The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) is about to establish a new Commonwealth electoral division in Victoria. Friends of the BAC, The English-Speaking Union has proposed that this new electorate be named in recognition of William Alexander Watt (Submission S58), a President of the English-Speaking Union Victoria Branch from 1921 to 1925. William Watt was an outstanding contributor to Australian political life and worked vigorously for the benefit and well-being of Victorians and Australians over a span of more than three decades from the 1890s to the 1920s.
In a review of then eminent living Australians, The Age newspaper in 1938 described William Watt as “one of Australia’s ablest statesmen” and “one of this country’s greatest orators, a masterly debater and a State financier of exceptional skill (who) dominated Victorian parliamentary life for a number of years and later attained front rank in Federal politics.”
William Watt was active in Australian life as: 1) a prominent supporter of Australian Federation; 2) the youngest Cabinet minister in the Victorian colonial Parliament; 3) a reformist Victorian Treasurer; 4) Victorian Premier from 1912 to 1914; 5) Commonwealth Treasurer from 1918 to 1920; 6) Acting Prime Minister of Australia in 1918-1919.; and 7) Speaker of the Commonwealth House of Representatives from 1923 to 1926. He rose from humble beginnings from the town of Barfold in rural Victoria as one of eleven children and in the late 1880s joined the Australian Natives Associated where he honed his public speaking skills. William Watt was a prominent advocate of Australian Federation. He swiftly climbed ranks in Australian politics.
William Watt’s list of achievements at both State and Federal Government are incredibly impressive. Particularly when dealing with economic challenges that Australia faced throughout the WW1 period and just after while he was both Commonwealth Treasurer and Acting Prime Minister while Prime Minister W M ‘Billy’ Hughes was overseas for 17 months. The ESU was very privileged to have someone of his esteemed character as our first President. William Watt’s cumulative contributions with many accolades comprise compelling grounds to name a new Commonwealth electorate in Victoria in his honour. The ESU and the BAC hope that this submission to the AEC will be successful. See the full ESU submission requesting the new Victorian electorate be named after William Watt on the ESU Victoria branch website.