QUICK, Sir John (1852-1932)


QUICK, Sir John (1852-1932)
politician and author
was born in Cornwall, England, on 14 April 1852, the son of John and Mary Quick. The father was a farmer who emigrated to Victoria in 1854 and immediately went to the Bendigo goldfields. He died a few months later. His son was educated at a state school and at the age of 10 went to work in an iron foundry at Long Gully. Other work followed as an assistant in the printing room of the Bendigo Evening News, as a feeder of a quartz battery, and as a junior reporter on the Bendigo Independent. The last was his real starting point, for he became an expert shorthand-writer and began to improve his general education. He removed to Melbourne and in 1873 passed the matriculation examination of the university of Melbourne. He entered on the law course and with the help of scholarships, was able to attend regularly at the university, and in 1877 obtained the degree of LL.B. Quick was called to the bar in June 1878, but continued his association with journalism and became leader of the parliamentary staff on the Melbourne Age. In 1880 he stood for parliament at Bendigo and was elected a member of the legislative assembly as a supporter of (Sir) Graham Berry (q.v.). He then resigned his position on the Age, went to live at Bendigo, and practised as a solicitor. In 1882 he received the degree of LL.D. by examination. He was making his mark in parliament and had been offered a portfolio in the Gillies (q.v.)-Deakin (q.v.) government in 1886, but a redistribution of the electorates led to his defeat at the 1889 election. In the meanwhile he had become interested in Australian federation, and it was largely through his efforts that it was taken up by the Australian Natives' Association. In August 1893 he attended a federal conference of intercolonial delegates held at Corowa, and suggested that a national convention should be held at which the six Australian colonies should each be represented by 10 delegates, to consider the framing of a constitution. In November of the same year an enabling bill was drafted by Quick which eventually became the basis for the deliberations of the convention held at Adelaide in 1897. He was second on the poll for the 10 Victorian representatives, and when federation was inaugurated on 1 January 1901 he was knighted in recognition of his many services to the federal cause. On the same day The Annotated Constitution of the Australian Commonwealth, written in collaboration with Robert R. Garran, was published with an interesting historical introduction.
In the Commonwealth parliament Sir John Quick sat for 12 years as a member for Bendigo. He was chairman of the first federal tariff commission and was postmaster-general in the third Deakin cabinet. In 1904, in conjunction with Littleton E. Groom (q.v.), he published The Judicial Power of the Commonwealth of Australia, and in 1919 his treatise on The Legislative Powers of the Commonwealth and the States of Australia appeared, a valuable exposition on the large mass of legislation passed during the first 18 years of federation. In the following year another volume, written in conjunction with Luke Murphy, was published, The Victorian Liquor License and Local Option Laws Abridged and Consolidated. In 1922 Quick was appointed deputy president of the federal arbitration court, and held this position until his retirement on 25 March 1930. He was especially fitted for this work for he knew both sides of the question and proved himself to be a wise, impartial and tactful arbitrator. On his retirement he gave his attention to a volume to be called The Book of Australian Authors. With the help of various assistants he collected a large amount of bibliographical information, but he did not live to complete the work. It was eventually taken up by Professor E. Morris Miller and, with some alterations in the plan, was published in 1940 under the title Australian Literature. Quick died on 17 June 1932. He married Catherine Harris in 1883 who survived him without issue.
Quick made his way entirely by his own ability and energy. He was barely three years old when his father died, and before he was 11 he was helping his mother by working in an iron foundry. He was a great worker, simple and unaffected by his success. An excellent speaker who never lost confidence in the future of his country, he was a great influence in the federal movement, and in addition to being a sound lawyer he brought to his duties as an arbitration judge the qualities of justice, understanding, and tact. When he retired he was able to say that "the awards he had made, with one exception, had been loyally observed without strikes, or threats of strikes". In addition to the books already mentioned Quick was the author of several pamphlets and, with D. Berriman, of The Victorian Magistrate.
Charles Daley, Sir John Quick; A Distinguished Australian, a reprint from the Victorian Historical Magazine, December 1934; The Age and The Argus, 18 June 1932; private information and personal knowledge.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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