Senators, Recounts, and Burned Ballots in 1906

Here in Western Australia, we’ve been talking a fair bit about making electoral history.   However, it turns out that, a century ago, the papers were reporting a story with quite a number of similarities.

The most recent Australian Federal Election was held on 7 September 2013.  The count for the Western Australian Senate seats turned up four clear winners – three Liberal, one Labor – but when it came down to the last two seats, something rather unusual took place.  I’m not going to go into the intricacies of the Senate electoral system but in short, a difference of 14 votes between two minor parties (each with no chance of winning a seat themselves) determined the last two winners of the Senate election.

Following appeals by candidates to the Australian Electoral Commission, on 10 October the Commission declared a recount of over 1.2 million of Western Australia’s Senate ballot papers.  However, at some point in the count Commission officials determined that 1,375 votes were missing, announcing this to the public this on 31 October. Two days later, the outcome of the recount was announced, resulting in a change of the final two Senators to be appointed from Western Australia, due to a 26 vote turn-around at the critical point. Undoubtedly, this will end up in the Court of Disputed Returns, so while we’re all waiting to find out what happens next, let’s take a look back at 1906.

The 1906 Federal Election was held on 12 December and, as with the present case, the Senate results for one State – in this case, South Australia – came right down to the wire.  In fact, Mr. Joseph Vardon polled 14 votes fewer than Mr. Crosby, with ‘slight inaccuracies’ being detected in six out of seven polling places.

A recount of the votes was duly ordered by the Commonwealth Electoral Officer, as requested by Mr. Vardon, and Mr. Vardon was determined to have been elected over Mr.Crosby by a very slim margin.  Oddly enough, Mr Crosby died in February of 1907, but one of his running mates, Reginald Blundell, took the result of the election to the High Court on his behalf, requesting a second full recount.

However the story did not end there.  It turned out that the ballot papers for the division of Angas (one eighth of the total vote for the State) could not be found, and were declared to have been ‘unfortunately burned along with the waste paper’.

Burned votes aside, the recount also turned up the fact that 185 ballots had not been properly authenticated due to an error by officials – a number sufficient to have impacted the result of the election.  Whilst Vardon finished the recount with a two vote lead, the High Court ultimately decided that:

” …. while Mr. Vardon’s vote was still in a majority, a number of ballot papers, if admissible, would have given Mr Crosby, now dead, a majority but were rendered invalid by the default of a returning officer in not initialling the papers.”and that, since a full recount of the votes from Angas could not take place, the election was void.

At this point, the High Court, acting on the advice of several constitutional lawyers, stated that the vacant Senate seat should be filled by means of a joint sitting of both the South Australian Houses of Parliament.  Mr. Vardon, apparently not one to back down from a fight, procured his own legal advice.  He then went to the Governor to ask for a writ to be issued to allow for a new election, on the basis that the relevant section of the Constitution did not apply to an election that had never been completed, and so the vacancy could not be filled by a vote of Parliament.The Governor refused Mr. Vardon’s request for a writ, and Parliament – in what turned out to be a legally dubious move – selected a Mr. O’Loghlin to fill the vacancy.  Mr. Vardon petitioned the Senate in protest at this appointment, leading to legislation being passed that empowered the High Court to hear his petition.

Having considered the case, the Court agreed that the election of O’Loghlin was void, as Parliament had acted unconstitutionally in appointing a Senator to the vacant seat. However, the saga did not end there, since, in the middle of the case, the missing votes – remember those that had supposedly been burned? – turned up in the Gawler Post Office.  Whilst the discovery wasn’t relevant to the issue before the Court, the election having already been declared void, it was perhaps a fitting twist in the tale for a most peculiar year in South Australia.

And so, in early 1908 – over a year since the original Federal Election – a Special Election was held in South Australia with Mr. Vardon and Mr. O’Loghlin being the only candidates, resulting in the election Mr. Vardon won comprehensively with 53.7 per cent of the vote, finally taking his seat in Parliament.

A note: Whilst the 1906 happenings sound rather relevant to current events on an initial read, don’t get too excited.  The situation in South Australia in 1906 may not provide a guide for the Court in considering the current issue in Western Australia.  At the time, Senators were elected using a first past the post system, allowing for a two-candidate Special Election in 1908.  More distinguished writers than I have pointed out the Woods and Hill cases of the 1980’s and 1990’s as being more likely to influence the Court’s ruling, this time around.

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Some of the sitting MPs charged with fraud in our history

The story of the month is Craig Thomson’s arrest on 150 charges of fraud. I thought I’d have a look in Trove, so I did a quick search for “member of parliament fraud” and found a bunch! The first few I found shown below.

MPs charged with fraud – not at all news.

People have been talking about Thomson’s arrest and likely subsequent trial as if it’s unprecedented. As you’ll see below, it’s happened numerous times, and democracy hasn’t failed as a result. I recommend cool heads and remembering the presumption of innocence.

I haven’t got time right now to fix the OCR for all of these, but if you’re feeling nice pop over to Trove and fix them up.

NSW – 1903


Geo Howarth, MP for Willoughby in the State Legislature.
1903 ‘MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT.’, Kalgoorlie Miner (WA : 1895 – 1950), 15 April, p. 5, viewed 1 February, 2013,

NSW (again) – 1906


Mr. A. M. Millard, MLA for Queanbeyan – convicted, this article reporting the subsequent booting out.
1906 ‘A CONVICTED MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT.’, Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW : 1888 – 1954), 9 March, p. 2, viewed 1 February, 2013,

South Australia – 1906


Former Mayor of Adelaide and sitting MP Charles Tucker.
1906 ‘AN ADELAIDE SENSATION.’, Bendigo Advertiser (Vic. : 1855 – 1918), 24 September, p. 5, viewed 1 February, 2013,

Perth – 1910


MLA for Beverly charged with Fraud.
1910 ‘MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT ON TRIAL.’, Barrier Miner(Broken Hill, NSW : 1888 – 1954), 13 April, p. 2, viewed 1 February, 2013,

These are some of the results, picking those where the person charged was an MP at the time. There are lots more. Sitting MPs being charged with fraud – and other crimes – is nothing new.It’s not surprising that when you have a population of at least a few hundred parliamentarians in a country, occasionally something untoward will allegedly occur.

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Bagging Canberra

Bagging Canberra. It’s a bit of a national pastime. For my part I was somewhat surprised that Guy Ritchie bothered to apologise for it. This post is inspired by this piece by the ABC’s Louise Maher; “Canberra bashing as tired as NZ sheep jokes“:

It’s bad enough – sad enough – that Canberra bashing is a national sport. It’s even more depressing when Australians conduct the bashing on an international stage.

Why? Because Canberra is our national capital. It’s YOUR national capital. If Australians don’t feel pride or at least a certain connection with this city, there’s something wrong. Particularly if it’s deemed OK for Canberra to be the butt of cheap, boring jokes.

So let’s have a look for interesting examples of Canberra bashing in the National Library of Australia’s Trove archive. The first examples I found were from the early construction of the city. As a city planned to such an unusual extent there was a lot of room for criticism and bike shedding. From 1926:


One of the types of cottages offered to public servants by the Federal Capital Commission, which have been criticised adversely. The price of this cottago is £1,440 but this is exclusive of lease, rent of land, fencing, and other oharges, including a 7 per cent charge made by the commission for out of pocket expenses in connection with the building.

– CANBERRA COTTAGES CRITICISED. (1926, June 16). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 17. Retrieved April 30, 2012, from

Interestingly, the criticism of the accommodations above seems to have been part of a bigger problem. Here’s an interesting piece from 1928, discussing the class structure of the newly constructed city:



“Canberra is a hideous waste of public money; a hotbed of class consciousness and snobbery, and it was planned in a nightmare.”

Tliis is from one of the fiercest attaclcs yet launched on the Federal Capital, loy the Victorian Minister for Forests, Mr Beckett, who went to Canberra to inspect the Forestry School. “The roads arc a dizzy whirl of curves —a taxi-driver’s paradise,” he said. “If Canberra over has a big population, —and it will not, has no trade or industry to sustain it—the streets will be found to be too narrow. “Canberra has-no future,” he declar ed. “Population follows trade, and in Canberra there is no trade. Every- where there is class distinction. “The workmen, who are the back bone of the place, are segregated into one corner, and pushed into four-roomed hutches built of imported timber. Then there are the junior offices; then the not-so junior; then the curled darlings of the service– and between them all there is plenty to spare for the wind to blow and prevent contamination. “The architecture of Canberra is dreadful.”

– CANBERRA. (1928, February 9). Singleton Argus (NSW : 1880 – 1954) , p. 1. Retrieved April 30, 2012, from

The final category of early Canberra trashing was on the basis of cost. Here’s an example from 1929:



CANBERRA, March l8.

In the course of his cross-examina- tion of Mr. W. Hayward Morris, the designing architect of the Federal Capital Commission, who gave evidence to-day before the Public Works Com- mittee which is investigating the estab- lisliment of a laboratory of the Economic Botany at Canberra, Mr. Gregory (C.P.) expressed dissatisfac- tion at the cost of the construction of the buildings in Canberra as com- pared with Melbourne and Sydney. The estimated cost of the botanical block In connection with the proposed buildings, said Mr. Morris, would be £22,810, and that of the administrative block £19,615, which, plus essential ser- vices and interest, made the estimated total cost of the proposal £52,624.

CANBERRA BUILDINGS. (1929, March 19). The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), p. 23. Retrieved April 30, 2012, from

Here’s an outrage from 1945, as the “girls” of Canberra are allegedly repressed and frustrated.


CANBERRA, September 30.— The segregation of sexes under the Government’s hostel scheme in Canberra was criticised yesterday by the superintendent of the Canberra Community Hospital (Dr. Nott), who said the segregation was having a bad psychological effect on the girls employed in Government departments in Canberra.

Dr. Nott, who is a member of the Canberra Advisory Council, said the Council had renewed its request to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) that the sex barrier be lifted. The Government’s policy threatened to turn girl departmental workers into old maids. The girls generally had had far too much spirit to let the segregation get them down, but the continued repression and frustration was having effect.

– CANBERRA HOSTEL SCHEME CRITICISED. (1945, October 1). Townsville Daily Bulletin (Qld. : 1885 – 1954), p. 2. Retrieved April 30, 2012, from

The attitude of that article is quite disturbing, as is the idea that the government had decided to hide the young women away. I’m not sure what was going on there. Whatever the outrage, I’m sure it pales in significance compared to the outrage of being unable to get a decent sandwich.


CANBERRA, Tuesday The Minister for the Interior, Mr. Johnson, has asked an officer of his department to see it conditions in Canberra cafes can be improved.

Mr. Johnson’s action follows complaints about the cafes’ restricted hours of opening and the service given.

He said to-day that scarcity ot accommodation was still an obstacle to the establishing of new cafe pre- mises, with consequent beneficial competition.

CANBERRA CAFES CRITICISED. (1946, July 3). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), p. 4. Retrieved April 30, 2012, from

Of course, criticism of Canberra’s architecture continued – as it does today. Here’s a letter to the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald from Walter Bunning – amusingly, he went on to be the architect of the National Library of Australia. This is a long one:


National University

Sir,-When the Federal Government announced that a National University was to bc established at Canberra, those interested in thc development qf their capital city foresaw opportunity for a group of buildings of major importance, serving the purposeof thc highest research institution in Australia and giving architectural expression to its most noble ideals.

]t is now disclosed that the first building of thc group is being erected, and that plans have been completed for the Research School of Physical Sciences, but so far the public has not had an opportunity of seeing thc designs or expressing opinion upon them.

In the case of a major national institution financed from public revenue, it is most surely the right of the public to see illustrations of the proposed project. The aesthetic expression of the design alone raises numerous issues of interest to all.

The University offers a magnificent opportunity to present to thc visiting public and those from overseas the strongest impression of thc character of Australian architecture. One might express the opinion that such a major work could exert an influence on our future architecture as important as Governor Macquarie’s Sydney Hospital in relation to its time.

The only way in which public confidence can be secured in the design of such major buildings is the calling of a nation-wide architectural competition. The fine University at Perth was carried out in this way.

Canberra is a city of mediocre and undistinguished civic architecture, apart from the National War Memorial, which resulted from an architectural competition. lt is not too late to hold such a competition for those buildings which have not been started.

It is high time that a full state- ment on the position was made by the Prime Minister as to what is the design policy, who is advising the Government, how the selection was made, and how the work is being carried out.

In the absence of any authoritative information the impression has been created, perhaps erroneously, that the whole project is the close preserve of a handful of professors.



– Letters. (1949, August 30). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), p. 2. Retrieved April 30, 2012, from

Then nothing further raise the ire of Australia’s architects than fly-in, fly-out British competitors:

Canberra House Criticised

Canberra House, the residence of the High Commissioner for the United Kingdom in Canberra, was sharply criticised this, week in “Cross-Section,” a publication of the Melbourne University School of Architecture.

“Cross-Section” said:

“Canberra House is the latest overseas contribution to Canberra architecture, and it was designed by a Ministry of Works (Eng.) architect who flew out ‘to get an idea of living conditions.’

“Described by the Press as British contemporary architecture, rather it is an extra-ordinary combination of the most commonplace prentious elements in both English and Australian ‘ideal home’ taste, blown up to panoramic pioportions dressed with interiors in such diverse but socially acceptable styles as ‘Modern Regency’ and Festival of Britain, constructed and finished with an extravagance that doubtless compensates the occupiers for its inadequacies in design for Canberra climate ”

– Canberra House Criticised. (1954, January 26). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), p. 14. Retrieved April 30, 2012, from

Finally, here is a plea the Australian Legion of Ex-Servicemen and Women for a form of local government:


Canberra.- Canberra was “red tape” from one end of the city to the other under the present civic administraiton, Mr. B. C. Davis said.

Mr. Davis, a delegate from the Australian -Legion of Ex-Service- men and Women, was speaking at a conference of Canberra citizens who met to discuss a new form ofadministration for the city.

Tlie conference decided to urge a system of local government.

CANBERRA’S “RED TAPE” CRITICISED. (1949, November 3).Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW : 1888 – 1954), p. 2. Retrieved April 30, 2012, from

There you have it. Bagging Canberra – not just a national pastime, but also a part of our rich media history. Or perhaps it’s just the uninspired enterprise of dullards. Whichever it is, it’s certainly not at all news.

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An Easter Egg Hunt in Trove

Every year our newspapers produce stories on Easter. If you don’t believe me, do a search in Trove; the substance rarely changes, though the tone does. Most notably they become less pious and more commercial, and the assumption that the reader is christian falls away. Still, it is a time when priests and bishops can get their message out.

While Easter Eggs aren’t at all news, I thought I’d break from my blog theme and have a look at how they’ve changed over time, using newspaper articles as a guide.

Easter eggs were once predominantly painted chicken eggs. Over time they changed into what we have now – chocolate eggs, possibly filled with toys or sweets. Here’s an article published in Hobart’s The Mercury following the easter of 1872:


There is no disguising that these eggs have become to many persons a tax, a burden, and a source of bitterness. So long as no further innovation was attempted than selling sugar eggs in lieu of genuine ones it was well ; for a sugar egg, even when coloured pink and filled with carraway comfits, is not much to bealarmed at.

But one day there appeared an artificer of woe who set himself to blowing out all the yolk and white from an egg, cutting the shell neatly in two, lining the halves with white satin, adapt ing them to each other on the screw-top system, and then putting a gold or a silver thimble inside. This was the first oeuf a surprise.

It looked like the real thing, and could be set by the donor in the donee’s egg-cup without fear of detection, until at the critical moment when the spoon was going to crash through the top everybody round the table would cry out affectionately “Gare” and pleasantly mystify the recipient.

Of course this ingenious invention cost from 20 to 50 francs, and found numerous imitators. Ducks’, geese’s, and swans’ eggs were pressed into service as capable of contain- ing not only thimble, but small scissors, needle-case, &c, and of being sold at from five to ten guineas.

Then somebody asked why one should not put earrings, sleeve-links, or broaches into the eggs instead of thimbles; and this lead to an enterprising jeweller drawing ahead of every one else by fitting up ostrichs’ eggs as work boxes, scent-bottle stands, or jewel cases.

This jeweller, who deserved well of his kind, worked in the Easter-egg trade the same sort of revolution as Victor Hugo and the “Romantiques” wrought in the drama. Up to that time it had been considered essential to keep up some semblance of respect for probabilities, but, from the ostrich-egg day probabilities were discarded.

Eggs appeared measuring a foot in diameter-big chocolate and sugar eggs filled with sweetmeats, or monster eggs filled with toys; or, again, huge mahogany eggs, with brass mountings and feet, to stand up on end and act as liqueur receptacles.

Then people use the Easter egg as a medium for giving presents which they would have had no good excuse for offering at other times, and also for paying off arrears of etrennes. An august personage very gracefully sent one of his Ministers the insignia and patent of the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour in an Easter egg ; and the late merry Due de Caderousse-Graraont presented an actress with the most stupendous egg on record; it was acolossal wooden thing, painted white, and containing a brougham. They conveyed it along the boulevards in a cart to the delight of admiring crowds, and it was the nine days’ wonder of that Easter.

There must have been people who hoped that the collapse of the Empire would have entailed that of the Easter egg ; but they were mistaken. This year the confectioners, jewellers, aud nick-nack shops are as full of eggs as ever, and the only difference between to-day and two years agoseems to be that the tradesmen have drawn from their country’s woes further inspiration in the way of egg contrivances, and have added about 10 per cent, allround on the prices of former inventions.

Thus, a Parisian bachelor who has dinedout this winter, and feels himself bound to give eggs, has only to set out on a ramble of inspection, and he may choose either a stuffed hen, life-size, sitting on a nest of 12 eggs, each containing a silver egg-cup ; or a stuffed turkey, whose upper half comes off, and discloses a berceaunette with baby’s layette complete ; or an unpretending pheasant’s egg with an emerald ring inside; or, more unpretending still, a little wren’s egg with a set of studs ; or if he be bent on gratifying a lady whose tastes are authorlike, a smooth ebony egg that slips into the pocket like a darning ball, and houses, inkstand, pens, sand-horn, stamps, wafers, and pencil.

To be sure he may choose nothing, argue that he is not rich, that eggs are an abuse, and that he emptied his pockets to feed his friends with sweetmeats at Christmas-tide. But in this case he had better go and admire the monuments of London for a fortnight, or proceed to Rome to see whether the Holy week festivities there have degenerated ; and when he returns he must plead that he was called away by urgent private affairs. Even then, however, let him not be surprised if society watches him for some time with a cool and guarded eye as one inclined to make light of those beneficial observances which raised man above dumb brutes. –Pall Mall Gazette.

– EASTER EGGS IN PARIS. (1872, June 6). The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), p. 4. Retrieved April 7, 2012, from

A long article but an amusing one! Notable French extravagances included enormous wooden eggs containing horse-drawn carriages. This article also describes recently invented easter eggs, with the contents blown out, halved and a screw mechanism installed – containing small presents. These would be the ancestors of the Kinder surprise!

Of course, when we think Easter egg we think chocolate. Here we have an 1894 article from the Wellington Times and Agricultural and Mining Gazette – Tasmanians clearly enjoy Easter – relating an invention by the “chic shop of the season”–

For the Ladies.


A lady correspondent writes from London  under date March 28 ;— ”Easter Eggs,’ as presents to be made at this season are indiscriminately called, are of good variety, and from the lowest prices to substantial cost.

Fuller’s, in Regent Street, is the chic shop of the season, and presents a spectacle both pretty and curious. Firstly, it is running over with flowers, in fancy receptacles past numbering or describing ; secondly, it has got a specialty, an Easter egg of its own, not to be bought elsewhere, and of the oddest because of the most ordinary aspect.

Nothing very attractive in a brown paper case, with partitions and an innocent-looking new-laid egg in each of them, just as you mayh ave them sent home from the stores, is there?

No, but when you have removed the shell, which is real–that is where the joke  comes is- you come upon a chocolate egg, and it is full of cream. Your attitude of mind in respect to this phenomenon resembles that of George the Third when he propounded the historic query about the dumpling and the apples. Mrs. Williamson tells me of a really pretty novelty– an egg made of sugar with a rough gritty surface, transparent itself, but tinted with splashes of rose, amber and emerald.

– For the Ladies. (1894, May 15). Wellington Times and Agricultural and Mining Gazette (Tas : 1890 – 1897), p. 3. Retrieved April 7, 2012, from

So there you have it – in London, at least, the chocolate egg dates to 1894. No doubt the labour of putting chocolate eggs within flawless chicken eggs was conducted by poor unfortunates, but it must have been a merry treat for the Victorian middle class.

I’ll finish off this post with some cartoons. To my surprise, the Easter Egg has had much use in caricature. I’ve included captions for anyone using a screen reader.

Two male hands press upon a globe in shape of easter egg, deforming it. Text superimposed: Armament PressureEASTER EGG. (1939, April 6). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 10. Retrieved April 7, 2012, from 

The cartoon above comes from April 1939, months before the Second World War began with the German invasion of Poland. The same cartoonist seems to have enjoyed his easter eggs; here’s another effort from 1949, this time concerning problems at the Australian Egg Board:

A chicken labelled "Egg Board" lands upon and pecks a globe; the visible land mass is Australia, which is labelled "Trouble"
Today's Armstrong. (1949, March 29). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 2. Retrieved April 7, 2012, from

Here is a 1939 cartoon in response to a tax increase by Queensland premier Forgan Smith.  Queensland under Smith became the highest taxing state in the Commonwealth.

Premier Smith (hands in pockets, wearing waistcoat) beams at a large easter egg, addressed to him "grudgingly, motorists". The egg is labelled "£ Holiday Savings £".
HIS EASTER EGG. (1939, April 5). The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 - 1954), p. 6. Retrieved April 7, 2012, from

It seems particular cartoonists stick to the same theme; here’s another one with Smith taking Queenslander’s money off to Sydney & Melbourne. Proof it’s not just West Australians that complain about money going to those cities.

Premier Smith, depicted as a chicken, walks with a paper labelled "Loan Council" and a briefcase labelled "to Sydney & Melbourne." An egg remains behind, labelled "Relief Tax Deduction"; a man gestures at the chicken and says "Remember now - you'll have to come back and hatch this one!"
OUR EASTER EGG. (1938, April 14). The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 - 1954), p. 6. Retrieved April 7, 2012, from

As the second world war continued, more and more egg cartoons were produced. Here’s one from 1941:

A bandaged world, battered and covered in plasters, is balanced on a finger. A label is stuck in it by a pin, reading "Chins up and keep smiling!" A large bandage reads "The war-torn, old world!"
1941 Easter Egg. (1941, April 10). The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 - 1954), p. 4. Retrieved April 7, 2012, from

As the war turns in favour of the allies, this from April 1944:

A large rooster, chest thrust out, leaps in the air. The rooster is labelled "Allied Nations" and is over an egg labelled "All round improvement in war". A man with a basket exclaims "Not a victory egg yet, but much better!"
Our Easter Egg. (1944, April 6). The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 - 1954), p. 2. Retrieved April 7, 2012, from

About a month before Hitler’s death, this prescient effort was published in the Courier Mail.

An egg in caricature of Hitler sits on a wall above a swastika, with writing above reading "Humpty-Dumpty sat on a wall–". In next panel the egg tumbles from the wall, "– Humpty-Dumpty had a great fall." The egg is now labelled "Easter 1945".
EASTER EGG. (1945, March 31). The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 - 1954), p. 2. Retrieved April 7, 2012, from

Finally, conclusive proof the Queenslanders were knocking we West Australians off when they caricatured their premier as a chicken. We did it in 1929! Here is an effort casting aspersions on a seat redistribution under Premier Collier;

A chicken in caricature of Premier Collier sits on an egg amongst a farmyard scene. The egg is labelled "Redistribution of Seats", and is watched by a farmer. Labelling beneath cartoon: PREMIER COLLIER (on the egg): I'm sure this is a very good Easter Egg.
The Easter Egg. (1929, April 4). Western Mail (Perth, WA : 1885 - 1954), p. 7. Retrieved April 7, 2012, from

That’s all – but do go have a look in Trove if you want more. A simple search for “Easter Egg” found all of these! I hope you all have a good holiday. Comments with suggestions for future themes would be greatly appreciated!

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Faceless Brewers and other threats to democracy

This one is for Campbell Newman;

A PROPERTY developer who made seven separate donations to Campbell Newman’s city hall re-election fund was also conducting business from a property owned by the lord mayor’s family, Anna Bligh has alleged.

The Queensland premier called a snap press conference in Brisbane this afternoon to reveal one of Philip Usher’s companies, Pucsla No.8 Pty Ltd, had as its principle place of business a property in Spring Hill, owned by Mr Newman’s in-laws.

– The Australian, March 15, 2012

… and for Clive Palmer:

Mining magnate Clive Palmer has accused the United States government of funding environmental group Greenpeace via the CIA to undermine Australia’s coal mining sector.

Mr Palmer made the extraordinary claim over Greenpeace’s plan to use the court system to tie up coal mining applications.

He is angry at Greenpeace’s plan to use lawyers to thwart future coal mining projects and claims funding is coming from US environmental charity the Rockefeller Foundation.


He then picked out veteran Greens campaigner Drew Hutton.

“Drew Hutton is a tool of the US government and Rockefeller, and so are the Greens; everything they say. It’s as simple as that,” Mr Palmer said.

“I think the Greens in this coming state election, all their candidates should resign if they are being funded by an offshore political power,” Mr Palmer said.

“It is tantamount to treason. Something needs to be done about it.”

Australian Broadcasting Corporation, March 20, 2012

We have a contemporary politician under an accusation of dubious donations, and a mining magnate alleging that local political parties and activist organisations are being influenced by overseas interests. Let’s see if this has happened before.


Looking in Trove, we find numerous accusations of donations to political parties from brewers. They come from members of the temperance movement, the implication being that the donations are intended to forestall legislation against the alcohol consumption. Here’s an example of 1924 allegation against the Australian Labor Party.




Sydney, Wednesday.

Mr. Jack Garden, secretary of the Sydney Labor Council, reiterates his charges against the A.L.P. that the brewers in the past have given a liberal donation to the Labor party funds. Mr. Garden now asks for a Royal Commission or a Parliamentary Select Committee to inquire into the matter. Mr. Garden is in possession of information which is likely to give the executive officials a rude shock, and if dared he will he bound to expose his enemies.

– BREWERS AND LABOR PARTY. (1924, September 17). Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW : 1888 – 1954), p. 1. Retrieved March 24, 2012, from

If you are an industry out to influence things you’ll want to be truly suspicious and, as alleged here, buy influence with both the major parties. Queensland, 1951:



BRISBANE, October 23.— A denial that they received “blood money” from liquor interests was made by political leaders to-day. Mr. R. Edmunds, Queensland Temperance League field secretary had claimed all parties received it.

The Acting Premier (Mr. V. C. Gair) said he had no knowledge of his government getting a dona- tion from a brewery or the Licensed Victuallers’ Association. The Opposition Leader (Mr. G. F. Nicklin) said his party did not get donations from any brewery or brewery interests. In fact it never accepted any donations which had any strings attached to them. The Liberal Party Leader (Mr. T. A. Hiley) Mid it was a most “intemperate statement from a temperance man.” He added he had no knowledge of any donation to hie party from the liquor trede. Mr. Edmunds had been in Queensland only a few months. He sadly misunderstood the position of the Liberal Party, or he would not make such a “stupid statement” he said.

– LINK WITH LIQUOR TRADE DENIED BY PARTY LEADERS. (1951, October 24). Townsville Daily Bulletin (Qld. : 1885 – 1954), p. 2. Retrieved March 24, 2012, from

… and of course such allegations will be met by unified response from those parties.


There are a huge number of fascinating incidents in our political history that relate to the Communist Party. They might stem from the actions of the party itself, but also from the actions of other groups to suppress, ban and harass it. Having any connection (political or financial) to the Communist party was politically devastating during the Cold War. Let’s have a look at an scandal that blew up in 1953.


CANBERRA – Mr. M’Colm (Lib., Qld.) last night challenged the Labor Party to state publicly, whether it had received a £13,000 donation from the Communist Party during the anti Communist referendum campaign.

Speaking in the House of Representatives, Mr. M’Colm asked whether it was true that Mr. Beazley (Lab., W.A.) had recently made a statement that the Federal secretary of the Labor Party (Senator Kenelly) had received £13,000 from a man named Hill, the Victorian secretary of the Australian Communist Party.

He said the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) should make a statement to clear these matters up.

Mr. Calwell declared the Labor Party had never received any money from the Communist Party.

– CHALLENGE TO LABOR PARTY. (1953, December 2).Advocate (Burnie, Tas. : 1890 – 1954), p. 2. Retrieved March 24, 2012, from

Various Labor members and officials go on to leak about each other, the scandal creating a mess of articles. No doubt this was an expression in the media of the tension within the ALP which would go on to lead to the DLP’s formation in 1955. Unfortunately for the Menzies government, there were accusations that Menzies was informed of the donation by Labor members but did nothing about it.


I’ll end with this amusing article in the Charleville Times.


Nice Donation to F.G.

The Communist Party has contributed £1300 to Federal revenue as a result of the election.

The party stood 27 candidates for the House of Representatives and 25 for the Senate.

Latest figures show that all 52 will forfeit their deposits of £25.

To save the £25 deposit House of Representatives candidates must poll more than one-fifth of the total votes of the successful candidate.

In the Senate each candidate must gain more than one-tenth of the average vote of the win- ning candidates.

The Communist vote in six Queensland, nine N. S. W., seven Victorian, three South Australian, and two Western Australian House of Representatives seats was only a small fraction of the winners’ votes.


In the Senate six Queensland, sis N. S. W., six Victorian, three West Australian, three Tasmanian, and one South Australian Communists polled so badly that they could not average the necessary one-tenth of likely winning candidates.

No Communist candidate in Queensland is likely to win more than 2,000 votes for a House of Representatives seat.  Every candidate is well below the necessary one-fifth.

– THE COMMUNIST PARTY. (1951, May 10). The Charleville Times (Brisbane, Qld. : 1883 – 1954), p. 6. Retrieved March 24, 2012, from

No doubt the Communists would have been unhappy at their accidental donation to their oppressors.

I found numerous articles covering petty bribery – bus owners attempting to corruptly purchase routes and so on. Despite some effort I could find no prior accusation of CIA influence over Australian political parties. The specifics of Mr. Palmer’s accusation are novel and original, but implications of undue influence in Australian politics are not at all news!

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A wig and a mace: the Speaker’s regalia

Speaker, The Hon. Peter Slipper parades through Parliament House

As speaker, the Hon. Harry Jenkins went in for plain business suits and a minimum of ceremony. So when the Hon. Peter Slipper MP took the speakership, his decision to resurrect the pomp and circumstance of the position allowed for some minor and convenient controversy.

This article from is representative of the media’s reaction; both for its mocking tone and its fixation on Mr. Slipper’s alleged fondness for silly wigs. Quoting the bullet points at the top of the article;

  • New speaker wants gown and wig
  • Plan hits snag – regalia donated to Museum
  • “The risk is he will end up looking like a clown”

In this post I look back through Trove’s wonderful newspaper archive, in search of past coverage of the speaker’s attire and adornments. Here is a similar controversy from 1929, albeit with a reversal:


NEW SPEAKER’S DECISION. Mace “Relic of Barbarism.”

CANBERRA. Thursday – “Neither wig nor gown will be worn by the Speaker of the House of Representatives (Mr. Makin) during his term of office, nor will the mace appear on the table of the House.

In reply to a question by Mr. Thompson (N.S.W.) to-day, Mr. Makin said that he would find no intelligent reason why the mace should appear on the table. According to the meagre records available, it was a relic of barbarism, and he saw no reason why anything which symbolised that class of society, or the methods of treating one another in the ordinary relationships should find any opportunity of display in the Chamber during his occupancy of the chair. The mace did not represent anything associated with the Crown, nor did it do  anything towards asserting the authority of the Speaker. “I shall be quite capable” of asserting that authority without the mace,” said Mr. Makin. (Laughter.)

No instruction has yet been given about the wigs and gowns worn by the officials of the House, and at the sitting to-day   they wore them as usual.

– NO WIG OR GOWN. (1929, November 22). The Argus(Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 7. Retrieved March 10, 2012, from

Another article indicates that Mr. Thompson was so concerned at not seeing the mace, he queried to check it had not been stolen.

Of course, Thompson’s concerns were perfectly reasonable considering the events of 1914:

The Speaker’s Mace.

Result of Detectives’ Inquiry


The Speaker of the House of Representatives says he has not yet decided what action to take respecting interference with the mace and his notes. The mace was removed, during Friday’s sitting. Both he and the Prime Minister consider the matter too serious to be thought merely stupidly jocular, especially as it had transpired that the keys of the chamber had been removed, thus making it impossible to lock the doors when a division was called for. The speaker has had special bolts put on inside the doors. Reports from detectives leave no doubt as to the identity of the culprits who may escape with simple exposure owing to the reluctance of the Government to take an unfair advantage of the Opposition.

– The Speaker’s Mace. (1914, May 25). Cairns Post (Qld. : 1909 – 1954), p. 5. Retrieved March 10, 2012, from

Ah, the heady days of the Melbourne parliament. Clearly that speaker had very little sense of humour, as he went on to appoint a Select Committee to look into the matter. The mace was recovered, but the speaker’s notes and the keys were not. Let’s hope Mr. Slipper is aware of the incident and keeps a watchful eye on Blackberry and car keys.

Going back even further, Broken Hill’s Barrier Miner proves that hyperbole is not a recent invention with its coverage of 1910’s “War on Wigs and Gowns”:


Now that the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate have declared war on wigs and gowns, it is proposed (says the “Telegraph” of July 15) to call a meeting of the Standing Orders Committee to consider whether an assault shall not be made on the mace in the House of Representatives and the sword worn on special occasions by tho Sergeant of Arms. The Usher of the Black Rod in the Senate has been found by the iconoclasts to carry a sword at ceremonial functions. It is proposed to exterminate this also. The rosette on the back of the sergeant has excited the indignation of several of the Labor members. A few angry speeches about it are threatened as soon as the Standing Orders Committee meets. Another object viewed with growing alarm is the white tie worn by the clerks. This is promised early annihilation. As the committee contains a majority of Labor members this work of destruction is likely to be undertaken with eager and relentless ferocity.

– WAR ON WIGS AND GOWNS. (1910, August 1). Barrier Miner(Broken Hill, NSW : 1888 – 1954), p. 8. Retrieved March 10, 2012, from

What with the extermination of swords and the annihilation of white ties we can only assume there was a Dalek time-travel incident. Hopefully someone wearing a fez sorted it out.

“It’s good-bye to you, Bill”

This puzzling quote is from a 1951 article covering the receipt of a a new ceremonial mace – still in use today. Here’s the Townsville Daily Bulletin’s coverage of the half-hour event:

CANBERRA, November 29. The Speaker of the House of Representatives (Mr. A. G. Cameron), on behalf of members at the House to-day accepted the mace  presented by the House of Commons to the Commonwealth Parliament.

Members then passed a resolution by the Prime Minister (Mr. R. G. Menzies) thanking the House of Commons for the mace snd asking their greetings be sent to members of the Commons. Nearly every member of the House was present and all the galleries were packed when the British delegation of four entered the chamber. The only interjection throughout the half-hour ceremony came from Mr. R. James (Lab., N.S.W.) when the old mace was removed from the table. He called out, ‘It’s good-bye to you, Bill.’

– Speaker Accepts Mace From Commons. (1951, November 30).Townsville Daily Bulletin (Qld. : 1885 – 1954), p. 1. Retrieved March 10, 2012, from

Let’s hope old Bill is safely ensconced in a cupboard somewhere.

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TroveAustralia: @angrygoat It is interesting to see the links between what is being reported now vs. then – how about war in Afghanistan next?

Definitely an interesting topic. I decided to have a look at coverage of the First Anglo-Afghan War in the West Australian press. As this war went from 1839-42, that means we’ll only have one paper to look at – The Perth Gazette and West Australian Times.

One discovery researching this blog post was that the transliteration from the languages of the subcontinent to English has changed significantly. Afghanistan was then written Affghanistan, Sindh was Sinde, Kabul was Cabul. This makes searching for things a little tricky.

The United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan nearly a decade ago. There has been much discussion about how we shall extricate ourselves, what that will mean, and further to that much discussion of whether the invasion was merited. An example from ABC Unleashed:

This is a genuine debate that all the countries involved, including Australia, need to have more than ever in the light of all these recent revelations and grim milestones. Such a debate is separate from the justification for the invasion in the first place. Given the attacks launched by Osama bin Laden on the United States and indeed the world in 2001, and the strong backing of the international community, the initial overthrow of the Taliban enjoyed strong moral as well as legal justification. Australia’s involvement alongside many other allies made strategic sense as well. Yet nine years later, Australia, like America, finds itself being expected by its government to sacrifice more lives and resources for no more specific a goal than to place NATO and the recalcitrant Hamid Karzai’s faction in a potentially stronger bargaining position ahead of the inevitable retreat next year.

AFGHANISTAN: SKIP TO THE PART WHERE WE MAKE PEACE (2010, June 23).  Aron Paul. Retrieved April 10, 2011, from

There’s endless similar coverage in Australian (and West Australian) press if you go look for it.

The First Anglo-Afghan War was a part of the ‘Great Game’. Britain and Russia were racing to gain power in Central Asia. Afghanistan was in the middle, and the British were worried that the Russians would move through Afghanistan in an attempt to invade India. The war started because of incorrect intelligence that such an invasion was imminent.

Here is a letter which was published in the Perth Gazette in May 1841. Note that with the communication delays of the time, the letter was more than a year old. It’s an interesting summary of what was going on from a very British and imperious perspective. I’ve reproduced the whole letter so as to preserve context, but the last few paragraphs are the most interesting if you want to skip down.


The following has been obligingly communicated to us from the letter of an Officer belonging to the Bombay Presidency, at present on the Staff with the Army at the seat of war in Sinde, and will no doubt prove interesting to many of our readers, as descriptive of a country hitherto but little known, and likely to be the future scene of events affecting the state of affairs in the Indian Empire :

Camp, Kurachee, April 15, 1840.

We have now been at Kurachee for moro then six months, and, on the whole, the climate is as good, if not better than any I ever experienced out of England. It is not, as you seem to conjecture, high table land, but quite the reverse, being only just above the level of the sea, and our house is immediately on the shore. We are out of the tropics, so that the air is seldom or never hot, unless when the wind is ofl the land, which is not frequent, but then it is dreadful. In April we had ten days that exceeded anything I ever felt elsewhere. We are also liable to dust-showers, which blow for five or six days together, when the air is so loaded with sand, or rather with pulverized clay, that you cannot see 3 yards before you. I do not think that a person who has not witnessed it can form any idea of one of these showers ; it penetrates everything; fortunately it always subsides at night, we should otherwise, I think, run a risk of being starved, as it is impossible to cook whilst it lasts.

You are perhaps aware that Sinde, like Egypt, has no regular rain, being quite dependent on the river, which always rises exactly at the vernal, and subsides at the autumnal equinox. Kurachee is, however, unfortunately beyond the river’s influence, so that we are in a perfect desert ; but then, in return, we are not troubled with the fever which is so deadly and so general throughout the inundated country. The wonder is that we get any water, yet there is abundance, and in the immediate vicinity of the wells some attempts show themselves at cultivation ; but the wind, which is generally very high, seems to prevent anything from growing, or at least acquiring any size.

The Mango trees arc little better than large bushes. In our camp no sweet water is procurable, and, consequently, although we have made great efforts, we have been unable to raise anything green. We brought with us from Bombay several plants and seeds, which my companion petted and encouraged greatly, but all in vain; not a thing has grown, nor at this time are any of alive. Some of our officers did succeed in rearing a few cabbage plants, by surrounding them with high screens, but the hot April weather killed them all.

The great advantage which Kurachee possesses is its seaport, a good secure, but small harbor, with a bar at its entrance, and which is closed during three or four months of the monsoon, but still is the best on the coast. This will no doubt eventually make it a place of great resort and importance, as the channel of trade with all the countries lately overrun and partially taken possession of by our armies. It will also be the means of communication with the upper Bengal Provinces, for the mouths of the Indus have been found to be so numerous, and so variable and dangerous, as to be almost impracticable. Last March a vessel was lost, when taking troops from this place at the mouth of the Hyjamsee, on a bank where, a few months before, there had been ten fathoms water. The Indus is now ploughed by five or six war steamers, which have been up the river above Ferozepoor, within 40 miles of Lahore, 700 miles from the mouth. This is a great step toward the introduction of trade and navigation into these comparatively unknown countries; and, though the steamers are said not to be of sufficient power to answer, and the whole land is in too disturbed a state at present to afford any return, yet all persons appear very sanguine of the ultimate result. The project on hand just now is to open and clear out an old canal, which will afford a direct communication between the river and Kurachee harbor, and thus save about 20 miles over-land carriage to Tatta.

This is now being surveyed, and will soon be entered upon, as the Supremo Government are very anxious to facilitate inter-course in these parts by every means in their power; for not only will this be the the great channel of trade, but invalids from Bombay will run up for Simla, and Bengalese will take their route by the Bombay steamers to the Red Sea. Thus you see we are making gigantic strides; a man may travel from Lahore to London in 60 days, a trip which formerly would have occupied 12 months.

I have not myself as yet been out of Kurachee, so can tell you but little of the country, except that it is dreadfully impoverished by the grinding exactions of the Ameers. At first it was intended to have made Tatta (sometime supposed to be the ancient Patala) the principal station in Lower Sinde, but it proved so sickly that after six months it was abandoned. The loss of life there by fever was greater than the whole of the casualties throughout the whole campaign ; one regiment came in here with only l8 effective men out of 800. I believe that it has been found almost hopeless to attempt to occupy any station in Lower Sinde save this.

I am now bound to Sukkar, to which I mean to call your attention presently. Sukkar is a station in Upper Sinde, situate at a point where a tributary stream coming from the Kutch-Gundaba falls into the Indus. It is, I imagine, the hottest place under the sun.. The range of the thermometer for months is 104 at midnight, and above 120 at midday, in a good house.

You will not therefore be surprised, that no one should go, or remain there, who can keep away from it. From the station I hold, here, I must have accompanied my commanding officer in an annual tour of inspection, which would have occupied some 2 or 3 months, but latterly affairs have assumed a more unpleasant aspect, Reports have thickened from all sides that the country which we thought we possessed, was again up in arms. Some detachments were said to be annihilated – others were surrounded and cut off — and urgent requisitions were made on my brigade for assistance ; and, finally, the long-expected but most unpleasant order arrived, directing me to proceed to Sukkar forthwith, and in a few days I commence my march. At first, it was very generally believed that the disturbances in Affghanistan were much exaggerated, but the reports which have lately reached us from different quarter confirm the evil intelligence which we shall have abundant leisure to meditate and speculate upon whilst pursuing our tedious voyage up the Indus from Taita to Sukkar-by tracking-during a period of from 5 to 6 weeks.

Finally, about a week since, the order came directing me to proceed to Sukkar forthwith, and in a few days I commenced my March for Upper Sinde. How long I may be away it is almost impossible to say. There are all sorts of reports of disturbances in Affghanistan, which every one believes to be exaggerated, and that some sort of panic has seized the people. Yesterday, however, from two quarters intelligence arrived of Khilat having been re-taken; if such be the case, there will be employment for the Artillery to re-take it, though it is in fact idle to make surmises on the future. The only plan we have is to live on hope ; a species of food we shall have abundant leisure to indulge in whilst wending our tedious course, up the river Indus from Tatta to Sukkar.

Some people go so far as to declare that all the work is to be done over again, but that is nonsense. No one now doubts the correct and statesmanlike policy of the late campaigns, the object of which has been, most completely accomplished. Cabool is at our disposal ; the passes of the Hindus Kosh are occupied by our troops ; the Russian expedition to Khiva is now known to be a total failure, and the network of Indian intrigue seems for the present to be wholly destroyed. It only remains to keep what we have got. I suspect it will be long before the Afighan tribes will prove otherwise than troublesome, anything like peace and quietness is congenial neither to their tastes nor habits ; and I should almost say that European troops were necessary to keep them under, for the Sepoys are scarcely equal to meeting them hand to hand. The country here is so clear and level that you can drive or ride in all derections. We generally take our course by the seaside, to enjoy the delights of the breeze. Fancy the change to Sukkar-from a temperature that may almost be called cold to a heat, there of 100.

– SEAT OF WAR IN SINDE. (1841, May 22). The Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal (WA : 1833-1847), p. 3. Retrieved April 11, 2011, from

There we have an account of a British soldier who is being deployed close to Afghanistan, possibly to enter into the conflict. It’s interesting to see that a similar debate was going on as to the correctness of that war. What strikes me is the picture of a series of reverses. The British hold Kabul, they hold many strategic locations, and yet they are not winning. The account seems similar to the current situation.

The war ended in the defeat of British forces. Macnaghten (the British Envoy) was killed, leading to the withdrawal from Kabul with only one person on a horse completing the retreat of the 16,500 who started out.

The Gazette prints MURDER OF SIR W. H. MACNAGHTEN BY AN AFFGHAN CHIEF. The printed letter (relayed from the South African Commercial Advertiser) is very much the official version, that Macnaghten was killed after being duplicitously lured into a trap.

In reality Macnaghten had attempted to draw Khan into negotiations while secretly paying for his assassination. Khan became aware of this, met Macnaghten and killed him. In 1843 this detail surfaces in the WA press – search for Elphinstone in that article to find the section I’m referring to.

Anyway, there we have it. Intrigue and scandal in Afghanistan, from the 1840s. Very interesting to see that then, as now, nobody was quite sure what was going on or why we were involved. The highest levels of government were involved in devious schemes to assassinate Afghani leaders. I wonder if we’re taking similar approaches now using Predator drones?

It’s not too relevant to this post, but this little article is worth a read. The Kindom of Cabul: Manners and Customs of the Affghani People. An interesting observation of the country/city in the 1840s from a British perspective.

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