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EDWARD THEODORE, UNION LEADER, PREMIER QLD, FEDERAL TREASURER

The red KGV Head stamp is cancelled with a near ‘socked on the nose’ THEODORE/ 12 MY/ 32/ QUEENSLAND, named after one of Australian’s most contentious politicians. There is no other Australian town with the name of Theodore (Figure 1).

Theodore is a town in Queensland, situated on the Dawson River. The town, like the same-named Canberra suburb,is named in honour of Labor politician Edward Granville Theodore, Premier of Queensland (1919–1925) and Treasurer of Australia in the ministry of Prime Minister James Scullin (1929–1931). Theodore is located just 565km north-west of the state capital, Brisbane. The town's economy is closely linked to coal mining, and Theodore is at the southern end of Queensland's coal-rich Bowen Basin. At the 2001 census, Theodore had a population of 453, and is located within the Banana Shire local government area.

A small grain and cotton town in the Dawson River Valley, Theodore was named for union leader, Queensland Premier and Federal Treasurer Edward (‘Red Ted’) Theodore. The signature that sets it apart from other valley towns are the palms and tropical bushes planted in the late 1920s when the town was the service centre for the Valley Irrigation Scheme. There are fish to be caught in the Glebe Weir, which also attracts its share of water-skiers, while the Theodore Folk Museum captures more than 100 years of history in photographs, artefacts and agricultural memorabilia. A map of Theodore in south-eastern Queensland is seen at the tip of the red arrow in Figure 2.

Edward Granville Theodore was born on 29 December 1884 in Adelaide, the second son of a Romanian immigrant, Basil Teodorescu and his Irish wife. He was educated in Adelaide but left school at 12 to work the Adelaide docks. In 1900 he went to the goldfields of Western Australia, but failed to make his fortune and then tried his luck at Broken Hill, N.S.W., and in 1906 he left for Cairns, Queensland mining for tin. He co-founded the Amalgamated Workers Association and it became Australia’ largest union, The Australian Workers Union (AWU). He became Queensland state president of the AWU in 1913. Prior, in 1909, he had been elected to Queensland’s Legislative Assembly for the Australian Labour Party, which won a majority in 1915 and Ted became Treasurer and Secretary for Public Works. When Premier Thomas Ryan resigned in 1919, Ted became the popular and successful Premier from which position he resigned in 1925, to stand for the Queensland Federal seat of Herbert, but he was unexpectedly defeated.

Theodore was elected to the Federal House of Representatives in the electorate of Dalley in Sydney at a by-election in 1927. He was considered as an outsider in Sydney Labour politics, and this continued to be a problem for him. In 1929 he became the Deputy Leader of the Labour party under James Scullin. In October 1929 Cullin defeated the Conservative government and Cullin became Prime Minister, while Theodore became Treasurer. This position was cut short as he was found to be guilty by a Queensland Royal Commission of having corruptly profited by purchasing copper mine shares at Mungana. This forced Theodore’s resignation in June 1930.

Without Theodore’s leadership in financial matters the Scullin government fared poorly in the Great Depression, but when the Queensland government did not charge Theodore with any offence, Scullin reappointed him as Treasurer in January 1931. During the Depression, Theodore proposed an expansion of credit to farmers and small business through the issue of ‘fiduciary notes’ which could be redeemed after the Depression. His Fiduciary Notes Bill was criticised as unsound by orthodox economists and the banks, and was eventually defeated in the Senate. Theodore was described as a visionary proto-Keynesian for this proposal, although it cannot be known what effect it would have had on the Depression had the bill been passed.

In late 1931, the followers of Lyons and Lang joined forces in the House of Representatives to pass a no-confidence motion in the Scullin government and an election was held in December. Theodore had no support in Sydney and he lost his seat to a Lang candidate. This ended his political career, although several offers were made to him during the 1930s to return.

Theodore went into business becoming a partner of Frank Packer in gold-mining ventures in Fiji and other enterprises, making him a rich man. He was chairman of directors of Packer’s press company, Australian Consolidated Press, and director of several other companies. During WWII Theodore served the Chifley and Curtin governments as Director of the Allied Works Council, which was established to undertake works requested by Allied Forces in Australia. After the war his health declined and he died of hypertensive cardiovascular disease on 9 February 1950 at Edgecliff, Sydney. He had married Esther Mahoney in 1909 and they had 4 children. After his death, their son John assumed charge of the family’s joint business interests with Frank Packer and John Theodore became the first managing director of TV Channel 9. A picture of Edward Theodore is shown in Figure 3.

I acknowledge that the text of this paper and Figure 3 were derived from a Wikipedia paper at http://www.ask.com/wiki/Ted_Theodore?qsrc=3044.

 
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