Littleton Groom

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Sir Littleton Groom

Portrait of the Hon. L. E. Groom, M.H.R. (cropped).jpg
Speaker of the Australian House of Representatives
In office
13 January 1926 – 11 October 1929
Preceded byWilliam Watt
Succeeded byNorman Makin
Attorney-General of Australia
In office
21 December 1921 – 18 December 1925
Prime MinisterBilly Hughes
Stanley Bruce
Preceded byBilly Hughes
Succeeded byJohn Latham
Minister for Works and Railways
In office
27 March 1918 – 21 December 1921
Prime MinisterBilly Hughes
Preceded byWilliam Watt
Succeeded byRichard Foster
Minister for Trade and Customs
In office
24 June 1913 – 17 September 1914
Prime MinisterJoseph Cook
Preceded byFrank Tudor
Succeeded byFrank Tudor
Minister for External Affairs
In office
2 June 1909 – 29 April 1910
Prime MinisterAlfred Deakin
Preceded byLee Batchelor
Succeeded byLee Batchelor
Attorney-General of Australia
In office
12 October 1906 – 13 November 1908
Prime MinisterAlfred Deakin
Preceded byIsaac Isaacs
Succeeded byBilly Hughes
Minister for Home Affairs
In office
5 July 1905 – 12 October 1906
Prime MinisterAlfred Deakin
Preceded byDugald Thomson
Succeeded byThomas Ewing
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Darling Downs
In office
19 December 1931 – 6 November 1936
Preceded byArthur Morgan
Succeeded byArthur Fadden
In office
14 September 1901 – 12 October 1929
Preceded byWilliam Henry Groom
Succeeded byArthur Morgan
Personal details
Born(1867-04-22)22 April 1867
Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia
Died6 November 1936(1936-11-06) (aged 69)
Canberra, Australia
Political partyProtectionist (1901–09)
Fusion (1909–17)
Nationalist (1917–29)
Independent (1929–33)
UAP (1933–36)
Spouse(s)
Jessie Bell
(m. 1894)
Alma materUniversity of Melbourne
OccupationLawyer

Sir Littleton Ernest Groom KCMG KC (22 April 1867 – 6 November 1936) was an Australian politician. He held ministerial office under four prime ministers between 1905 and 1925, and subsequently served as Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1926 to 1929.

Groom was the son of William Henry Groom, who had arrived in Australia as a convict but became a prominent public figure in the Colony of Queensland. He was a lawyer by profession, entering federal parliament at the 1901 Darling Downs by-election following his father's death. Groom was first appointed to cabinet by Alfred Deakin in 1905. Over the following two decades he served as Minister for Home Affairs (1905–1906), Attorney-General (1906–1908), External Affairs (1909–1910), Trade and Customs (1913–1914), Vice-President of the Executive Council (1917–1918), Works and Railways (1918–1921), and Attorney-General (1921–1925).

A political liberal and anti-socialist, Groom was initially affiliated with Deakin's Protectionists, who were later superseded by the Liberals (1909) and Nationalists (1917). He came into conflict with Prime Minister Stanley Bruce during the 1920s, and as speaker in 1929 refused to use his casting vote to save the government on a confidence motion. He was expelled from the Nationalists and lost his seat at the resulting election, but was re-elected in 1931 as an independent. He joined the United Australia Party (UAP) in 1933 and continued as a backbencher until his death in 1936.

Early life[edit]

Groom was born on 22 April 1867 in Toowoomba, Queensland. He was the third son of Grace (née Littleton) and William Henry Groom.[1] His English-born father had been transported to Australia as a convict in 1846, but became a successful businessman and public official, serving as mayor of Toowoomba and in the Queensland Legislative Assembly and Australian House of Representatives.[2]

Groom attended Toowoomba North State School and Toowoomba Grammar School, where he was school dux and captain of the cricket and football teams. He went on to attend Ormond College at the University of Melbourne, winning scholarships and graduating Bachelor of Arts in 1889 and Bachelor of Laws in 1891.[3] Groom subsequently returned to Queensland and practised as a barrister in Brisbane. He was "a leading figure in the Queensland University Extension Movement" and was also involved with the Brisbane Literary Circle and the Brisbane School of Arts. In 1900 he was appointed a deputy judge on the District Court of Queensland.[1]

In July 1894, Groom married Jessie Bell, with whom he had two daughters.[1]

Politics[edit]

Groom early in his career

Groom won the first federal by-election in Australian history, as a Protectionist for the seat of Darling Downs, caused by the death of his father. Groom was a strong Australian nationalist, supporting an extension of the Commonwealth's powers, including its industrial relations powers. As a result, he supported the Watson government in 1904.[citation needed]

Government minister[edit]

Groom c. 1910

Groom was Minister of Home Affairs from July 1905 to October 1906 in the second Deakin Ministry and introduced legislation in 1906 to create a federal meteorological department and the creation of the Commonwealth Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIRO) in 1916 was in large part a product of his attempt to create an Australian Department of Agriculture in 1906. In October 1906, Groom became Attorney General until the defeat of the Deakin government in November 1908. Groom passed legislation to defend the Harvester Judgment and successfully introduced legislation providing Commonwealth invalid and old age pensions.[3][1]

With the formation of the Fusion government in June 1909, Groom became Minister for External Affairs until the Fusion's defeat in the 1910 election.

He had carried legislation establishing the High Commission of Australia in London. After the 1910 election, he became a strong opponent of Labor and attacked its establishment of a government-owned Commonwealth Bank and its attempt to gain the power to control monopolies. He was Trade and Customs in the Cook Ministry from June 1913 to September 1914.[1]

Groom was Vice-President of the Executive Council in Hughes's Nationalist government from November 1917 to March 1918 and Works and Railways from March 1918 to December 1921. He encouraged railway development and was involved in accelerating the construction of Canberra.

In December 1921 he became Attorney-General again. He was Minister for Trade and Customs and Minister for Health in May and June 1924, following Austin Chapman's resignation on grounds of ill health. Groom led the 1924 Australian delegation to the Fifth Assembly of the League of Nations in Geneva and chaired a committee, which formulated a protocol to establish a system of international arbitration and later voted to support its protocol despite an instruction to abstain. Groom involved himself in attempts to deport "foreign" agitators, but due to his poor handling of these and other matters, he was obliged to resign in December 1925.[3][1]

Speaker of the House[edit]

Groom as Speaker of the House in 1928

In return for his resignation, Groom was elected as Speaker of the House of Representatives and presided from January 1926 to 1929, when he helped oversee the move of federal Parliament from Melbourne to the newly constructed capital Canberra.[citation needed]

His refusal to use his tiebreaking vote as speaker on a bill that would remove the Commonwealth from most of its involvement in conciliation and arbitration led to the collapse of the Bruce government, triggering the 1929 election. His action was motivated partly by his views on the obligations of an independent speaker, but he also disliked the bill, and he still resented his forced resignation in 1925.[citation needed]

Final years[edit]

The Nationalists expelled Groom from the party, forcing him to run for reelection as an independent. In a bitter campaign, Groom was eliminated on the first count, making him the first serving Speaker to lose his own seat at an election.[1][4]

Groom returned to his legal practice in Brisbane for two years. In 1931 election, he sought to take back his old seat. Running again as an independent, he handily defeated his successor, Arthur Morgan. In a reversal of two years earlier, he won an outright majority on the first count. After two years as an independent, he joined the United Australia Party, successor to the Nationalists, in August 1933. From 1932 to 1936 he was chairman of the Bankruptcy Legislation Committee and in earlier years he also acted on various royal commissions and select committees. He died in Canberra of cerebro-vascular disease. Groom was survived by his wife and one of their two daughters.[3][1]

Other activities[edit]

Groom in 1925 with his wife Jessie

Groom was joint author with Sir John Quick of the Judicial Power of the Commonwealth in 1904 and he was part author of various Queensland legal publications.[citation needed]

A member of the General Synod of the Anglican Church, Groom was knighted in January 1924 for his services to politics. In 1984, his old seat of Darling Downs was renamed the Division of Groom in his honour. He is commemorated by a number of features in Toowoomba, including Groom Park.[3][1]

Groom's elder brother, Henry Littleton Groom, was a long serving member of the Queensland Legislative Council.[3]

Legacy[edit]

After his death, Groom bequeathed many of the books from his personal library to the Canberra University College Library (which would become the Australian National University's Chifley Library).

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Carment, David (1983). "Groom, Sir Littleton Ernest (1867–1936)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Melbourne University Press. ISSN 1833-7538. Retrieved 30 December 2008 – via National Centre of Biography, Australian National University.
  2. ^ Waterson, D. B. (1972). "Groom, William Henry (1833–1901)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. 4. Melbourne University Press.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Serle, Percival. "Groom, Sir Littleton Ernest(1867–1936)". Dictionary of Australian Biography. Project Gutenberg Australia. Retrieved 30 December 2008.
  4. ^ Carr, Adam (2008). "Australian Election Archive". Psephos, Adam Carr's Election Archive. Archived from the original on 6 October 2008. Retrieved 17 May 2008.

Further reading[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Dugald Thomson
Minister for Home Affairs
1905–1906
Succeeded by
Thomas Ewing
Preceded by
Isaac Isaacs
Attorney-General of Australia
1906–1908
Succeeded by
Billy Hughes
Preceded by
Lee Batchelor
Minister for External Affairs
1909–1910
Succeeded by
Lee Batchelor
Preceded by
Frank Tudor
Minister for Trade and Customs
1913–1914
Succeeded by
Frank Tudor
Preceded by
Edward Millen
Vice-President of the Executive Council
1917–1918
Succeeded by
Edward Russell
Preceded by
William Watt
Minister for Works and Railways
1918–1921
Succeeded by
Richard Foster
Preceded by
Billy Hughes
Attorney-General of Australia
1921–1925
Succeeded by
John Latham
Preceded by
Austin Chapman
Minister for Trade and Customs
Minister for Health

1924
Succeeded by
Herbert Pratten
Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
William Watt
Speaker of the Australian House of Representatives
1926–1929
Succeeded by
Norman Makin
Preceded by
William Henry Groom
Member for Darling Downs
1901–1929
Succeeded by
Arthur Morgan
Preceded by
Arthur Morgan
Member for Darling Downs
1931–1936
Succeeded by
Arthur Fadden