Alexander Poynton

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Henry Winkles, Untitled [inside view of tent], 1850s, watercolour, pencil on paper.
Courtesy Art Gallery of Ballarat, Purchased with funds from the Colin Hicks Caldwell Bequest, 2004.


Goldfields Involvement, 1854

Post 1854 Experiences


State & Federal Politician - A Valuable Career.
Referring to the death of the late Alexander Poynton, Mr. S. W. Os borne, in the "Port Pirie Recorder" contributes the following interesting reminiscences of this great politician and valuable statesman.
A Native of Castlemaine.
The death of the Hon. Alexander Poynton on Wednesday of last week marked the passing of one who rendered this. State and the Common wealth signal service-a man who had deservedly won the respect and esteem of all Australians whose opinions are worth having. He was in his eighty-second year when the call came, but, although he remain ed wonderfully active almost to the close, he suffered of late years from physical trouble which to some extent marred his enjoyment of life.
Mr. Poynton was a native of Castlemaine, a former famous Victorian mining district, and his father, a prospector, was one who took part in the Eureka riots when the miners rose in insurrection regarding what they deemed to be interference with their rights. Mr. Poynton received his education in a tent on the goldflelds. Because of the death of his father, he was soon called up to work, which he began at the age of 14. He was variously engaged in mining, station and farming work, and was for some time an active officer of the Amalgamated Miners' Association. Coming to South Australia, he settled with his wife and family at Port Augusta in 1889, and established a branch of the Shearers' Union, of which he was secretary and organiser.
A year later he was induced to stand for the Flinders district In the House of Assembly, but among 12 candidates he came fourth on the poll. In 1893, however, he was elected for that district an Independent Labour candidate, and continued to represent Flinders until he was appointed to the first Federal Parliament as member for Grey Division in the House of Representatives.
While he ever did his best on be half of the underdog, he possessed a strength of character which did .not allow him to be fettered as regard his opinions and actions, even if these were unpopular to his Labor friends.
A specially striking illustration of this was his fearless and active advocacy of security of tenure for pastoralists at nominal rates. Having an intimate knowledge of the North-West country and realising what abandoned runs and a consequent increase in the invasion of wild dogs meant, he was farseeing enough to appreciate the fact that occupied country held on favorable terms represented a greater guarantee of employment and " better conditions for the workers.
A Minister in "Sudden Solomon" Ministry.
Three years after Ins election for Flinders he attained ministerial rank as Commissioner of Crown Lands, but his hold on that port folio was of brief duration. This was in what became generally known as the "Sudden Solomon" Administration, when he joined Mr. Vabien L. Solomon in ousting the Kingston Ministry ("The Cabinet of All the Talents") which had held office from June 16, 1893, to December 1, 1899, a longer term than any previous Government had enjoyed.
The Solomon Ministry lasted only seven days-from December 1, 1899, to December 8, 1899. South Australia has had several shortlived Administrations, but Solomon s beat them all for brevity since the State secured the measure of self government which now prevails. The limited nature of eight Ministries in the past is shown by the following periods, measured in days which they survived, these details being taken from official record : Baker, 11; Torrens, 29; Water house 9; Duiton, 11; Ayers (first time), 13; Hart, 19; Ayers (second time), 21; Strangways, 18.
Member for Grey.
Mr. Poynton served South Australia in the Federal Parliament as a member for Grey over a period of 21 years, and his intimate know ledge of that large and widely scattered division stood him and the country in good stead. He realised the conditions under which the people labored, and he was ready at all times to give of his best for the benefit of all sections of the community.
The confidence reposed in him by his constituents caused opposition to be withheld from his candidature on several occasions, hut lie was not always given immunity in this direction. In the Liberal Union interests the late Mr. McDonald (Caltowie) on one occasion and the late Mr. Morrow (Port Pirie) on another stood against him but both proved unsuccessful.
Then came the time his principles induced him 'o follow his chief, Mr. W. M. Hughes, as the latter left the ranks of Federal Labor, and he became a member of the Nationalist party.
His next opponent was Mr. C. L. Gray, a representative of the Labor Party and a returned soldier, but he failed to dislodge the veteran from his seat in Grey, The curtain was rung dawn on Mr Poynton's political career when he was successfully opposed by Mr, A. W. Lacey, now leader of the Opposition in the House of Assembly. It was always the former's considered opinion that his defeat on that occasion was due not so much to lack of confidence on the part of the electors as to the apathy, not to say studied indifference. of some of those appointed to assist in directing the campaign, and many of his supporters shared that view.
Federal Minister.
Mr. Poynton served as Chairman of Committees and as a member of three Federal Cabinets-as Treasurer, Minister for Home and Territories, and as Postmaster General. Space does not permit of a review of his good work in those various departments, but 1 should like to stress the fine service he rendered as Postmaster General, Mr. Poynton had an unbounded sympathy for the settlers outback, as well as a great abhorrence of centralisation and it was owing to his efforts that a scheme with an outlay of £8, 000,000, largely represented by the cost of providing telephonic and other improved facilities for country districts, was launched.
As Minister for Home and Territories he was the one who, on be half of the Federal Government, welcomed the Prince of Wales at Port Augusta on his arrival from Western Australia, Throughout his public career Mr. I'oynton proved that he was too big a man to be intolerant, and though he never budged an inch as far as his political principles were concerned, lie al ways retained the respect and esteem of those on the other side.
Long before he became a Nationalist I remember him acknowledging from the platform of Port Pirie Town Hall what he was pleased to describe as the fairness of my old friend and former partner, Mr. W. Hancock, and myself, although lie said he realised we were opposed to him. From the same platform I have on occasion listened with no little amusement to tributes of a far less flattering nature.
Thank God for a sense of humor.[1]

See also

Further Reading

Corfield, J.,Wickham, D., & Gervasoni, C. The Eureka Encyclopaedia, Ballarat Heritage Services, 2004.


  1. Times and Northern Advertiser, 18 January 1935.

External links

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Caption, Reference.