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Miller, Gustave Thomas Carlisle (1851–1918)

by D. B. Webster

This entry is from the Australian Dictionary of Biography

Gustave Thomas Carlisle Miller (1851-1918), newspaper proprietor and politician, was born on 26 November 1851 at Prospect, New South Wales, son of William Richardson Miller, farmer of Smithfield, Parramatta, and his German-born wife Catherine, née Engel. He was educated at St Philip's and Fort Street Model schools and was apprenticed to his uncle John Engel, a printer. In 1876 he went to Cooma to work on G. W. Spring's Manaro Mercury and Cooma and Bombala Advertiser. After a disagreement with Spring over its political reports, Miller left the Mercury in 1879 and with the help of John Gale founded the Cooma Express. At Cooma on 5 May 1881 he married Emmeline Annie Hewison. As a journalist Miller was described as a 'Jack Blunt' and was several times successfully sued for libel. He retained the Express until 1918, sometimes leasing it; when editing it himself in the 1880s it was noted for ardent republicanism.

In December 1889 Miller won a Legislative Assembly by-election for Monaro and held the seat until 1918. The mainspring of his policies was support for the worker and the selector. A Protectionist, he favoured breaking up big estates, electoral reform, land and income tax and female suffrage, and criticized the high salaries and pensions given to ministers, judges and senior public servants. He long advocated Federation and, although he knew he had no chance of election, stood for the Australasian Federal Convention as a republican in 1897. Believing that the libel laws discouraged newspaper proprietors from exposing crime and corruption, he somewhat ambiguously supported John Norton as 'a necessary evil … a political scavenger', who could be of some service to the people, in the privilege debate of 1901.

Priding himself on his political independence, Miller once described himself as belonging to a party of one, but joined the Labor Party in 1901 when he felt that protection was dead as a State issue. He had opposed sending troops to South Africa and China in 1899 and 1900, and in 1916 vigorously campaigned against conscription. An assiduous local member, he chaired the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works in 1914-16 and in 1916 was joint chairman of the royal commission on border railways.

Gus Miller was a good footballer and active in local social, sporting and cultural affairs; he was chairman of the Cooma Co-operative Mill & Flour Co. Ltd and an executive-member of the Cooma Pastoral and Agricultural Association. Especially interested in music and drama, he was capable of 'obliging with a song'. He was affectionately known as 'the Monaro Foghorn' and was rather brusque in manner, but moved by personal hardships and injustice. Romantic-looking, with classical features, wavy, dark hair and a carefully tended moustache, he was described by W. A. Holman as a picturesque and attractive figure with 'a heart of gold under an exterior of granite'.

Impoverished, Miller died of heart disease at his Marrickville home on 20 October 1918 and was buried in the Anglican section of Rookwood cemetery. His wife, four of their five sons and two daughters survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • Parliamentary Debates (New South Wales), 1891-92, p 305, 1894, p 2940, 1899, p 1575, 1900, p 1332, 1901, p 723, 2852, 1918, p 2241
  • Bulletin, 21 Aug 1880, 27 Aug 1887
  • Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 31 July 1894, 24 Oct 1916, 7 Mar 1917
  • Cooma Express, 25 Oct 1918
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 25 Oct 1918.

Citation details

D. B. Webster, 'Miller, Gustave Thomas Carlisle (1851–1918)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://labouraustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/miller-gustave-thomas-carlisle-7585/text13245, accessed 21 November 2017.

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