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

James Thomas Walker

James Thomas Walker (1841-1923)

Senator for New South Wales 1901-1913

Born in Leith Walk, Midlothian, Scotland, James Walker first arrived in Australia with his family in 1844. After farming in New South Wales for four years the Walkers returned to Scotland. In 1862 Walker returned to Australia and took up a position in Queensland with the Bank of New South Wales. He was to hold many high ranking positions in Australian financial institutions throughout his life.

Walker was an active member of the Australasian Federation League of New South Wales and attended the People’s Federal Convention in Bathurst in 1896, where he was a major contributor to the development of federal financial and revenue schemes. Elected to the Australasian Federal Convention of 1897-98, he was a member of the Finance Committee, where his expertise provided the foundation for the Convention’s proposals on federal finances. Walker successfully moved that the name of the second chamber should be the “Senate” rather than “States Assembly”, as preferred by Barton. Walker was the only delegate to the Convention who had not sat in a colonial parliament.

In 1901 Walker, a Freetrader, topped the poll to represent New South Wales in the Senate at the first federal election. While Walker was committed on the issue of free trade, he believed that federal politics should not be dominated by political parties, and voted independently and with regard to natural justice on such issues as immigration and the return of Pacific Island labourers. He initiated the provision that each sitting day in the Senate should begin with a prayer.

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