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Sir George Reid
, 1916

by Charles Webster Gilbert

marble on painted stone base (sight: 72 cm x 56 cm depth 40 cm)

On loan to the National Portrait Gallery

Sir George Houston Reid GCB GCMG KC (1845–1918) was Free Trade Prime Minister of Australia from August 1904 to July 1905. Before that, as both Premier of New South Wales and Colonial Treasurer, Reid had greatly increased the number of schools, cut government spending, reformed the land tax laws and created an apolitical Public Service Board to administer the service. Famed for his ‘yes-no’ attitude to Federation, he insisted the move should be approved by a majority of the electorate, rather than by parliamentarians alone (it was, indeed, decided by popular referendum). He retired from Parliament in 1908 and two years later he was appointed Australia’s first High Commissioner in London. Although his stature was a gift to caricaturists, Reid was renowned as a wit, and by 1916 he was so well established in Britain that the Liberal Party offered him a safe seat in the House of Commons. He held it until his death in 1918, the only Australian ever to have sat in the Colonial, Commonwealth and Westminster Parliaments.

Gifts Collection, Courtesy of Parliament House Art Collection, Department of Parliamentary Services, Canberra, A.C.T.
Accession number: LOAN2008.22.4