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Smith, Hon William Forgan

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Birth Date: 15 April 1887 (Mylnefield House, Invergowrie, Scotland)

Death Date: 23 September 1953 (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia)

Parents: George Smith and Mary (nee Forgan)

Family: Euphemia (Effie) Margaret Wilson on 15 January 1913 in Mackay, 2 sons

Education: Invergowrie and Queen's Park schools; Dunoon Grammar School

Religion: Presbyterian


Painter and decorator, Mackay; Painter, Clydeside shipyards, Scotland

Party Positions:

  1. (ALP) Delegate, Biennial Labor-in-Politics conventions
  2. (ALP) Member, Queensland Central Executive, 1916 - 1918
  3. (ALP) Member, Queensland Central Executive, 1923
  4. (ALP) Executive Committee, Queensland Central Executive, 1926 - 1942

Parliamentary Representation:

House Party Electorate From To Elected/Departure Reason
Assembly ALP Mackay 22 May 1915 9 Dec 1942 Retired

Parliamentary Service

Description From To
Minister without Office 16 Sep 1942 9 Dec 1942
Premier and Chief Secretary 9 Feb 1942 16 Sep 1942
Premier, Chief Secretary and Secretary for Public Instruction 8 Dec 1941 9 Feb 1942
Premier and Chief Secretary 12 Apr 1938 8 Dec 1941
Labor Representative, Premiers Conference and Australian Loan Council meeting, Canberra Jun 1932
Premier, Chief Secretary and Treasurer 17 Jun 1932 12 Apr 1938
Party Leader and Leader of the Opposition 27 May 1929 16 Jun 1932
Deputy Leader of the Parliamentary Party Oct 1925
Secretary for Agriculture and Stock 26 Feb 1925 20 May 1929
Secretary for Public Works 6 Oct 1922 26 Feb 1925
Minister without Office 16 Dec 1920 6 Oct 1922
Chairman of Committees 13 Jan 1920 15 Dec 1920
Temporary Chairman of Committees 9 Jul 1917 13 Jan 1920

Additional Information

Notes: As Premier, he took a strong stand against federal initiatives to take over the states' taxation role. By applying his political acumen, he managed to subtly change the Commonwealth's harsh financial recovery plan, all while retaining precious Commonwealth funding for Queensland. This action resulted in him being hailed as the saviour of Australia's then depressed economy. It was in the policy areas of agriculture (particularly sugar) and public works that Forgan Smith also made his mark. One long-term effect of Forgan Smith's premiership was to confirm the primary sector as the key component of the Queensland economy. Forgan Smith introduced an unemployment relief scheme under which relief workers were paid the basic wage and given a share in available employment, allowing numerous minor works to be undertaken. This was replaced in 1938 by a program of public works under which a number of significant projects were carried out across Queensland. These major public works included the Story Bridge; the Somerset Dam; the Grey Street Bridge; the Mackay Outer Harbour; the Hornibrook Highway; and the new university at St Lucia. He also established the State Electricity Commission. Cabinet stability was a hallmark of his premiership with only 6 changes of personnel occurring from 1932 to 1942, and his leadership was never challenged. It came as a surprise when news broke in September 1942 that he had informed cabinet the previous day of his intention to resign as Premier forthwith. Rumours flared that he would take a federal position, perhaps as High Commissioner in London. Instead he remained in the succeeding Cooper cabinet as Minister without Office until 9 Dec, when he resigned his seat to take up the post of Deputy Chairman of the Sugar Board (Chairman from 1944) and Chairman of the Central Sugar Cane Prices Board (until 1952). Forgan Smith was a keen golfer, lawn bowler and angler as well as an avid cricket fan. Forgan Smith was the recipient of an honorary doctorate of laws from the University of Queensland in 1935. He was made Chancellor of the University in 1944 and remained so until his death in 1953. He was given a state funeral on 28 Sep 1953 at St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Brisbane

Sources: Image courtesy of John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Neg: 105247; Serle, G., Australian Dictionary of Biography, V.11: 1891-1939, Nes-Smi, pp. 665-670 (Melbourne, Vic: Melbourne University Press); Waterson, DB and John Arnold, A Biographical Register of the Queensland Parliament: 1930-1980, (Canberra: ANU Press, 1982); Waterson, DB, A Biographical Register of the Queensland Parliament: 1860-1929, 2nd revised edition (Sydney: Casket Publications, 2001)

[Last Modified: Tuesday, 8 August 2017]