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Member Details

The Hon. Henry WILLIS (1860 - 1950)

Member Photo
Date of Birth: 06/04/1860
Place of Birth: Port Adelaide, South Australia , Australia
Date of Death: 23/02/1950
Place of Death: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Parliamentary Service
Position Start End Period Notes
Library Committee No.4 07 Aug 1912 05 Dec 1912 3 months 29 days
Standing Orders Committee No.3 07 Aug 1912 05 Dec 1912 3 months 29 days Chairman
Library Committee No.4 12 Sep 1911 28 Mar 1912 6 months 17 days
Refreshment Committee No.5 12 Sep 1911 28 Mar 1912 6 months 17 days
Standing Orders Committee No.3 12 Sep 1911 28 Mar 1912 6 months 17 days Chairman
Speaker of the Legislative Assembly 24 Aug 1911 22 Jul 1913 1 year 10 months 29 days
Claims of Harry K.Carpenter Committee No.16 18 Jul 1911 01 Aug 1911 15 days
Timber Industry Committee No.15 11 Jul 1911 01 Aug 1911 22 days
Member for Upper Hunter 14 Oct 1910 06 Nov 1913 3 years 24 days
Member of the NSW Legislative Assembly 14 Oct 1910 06 Nov 1913 3 years 24 days
Political Party Activity
Liberal Party; broke with the party on accepting the Speakership; stood as a radical Liberal in 1913.
Community Activity
Commissioned as a Justice of the Peace in 1899
Qualifications, occupations and interests
Pastoralist and property owner. Educated at Adelaide Grammar School; owned a leather business in Adelaide; moved to New South Wales, was successful in business and retired in c.1900; owned Werriberri Estate in Picton, Kooringa Downs, Roma, Queensland, and Innisfallen Estate, Middle Harbour.
Military Service
Honours Received
Membership of other Parliaments & Offices Held
Member of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia. Member of the House of Representatives for Robertson 1901 - 1910.
Local Government Activity
First mayor of Cabramatta and Canley Vale; Alderman at Randwick 1899-1902, prominent at Greater Sydney Conference
Son of John Willis, mariner, and migrant from Warwickshire, England, and Jane Emerson. Married Annie Louisa Moore in September 1889 and had issue, 2 daughters and 3 sons. Funeral at Northern Suburbs Church of England cemetery.
Additional Information
Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12 Text from the book: 'The Presiding Officers of the Parliament of New South Wales', Sydney, 1995 Henry Willis was born on 6 April 1860 at Port Adelaide, South Australia. Coming to Sydney in 1888 he married Annie Moore in September 1889 and they had three sons and two daughters. A successful businessman, Willis owned numerous properties throughout Australia. Elected the first Mayor of Cabramatta and Canley Vale, he was also an Alderman on the Camden and Randwick Councils, later being elected to the House of Representatives for Robertson in 1901. Following his defeat in the 1910 Federal Elections he entered the Legislative Assembly later that year as the Liberal Member for the Upper Hunter. Despite his limited knowledge of Parliamentary customs and procedures, Willis offered himself for the Speakership in 1911 when the Labor Government lost its majority of one. Although his election as Speaker broke the deadlock and prevented a dissolution of Parliament, Willis' ambition to achieve office was the cause of great bitterness and animosity amongst members of his own party, who considered his bid as their main obstacle to achieving government. However, the real controversy associated with his Speakership came from the style of his administration. The 'Votes and Proceedings' of the period reveal that on nearly every occasion that Parliament sat there was disorder in the House and dissension from the Speaker's rulings. Willis used his position to broaden the authority of the Speaker, claiming the power to remove Members (once with the aid of the police) and to censor speeches. His hostile and aggressive behaviour saw a number of censure motions moved against him as well as several civil actions for assault and illegal ejection, one of which was successful. Willis also pursued a policy of administrative reform, establishing a separate department for the Serjeant-at-Arms, reorganising Hansard, and threatening to dismiss senior officials; the turbulent atmosphere of the Chamber being duplicated within the administration of Parliament. On several occasions he acted without the President's knowledge or concurrence in matters that had previously been under joint control. Henry Willis died in Sydney on 23 February 1950.