ID 0396

State Government of South Australia beginning 21 August 1857 - period in office of Premier Baker, John ending on 1 September 1857

Period in office of premier (see Glossary entry for 'period in office' and related terms)

Baker, John
Date of beginning of period in office
21 August 1857
Date of end of period in office
1 September 1857 
Reason for end of preceding period in office
Defeat in parliament 
Reason for end of this government
Defeat in parliament
Number of days in office

Parliamentary support during period

Party affiliation of premier at start of period
Support from parliamentary factions and independents
If coalition government
Coalition partner 1
Coalition partner 2
Coalition partner 3
Coalition partner 4
Party support in parliament at beginning of period
If change in parliamentary support during period
If further change during period

Number of ministers at beginning of period (this may vary during the period)

Total number of ministers
Number from party of premier
Number from coalition party 1
Number from coalition party 2
Number from upper house
Number who are women

Assembly elections contested as premier or after which became premier (see Glossary entry for 'after election')

This premier did not win office as the result of an election, and was not (or has not been) in office long enough to contest an election as premier ; see 'Period in office' table above.

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Defeat in parliament (Finniss): Beginning of Baker's period in office; On Finniss's resignation, George Waterhouse, a member of the Assembly, was approached to form a government, but declined to accept the office. Baker, a member of the Legislative Council, was then commissioned to form a government on 21 August 1857 and took the office of Chief Secretary (see Combe 2009, p.89 in 'Sources', below).

'On first meeting the [Legislative] Council as Premier, Baker declared that the sole policy of his ministry would be to settle the differences which had arisen between the two Houses as to their respective powers in relation to money bills.' Combe 2009, p.90 in 'Sources', below.

The South Australian Constitution Act 1855-56 specified in section 1 that only the House of Assembly can initiate any bill that appropriates government revenue or imposes any tax, duty or charge (money bill). The Act says nothing about the power of the Legislative Council to amend or refuse to pass such bills. This became a major source of disagreement when the Legislative Council sought to amend the Tonnage Duties Repeal Bill. The Assembly argued that the Council had no power to amend or refuse to pass a money bill while the Council argued that the only limit on the Council's power was its power to initiate such bills.

After discussion, a compromise was reached and set out in the 'Compact of 1857' (for context and details, see Combe 2009, pp 90-91). This amounted to an accommodation under which neither house yielded on its constitutional claims but a procedure was put in place for negotiations between the houses when this problem arose to achieve a settlement acceptable to both.

Defeat in parliament (Baker): 'Finniss considered that it was manifestly impossible for the Baker government, with its principal members in the Legislative Council could command a majority in the Assembly. The Liberal and Democratic Party were largely in the ascendant in the latter house and were highly resentful of the course taken in the Legislative Council by the Conservatives, headed by Baker. Baker's ministry fell following a vote of censure moved by [Robert] Torrens, Treasurer in Finniss's administration, and carried in the Assembly on 26 August. The Government were submerged by 24 votes to 7, ... The resignation of Baker's Ministry immediately followed this overwhelmingly adverse resolution in the Assembly.' Combe 2009, pp 90-91; for additional commentary on the vote of censure moved by Torrnes, note Howell, p.124 in 'References', below.

On the resignation of Baker, Torrens was commissioned to form a government on 1 September 1857.

References: For information on the structure of government set up in 1857, see 'Premier and ministry' in the notes to the First Ministry.

A detailed history of South Australia to 1857 can be found in Douglas Pike, Paradise of Dissent: South Australia 1829-1857, (London: Longmans Green and Co., 1957) and a survey of the introduction of responsible government in South Australia from 1836 to 1857 is provided in Combe 2009, pp 8-78 in 'Sources', below. The first Premier, Finniss produced his own history: B T Finniss, The Constitutional History of South Australia During Twenty One Years from the Foundation of the Settlement in 1836 to the Inauguration of Responsible Government in 1857, Adelaide: Rigby, 1886 (online through Trove here). [accessed 25 February 2020]

The question of the nature of politics and government in South Australia during the period up to 1890 is covered by P A Howell, 'Constitutional and Political Development, 1857-1890', ch.5, and Dean Jaensch, 'Parliament and Government', ch. 10, both chapters in Dean Jaensch (editor), The Flinders History of South Australia: Political History, (Netley, SA: Wakefield Press, 1986, ISBN 0949268518), and see Combe 2009 in 'Sources', below. While focused on a later period, useful background can also be found in the section on 'Representation' (pp 65-75) in J B Hirst, Adelaide and the Country 1870-1917: Their Social and Political Relationship, (Carlton, Vic.: Melbourne University Press, 1973, ISBN 0522840450).

For a survey of Baker's career, see 'Baker, John (1813-1872), Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1969), online here [accessed 2 February 2019].


Gordon D Combe, Responsible Government in South Australia, (Adelaide: Government Printer, 1957); reprinted [with changed pagination] as Gordon D Combe, Responsible Government in South Australia, Volume 1, From Foundations to Playford, (Kent Town, South Australia: Wakefield Press, 2009, ISBN 9781862548435); also available online through Google Books, here. Page references in the text above are to the 2009 edition.

Parliament of South Australia, Statistical Record of the Legislature 1836 - 2007, PDF format (2,136 KB).

'An Act to establish a Constitution for South Australia, and to grant a Civil List to Her Majesty', 1855-56, No. 2. online here, and a transcript of the Act here [accessed 21 September 2018].