GOULD, Sir Albert John (1847–1936)
Senator for New South Wales, 1901–17 (Free Trade; Anti-Socialist Party; Liberal Party; Nationalist Party)

In 1936, the then Leader of the Opposition, John Curtin, speaking of Sir Albert Gould, said: ‘I doubt sometimes that the people of Australia to-day really appreciate the importance that belonged to the establishment of the Commonwealth, and the great privilege enjoyed by those who . . . by their public service, sufficiently earned the confidence of the people to justify their return at the first federal election . . .’.  Albert John Gould, second President of the Senate, was born in Sydney on 12 February 1847, the son of John Morton Gould, solicitor, and  Anne, née Livingstone. Educated at the Rev. Dr William Woolls’ school at Parramatta, Gould appears to have studied law for a time at the University of Sydney. After serving his articles with his father, he was admitted to the New South Wales Bar in 1870, and by 1872 was working in Singleton for a firm of Sydney solicitors.

The law was only one facet of Albert Gould’s career. Developing extensive business and community interests, Gould prospered through association with a copper syndicate at Cobar. He became a director of the Electric Light and Power Supply Company and of the City Bank of Sydney, as well as of the Oriental Timber Corporation, which had interests in Siberia. A Freemason, in 1883 he rose to be Master of the Lodge of St Andrews. As a member of the provincial synod of New South Wales and the general synod of Australia, he was influential in the work of the Church of England, becoming chancellor of the dioceses of both Sydney and Newcastle.

In 1865, Gould joined the New South Wales volunteer military forces as a private in the West Maitland Company, later transferring to the Singleton Company. When the New South Wales 4th Infantry Regiment was formed, he took command of the Singleton Company, attaining the rank of major in 1886. Gould was one of the first in New South Wales to receive the Victoria Decoration for long and meritorious service. He retired in 1902 as lieutenant colonel.

Gould’s parliamentary career began in 1882 with his election to the New South Wales Legislative Assembly. He represented Patrick’s Plains until 1894, when he was returned for Singleton. By 1887, he had established his own practice in Singleton and in Sydney. He entered into a partnership with A. G. Y. Shaw about 1889 and moved to Sydney in 1897. A Free Trader, in the Assembly, he served as Minister for Justice under Sir Henry Parkes (1889–91) and George Reid (1894–98). Gould was defeated as the Member for Singleton by a local resident at the 1898 election. In 1899 he entered the Legislative Council as one of twelve appointments secured by Premier George Reid in order to get the enabling legislation for the referendum on Federation through the New South Wales Parliament.[1]

While considering that the 1898 Federation Bill had ‘blemishes’, Gould had been, overall, in favour of Federation. In 1901, he was elected to the Senate for New South Wales, and subsequently became one of the first six-year senators. Gould brought with him from New South Wales an unshakeable faith in free trade to which he devoted most of his first speech. When re-elected in 1906, Gould received the largest vote cast for an Australian senator until that time.[2]

It may have been his residency in Singleton that led to his view that Federation had provided an opportunity to embark on a policy of decentralisation through federal funding of substantial buildings in country towns. Gould, who would support Yass–Canberra as the federal capital site, opposed an early proposal to establish a Senate committee to inquire into the site of the federal capital.

He was concerned that employment of Kanakas in the sugar industry in northern Queensland posed‘a danger to a white Australia’. Nevertheless, he was realist enough to accept that the lucrative sugar industry depended on Kanaka labour, though he was reassured by the assumption that once white men adapted to working in the tropics Kanaka immigration would cease.

‘Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir Albert Gould’ maintained his interest in defence matters, arguing for the introduction of conscription as an essential responsibility of nationhood, and proclaiming that, when necessary, ‘a man’s life belongs to the State’. He was conscious of Australia’s ‘sparse population and enormous area’, and affirmed that Australia had only been able to maintain its policies and principles through ‘the mighty arm of Great Britain, who has made it clear to the world that a hostile demonstration made in the most remote part of her Empire would be viewed as a demonstration made against its heart’. Throughout his parliamentary career, Gould demonstrated respect and loyalty towards ‘the Mother Country’, proclaiming that in Britain ‘there are men much more experienced in the principles of government than we are’.[3]

On 20 February 1907, in recognition of his ‘ripe experience’ and  ‘characteristic fairness’, he was unanimously elected President of the Senate, succeeding Sir Richard Chaffey Baker. A member of the Senate standing orders committee since its appointment in 1901, and at times in conflict with Baker (who had defeated him for the presidency in 1904), Gould had been an active participant in the lengthy debates on the establishment of the Senate’s standing orders. In 1907, he showed his concern for parliamentary minutiae when he wrote to the Prime Minister, Alfred Deakin, regarding the procedure to be adopted when the Clerk of the Parliaments took leave and the Clerk of the House claimed the title. No doubt his experience in the New South Wales Parliament also stood him in good stead. In 1908, Gould was appointed a KB.

As President until 30 July 1910, Gould strove to elevate the dignity of the office. He was vigilant in ensuring that standing orders were observed—they were ‘not to be abused, but to be used’—and that proceedings were conducted in an orderly way. In 1901, he had supported the motion that standing orders be framed to ensure that proceedings of the Senate be opened with prayer, and frequently drew upon the standing orders of the British House of Commons. Gould’s contribution to the development of procedures and precedents can be found in the second volume of Presidents’ Rulings, a practice initiated by Baker. A particular concern was that senators should refrain from using unparliamentary language; also that speeches and answers to questions should be relevant to the subject under discussion.

Gould was concerned that the Senate should remain a States House, not subject to the machinations of party politics. He believed that senators should act according to conscience and showed some disdain for those who did not display ‘the manliness to stand up for the faith that is in them’. Notwithstanding such views, the party system was becoming stronger. With the election of the Fisher Labor Government in 1910, Gould, though nominated for the position of President, lost to Senator Turley by 9 votes to 22 on party lines.[4]

In 1917, Gould was the only sitting government supporter not to be endorsed for the forthcoming federal election in May. (The election followed the realignment of the Liberals with W. M. Hughes’ National Labour Party in 1916 and the subsequent formation of the Nationalists in January 1917.) Gould, though seriously offended, refused to split the Nationalist vote by standing as an Independent.

During his long retirement, Gould devoted himself to his many public interests. He had married Jeanette Jessie Maitland at St Paul’s Church of England, West Maitland, on 12 September 1872. The couple had six children. Gould died on 27 July 1936 at Rose Bay. His wife and one daughter predeceased him. Gould’s two sons, Clarence and Hubert, and three daughters, Mabel, Hilda and Gladys, survived him. He was buried at South Head Cemetery following a state funeral at St Andrew’s Cathedral. In the Senate condolence motion, Senator Lynch, as President, said that Gould had set a ‘high standard that will be difficult to equal’.[5]

Gillian Gould


[1] CPD, 10 December 1936, p. 17; A portrait of Gould by Wilkie Leslie is in the Parliament House art collection in Canberra; W. G. McMinn, ‘Gould, Sir Albert John’, ADB, vol. 9; A. P. Elkin, The Diocese of Newcastle, Australasian Medical Publishing Company, Sydney, 1955, pp. 410, 501-503, 555, 650-651; Table Talk (Melbourne), 18 April 1901, p. 17; Punch (Melbourne), 3 January 1907, p. 4, 5 September 1912, p. 380; Austral-Briton (Sydney),28 July 1917, p. 5; Daily Telegraph (Sydney),9 July 1894, p. 5; Deakin Papers, MS 1540, NLA.

[2] Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 4 May 1898, p. 4, 20 May 1898, p. 8; Bede Nairn, Civilising Capitalism: The Beginnings of the Australian Labour Party, MUP, Carlton, Vic., 1989, pp. 222-225; Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 18 December 1900, p. 5; CPD, 21 May 1901, pp. 48-60.

[3] CPD, 8 December 1908, pp. 2823-2826, 6 June 1901, p. 775, 12 June 1901, p. 898, 21 May 1901, p. 50, 21 November 1901, pp. 7585-7586, 3 October 1916, pp. 9202, 9204, 14 December 1916, pp. 9778, 9783.

[4] CPD,20 February 1907, p. 6, 2 March 1904, p. 6, 17 June 1903, pp. 976-977, 982, 988, 992, 999, 18 June 1903, pp. 1065-1071, 25 November 1910, p. 6825, 12 December 1905, p. 6650; Punch (Melbourne) 19 November 1908, p. 760; CPD, 14 June 1901, p. 1139, 21 May 1901, p. 35, 21 November 1912, p. 5784, 1 July 1910, p. 6; Rulings of the President of the Senate, Lt.-Col. Sir Albert Gould, from 1907 to 1909, vol. 2, Government Printer, Melbourne, c.1910.

[5] SMH, 6 April 1917, p. 8, 28 July 1936, p. 12, 29 July 1936, p. 10; CPD, 10 September 1936, pp. 5-6.


This biography was first published in The Biographical Dictionary of the Australian Senate, vol. 1, 1901-1929, Melbourne University Press, Carlton South, Vic., 2000, pp. 15-18.

GOULD, Sir Albert John (1847-1936)

National Library of Australia

Commonwealth Parliament

Senator, NSW, 1901–17

President of the Senate, 1907–10


New South Wales Parliament

Member of the Legislative Assembly, Patrick’s Plains, 1882–94; Singleton, 1894–98

Member of the Legislative Council, 1899–1901

Senate Committee Service

Standing Orders Committee, 1901–10, 1913–16

House Committee, 1907–13

Library Committee, 1907–14

Select Committee on the General Elections, 1913

Committee of Disputed Returns and Qualifications, 1913–17

Select Committee on Mr Teesdale Smith’s Contract—Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway, 1914