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Chanter, John Moore (1845–1931)

by G. N. Hawker and Joan Rydon

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

John Chanter, by Swiss Studios, c.1901

John Chanter, by Swiss Studios, c.1901

National Library of Australia, 23646704

John Moore Chanter (1845-1931), farmer, auctioneer, commission agent and politician, was born on 11 February 1845 in Adelaide, son of John Chanter, shoemaker, who migrated from Devonshire, England, in 1840, and his second wife Elizabeth, née Moore. His father became a publican in Adelaide and from 1856 in Melbourne before farming at Trentham and Arcadia in Victoria.

Chanter was educated at the Albert House Academy and the Collegiate School of St Peter in Adelaide and the Model Training Institution in Melbourne. He worked on his father's farm and on rented land at Tylden where he became a general storekeeper. In 1874 he selected 320 acres (130 ha) at Rochester, and became first secretary of the Victorian Farmers' Union in 1878. In 1881 he moved to Moama, New South Wales, as an auctioneer and commission agent and was elected first mayor in 1891. He formed an agricultural and pastoral association, a race-course and a jockey club there, and became a director of the Murray River Stock Co. Prominent in establishing the Australian Natives' Association in New South Wales, he was its first president in September 1900-01. He was also a member of the New South Wales Chamber of Mines and a founder of the Masonic Club in Sydney.

Chanter represented Murray in the Legislative Assembly in 1885-94 with the support of the Selectors' Association, and then was returned for Deniliquin. He was secretary for mines in (Sir) George Dibbs's ministry early in 1889 and in 1893 headed the 'Country Party', a radical protectionist group within the assembly advocating land law reform. He was chairman of committees and in 1894 a member of the public works committee. Noted for his 'democratic views', Chanter argued for an elective Upper House and against plural voting; he supported protection as essential for the development of industries and employment of 'our children' in areas such as Deniliquin. As a representative of a border area plagued by the tariff question, he strongly favoured Federation and in 1901, as a supporter of (Sir) Edmund Barton, won Riverina in the House of Representatives.

In the first Commonwealth parliament and again in 1914-22 Chanter was chairman of committees. He was a member of royal commissions on ocean shipping service (1906) and on stripper harvesters and drills (1908-09). In 1903 he narrowly lost Riverina to R. O. Blackwood, but after a petition to the High Court regained it in the 1904 by-election. He supported the Barton and Deakin ministries, but with his close friend Sir William Lyne opposed the fusion of 1909; when it was achieved he alone of the Deakinite protectionist members joined the Labor Party whose platform, he declared, embraced policies he had consistently followed. He held Riverina for Labor in 1910, was defeated by the Liberal F. B. S. Falkiner in 1913, but was re-elected after the double dissolution of 1914.

When Labor split over conscription, Chanter joined the Nationalists, having been a strong supporter of Britain in the Boer War. He retained Riverina in 1917 and as a Nationalist and Farmers' candidate in 1919, but was defeated in 1922 by W. W. Killen of the new Country Party.

In some respects typical of many rural politicians in New South Wales — both Labor and Protectionist — Chanter was praised as a hard-working local member who was well acquainted with the vast areas he represented and considered every request from his constituents. Tall and rugged, he was a quiet man who spoke infrequently in debates, but when he did, explored all details of his subject and held tenaciously to his viewpoint.

On 16 November 1863 at Campbell's Creek Primitive Methodist Church, Victoria, Chanter had married Mary Ann Clark (d.1920); they had six sons and four daughters. Chanter lived in retirement at Caulfield, Victoria, where he died on 9 March 1931. He was buried in the Anglican section of Brighton cemetery. His estate was valued for probate at £1044 in Victoria and £60 in New South Wales.

Chanter's fifth son John Courtenay (1881-1962) fought with the Bushmen's Contingent in the South African War and in the Australian Imperial Force in World War I in the Middle East. He was commissioned lieutenant in 1915 and promoted major in 1917, serving with the 9th and 4th Light Horse Regiments; he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in 1919. Chanter was president of the Australian Wheatgrowers' Federation in 1934, sometime president of Deakin Shire, Victoria, and Lachlan Shire, New South Wales, and Labor member for Lachlan in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly in 1943-47.

Select Bibliography

  • G. L. Buxton, The Riverina 1861-1891 (Melb, 1967)
  • A. W. Martin, ‘Free trade and protectionist parties in New South Wales’, Historical Studies, no 23, Nov 1954
  • Australian Magazine (Syd), 1 Mar, 1 June 1909
  • A.N.A.: A Journal of General Interest Devoted to Australia and Australians, July 1926
  • Punch (Melbourne), 13 Mar 1913
  • Argus (Melbourne), 10, 11 Mar 1931
  • R. F. I. Smith, ‘Organize or be Damned’: Australian Wheatgrowers' Organizations and Wheat Marketing, 1927-1948 (Ph.D. thesis, Australian National University, 1969)
  • private information.

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Citation details

G. N. Hawker and Joan Rydon, 'Chanter, John Moore (1845–1931)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 25 July 2021.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

View the front pages for Volume 7

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