Australian Dictionary of Biography

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John White (1853–1922)

by John D. Kerr

This article was published:

John White (1853-1922), company director and politician, was born on 9 November 1853 at Dumbarton, Scotland, son of Alexander White and his wife Ellen, née Anderson. Marrying Maggie Frame with Church of Scotland forms on 10 April 1877 at Glasgow, John migrated with his family to Queensland in 1883. At Bundaberg he formed a partnership with George John Young, a stationer, and became sole proprietor in 1897. Having bought shares in the Bundaberg Foundry Co. in 1888, he was prominent in the syndicate which floated it as a limited company in 1898 and was its chairman in 1900-22. Soon rivalling Walkers Ltd at Maryborough in heavy engineering for the sugar and mining industries, the company was reconstructed under White's direction after a disastrous fire in 1919 revealed that it was severely underinsured.

In 1906 White became chairman of the newly formed Bundaberg Co-operative Insurance Association; he established Carricks Ltd, a substantial sawmilling and furniture company; and he invested in Waterloo Ltd in 1908 which relocated the Waterloo Sugar Mill closer to its growers. His achievements led him to declare that he was a director of 'Queensland Unlimited'.

Thrice chairman of the Bundaberg Chamber of Commerce, and a founder and long-serving chairman of the Bundaberg Harbour Board, White campaigned enthusiastically for irrigation and held the Legislative Assembly seat of Musgrave in 1903-04 and 1907-15, as a Ministerialist and a Liberal respectively. He became chairman of the Farmers' Parliamentary Union in 1911 and first chairman in 1913 of the (Queensland) Country Liberal Party. In December 1912 he was appointed secretary for agriculture and stock in the Denham ministry. Losing his seat in the 1915 election, White moved to Brisbane.

A businessman rather than a professional politician, he had voted for a reduction in parliamentary salaries, and opposed the land tax and the repurchase of landed estates. He wanted governments to use railway construction to enhance land revenue and favoured state enterprise to help farmers and miners remain independent. He offered to manage Gin Gin Central Sugar Mill until it was viable and criticized Premier (Sir) Arthur Morgan and Walter Maxwell for foreclosing on it in 1904. Thriving on interjections and bringing humour to many debates, in 1912 White was proposed by Edward Theodore as Speaker, but declined. As minister, in 1914 White piloted through parliament the co-operative agricultural production bill to provide funds for building factories in a range of primary production areas. He promoted business principles in his department, directed State research farms to aim at self-sufficiency and gave autonomy to Gatton Agricultural College. His support for the American Meat Trust in 1914 was repudiated by the home secretary John Appel.

John White died of a cerebral haemorrhage on 13 June 1922 at the Royal Hotel Bundaberg and was buried in the local cemetery with Presbyterian forms. He was survived by three daughters, his son having died in 1915. White's estate was sworn for probate at £43,921.

Select Bibliography

  • Newspaper Cartoonists' Association of Queensland, Queenslanders as We See 'Em (Brisb, 1915)
  • U. Ellis, A History of the Australian Country Party (Melb, 1963)
  • Parliamentary Papers (Queensland), 1911-12, 2, p 1048
  • Parliamentary Debates (Queensland), 1904, p 172, 1912, p 3
  • Australian Sugar Journal, 14, no 4, 7 July 1922, p 233
  • Daily Standard (Brisbane), 11 Dec 1912
  • Brisbane Courier, 13 June 1922
  • Bundaberg Foundry Co. records (Queensland State Archives)
  • Bundaberg Co-operative Insurance Association records (Queensland State Archives)
  • Waterloo Ltd, records (Queensland State Archives).

Citation details

John D. Kerr, 'White, John (1853–1922)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 17 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (Melbourne University Press), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


9 November, 1853
Dumbarton, Dumbartonshire, Scotland


13 June, 1922 (aged 68)
Bundaberg, Queensland, Australia

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