the Australian Senate, were up for election.
The 1903 Australian federal election was held in Australia on 16 December 1903. All 75 seats in the House of Representatives, and 19 of the 36 seats in the Senate were up for election. The incumbent Protectionist Party minority government led by Prime Minister Alfred Deakin retained the most House of Representatives seats of the three parties and retained government with the parliamentary support of the Labour Party led by Chris Watson. The Free Trade Party led by George Reid remained in opposition.
The 1906 Australian federal election was held in Australia on 12 December 1906. All 75 seats in the House of Representatives, and 18 of the 36 seats in the Senate were up for election. The incumbent Protectionist Party minority government led by Prime Minister Alfred Deakin retained government, despite winning the fewest House of Representatives votes and seats of the three parties. Parliamentary support was provided by the Labour Party led by Chris Watson, while the Anti-Socialist Party, led by George Reid, remained in opposition.
The 1910 Australian federal election was held in Australia on 13 April 1910. All 75 seats in the House of Representatives, and 18 of the 36 seats in the Senate were up for election. The incumbent Commonwealth Liberal Party led by Prime Minister Alfred Deakin was defeated by the opposition Labour Party, led by Andrew Fisher.
The history of the Australian Labor Party has its origins in the Labour parties founded in the 1890s in the Australian colonies prior to federation. Labor tradition ascribes the founding of Queensland Labour to a meeting of striking pastoral workers under a ghost gum tree in Barcaldine, Queensland in 1891. The Balmain, New South Wales branch of the party claims to be the oldest in Australia. Labour as a parliamentary party dates from 1891 in New South Wales and South Australia, 1893 in Queensland, and later in the other colonies.
The first Deakin Government was the second federal executive government of the Commonwealth of Australia. It was led by Prime Minister Alfred Deakin, from 24 September 1903 until 27 April 1904. Deakin was the second Prime Minister of Australia, but served as Prime Minister again from 1905–1908 and 1909–1910 – see Second Deakin Government and Third Deakin Government.
The Watson Government was the third federal executive government of the Commonwealth of Australia. It was led by Prime Minister Chris Watson of the Australian Labor Party from 27 April 1904 to 18 August 1904. The Watson Government was the first Labor Party national government in both Australia and in the world. Watson was aged just 37 when he became Prime Minister of Australia, and remains the youngest person to have held the post.
The Reid Government refers to the period of federal executive government of Australia led by Prime Minister George Reid. It lasted from 18 August 1904 - 5 July 1905. Reid was the one and only Prime Minister of Australia to belong to the Free Trade Party. Allan McLean of the Protectionist Party served as deputy.
The Deakin Government (1905-1908) refers to the period of federal executive government of Australia led by Prime Minister Alfred Deakin. It lasted from 5 July 1905 to 13 November 1908. Deakin was the second Prime Minister of Australia having previously led the Deakin Government (1903-1904), and held the office again in 1909–1910.
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|New South Wales Legislative Assembly|
| Member for Young |
|Parliament of Australia|
|New division|| Member for Bland |
| Member for South Sydney |
|Party political offices|
|New political party|| Leader of the Australian Labor Party |
| Prime Minister of Australia |
Sir George Turner
| Treasurer of Australia |
Sir George Turner
| Leader of the Opposition of Australia |