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Richard Jones: reforming the New South Wales colonial parliamentary electoral system in Australia
journal contributionposted on 2020-01-01, 00:00 authored by David Jones
The 1840s in New South Wales, in Australia, was a time of unsettled citizen unrest about the governance of their colony articulated in debates between liberalist and conservative newspapers whilst the Governor looked on. The tone of these debates included reforms to the electoral system, trade tariff, land settlement, and increasing antipathy to the governance administration of the colony. Caught in the middle, the Governor took instructions from London, tried to mediate the situation, before being directed to facilitate the establishment of colonial self-governance for 1856. While considerable aspirational weight by both the Governor and the community was placed on the new Legislative Assembly, the system floundered due to political maturity, its desire to quickly effect change and create reformation, and inconsistency voting allegiances in absence of political parties. The situation was exacerbated by a political gerrymander in favour of pastoralists and squatters to the chagrin of urban Sydney residents and businesses. Within this period of the 1850s, the inaugural Legislative Assembly members like Parkes, Cooper, Cowper, Robertson and Forster honed their debating and oratory skills, and sought to navigate within this new political environment. Within this unsettled period was a seasoned compositor and newspaper journalist, Richard Jones.