- TRENWITH, William Arthur (1847-1925)
- Labour leaderwas born at Launceston, Tasmania, in 1847. He was the second son of a Cornish bootmaker and began to learn this trade in his ninth year. In 1868 he went to Melbourne where he worked as a bootmaker. In 1879 he succeeded in forming a bootmakers' union, and stood for Villiers and Heytesbury as a Radical candidate for the legislative assembly, but was defeated. In 1886 he went to Adelaide in connexion with a strike in his trade and succeeded in drawing up a scale of wages which was accepted by both parties. He also organized a board of conciliation with representatives from both the employers and the workmen which lasted in Adelaide for a considerable time. In the same year he stood for parliament at Richmond, Victoria, but was again defeated. However, in 1887 he was elected president of the Melbourne trades hall and two years later was returned to the legislative assembly for Richmond, and held this seat until he resigned in November 1903 to enter federal politics.In the legislative assembly Trenwith became the pioneer of the Labour party in Victorian Politics, and fought hard and had great influence during the disastrous shipping strike of 1890. In 1897 he was elected a member of the federal convention and sat on the constitutional committee. He was minister for railways and vice-president of the board of land and works in the Turner (q.v.) ministry from November 1900 to February 1901, and joined to those offices was chief secretary in the Peacock (q.v.) ministry from February 1901 to June 1902. He broke with the Labour party in 1901, as he felt unable to sign the pledges demanded of him, and in 1902 came under the displeasure of the then powerful David Syme (q.v.), proprietor of the Age. This combination of circumstances created some sympathy for Trenwith and at the second Commonwealth election held in 1903 he headed the poll in Victoria for the senate. He remained a senator until 1910, when the Labour party swept the polls and he was defeated. That closed his political career though he afterwards stood unsuccessfully for the Denison electorate in Tasmania. He died on 26 July 1925.Trenwith did good pioneer work for the Labour party in Victoria and had great influence between 1880 and 1900. He was a good and logical speaker, and although looked upon as a demagogue by the conservatives of his period, was in reality moderate and reasonable in his efforts to improve the conditions of labour.The Argus and The Age, Melbourne, 28 July 1925; P. Mennell, The Dictionary of Australasian Biography; H. G Turner, A History of the Colony of Victoria.
Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. Angus and Robertson. 1949.