- News of the day
Monday 28 February 1938, page 14
MR. WILLIAM FORGAN SMITH, Premier, of Queensland since 1932, was born at Invergowrie, Perthshire, Scotland, in 1887, and was educated at the Invergowrie and Glasgow schools, and later at the Dunoon Grammar School. He early became a house painter and joined the Scottish Amalgamated House and Ship Painters Union. He interested himself in the Labour-in-Politics Movement, and devoted considerable time to the study of social and economic questions. He came to Queensland as a young man. Settling in Mackay he continued to engage in his adopted trade. He became interested in the Labour movement of this State, and his energy, capacity for organisation, and studious nature rapidly brought him into the limelight. ... The Premiers principal hobby is reading, and his fund of knowledge on economic subjects is immense. Golfing and fishing are his outdoor recreations
William Forgan Smith became acquainted with socialist politics in the Clyde River shipyards of Scotland before emigrating to Mackay in Queensland for health reasons in 1911. After involvement in union politics he won the seat of Mackay for Labor in the 1915 State elections, and became Minister without portfolio in 1920. Two years later he was promoted to Minister of Public Works, where his most important contribution was to guide the Unemployed Workers’ Insurance Bill through parliament. Although dependent on a contributory tax, this was the first unemployment benefits scheme in Australia when it became operational in March 1923. During the next six years Forgan Smith consolidated his position in Labor’s ranks and easily survived his party’s crushing defeat in the 1929 elections. With the resignation of William McCormack, Forgan Smith became Leader of the Opposition and proved a far more capable parliamentary tactician than Premier A.E. Moore. In 1932 he led his party back to power and soon after was instrumental in making an important amendment to the Premiers’ Plan as first proposed by Prime Minister Joseph Lyons. This committed the various Australian governments to progressive budget reductions and the revival of industry. Forgan Smith began Queensland’s economic recovery from the Great Depression by funding public works projects from consolidated revenue. His emphasis nevertheless remained with the rural sector at the expense of secondary industry. Authoritarian and staunchly anti-Communist, Forgan Smith was Queensland’s longest-serving Premier at the time of his resignation and retirement in 1942.