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Paget, Walter Trueman (1854–1930)

by J. C. H. Gill

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

Walter Trueman Paget (1854-1930), farmer and politician, was born on 7 February 1854 at Whitechapel, London, son of Arthur Paget, clerk, and his wife Esther, née Gray. In 1872 he followed his brother John to Queensland. With another immigrant brother Arthur, he selected land in 1873 at Nindaroo, eight miles (13 km) from Mackay, for mixed farming, changing to sugar in 1882; by 1887 over half of their 1410 acres (571 ha) were planted. They constructed a mill and a double crushing plant, which Walter managed, and he made his mark as an ardent apostle of the sugar industry. He married Mary Jane Downing on 9 August 1884 in Holy Trinity Church of England, Mackay; she died in December. He then married Alice Elizabeth Ruth Haden in Adelaide on 11 April 1889.

In 1903 Walter acquired 7000 acres (2835 ha) at Habana, north of Mackay, and established a farm and butter-factory. He was chairman of the Pioneer Divisional Board in 1885-89, a committee-member of the Separation League (Mackay branch), a member of the Mackay Harbour Board, vice-president of the hospital board (1912), and president (1912) of the railway league, a popular movement which urged the completion of the great northern railway. When J. V. Chataway died on 11 May 1901 Paget contested and won as a Ministerialist candidate the by-election for the Mackay seat in the Legislative Assembly.

A member of the 1906 royal commission investigating the repatriation of Pacific islander canefields' labourers, he favoured 'Kanakas' for field work and was a keen member (president 1912) of the Anti-Bounty League which opposed the White Australia policy (in later life he supported White Australia). Because of the prohibition of further importation of coloured aliens for work in the canefields and at the mills, the grant of a bounty to growers employing white labour became necessary. The government imposed a tax on sugar produced locally and also an excise duty on cheaply produced foreign sugar. A rebate of the tax on locally produced sugar was allowed where white labour was employed.

Paget was given the railways and agriculture portfolio in the Kidston ministry on 29 October 1908. On 7 February 1911 the portfolio was separated by D. F. Denham; railways remained with Paget until 6 April 1915. He reputedly opened more lines than any predecessor in the office and acquired a large collection of inaugural souvenirs, including miniature engines and wheelbarrows, gold and silver picks, shovels and trowels.

C. A. Bernays considered him to be inordinately vain and characterized by a primness of manner and conduct: he had a way of tingeing railway sod-turnings and openings, which had previously been joyous saturnalias, with sadness and overlaying them with platitudes; they acquired a Sunday-school atmosphere. He worried about spending government money unnecessarily on himself, yet was accused by J. A. Fihelly in 1914 of ordering government cement for his own use; a select committee cleared his character but ordered him to pay the correct price and the cost of freight. He retained his reputation for straightforwardness and honesty.

He did not contest the 1915 election and left the Mackay area for his property at Mooloolah, where he worked the land as an orchardist. Paget died on 23 December 1930 as a result of a farm accident and was buried in Mooloolah cemetery with Church of England rites. His wife and their two sons and two daughters survived him. His estate was sworn for probate at £1305.

Select Bibliography

  • C. A. Bernays, Queensland Politics During Sixty (1859-1919) Years (Brisb, 1919?)
  • J. Kerr, Pioneer Pageant (Mackay, Qld, 1980)
  • Parliamentary Papers (Queensland), 1906, 2, p 395, 1914, 3, p 571
  • Parliamentary Debates (Queensland), 1914, p 1720.

Citation details

J. C. H. Gill, 'Paget, Walter Trueman (1854–1930)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/paget-walter-trueman-7944/text13827, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 24 October 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

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