Commonwealth of Australia Coat of Arms
For Peace, Order and Good Government: The first Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia
Early proposals
Six colonies
Drafting a constitution
Declaration of the Commonwealth
Conducting the first Federal election
Who could vote?
The election campaign
9 May 1901
The royal visit
The first federal parliamentarians
Ministry of May, 1901
Edmund Barton
Political parties
Legislative program
Relationship between the houses

Members of the First Parliament

Arthur Bruce Smith

Arthur Bruce Smith (1851-1937)

Member for Parkes (New South Wales) 1901-1919

Born at Rotherhithe in Surrey, England, Bruce Smith migrated to Melbourne, Victoria with his family in 1854. Smith studied law at the University of Melbourne and then entered Lincoln’s Inn, London. He was called to the Bar in London in 1877 and on his return to Australia in the same year was admitted to the Victorian Bar. Bruce Smith moved to Sydney to practise at the Bar and was elected to the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, serving as the member for Gundagai (1882-84) and Glebe (1889-94). He was Treasurer in 1891.  Founder of the Victorian Employers Union and strongly anti-socialist, Smith wrote a number of works on his political philosophy.

In 1901 Bruce Smith was elected to represent the federal seat of Parkes in the House of Representatives at the first federal election. As a Freetrader in the first Parliament, he did not get on with the Freetrade leader George Reid, and throughout his parliamentary career, which was largely in Opposition, showed an independence of opinion which made him stand apart from party politics.  He openly opposed the “White Australia” policy and immigration restrictions, denouncing the idea of “racial purity”, and supported the women’s movement.  Smith was defeated at the election of 1919.

Smith continued his legal career while in Parliament, becoming a Queen’s Counsel in 1904.  He was director of a number of companies and prominent in a number of associations.  He retired to his home in Bowral in 1925.

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