Henry Willis (Australian politician)

Henry Willis (6 April 1860 – 23 February 1950) was an Australian politician, born in Port Adelaide, South Australia to 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.

Municipal politics

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.

Federal politics

Willis was elected to the Australian House of Representatives in 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 Assembly later that year as a member of the Commonwealth Liberal Party.

tate politics

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 1913 and was defeated at the next election.

Later life

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 Harbour on 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
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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