Queensland’s Upper House, or the House of Fossils

Monkeying with the Legislative Council, ca. 1926.  Harry Julius.  ACC 4679

Queensland is the only state in Australia without an Upper House, although that wasn’t always the case. The Legislative Council, its official name, was a completely undemocratic and unelected body with members appointed for life by the Governor. Its opponents called it the House of Fossils and by the twentieth century they were determined to bring it down.

Scylla and Charybdis, 1918.  H.M. Challinor.  ACC 27362/7

A serious attempt was made in 1917 by way of a referendum, the difficult choice for voters depicted by amateur cartoonist H.M. Challinor in Scylla and Charybdis.

The Power that will do it, 1907.  A.J. Hingston.  ACC 3409/54

It was abolished altogether in 1922, despite the referendum only 5 years earlier. The cartoons of A.J. Hingston and Harry Julius reveal the fierce resentment and frustration behind that most radical of political solutions.

See these cartoons and more in Swings and Roundabouts, an exhibition of 100 years of Queensland political cartoons, held in the slq Gallery from 10 August to 27 October 2019. Swings and Roundabouts accompanies Behind the Lines 2018.

The Cartoonists

Arthur James Hingston (1874 – 1912). This Federation era cartoonist spent his whole career in Brisbane, barring a few short years in London. His work appeared regularly in the fiercely pro-Labor Brisbane Truth and in The Worker.

Harry Julius (1885 – 1938) was a Sydney cartoonist and illustrator who created a series of lively election posters for the Queensland Labor Party in the 1920s. His spirited depictions of the fossils inhabiting parliament were a response to the Opposition’s campaign to restore the Upper House.

Henry Binney McAll Challinor (1858-1926) was an amateur artist, but his work is not without a certain charm. A public servant, he worked as Clerk of Petty Sessions in various shires from Beenleigh to Cooktown. His cartoons covered a wide range of subjects, including the vexed question of how to navigate the Upper House referendum of 1917.

Links

3409 Arthur James Hingston Cartoons 1899-1910 – this collection consists of 112 works of art by A.J. Hingston, including cartoons, caricatures and paintings. The majority of the cartoons appeared in the Brisbane Truth, either as editorial cartoons or as illustrations to news stories, between 1899 and 1910.

4679 Australian Labor Party Posters 1920-1970 – this collection of posters and leaflets includes political posters, political cartoons, election posters and election campaign material, many from the 1920s, some with illustrations by Harry Julius.

27362 H.M. Challinor Cartoons [Works of Art] 1876-1919 – this collection consists of 25 cartoons by Challinor, some signed with his own name, but many using his nom-de-plume of “Jack Corcoran”. They deal with a wide range of subjects, including: the referendum to abolish the Queensland Legislative Council; White Australia; the fate of returned soldiers after the first World War; retrenchment of the Civil Service; and post-war social problems.