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Dibbs ministry (1891–1894)

Third Dibbs ministry
27th Cabinet of the Colony of New South Wales
Premier Sir George Dibbs and the Colony of New South Wales (1863–1900)
Date formed23 October 1891 (1891-10-23)
Date dissolved2 August 1894 (1894-08-02)
People and organisations
MonarchQueen Victoria
GovernorThe Earl of Jersey / Sir Robert Duff
PremierSir George Dibbs
No. of ministers10
Member partyProtectionist Party
Status in legislatureMinority government
Opposition partyFree Trade Party
Opposition leaderGeorge Reid
PredecessorFifth Parkes ministry
SuccessorReid ministry

The third Dibbs ministry, the 27th ministry of the Colony of New South Wales, was led by Sir George Dibbs, leader of the Protectionist Party, following the 1891 New South Wales election, which saw the Labour Party win seats in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly and the balance of power. With no party having a majority, Sir Henry Parkes held on as Premier until October 1891 when he lost a vote in the Legislative Assembly, causing Parkes to resign as Premier and leader of the Free Trade Party.[1] Dibbs formed the ministry on 23 October 1891, with Labour support, and comprised 10 ministers.

Dibbs was elected to the New South Wales Legislative Assembly in 1874 and served as Premier on three occasions. The title of Premier was widely used to refer to the Leader of Government, but was not a formal position in the government until 1920. Instead the Premier was appointed to another portfolio, usually Colonial Secretary. Dibbs took over as Premier on the first occasion in October 1885 following the resignation of Alexander Stuart due to ill-health, with his ministry lasting for 75 days. This was a period of great financial stress for the colony. Dibbs served as colonial secretary in the Jennings ministry, before it too suffered budgetary pressures. It was during this time that the party system was formed in New South Wales with Dibbs aligning himself with the Protectionist Party. His second term as premier lasted for just 49 days.[2][3][4]

Federation was an emerging issue, with Dibbs supporting an initial customs union, but was a severe critic of the strong federalism promoted by Parkes and Barton.[2] Despite their disagreement on federalism, Barton agreed to be Attorney General, based on an agreement that Barton was free to promote federalism and Dibbs would not obstruct discussion on federation in the Legislative Assembly.[5]

Under the constitution, ministers in the Legislative Assembly were required to resign to recontest their seats in an election when appointed.[6] Such ministerial by-elections were usually uncontested and on this occasion a by-election was required in East Sydney (Edmund Barton). Barton was comfortably re-elected while the other seven other ministers, Sir George Dibbs (The Murrumbidgee), Henry Copeland (New England), John Kidd (Camden), William Lyne (The Hume), John See (Grafton), Thomas Slattery (Boorowa) and Francis Suttor (Bathurst), were re-elected unopposed.[7]

Dibbs visited London in 1892 and during his absence Edmund Barton was acting Premier,[5] while Francis Suttor was acting Colonial Secretary.[8] In January 1893 Sir Julian Salomons resigned from the ministry because he disagreed with several points of government policy.[9]

Barton and Richard O'Connor, the Minister of Justice had been representing the plaintiff in the case of Proudfoot v the Railway Commissioners before taking office and retained the brief as they had the right to carry out private practice as barristers. Two years later the case still had not been resolved and in November 1893 they were questioned in parliament about whether it was proper for ministers to act against a government department. Barton and O'Connor returned the brief however Barton argued that the Railway Commissioners were not a government department and were not conducting their business through the Crown Law Office such that the ministers had the right in their professional practice, to appear against them in court.[5][10] The government lost an adjournment motion on this point by 69 to 48 and both Barton and O'Connor resigned from the ministry.[11] Charles Heydon was appointed Attorney General while Thomas Slattery was appointed Minister of Justice in addition to his duties as Secretary for Mines and Agriculture.

Dibbs treated the adjournment as a vote of censure, and persuaded Governor Robert Duff to prorogue parliament.[11] The Legislative Assembly resumed in January until it was dissolved on 25 June 1894, and a general election was held on 27 July 1894, at which Dibb failed to carry the vote. Although he had lost control of the Assembly, Dibbs said he would not resign until after parliament had reconvened, but the Governor forced his hand. Dibbs sought the appointment of several persons by the Governor to the then fully appointed Legislative Council, which Duff refused to do, on the ground that the ministry had been condemned by the colony. In consequence, Dibbs and the ministers resigned on 2 August 1894.[2][8]

The third Dibbs ministry was followed by the Reid ministry, led by George Reid, who had replaced Parkes as leader of the Free Trade Party.[12][8] The new parliament opened on 7 August 1894.

Composition of ministry

Portfolio Minister Party Term start Term end Term length
Colonial Secretary
Registrar of Records
Sir George Dibbs   Protectionist 23 October 1891 2 August 1894 2 years, 283 days
Colonial Treasurer
Collector of Internal Revenue
John See
Attorney General Edmund Barton QC[a] 14 December 1893 2 years, 52 days
Charles Heydon MLC 15 December 1893 2 August 1894 230 days
Secretary for Lands Henry Copeland 23 October 1891 2 years, 283 days
Secretary for Public Works William Lyne
Minister of Justice Richard O'Connor MLC[b] 14 December 1893 2 years, 52 days
Thomas Slattery 15 December 1893 2 August 1894 230 days
Secretary for Mines and Agriculture 23 October 1891 2 years, 283 days
Minister of Public Instruction Francis Suttor[c]
Postmaster-General John Kidd 27 October 1891 2 years, 279 days
Vice-President of the Executive Council
Representative of the Government in Legislative Council
Sir Julian Salomons MLC 23 October 1891 26 January 1893 1 year, 95 days
Normand MacLaurin MLC 5 April 1893 2 August 1894 1 year, 119 days

Ministers were members of the Legislative Assembly unless otherwise noted.

See also


  1. ^ Edmund Barton was acting Premier from 30 April to 13 September 1892 while Sir George Dibbs was visiting London.[5]
  2. ^ Richard O'Connor was appointed Solicitor General from 19 July to 13 September 1893 to allow him to deputise for the Attorney General while Edmund Barton was visiting Canada.[13]
  3. ^ Francis Suttor was acting Colonial Secretary from 30 April to 13 September 1892 while Sir George Dibbs was visiting London.[8]


  1. ^ Martin, A W. "Parkes, Sir Henry (1815–96)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. ISSN 1833-7538. Retrieved 26 February 2021.
  2. ^ a b c Mansfield, Bruce E. "Dibbs, Sir George Richard (1834–1904)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. ISSN 1833-7538. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  3. ^ "Sir George Richard Dibbs (1834–1904)". Former members of the Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 11 May 2019.
  4. ^ Serle, Percival (1949). "Dibbs, Sir George Richard (1834–1904)". Dictionary of Australian Biography. Sydney: Angus & Robertson. Retrieved 18 July 2011.
  5. ^ a b c d Rutledge, Martha. "Barton, Sir Edmund (Toby) (1849–1920)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. ISSN 1833-7538. Retrieved 29 June 2021.
  6. ^ Twomey, Anne (2004). The Constitution of New South Wales. Federation Press. pp. 442. ISBN 9781862875166. Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  7. ^ Green, Antony. "1881 to 1893 by-elections". New South Wales Election Results 1856-2007. Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 10 September 2020.
  8. ^ a b c d "Part 6 Ministries since 1856" (PDF). NSW Parliamentary Record. Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
  9. ^ "Vice-President of the Executive Council: resignation of Sir Julian Salomons". The Sydney Morning Herald. 26 January 1893. p. 7. Retrieved 29 June 2021 – via Trove.
  10. ^ Rutledge, Martha (1988). "O'Connor, Richard Edward (Dick) (1851–1912)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. ISSN 1833-7538. Retrieved 29 June 2021.
  11. ^ a b "Adjournment: Proudfoot v Railway Commissioners" (pdf). Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). New South Wales: Legislative Assembly. pp. 1727–1772. Retrieved 29 June 2021.
  12. ^ "Sir George Houston Reid (1845–1918)". Former members of the Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  13. ^ Appleby, G (2016). Role of the Solicitor-General. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 73. ISBN 9781509903962.


Preceded byFifth Parkes ministry Third Dibbs ministry 1891–1894 Succeeded byReid ministry
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Dibbs ministry (1891–1894)
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