GROOM, Sir Littleton Ernest (1867-1936)


GROOM, Sir Littleton Ernest (1867-1936)
politician
son of William Henry Groom (q.v.), was born at Toowoomba, Queensland, on 22 April 1867. He was educated at Toowoomba Grammar School, where he was dux of the school and captain of the football and cricket teams. Going on to Ormond College, university of Melbourne, he graduated B.A. with the final honours scholarship in modern languages in 1889, and LL.B. with the final honours scholarship in March 1891. He was called to the bar in Victoria and Queensland, and before entering politics was on occasions an acting district court judge in Queensland. He succeeded his father as representative of Darling Downs in the federal house of representatives in 1901, and held this seat continuously for 28 years. In July 1905 he became minister for home affairs in the second Deakin (q.v.) ministry, exchanging this position for the attorney-generalship in October 1906. The ministry was defeated in November 1908, but Deakin formed his third cabinet in June 1909 with Groom as his minister for external affairs. This ministry resigned in April 1910 and Groom was in opposition for three years. He was minister for trade and customs in Cook's ministry from June 1913 to September 1914. He was vice-president of the executive council in Hughes's national government from November 1917 to March 1918, minister for works and railways from March 1918 to December 1921, acting attorney-general from April 1918 to August 1919 and attorney-general from December 1921 to December 1925. He visited Geneva in 1924 as leader of the Australian delegation to the fifth assembly of the League of Nations, was elected chairman of the first committee, and showed much ability in managing the discussions of the committee which was a large one including delegates from every member state of the league. After his return Groom resigned the portfolio of attorney-general on 18 December 1925, and on 13 January 1926 was elected without opposition speaker of the house of representatives. He held this position until in 1929 his refusal to vote with the Bruce-Page government on the question of the transfer of arbitration from the federal sphere to that of the states led to its defeat. He disagreed with the government on the question involved, but his refusal was based on a different reason. He felt that following the British precedent the speaker must be absolutely impartial and keep free of any party ties. At the election which followed Groom was strongly opposed by the government and lost his seat. He was re-elected at the 1931 general election but did not hold office again. From 1932 to 1936 he was chairman of the bankruptcy legislation committee, and in earlier years he also acted on various royal commissions and select committees. He died at Canberra after a short illness on 6 November 1936. He was created K.C.M.G. in 1924. He married in 1894 Jessie, daughter of the Rev. C. Bell who survived him with a daughter. Groom was joint-author with Sir John Quick (q.v.) of the Judicial Power of the Commonwealth, and was part author of various Queensland legal publications. His elder brother, Harry Littleton Groom, was for many years a member of the Queensland legislative council.
Groom took much interest in the Church of England, was a vice-president of the Church of England Men's Society, and a member of the General Synod of Australia. In politics he was hard-working and dependable, and from 1905 to 1926 was a member of every non-Labour ministry. He carried through much important legislation and, though representing a rural district, was a great advocate for the extension of secondary industries, and no trouble was too great in ascertaining the merits of the causes in question. He realized that many problems would have to be treated in a large way as Australian problems. He is found for instance about 1909 and 1910 making several efforts to establish a federal department of agriculture. Though he failed at the time, the Commonwealth Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, established in 1916, included many of the functions of Groom's proposals. He worked hard for federal old age pensions, and carried in 1922 against a good deal of opposition the public service act and the superannuation act. Generally he was both a political and a moral force in federal politics.
Nation Building in Australia, The Life and Work of Sir Littleton Ernest Groom; The Argus, Melbourne, 7 November 1936; The Courier-Mail, Brisbane, 7 November 1936; The Bulletin, 11 November 1936; The Commonwealth Parliamentary Handbook, 1936.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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