Wednesday, 8 April 2015


This lovely two storey townhouse was originally the home of John Ross, who constructed his Patent Slip shipbuilding facility at Battery Point in 1856. The house was subsequently occupied by Andrew Inglis Clark following his marriage to Ross’ daughter, Grace, in 1878. Andrew Inglis Clark was born in Hobart on 24 February 1848 and, due to ill health, was at first educated by his mother. Eventually he qualified as a mechanical engineer and worked in his family's business before studying law and being admitted to the Tasmanian Bar in January 1877. In 1878 he was first elected unopposed to the House of Assembly to represent Norfolk Plains (1878-82), later South Hobart (1887-97), and finally Hobart (1897-98).

However after winning his first election he failed at his next three attempts. Perhaps it was these failures which spurred him on to co-found, in 1884-85, the Southern Tasmanian Political Reform Association, which aimed to win manhood suffrage and three-year parliaments. Nevertheless, when re-elected in 1887 he was immediately made Attorney-General in Premier Sir Phillip Fysh's new Cabinet. Because Fysh was in the Legislative Council, Clark was the most senior government member in the House of Assembly.

Clark visited the USA in 1890 and became a committed republican and 'friend of America', that is, of its citizens and of its political institutions. This bias led him to be a force in the movement towards the Federation of the Australian States, for which he prepared a draft which formed the basis of the Australian Constitution and later a textbook, published in 1901.

In 1896, after several failed attempts, Clark was able to get a system of proportional representation adopted by the Tasmanian Parliament, but it was to be only on a trial basis for both Hobart (to elect 6 MPs) and Launceston (to elect 4 MPs). The provision described as Clark's own was to transfer all votes to 'next order of preference', rather than a random sample. This first 'Hare-Clark system', as it was immediately known, was renewed annually until suspended in 1902 and then finally re-introduced for the whole State in 1907.

Clark, never in robust health, died at his home 'Rosebank' in Battery Point on 14 November 1907, just as permanent proportional representation struggled through Parliament and over a year before it was used for the first time throughout Tasmania at the general election in April 1909. The system still bears his name, which is a monument to his enduring advocacy of proportional representation. His own words, in an Australian Senate paper in 1901, were that the 'Clark-Hare system ... enables every section of political opinion which can command the requisite quota of votes to secure a number of representatives proportionate to its numerical strength'

He had been appointed a judge of the Supreme Court in 1901; assisted in the foundation of the University of Tasmania in 1889 and was its Vice-Chancellor from 1901 to 1903. He was a staunch republican and advocate of women's rights, and the first public figure to advocate elections on the basis of universal adult suffrage, or the right of all adults to an equal vote. The property remains a private residence to this day.

Main Text & Information Source - Tasmanian Parliamentary Library
Andrew Inglis Clark portrait - Australian Dictionary Of Biography - Andrew Inglis Clark