Father of Federation and of the Hare Clarke Voting System
Clark, an amazing Tasmania, was a Barrister, Parliamentarian, Attorney-General, electoral reformer and Constitutionalist.
Clark was indeed a ‘sound’ lawyer. His refusal to accept anything, but an honest and reasonable fee prevented him from making a fortune from his profession. He was, however, more than a lawyer; he was also an engineer, poet, political philosopher and the Father of Australian Federation.
The electorate of Denison has now been changed to Clark, named after Andrew.
He is credited in his first year in the House of Assembly with initiating 150 Ministerial Bills, only one fewer than Henry Parkes. Some of his Bills dealt with cruelty to animals, legalising trade unions, more orderly control of public houses, the care of destitute children, payment of Members of Parliament and reforming laws on lunacy.
The University of Tasmania was established largely because of his efforts with association with colleague, Neil Elliott Lewis later to become Premier. He was Vice-Chancellor of the University of Tasmania 1901-1903.
Clark attended the first conference on Federation held in Hobart in 1886 and in 1890 was a Tasmanian delegate to the Australasian Federation Conference and to the national Australasian Conference in 1891. In his early years, Andrew was taught at home, because of his poor health, by his talented mother, Ann Inglis. Later he attended the Hobart High School leaving school at 16. At the age of 24, he decided to study law and in 1877 was admitted to the Bar.
As early as 1874, Clark was a promoter of proportional representation voting as opposed to the one-man, one-vote concept. In 1878 Clark married in Melbourne Grace Paterson, daughter of John Ross, a Hobart ship builder. In the same year he was elected to the House of Assembly for Norfolk Plains, but lost in 1882.
In 1885 Clark founded the Southern Tasmanian Political Reform Association and unsuccessfully stood for election once again in 1886. During the same year the movement promoting the establishment of a Commonwealth had its birth in Tasmania when on 25th January 1886, the first session of The Federal Council of Australia was opened by Governor Strahan. Clark, of course, attended. Later as a member of the Federal Council, he would draft a Federal Constitution for the convention of 1891.
In 1887 Clark was elected and served as Attorney-General under Premier Phillip Oakley Fysh (1835-1919) until 1892. Sadly in this year of 1887 he lost his son, Melvin Inglis who died in infancy.
In August 1896, Clark was able to introduce proportional representation for Hobart and Launceston for the following year, after heated discussion. It became known as the Hare Clark system. Thomas Hare was an English Barrister. Clark also urged modification such as the transfer of surpluses and reducing the element of chance. In that year, he was unable to attend the Federal convention because he was in America.
Opposition to the Hare-Clark system was vigorous with petitions being received by the Parliament to abandon it. On the whole, it would appear electors mastered it quite well. Premier Edward Braddon was urged to adopt it.
In the 20th December 1897 in the Town Hall there was a presentation of an address to Clark for his stand on his constitutional principles. Clark replied by saying how important it was to the adherence to constitutional methods as the only safe guard to public liberty, particularly against the dictatorship of any one man or group of men. Here, I firmly believe he would be appalled how the Australian Constitution has been abused and ignored by the Federal Government and Premiers, because of the current social circumstances. Section 92 and 117 for example guarantees movement of citizens between States while section 51 (xxiiA) is against forced medical procedures, such as mandatory vaccinations or the unconstitutional National Cabinet of Premiers. As Clark would understand without these constitutional provisions we are dominated by those enjoy their new found power.
In 1898 Clark was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court of Tasmania and a senior judge in 1901. Clark never enjoyed strong health and the year of his death 1907 (14th November), proportional voting was adopted for the whole state and used for the first time at a general election, April 1909. In 1907 the established two party system did not exist in Tasmania.
What type of man was he personally? James Backhouse, legal practitioner, historian and author states in his book Prelude to Federation (OBM Publishing 1976), “Lewis (N. Elliott) is one of the very, very few, prominent politicians in whom public spirit is at all marked. A. I. Clark is another.”
The Hare-Clark electoral voting system continues to apply State-wide for the House of Assembly. It has it detractors, but generally it is well received.
A more detailed article is available in the people section of this site