Anderson Dawson

Andrew Dawson (16 July 1863 – 20 July 1910), usually known as Anderson Dawson, was an Australian politician, the Premier of Queensland for one week (1–7 December) in 1899. This short-lived premiership was the first Australian Labor Party government and the first parliamentary labour ministry anywhere in the world.[1]

Anderson Dawson
14th Premier of Queensland
In office
1 December 1899  7 December 1899
Preceded byJames Dickson
Succeeded byRobert Philp
ConstituencyCharters Towers
Minister for Defence
In office
27 April 1904  18 August 1904
Prime MinisterChris Watson
Preceded byAustin Chapman
Succeeded byJames McCay
Australian Senator for Queensland
In office
30 March 1901  31 December 1906
Leader of the Opposition of Queensland
In office
12 May 1899  1 December 1899
Preceded byThomas Glassey
Succeeded byRobert Philp
In office
7 December 1899  16 July 1900
Preceded byRobert Philp
Succeeded byBilly Browne
Member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly
for Charters Towers
In office
13 May 1893  11 June 1901
Serving with John Dunsford
Preceded byRobert Sayers
Succeeded byJohn Burrows
Personal details
Born(1863-07-16)16 July 1863
Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia
Died20 July 1910(1910-07-20) (aged 47)
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Resting placeToowong Cemetery
Political partyAustralian Labor Party
SpouseCaroline Ryan née Quin
OccupationUnion organizer, Journalist, Gold miner

Early life

Dawson was born on 16 July 1863 at Rockhampton, Queensland, the son of Anderson Dawson and his wife Jane (née Smith).[2] When he was six, his mother died in a fire, and Dawson was placed in Diamantina orphanage in Brisbane. His aunt, Mary Ann Park, then retrieved Dawson and took him to live with her family in Redbank. He later moved with the family to Gympie.[3] He began work as a miner at Charters Towers, in 1887 married the Irish widow Caroline Ryan, née Quinn, and later was elected first president of the Miners' Union. Dawson was originally attracted to politics by the Irish Home Rule question and in 1890 emerged as a political pamphleteer when he published The Case Stated, "an able plea for the creation of an Australian republic." The pamphlet was freely available in Charters Towers, both a trade unionist and a republican stronghold. Throughout 1890, Dawson was closely involved in the running of the Australasian Republican Association (ARA) and in February 1891 was elected the ARA’s second president. Dawson was also president, and later organiser, of the district council of the Australian Labour Federation (ALF). During the Queensland shearers’ strike, he was appointed chairman of the Queensland provincial council of the ALF, and was public in his support of socialism.[4][1] He took up journalism and for a time was editor of the local newspaper, the radical The Charters Towers Eagle.[4][5] He was also elected to the Local Council in Charters Towers.

Colonial politics

Dawson's ministry leaving Parliament House, Brisbane, after being sworn in

Dawson entered politics at the 1893 election, as one of the two Labor candidates for Charters Towers in the Legislative Assembly of Queensland. He won the seat, and retained it at the 1896 and 1899 elections. Dawson was inspired by Marxist economics, and performed speeches to the Social Democratic Federation on Marx and issues surrounding surplus labour.[6]

When the government of James Dickson resigned on 1 December 1899, Dawson formed a ministry. Although it was defeated as soon as the Legislative Assembly next met, it nevertheless became the first socialist or Labour Party government in the world.

This remains one of the shortest ministries of any state government in Australia. In a remarkable coincidence, Vaiben Louis Solomon's contemporaneous ministry in South Australia outdid Dawson by a single day (1–8 December 1899). John Cain and Thomas Hollway, both premiers of Victoria in the 1940s–50s, had shorter ministries. Cain served for four days and Hollway for only 70 hours.[7] These, however, were not Cain or Hollway's only terms as premier; both exceeded Dawson for total time in the role.

Federal politics

At the first Federal election for the Senate in 1901, Dawson was returned at the head of the Queensland Labor ticket. While in federal parliament, he was regarded as a good speaker, but struggled with persistent ill health associated with chronic lung trouble from his time as a miner, which worsened after he relocated his family from Queensland to the colder climate of Melbourne. He also struggled with alcoholism, and was absent from parliament for periods, frustrating his colleagues.[4][8]:22–24

In April 1904, when Chris Watson formed the first Federal Labor government, Dawson was given the portfolio of Minister for Defence in light of his prominent status as a former Premier.[4][5] As Minister for Defence, he clashed with Edward Hutton, the aristocratic English General Officer Commanding the Australian Military Forces, who had resisted being answerable to the executive, and had been viewed as disrespectful by previous defence ministers. Dawson proposed a military restructure which eliminated Hutton's position, which was adopted by his successor after the ousting of the Watson government, resulting in Hutton's resignation and return to England. Dawson reportedly stated that the "most satisfying facet" of his stint as minister had been that he had "pulled down from his pedestal the biggest bounder that had ever commanded the forces in Australia."[8]:103–109,138

By the time of the 1906 election, Dawson had a poor relationship with the Queensland state executive of the Labor Party, and was initially demoted to the unwinnable fourth position on the Labor Senate ticket. As a result of concerns about the electoral fallout of his dumping, he was reinstated to the winnable third position on the ticket, but resigned as a candidate two months later, citing ill health. He subsequently changed his mind, but the executive refused to reinstate him, so he ran as an independent. That move split the Labor vote, and amidst a generally bad election for Labor in Queensland, the entire ticket lost.[8]:158

Later life

Anderson Dawson's headstone at Brisbane's Toowong Cemetery.

Dawson was unable to find work in Melbourne, and returned to Queensland in 1909, while his wife and four children remained in Melbourne.[8]:158 He was admitted to the Brisbane General Hospital on 6 July 1910 and was expected to recover, but died of the effects of alcoholism on 20 July 1910.[4][9] His widow and children reportedly did not attend his funeral.[8]:165–166 He was buried in Toowong Cemetery on 21 July 1910.[10]


The Federal electoral division of Dawson is named after him.


  1. Davies, Glenn A. "DAWSON, Andrew (Anderson) (1863–1910) Senator for Queensland, 1901–06 (Labor Party)". The Biographical Dictionary of the Australian Senate. Retrieved 26 May 2022.
  2. Queensland Registrar-General's Index of Births, 1863/C992
  3. "Queensland State Archives". Archived from the original on 29 September 2011. Item ID268111, Register - admissions No. 510 Archived 25 May 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  4. Murphy, D J. "Dawson, Andrew (1863–1910)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. ISSN 1833-7538. Retrieved 21 December 2022.
  5. Serle, Percival (1949). "Dawson, Anderson (usually known as Anderson Dawson) (1863-1910)". Dictionary of Australian Biography. Sydney: Angus and Robertson. Retrieved 20 October 2007.
  6. Burgmann, Verity (1985). In our time : socialism and the rise of labor, 1885-1905. Sydney: Allen & Unwin. p. 177. ISBN 0868615374.
  7. "Hollway Govt Falls After 70-hr Office". The Morning Bulletin. Rockhampton, Qld. 1 November 1952. p. 1. Retrieved 22 February 2012 via Trove.
  8. McMullin, Ross (2004). So Monstrous a Travesty: Chris Watson and the World's First National Labour Government. Carlton North, Victoria: Scribe Publications. p. 200. ISBN 1920769137.
  9. "The Hon. A. Dawson". Queensland Times (Ipswich) (Qld. : 1909 - 1954). Ipswich (Qld). 21 July 1910. p. 7. Retrieved 3 February 2015 via Trove.
  10. Dawson, Andrew (Anderson) Archived 1 June 2012 at the Wayback Machine Brisbane City Council Grave Location Search


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