BAVIN, Sir Thomas Rainsford (1874-1941)


BAVIN, Sir Thomas Rainsford (1874-1941)
premier of New South Wales and judge
was the son of a Methodist clergyman the Rev. Rainsford Bavin. He. was born at Kaiopoi, New Zealand, on 5 May 1874 and was educated at Auckland Grammar School, Newington College, Sydney, and the university of Sydney. He graduated B.A. in 1894 and LL.B. in 1897 winning the Wigram Allen scholarship in 1895. He was called to the New South Wales bar and took part in the fight for federation. In 1900 he was acting-professor of law at the university of Tasmania, and when Barton (q.v.) became prime minister of Australia in 1901, acted as his private secretary. He later held the same position with Deakin (q.v.). He then practised at the bar in Sydney, sometimes as counsel for trade unions, and was chairman of various wages boards. In 1911 he was appointed chairman of a royal commission to inquire into the cost of living. When the 1914-18 war broke out Bavin became a naval intelligence officer. He declined the offer of a judgeship in 1917, and in the same year was elected to the legislative assembly as a nationalist. He had, however, had too many opportunities of seeing both sides of social questions to be quite happy on the conservative side of the house, and with others formed the Progressive party, which afterwards became the Country party. Bavin resigned from the Nationalist party in 1920, but accepted office in the coalition ministry formed by Sir George Fuller in December 1921 which resigned directly the house met. Fuller, however, formed another ministry in April 1922 in which Bavin was attorney-general until the ministry resigned in June 1925. Fuller resigned his leadership soon after, and Bavin was leader of the opposition until October 1927, when he became premier and colonial treasurer. At the premiers' conference held in August 1930 Bavin was a leading figure, but his policy of economy was unpopular in New South Wales and his party was defeated at the election held in October 1930. Bavin fought this election in a state of failing health, in 1932 was obliged to resign his leadership of the party, and in the following year retired from politics. He was made a judge of the supreme court in 1935, but his health failed to improve and he died at Sydney on 31 August 1941. He married Edyth, daughter of F. E. Winchcombe, M.L.C., who survived him with a son and three daughters. He was created K.C.M.G. in 1933. A selection from his speeches was published in 1933 under the title Thomas Rainsford Bavin Extracts from his Speeches 1923-1932, and his Macrossan (q.v.) lecture, Sir Henry Parkes His Life and Work, was published early in 1941.
Bavin was a highly cultured man of wide sympathies, much strength of character, and great courage. His political life covered a bitter period, and in the heat of conflict during the 1930 election bitter things were said against him. In reality he was much liked on both sides of the house. He tried to apply to public affairs "the same standard of right and wrong, of honesty and dishonesty, of justice and injustice, that we demand in private life". He had an important share in the political life of his time, which would have been greater if be had been granted normal health.
The Sydney Morning Herald, 1 September 1941; The Australian Quarterly, September 1941; Burke's Peerage etc., 1939; Foreword to the selection from his speeches; Calendar, university of Sydney, 1897; The Bulletin, 16 October 1935.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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