This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983
James Aitchison Johnston Hunter (1882-1968), accountant and politician, was born on 4 July 1882 at Springburn near Glasgow, Scotland, third of five sons of Samuel Fowler Hunter, master joiner, and his wife Margaret, née Stenhouse. In 1884 the family migrated to Brisbane where Hunter was educated. He joined the State public service as a clerk, working first in the Department of Public Instruction then in the audit office of the Queensland Railways. He qualified as an accountant. On 16 November 1908, at Ipswich, Hunter married Florence Phoebe Nason. His interest and involvement in rural politics arose from his marriage into the Nason clan, an extended family of pastoralists long established in the Surat district, and from his move in 1912 to Dalby where he set up as a public accountant.
Hunter threw himself wholeheartedly into the work of creating a rural political organization in south-western Queensland. In 1919 he unsuccessfully contested the Federal seat of Maranoa (then held by the Australian Labor Party), won it at a by-election in 1921 and continued to hold it for the Country Party until his retirement in 1940. He was party whip and parliamentary secretary in 1924-34 and government whip in the House of Representatives in 1924-29. When the Country Party and the United Australia Party entered into a composite ministry in 1934, Hunter became a minister without portfolio in the Lyons government. From September 1935 to November 1937 he assisted the ministers for repatriation and the interior and also the minister for commerce for four months in 1937. From September 1936 he was minister in charge of war service homes. He was dropped from the ministry after the October 1937 election. He had also been a member of the joint committee of public accounts, 1923-25, and of the royal commission on national insurance, 1923-24.
Hunter had to rely largely on his own personal organisation to conduct his election campaigns at considerable cost to his family life and business affairs. He and Alan J. Campbell were founders of the Queensland Country Party at Toowoomba in March 1936, which led to the final disintegration of the Country and Progressive National Party. Hunter loyally supported (Sir) Earle Page in his conflict with (Sir) Robert Menzies and in the leadership struggles within his own party in 1939. When (Sir) Arthur Fadden secretly negotiated the fusion of the parliamentary wings of the United Australia Party and the Country Party in Queensland into the Country Nationalist Party in April 1941, Hunter held aloof. He had been made a life member of his party in 1939 and continued to work tirelessly for the western division of the Country Party and for the creation of an independent Country Party in Queensland, not achieved until 1944-45.
In appearance and manner Hunter was quite unlike the stereotype rural politician of his era. He was quiet and unobtrusive, slight in stature and build, with a somewhat austere mien, further enhanced by the wearing of pince-nez spectacles. After his retirement from parliament, Hunter continued as director of a number of companies and maintained his interest in Country Party affairs, regularly attending the annual conferences. From May to December 1944 he acted as managing director of the Queensland Country Party. He was a fellow of the Commonwealth Institute of Accountants, the Institute of Cost Accountants and the Chartered Institute of Secretaries. An ardent Freemason and a devout Presbyterian with two brothers in its ministry, Hunter spent his declining years in the Freemasons' Home, Sandgate. He died on 27 October 1968 and after a state funeral was buried in Toowong cemetery. His two sons survived him.
Margaret Bridson Cribb, 'Hunter, James Aitchison Johnston (1882–1968)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/hunter-james-aitchison-johnston-6770/text11707, published in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 1 October 2014.
This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983