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Egerton Lee Batchelor (1865–1911)

The terribly sudden death in Melbourne of Mr. Egerton Lee Batchelor, Minister of External Affairs, is not only a blow to the Labor Party in South Australia and throughout the Commonwealth, but irrespective of all party considerations, a loss to Australian statesmanship. The deceased gentleman commanded the respect and admiration not only of members of his own party, but of political opponents, and not on the ground of his ability alone. One of the pioneers of the aggressive Labor movement, and sincerely attached to the cause of social reform and amelioration, he was a level-headed advocate of the principles of his party, moderate in speech, prudent in action, and at all times anxious to take a large view of public interest. While, therefore, he retained the confidence of those with whom he was politically associated, possessing, as he did, besides a reasoned conviction of the justice of the Labor policy, considerable facility in debate and ripened gifts of administration which made his Ministerial service especially valuable, he commended himself to fair critics on both sides by the proofs he gave of his acute recognition of public responsibility and his sagacious avoidance of wild or impracticable courses. In a word, though a loyal party man, the late Mr. Batchelor was an Australian patriot of wide sympathies, earnest, intelligent, and broad-minded. It is sad to reflect that a career of such usefulness and promise should have ended so prematurely. Though he had been directly connected with Parliamentary affairs for eighteen years, he was only 46 at the time of his death, and the apparent wiriness of his constitution had suggested that he might for an indefinite period continue his active participation in Federal public life.

Mr. Batchelor was the "baby of the House" when with the late Mr. Kingston he was returned for West Adelaide—the "blue ribbon of democracy"—in 1893. His election was one of the earlier successes of the Labor Party. He was in the thick of the first struggles of the movement in this state, and for some time after the death of the late Mr. McPherson presided over its fortunes, helping the party in its steady conquest of new ground and contributing to the establishment of its prestige both in Parliament and the country. Taken into the Holder Ministry as Minister of Education in 1899, Mr. Batchelor, who had had some experience as a school teacher in his teens, found the work entirely to his taste, and soon gave evidence of the administrative talents which in later years were deservedly recognised by his inclusion in the Watson and Fisher Administrations of the Commonwealth. The broader sphere of Federal service provided him with various opportunities for the display of his versatile capacity. In Opposition or in office, Mr. Batchelor was always one of the strong men of his party. Solid rather than brilliant, an effective though not a showy speaker, a conscientious worker in the departments committed to his care, he never failed to acquit himself with credit, and equally in Home and External Affairs—both Ministries having been entrusted to him, the first under Mr. Watson, the second in the Fisher Government—his administration was successful. Mr. Batchelor was selected to accompany the Prime Minister as one of the Australian representatives at the late Imperial Conference, as on a great occasion he rose to the height of his opportunities. No member of the Federal delegation—not even his chief—made a better impression than Mr. Batchelor, whose contributions to important debates—such as that, for example, on the Declaration of London—bespoke the intelligent care he had devoted to the study of the subjects dealt with. His tragically sudden death deprives the Commonwealth of the services of a statesman who had won the esteem of the people generally, while those who had been closely associated with him will lament the loss of a friend who was endeared by his attractive personal qualities to all who knew him.

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'Batchelor, Egerton Lee (1865–1911)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 16 June 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Egerton Lee Batchelor, 189?

Egerton Lee Batchelor, 189?

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an21223838

Life Summary [details]


10 April, 1865
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia


8 October, 1911 (aged 46)
Warburton, Victoria, Australia

Cause of Death

heart disease

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

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