Lionel Hill

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Lionel Hill
Lionel Hill1.JPG
30th Premier of South Australia
Elections: 1927, 1930
In office
17 April 1930 13 February 1933
Monarch George V
Governor Earl of Gowrie
Preceded by Richard L. Butler
Succeeded by Robert Richards
In office
28 August 1926 8 April 1927
Monarch George V
Governor Sir Tom Bridges
Preceded by John Gunn
Succeeded by Richard L. Butler
21st Leader of the Opposition (SA)
In office
Preceded by Richard L. Butler
Succeeded by Richard L. Butler
8th Australian Labor Party (SA) leader
In office
Preceded by John Gunn
Succeeded by Edgar Dawes
Personal details
Born(1881-05-14)14 May 1881
Adelaide, South Australia
Died 19 March 1963(1963-03-19) (aged 82)
Adelaide, South Australia
Political party Australian Labor Party (SA)

Lionel Laughton Hill (14 May 1881 – 19 March 1963) was the thirtieth Premier of South Australia, representing the South Australian Branch of the Australian Labor Party.

Premier of South Australia Wikimedia List

The Premier of South Australia is the head of government in the state of South Australia, Australia. The Government of South Australia follows the Westminster system, with a Parliament of South Australia acting as the legislature. The Premier is appointed by the Governor of South Australia, and by modern convention holds office by virtue of his or her ability to command the support of a majority of members of the lower house of Parliament, the House of Assembly.

Australian Labor Party (South Australian Branch) South Australian political party

The Australian Labor Party , commonly known as South Australian Labor, is the South Australian Branch of the Australian Labor Party, originally formed in 1891 as the United Labor Party of South Australia. It is one of two major parties in the bicameral Parliament of South Australia, the other being the Liberal Party of Australia.


Early life

Born in Adelaide, South Australia but raised on a farm near Maitland, Hill left school aged 12 to work on the South Australian government railways, where he first became involved in the labour movement. This led to his appointment as the secretary-treasurer of the Boilermakers' Assistants' Union in 1901, a position he held until 1914. Hill was also able to combine his work with a distinguished Australian rules footballing career, starring for Norwood Football Club in the South Australian National Football League in the first years of the twentieth century and representing South Australia.

Adelaide City in South Australia

Adelaide is the capital city of the state of South Australia, and the fifth-most populous city of Australia. In June 2017, Adelaide had an estimated resident population of 1,333,927. Adelaide is home to more than 75 percent of the South Australian population, making it the most centralised population of any state in Australia.

South Australia State of Australia

South Australia is a state in the southern central part of Australia. It covers some of the most arid parts of the country. With a total land area of 983,482 square kilometres (379,725 sq mi), it is the fourth-largest of Australia's states and territories by area, and fifth largest by population. It has a total of 1.7 million people, and its population is the second most highly centralised in Australia, after Western Australia, with more than 77 percent of South Australians living in the capital, Adelaide, or its environs. Other population centres in the state are relatively small; Mount Gambier, the second largest centre, has a population of 28,684.

Maitland, South Australia Town in South Australia

Maitland is a town in South Australia located 168 km west of Adelaide by road, 164 km south of Port Pirie and 46 km north of Minlaton known as the "heart of Yorke Peninsula" due to being near the centre of the region. At the 2016 census, Maitland had a population of 1,029.


After marrying in 1908, Hill further increased his stature in the labour movement in 1910 by becoming secretary of the South Australian branch of the Australian Tramway Employees' Association and its federal president in 1912. Hill then gained Australian Labor Party pre-selection for the South Australian House of Assembly electorate of East Torrens, which he duly won at the 1915 election.

South Australian House of Assembly lower house of the Parliament of South Australia

The House of Assembly, or lower house, is one of the two chambers of the Parliament of South Australia. The other is the Legislative Council. It sits in Parliament House in the state capital, Adelaide.

East Torrens was an electoral district of the House of Assembly in the Australian state of South Australia from 1857 to 1902 and again from 1915 to 1938.

In parliament Hill was considered "a slow thinker and unimpressive orator" but gained statewide recognition for his role as President of the Anti-Conscription Council, an issue so divisive during World War I that it caused the 1916 Labor split. In the wake of the split, Hill resigned his East Torrens seat in 1917 to unsuccessfully contest the Australian Senate elections as an anti-conscriptionist Labor candidate.

World War I 1914–1918 global war originating in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

The Australian Labor Party split of 1916 occurred following severe disagreement within the Australian Labor Party over the issue of proposed World War I conscription in Australia. Labor Prime Minister of Australia Billy Hughes had, by 1916, become an enthusiastic supporter of conscription as a means to boost Australia's contribution to the war effort. On 30 August 1916, he announced plans for a referendum on the issue, and introduced enabling legislation into parliament on 14 September, which passed only with the support of the opposition. Six of Hughes' ministers resigned in protest at the move, and the New South Wales state branch of the Labor Party expelled Hughes. The referendum saw an intense campaign in which Labor figures vehemently advocated on each side of the argument, although the "no" campaign narrowly won on 14 November. In the wake of the referendum defeat, the caucus moved to expel Hughes on 14 November; instead, he and 23 supporters resigned and formed the National Labor Party. Frank Tudor was elected leader of the rump party. Hughes was recommissioned as Prime Minister, heading a minority government supported by the opposition Commonwealth Liberal Party; the two parties then merged as the Nationalist Party of Australia and won the 1917 federal election. The Nationalist Party served as the main conservative party of Australia until 1931, and the split resulted in many early Labor figures ending their careers on the political right.

Australian Senate upper house of the Australian Parliament

The Senate is the upper house of the bicameral Parliament of Australia, the lower house being the House of Representatives. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Chapter I of the Constitution of Australia. There are a total of 76 Senators: 12 are elected from each of the six states regardless of population and 2 from each of the two autonomous internal territories. Senators are popularly elected under the single transferable vote system of proportional representation.

Remaining in the political spotlight by becoming President of the South Australian branch of the Labor Party, Hill returned to South Australian politics at the 1918 election as the member for the rural electorate of Port Pirie. His time in parliament was undistinguished but when the John Gunn led ALP won government following the 1924 election Hill was appointed Minister of Education and industry and Commissioner of Public Works. And upon Gunn's resignation in August 1926, Hill became Premier and Treasurer of South Australia for eight months until the 1927 election when the Richard Layton Butler led Liberal Federation returned to power and Hill became opposition leader.

Port Pirie was an electoral district of the House of Assembly in the Australian state of South Australia from 1915 to 1970.

John Gunn (Australian politician) Australian politician

John Gunn was the 29th Premier of South Australia, leading the South Australian Branch of the Australian Labor Party to government at the 1924 election.

The onset of the Great Depression in Australia, in combination with a serious drought gripping the state, cast shadows over the 1930 election as the Liberal Federation struggled to combat the resulting severe economic downturn. During the election campaign Butler cautioned voters to expect hardships ahead, while Hill promised a golden future under the slogan "Work for the Workless; Land for the Landless and Equitable Taxation for All" and was elected in a landslide, winning 30 of the 46 seats in the House of Assembly, the largest percentage of seats won by South Australian Labor in any election.

Great Depression in Australia

Australia suffered badly during the period of the Great Depression of the 1930s. The Depression began with the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and rapidly spread worldwide. As in other nations, Australia suffered years of high unemployment, poverty, low profits, deflation, plunging incomes, and lost opportunities for economic growth and personal advancement.

Former South Australian premiers (from left) Robert Richards, Sir Richard Butler, Lionel Hill and Sir Henry Barwell meet with then Premier Tom Playford in 1940 South Australian premiers.gif
Former South Australian premiers (from left) Robert Richards, Sir Richard Butler, Lionel Hill and Sir Henry Barwell meet with then Premier Tom Playford in 1940

Hill returned as Premier and treasurer but faced problems like high unemployment, a formidable state debt, a shrinking economy and a strike prone workforce. His cabinet found themselves in the unenviable position of being quite incapable of finding a solution to these problems and led to Hill accepting the contentious Premiers' Plan of 1931 which advocated reductions in spending (including aid to the unemployed), public works and wages. Such was the public outcry against the Plan, particularly from traditional Labor supporters, that the executive of the South Australian ALP expelled all of the MPs who supported it from the party, including Hill and his entire cabinet. After an unsuccessful appeal to the federal ALP, Hill and his followers organised as the splinter Parliamentary Labor Party, with Hill as leader. He was only able to remain Premier with the support of the Liberal Federation.

The Hill government continued to stagger from crisis to crisis as riots and protests rocked the state and unemployment reached 35%. In the lead up to the 1933 election Hill continued to quarrel with his cabinet colleagues, leading to his resignation from parliament and the Premiership on 8 February 1933 to controversially assume the position of South Australian Agent-General in London, leaving his successor Robert Richards with the unenviable task of leading the state until the election. At that election, the Liberal and Country League--formed a year earlier from the merger of the Liberal Federation and the Country Party--won a sweeping victory. The three competing Labor factions—the PLP, the official ALP and the Lang Labor Party—were reduced to only 13 seats between them.

Controversy and Hill remained on close terms as complaints about his performance as Agent-General led to Hill's resignation from that position in August 1934 and his return to South Australia, where he joined the LCL and sought preselection. This failed to materialise but Hill was appointed in 1936 by the federal government to chair the ACT Industrial Board.

Hill returned to South Australia in 1958 and found the lure of politics too great, successfully standing for the Town of Kensington and Norwood council.


Any plans of further electoral success were stymied only by his death in 1963. Thirty years after his departure from the ALP, he was still disliked by many Laborites with long memories. Ross McMullin, in his history of the Labor Party, The Light on the Hill, describes him as one of the worst Labor leaders federally or in any state.

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Political offices
Preceded by
George Jenkins
Commissioner of Public Works
1924 1926
Succeeded by
John McInnes
Preceded by
John Gunn
Premier of South Australia
Succeeded by
Richard Layton Butler
Treasurer of South Australia
Preceded by
Richard Layton Butler
Leader of the Opposition of South Australia
Premier of South Australia
Succeeded by
Robert Richards
Treasurer of South Australia
Parliament of South Australia
New district Member for East Torrens
Served alongside: John Southwood, Frederick Coneybeer
Succeeded by
Walter Hamilton
Preceded by
William Cole
Member for Port Pirie
Served alongside: John Fitzgerald
Succeeded by
Andrew Lacey
Party political offices
Preceded by
John Gunn
Leader of the Australian Labor Party (South Australian Branch)
Succeeded by
Edgar Dawes
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Henry Barwell
Agent-General for South Australia
Succeeded by
Charles McCann