George Dibbs

George Dibbs

Sir George Richard Dibbs KCMG (October 12 1834August 5 1904) was an Australian politician who was Premier of New South Wales on three occasions.

Early years

Dibbs was born in Sydney, son of Captain John Dibbs, who disappeared in the same year. He was educated at the Australian College under Dr Lang, obtained a position as a young man in a Sydney wine merchant's business, and afterwards was in partnership as a merchant with a brother. In 1857, he married Anne Maria Robey. He travelled abroad, and established a branch in Valparaiso in 1865, which involved running a Spanish blockade during the Chincha Islands War. In 1867 his business failed and he went bankrupt, but eight years later called his one time creditors together and paid them all in full.cite web
first=Percival
last=Serle
title =Dibbs, Sir George Richard (1834 - 1904)
publisher =Project Gutenberg Australia
work=Dictionary of Australian Biography
url =http://gutenberg.net.au/dictbiog/0-dict-biogD.html#dibbs1
accessdate = 2007-04-16
]

Political career

Dibbs entered parliament in 1874 as MLA for West Sydney,cite web
title =Sir George Richard Dibbs (1834 - 1904)
work =Members of Parliament
publisher =Parliament of New South Wales
url =http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/parlment/members.nsf/1fb6ebed995667c2ca256ea100825164/f4f916f01035a6c4ca256cb700122c14!OpenDocument
accessdate = 2007-04-16
] as a supporter of business interests and compulsory, secular and free education, which involved withdrawal of the support from denominational schools, provided under the Education Act of 1866. He lost his seat at the 1877 election due to his support for assisted immigration, which gave him a reputation as an "enemy of labour". Subsequently, a seamen's strike broke out against the Australian Steam Navigation Co, because it had begun to employ Chinese sailors on the Australian coast, and he was obliged as a director of the company to defend its policy, further reducing his popularity. He went to jail in 1880 for a year for refusing to pay a slander judgement to a lawyer who had committed adultery with Dibbs' sister-in-law. Nevertheless, this restored his political popularity.cite web
first=Bruce E.
last=Mansfield
title =Dibbs, Sir George Richard (1834 - 1904)
publisher =Australian National University
work=Australian Dictionary of Biography
url =http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A040063b.htm
accessdate = 2007-04-16
]

In 1882, he won St Leonards with the support of the unions. In January 1883 he was given the portfolio of Colonial Treasurer in the Stuart ministry, and was committed to continued railway-building although revenue was under pressure due to a suspension of land sales. The Assembly refused to pass an increase in property tax, so he decided to borrow an unprecedented £14m, giving him a subsequent reputation for extravagance. Stuart resigned due to ill-health in October 1885 and Dibbs became Premier. In the October 1885 elections, he was beaten by Henry Parkes in St Leonards, but he won Murrumbidgee. Although his government polled badly overall, he attempted to govern on, but he was forced to resign after less than three months when it became clear that there would be a budget deficit of over £1m.

Dibbs was Colonial Secretary in the Jennings ministry from February 1886 to January 1887, and became Premier again on 17 January 1889, but was succeeded by Parkes a few weeks later. He had been a convinced free-trader, but gradually moved into the opposite camp, and was responsible for the first New South Wales protectionist tariff. When Parkes resigned in October 1891 Dibbs came into power in a time of great financial stress. He went to England in June 1892 on a borrowing mission, not only as the representative of New South Wales but also of Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, and carried out his negotiations successfully. During the banking crisis of May 1893 he showed himself to be a firm leader, saving the situation at Sydney by giving the banks power to issue inconvertible paper money for a period, although most of them failed to take advantage and went bankrupt. In 1893, his electoral reform removed rural over-representation. He was elected as the member for Tamworth in 1894. He later received a substantial public testimonial for his services at this time.

Federation

Dibbs had little influence on the question of federation. He was a member of the 1891 convention and sat on the judiciary committee, but was never more than a lukewarm advocate for it. In June 1894, writing to Sir James Patterson, then Premier of Victoria, he suggested the unification of New South Wales and Victoria, in the hope that the other colonies would join in later on. A few weeks later his ministry was defeated at a general election and Reid became Premier in August. In the following year Dibbs lost his seat at the election held in July, having being portrayed as reactionary and unprincipled by William Lyne.

Later life

Dibbs retired from public life, and was appointed managing trustee of the savings bank of New South Wales. He held this position until his death in the Sydney suburb of Hunter's Hill in 1904. He was survived by Lady Dibbs, two sons and nine daughters.

Honours

Dibbs had been created KCMG in July 1892.

References

Persondata
NAME=Dibbs, George Richard
ALTERNATIVE NAMES=
SHORT DESCRIPTION=New South Wales politician and Premier
DATE OF BIRTH= October 12 1834
PLACE OF BIRTH= Sydney
DATE OF DEATH= August 5 1904
PLACE OF DEATH= Hunter's Hill, New South Wales


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