Henry Willis (Australian politician)
Henry Willis (
6 April 1860– 23 February 1950) was an Australian politician, born in Port Adelaide, South Australiato English mariner John Willis and Jane, née Emmerson. Having been locally educated, Willis worked at his father's tannery, and in 1884 became a committee member of the South Australian Literary Societies' Union. The following year he had established his own tannery and was serving on the local board of health and Hindmarsh Municipal Council.
Willis relocated to Sydney in 1888, intending to become a minister in the
Church of England. He married Annie Louisa Moore at Campbelltown on 20 September 1889, with whom he had five children. He was the first mayor of Cabramatta and Canley Vale in 1893 and served on Camden (1897-99) and Randwick (1899-1902) councils.
Willis was elected to the
Australian House of Representativesin 1901, as the Free Trade member for Robertson. He remained in this position until 1910, when he was defeated, but he gained the seat of Upper Hunter in the New South Wales Legislative Assemblylater that year as a member of the Commonwealth Liberal Party.
When Labor lost the majority in the Assembly in July 1911 and appointed Willis, who, as an Opposition member, had offered himself to avoid a dissolution, as Speaker. His Liberal colleagues accused him of betraying his party, some even calling him "Judas" and a "political
leper". Having embraced Robert Lowe's ideals, Willis became a more active Speaker, claiming authority to remove members, censor their speeches and questions, and exclude journalists from the press gallery. He also completely reformed the Speaker's office and staff, but most of these reforms were ephemeral.
Willis's measures angered both Liberal and Labor members; once, he even summoned the police to eject seven Liberals from the House. He incurred several civil actions for assault and illegal ejection (John Perry's 1911 action was successful), and was labelled a "petty
Napoleon". He became increasingly unpopular, constantly lampooned in the press, and almost hated within the House. He resigned the Speakership on 22 July 1913and was defeated at the next election.
Willis personified the Victorian ideal of the "cultivated" gentleman, and was noted for his parliamentary eloquence. He possessed four estates, one of them in
Queensland. Willis died at his home at Middle Harbouron 23 February 1950, and was survived by his wife, a son and two daughters.
*Australian Dictionary of Biography|last=Spearritt |first=Peter & Stewart, Elizabeth |authorlink=|year=1990|id=A120574b.htm|title= Willis, Henry (1860-1950) |accessdate=2007-08-25
NAME = Willis, Henry
ALTERNATIVE NAMES =
SHORT DESCRIPTION = Australian politician
DATE OF BIRTH =
6 April 1860
PLACE OF BIRTH =
Port Adelaide, South Australia
DATE OF DEATH =
23 February 1950
PLACE OF DEATH =
Middle Harbour, New South Wales
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