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Thomas Price (South Australian politician)

Thomas Price (19 January 1852 – 31 May 1909), frequently referred to as Tom Price, served as the South Australian United Labor Party's first Premier of South Australia. He formed a minority government at the 1905 election and was re-elected with increased representation at the 1906 double dissolution election serving until his death in 1909. It was the world's first stable Labor government. So successful, John Verran led Labor to form the state's first of many majority governments at the 1910 election.

Thomas Price
Thomas Price.jpeg
24th Premier of South Australia
Elections: 1902, 1905, 1906
In office
26 July 1905 – 31 May 1909[1]
MonarchEdward VII
GovernorSir George Le Hunte
Sir Day Bosanquet
Preceded byRichard Butler
Succeeded byArchibald Peake
12th Leader of the Opposition (SA)
In office
Preceded byJohn Darling
Succeeded byRichard Butler
3rd United Labor Party leader
In office
Preceded byLee Batchelor
Succeeded byJohn Verran
Personal details
Born(1852-01-19)19 January 1852
Brymbo, Denbighshire, Wales, UK
Died31 May 1909(1909-05-31) (aged 57)
Mount Lofty, South Australia, Australia
Political partyUnited Labor Party

Achievements of the government included free state secondary schools, the formation of wages boards and a minimum wage, establishing the Municipal Tramways Trust through nationalisation, the costly administration of the Northern Territory was surrendered to the Federal government, and reform (though limited) of the upper house. The government also returned to successive budget surpluses and reduced the accumulated public debt.


Early lifeEdit

He was born in Brymbo, Denbighshire, Wales, and emigrated to Australia with his family in 1883. He was a stonecutter, teacher, lay preacher, businessman, stonemason and clerk-of-works.


ULP parliamentarians following the 1893 colonial election.

Price quickly became involved in trade union activity, and was elected to the South Australian House of Assembly for Sturt in April 1893,[2] becoming Labor leader in 1899. He contested the single statewide Division of South Australia at the 1901 federal election as the second of two Labor candidates behind Lee Batchelor. The seat elected seven members, Price finished eighth with a 38.2 percent vote.

World-first stable Labor government 1905−09Edit

Price Ministry, c. 1905

Price came to power at the 1905 state election in a minority government, the Price-Peake administration, after increasing his party's representation from five to 15 in the 42-member lower house, with a primary vote of 41.3 percent, an increase of 22.2 percent. With the support of eight liberals headed by Archibald Peake, Price forced conservative Premier Richard Butler to resign. Price retained the premiership at the 1906 double dissolution election with an additional five Labor seats in the House of Assembly, just two short of a parliamentary majority in their own right, with a primary vote of 44.8 percent, an increase of 3.5 percent. It was the world's first stable Labor government, and was so successful that, following the 1910 election, Labor, led by John Verran, formed the first of the state's many majority governments. On Price's death in 1909, Peake formed a minority government until 1910.

Price introduced many reforms, including free state secondary schools, the formation of wages boards, the institution of a minimum wage, and the establishment of the Municipal Tramways Trust through nationalisation. The costly administration of the Northern Territory was surrendered to the Federal government, and there was limited reform of the Legislative Council. Price obtained a double dissolution on the issue of the reform of the upper house. Nevertheless, the Council continued to be intransigent regarding its reform, and Price accepted its compromise proposal of a £17 householder franchise. Labor's left wing criticised him for the concession.

The Price Government enacted a number of laws relating to social matters: the suppression of brothels and gaming, the control and care of drunkards, and the consolidation of legislation on the supply of alcohol and local option in liquor licensing.[3] The government also achieved successive budget surpluses and reduced the accumulated public debt.[4]


Funeral of Thomas Price

Price suffered from diabetes but died from tuberculosis of the throat[5] or a heart attack[3] at Mount Lofty on 31 May 1909. He was given a State funeral and buried at Mitcham Cemetery.

An island of the Whidby Group off the south-west coast of Eyre Peninsula had been left unnamed after Matthew Flinders' early explorations. It was named Price Island by the Government of South Australia in his honour. A guiding light for mariners was also erected on the island.[6]


Tom Price married Anne Elizabeth Lloyd (c. 1860 – 1 September 1950) in Liverpool on 14 April 1881. Their children included

  • John Lloyd Price (14 February 1882 – 23 April 1941) MHA for Port Adelaide 1915–1925 and MHR.
  • Walter Davies Price MC (24 March 1886 – 29 July 1944) distinguished soldier and public servant.

Other children were Edward Hugh Price (1884–1954), engineer with the Harbors Board, (Thomas) Arthur Price (1888–1942), a railways employee,[7] Annie Mary "Ann" Price (1890–1985), and Florence Gwendoline "Flo" Price (1894–1957) married Alfred Charles Clarke in 1920.

His widow was in 1915 one of four women appointed a Justice of the Peace,[8] the first in Australia.


  1. ^ "Former Member of Parliament Details". South Australian Government. Retrieved 2 June 2017.
  2. ^ "Statistical Record of the Legislature 1836 to 2009" (PDF). Parliament of South Australia.
  3. ^ a b Thomas Price: ADB
  4. ^ Archibald Peake: ADB
  5. ^ "Death of the Hon. T. Price". The Border Watch. XLIX, (4729). South Australia. 2 June 1909. p. 3. Retrieved 23 July 2019 – via National Library of Australia.
  6. ^ "Islands of the West Coast." The Register, South Australia (1925-09-02). Retrieved 2014-02-16.
  7. ^ "A Rail Car Mishap". The Advertiser (Adelaide). South Australia. 25 October 1924. p. 13. Retrieved 27 August 2016 – via National Library of Australia.
  8. ^ "Women Justices". The Barrier Miner. XXVIII, (8388). New South Wales, Australia. 7 July 1915. p. 4. Retrieved 27 August 2016 – via National Library of Australia.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by
John Darling Jr.
Leader of the Opposition of South Australia
Succeeded by
Richard Butler
Preceded by
Richard Butler
Premier of South Australia
Succeeded by
Archibald Peake
Preceded by
Richard Foster
Commissioner of Public Works
1905 – 1909
Succeeded by
Laurence O'Loughlin
Parliament of South Australia
Preceded by
William Stock
Member for Sturt
Served alongside: John Jenkins
District abolished
New district Member for Torrens
Served alongside: John Jenkins
Succeeded by
Thomas Ryan
Party political offices
Preceded by
Lee Batchelor
Leader of the United Labor Party
Succeeded by
John Verran