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Sizer, Hubert Ebenezer (1893–1973)

by Tim Moroney

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

Hubert Ebenezer Sizer (1893-1973), journalist, politician and businessman, was born on 7 August 1893 at Cambridge, England, son of Ebenezer Sizer, joiner, and his wife Harriet Jane, née Watts. Both parents were actively involved with the British Liberal Party, his father being a pioneer member of the Amalgamated Carpenters and Joiners' Union, while his mother participated in the suffragette movement with Mrs Pankhurst. After completing his primary education, Sizer began employment as a cadet journalist with the Cambridge Chronicle. In 1911 the family migrated to Melbourne where Sizer joined the Age. Later that year he transferred to the Daily Mail in Brisbane and was involved in the formation of the Queensland branch of the Australian Journalists' Association.

On 4 September 1914 Sizer enlisted with the Australian Imperial Force and, as a member of the 9th Battalion, took part in the Gallipoli landing, was involved in the capture of Turkish guns and in the successful raid in July on the 'Knife Edge'. After promotion to corporal he was invalided to England and discharged in June 1916 as medically unfit.

On his return to Australia, Sizer's war experiences caused him to transfer his allegiance from the Labor Party. He now energetically supported the conscription campaigns of W. M. Hughes and traversed Queensland addressing recruiting rallies. Presiding over the formation of the Returned Soldiers and Patriots' League, he vehemently opposed the anti-conscriptionist stance of the T. J. Ryan Labor government.

In 1917, as a Nationalist candidate, Sizer unsuccessfully contested the Federal electorate of Kennedy. Next year he was elected to the State seat of Nundah, which he retained as a Nationalist until 1923. That year he won the new electorate of Sandgate as a Queensland United Party member and held it until 1935 as a member of the Country and Progressive National Party. A clean-shaven man of medium build, Sizer could mix easily in any company, although his concern with fiscal propriety was 'liable to create the impression that [he was] cold, hard and unsympathetic'.

As a parliamentarian Sizer was a forceful debater, and while in Opposition vigorously attacked the Labor government over the 1928 Maree plebiscite irregularities and the involvement of ministers in the Mungana affair. His sense of propriety did not prevent him from attempting to change parliamentary dress standards when he was ordered from the chamber for appearing 'without a coat, and clad in an open-necked silk shirt, white trousers and [a] gay cummerband swathed around his waist'.

At the onset of the 1929 Depression, the Moore Country/National Party's election victory was assisted by Sizer's clever party slogans and campaign tactics. On the strength of his interest in and critical observation of Labor's industrial relations policies, Sizer was secretary for labour and industry (21 May 1929–17 June 1932). The tight fiscal requirements of the Depression years saw him introducing legislation which substantially altered the Labor government's arbitration system, created an unemployment relief tax, reduced the basic wage, increased hours of work and removed public servants from the jurisdiction of the Industrial Court. He was also chairman of the Unemployment Council and was constantly pilloried by the Labor press.

During its three years in power, the Moore government pursued the involvement of former Labor premiers Theodore and McCormack with the state-owned Mungana mines and the Chillagoe smelters. Sizer figured prominently in the campaign and journeyed to Sydney to persuade a retired Supreme Court judge, J. L. Campbell, to head a royal commission. Although the commission found against Theodore, McCormack and others, Sizer astutely argued against prosecution, believing an acquittal would nullify the commission's censure—a view proven correct in 1931 when the former premiers were found in the Supreme Court not guilty of conspiracy to defraud the government.

After the Moore government was defeated in 1932, Sizer served one more term before retiring from politics in 1935. His liberal background created conflicts between his social conscience and the required philosophies of a Queensland conservative party during the 1930s. Also the lack of a parliamentary pension directed his activities into private enterprise in which, after a move to Melbourne, he engaged in successful mining ventures including Mount Morgan in Queensland and Zeehan in Tasmania. He also held several company directorships and was involved in launching an insurance company.

On 15 September 1917 Sizer had married Florence Jane Sturgiss (d.1920) at All Saints' Church of England, Brisbane. He married Ruby Ann Hawkins on 23 July 1923 at Bald Hills Methodist Church. During the latter years of his life, because of his business and family interests, he alternated his residence between Melbourne and Brisbane. On 4 May 1973 he died at Murrindindi, Victoria, of a heart attack and was cremated. Predeceased by his wife, he was survived by three sons and a daughter.

Select Bibliography

  • C. A. Bernays, Queensland—Our Seventh Political Decade, 1920-1930 (Syd, 1931)
  • C. Lack (ed), Three Decades of Queensland Political History, 1929-1960 (Brisb, 1962)
  • D. J. Murphy, T. J. Ryan (Brisb, 1975)
  • K. H. Kennedy, The Mungana Affair (Brisb, 1978)
  • Parliamentary Papers (Queensland), 1930, 1, p 1345, 2, p 211
  • Courier Mail (Brisbane), 5 May 1973
  • correspondence from H. E. Sizer to Prof D. B. Waterson, Macquarie University
  • private information.

Citation details

Tim Moroney, 'Sizer, Hubert Ebenezer (1893–1973)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/sizer-hubert-ebenezer-8439/text14833, published in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 3 September 2014.

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

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