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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Laffer, George Richards (1866–1933)

by Maryanne McGill

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

George Richards Laffer (1866-1933), by unknown photographer, c1925

George Richards Laffer (1866-1933), by unknown photographer, c1925

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 4540

George Richards Laffer (1866-1933), fruit-grower and politician, was born on 14 September 1866 at Coromandel Valley, South Australia, son of Philip Frederick Laffer and his wife Elizabeth Jane, née Brown. His father, born in Cornwall in 1834, arrived in Australia in 1840 and went to the Victorian goldfields in 1852. In South Australia in 1854 he began fruit-growing at Belair and sent one of the first shipments of Australian apples to London four years later.

George Laffer was educated at Mitcham Public School and Prince Alfred College. In 1883 he too became a fruit-grower at Belair. On 15 June 1892 at Blackwood he married Adelaide Annie Maria Kelsey; they had no children. He served on the Mitcham District Council for nine years, becoming chairman in 1901 for four years.

Laffer was a member of the local Druids' Lodge and interested in cricket, football and shooting. However, his main interest was agriculture. He was a founder of the South Australian Fruitgrowers' Association, a life member of the Agricultural Bureau, founding member and chairman of the Advisory Board of Agriculture and a member of the Royal Agricultural Society.

He joined the Liberal Union and, on his third attempt, in 1913 was elected to the House of Assembly for Alexandra. Over the next twenty years he served on numerous parliamentary committees, and in 1918-20 was chairman of committees. From 8 April 1920 he was commissioner of Crown lands and immigration and minister of repatriation in the Barwell government. He supervised all soldier settlement schemes on the Murray River and elsewhere. Town planning was under Laffer's control and in 1920 South Australia became the first State to pass a town planning act. It set up a department, a permanent head with control of all new towns, and an advisory board. He was also minister for irrigation from 3 November 1922.

Although the Barwell government was defeated in the April 1924 election, Laffer retained his seat and when the Liberal-Country coalition won office in 1927 he was Speaker of the House of Assembly until 1930. In 1932-33 he was a member of a royal commission which examined the controversial subject of illegal betting, and whether bookmakers should be licensed. The commission recommended the establishment of State-wide, off-course, totalizator facilities controlled by a board, and drafted a bill to this effect. Laffer, who had a reputation for straightforwardness and sincerity, exhausted himself by fighting tenaciously in parliament to ensure that the bill was passed. He was successful, and the resulting laws were applauded by the sporting community. But he died unexpectedly of coronary vascular disease at Belair on 7 December 1933. He received a state funeral before being buried at Mitcham Anglican cemetery. His wife survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • Associated Publishing Service, The Civic Record of South Australia 1921-1923 (Adel, 1924)
  • Universal Publicity Co., The Official Civic Record of South Australia (Adel, 1936)
  • Observer (Adelaide), 30 Apr 1921
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 8 Dec 1933.

Citation details

Maryanne McGill, 'Laffer, George Richards (1866–1933)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 22 October 2020.

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

View the front pages for Volume 9

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