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Hynes, Maurice Patrick (1885–1939)

by D. W. Hunt

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Maurice Patrick Hynes (1885-1939), politician and trade union organizer, was born on 29 September 1885 at Mackay, Queensland, son of Patrick Maurice Hynes, publican, and his wife Catherine Agnes, née Ready. Educated at Mackay State School, he worked throughout north and western Queensland at a variety of occupations including railway navvy, stockman and waterside worker before returning to Mackay as a labourer in the sugar industry. On 20 September 1907 he married Margaret Josephine Hennessey; they had two sons and three daughters.

A founder and sometime president of both the Mackay Trades and Labor Council and the Workers' Political Organization, Hynes was employed in 1918 as a Mackay-based organizer for the Australian Workers' Union and quickly earned respect, particularly for his work in the Queensland Arbitration Court. Appointed northern district secretary in 1920, he was superseded at union elections later in the year but was reappointed in November 1921.

Hynes was active in the anti-conscription campaigns and was briefly a State councillor of the One Big Union movement. His political ambitions received a set-back when he failed to win the Legislative Assembly seat of Mirani in the 1918 and 1920 general elections; in 1922 he was again defeated for the Federal seat of Herbert. Locally prominent and willing to campaign for the cause, he could not be permanently overlooked; on 12 May 1923 he defeated the Northern Country Party incumbent of the Townsville seat, W. H. Green, by 164 votes. He held the seat until his death.

A junior back-bencher in the administrations of E. G. Theodore, W. N. Gillies and W. McCormack, 'Mossy' Hynes characteristically chose to direct his energies towards extra-parliamentary Labor organization and diligent constituency work. In 1925 he was elected vice-president of the State branch of the A.W.U.; in 1926 he became a member of the executive committee (the 'inner executive') of the Labor Party's Queensland central executive. These two positions, which he retained until his death, ensured him an influential place in the Queensland Labor movement's most important industrial and political bodies.

When the party regained office after three years in opposition in 1932, Hynes became minister for labour and industry. While Queensland struggled out of the Depression, this proved an exacting portfolio. The overriding priorities of the Forgan Smith government were encouragement of primary industries which would generate employment, and the gradual restoration of reforms made by previous Labor governments, which had been withdrawn by their economy-minded opponents. The most important legislation introduced by Hynes was the Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act, 1932, which re-established a comprehensive arbitration system and reintroduced the forty-four-hour week; it was subsequently amended four times under Hynes. He also improved workers' accommodation provisions and extended unemployment relief work under award conditions. As a minister Hynes gave the impression of underrating his parliamentary duties. Although he was a very forceful speaker on the hustings, his speeches in parliament were direct and brief; even when introducing important legislation he rarely spoke for longer than ten minutes. Nevertheless, he enjoyed a reputation for competent administration and by 1938 was able to boast that Queensland had the highest basic wage, the shortest working week and the lowest percentage of unemployed unionists in Australia.

Hynes was never a radical: his commitment to gradual reform through parliament and the arbitration system made him an archetypal representative of moderate Labor orthodoxy in the 1930s. A physically large, warmhearted but retiring Roman Catholic, he was a personal friend of the premier, Forgan Smith, and of A.W.U. general secretary Clarrie Fallon at a time when these two men (both from Mackay) dominated Queensland Labor politics.

During 1938 Hynes's health deteriorated rapidly. In the State elections of April the Protestant Labor Party mounted an energetic but unsuccessful campaign against him including accusations (certainly false) of scabbing in the 1911 sugar strike. In hospital for some time in January 1939, he spent part of six months leave from cabinet on vacation in Tasmania but died on 27 March 1939 at his home in Kedron of atherosclerotic disease. After a state funeral from St Stephen's Roman Catholic Cathedral, he was buried in Toowong cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • D. J. Murphy et al (eds), Labor in Power: The Labor Party and Governments in Queensland, 1915-57 (Brisb, 1980)
  • Worker (Brisbane), 23 Nov 1922, 28 Mar 1939, 4 Apr 1939
  • Courier Mail (Brisbane), 28 Mar 1939
  • Townsville Daily Bulletin, 28, 29 Mar 1939
  • Bulletin, 29 Mar 1939
  • S. K. Young, The Protestant Labour Party (B.A. Hons thesis, University of Queensland, 1971)
  • D. W. Hunt, Federal Politics in the Herbert Electorate, 1915-1925 (B.A. Hons thesis, James Cook University, 1974).

Citation details

D. W. Hunt, 'Hynes, Maurice Patrick (1885–1939)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/hynes-maurice-patrick-6785/text11737, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 24 October 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

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