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Jones, Arthur (1892–1976)

by Manfred Cross

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

Arthur Jones (1892-1976), trade unionist and politician, was born on 12 June 1892 at Lower Barnes, near Kidderminster, Worcestershire, England, son of Thomas Jones, farm labourer, and his wife Mary Jane, née Nutting. Educated (1897-1904) at an elementary school at Wolverley, Arthur worked as a farm labourer. In 1911 he emigrated to New South Wales. He became a 'gun' shearer in the Hunter Valley and demonstrated shearing at the British Empire Exhibition, Wembley, England, in 1924-25. A trade unionist from the age of 15, he was active in the Australian Workers' Union. By 1923 he was one of its organizers and in 1926 Western District secretary, based at Longreach, Queensland. He married 23-year-old Margaret Fanny Bennett on 18 December 1926 at St Alban's Anglican Church, Belmore, Sydney.

At a by-election on 2 November 1929 Jones stood as the Australian Labor Party's candidate and won the seat of Burke in the Legislative Assembly. After the seat was abolished in 1932, he was appointed an investigation officer, Department of Labour and Industry, Brisbane. In May 1939 he successfully contested Charters Towers, retaining it until his retirement in 1960. During World War II he was secretary for mines (9 February to 16 September 1942) and for public instruction (9 February 1942 to 27 April 1944). A competent minister, he won respect for his administrative ability and grasp of detail in confronting wartime problems due to the high rate of enlistment and the evacuation of families from northern areas. On 27 April 1944 he was appointed secretary for public lands; his outback experience helped him to promote valuable amendments to legislation affecting stock and rural land. From May 1947 to May 1950, as minister for health and home affairs, he was also responsible for the sub-departments of police, native affairs and wards of the state. He subsequently held the portfolio of labour and industry (10 May 1950 to 12 August 1957). In November 1953 he introduced important amendments to the Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act (1932) to expand the jurisdiction of the Industrial Court, to extend long service leave to all employees and to allow for seven weeks accumulated sick leave in place of two.

A prolonged strike in the pastoral industry in 1956 led to a deterioration in the government's relationship with the A.W.U. under R. J. J. Bukowski. As a senior minister with responsibility for industrial relations, Jones was closely identified with Premier Vince Gair who was expelled from the Australian Labor Party on 24 April 1957. Two days later Jones, with most of his ministerial colleagues, joined Gair's newly created Queensland Labor Party. Although Jones thus left the A.L.P. by his own choice, he was deeply distressed when he was expelled by the A.W.U. Yet his speeches, following the government's defeat on 3 August 1957, lacked the bitterness displayed by many of his colleagues; courteous and quietly spoken, he reflected the charm and wit of his Welsh ancestry. A 'masterly raconteur of jest, anecdote and witty retort', he had a salty sense of humour and was admired by political friend and foe alike. He was an avid reader, and a keen gardener and lawn bowler. Survived by his wife and two daughters, he died on 30 June 1976 in his home at Coorparoo, Brisbane, and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • C. Lack (compiler), Three Decades of Queensland Political History, 1929-1960 (Brisb, 1962)
  • Parliamentary Debates (Queensland), 25 Aug 1976
  • Telegraph (Brisbane), 1 May 1939
  • private information.

Citation details

Manfred Cross, 'Jones, Arthur (1892–1976)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/jones-arthur-10637/text18903, published in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 2 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

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