Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Kingston, Charles Cameron

KINGSTON, CHARLES CAMERON (1850–1908), Australian statesman, born at Adelaide, South Australia, on 22 Oct. 1850, was the younger son of Sir George Strickland Kingston, who accompanied Colonel Light, the first surveyor-general of the colony, to South Australia in 1850, and was elected in April 1857 first speaker of the House of Assembly, holding the office in all for eighteen years; he was knighted by patent on 30 April 1870, and died on 26 Nov. 1881. Kingston's mother, his father's second wife, Ludovina Rosa Catherine da Silva Cameron, was of Portuguese descent on her mother's side; her father, Lieut.-colonel Charles Cameron of the 3rd regiment (the Buffs), served with distinction in the American and Peninsular wars.

After education at the Adelaide Educational Institution, Kingston was early in 1868 articled to the law in the office of Mr. (now Chief Justice Sir Samuel James) Way, and was admitted to the colonial bar in 1873, remaining with Mr. Way till the latter was appointed chief justice in 1876. Kingston then, commenced practice as a barrister and solicitor on his own account. He quickly acquired a leading practice, and was very successful in the criminal courts. In 1889 he was made Q.C. He was first returned to the house of representatives of South Austraha on 8 April 1881, as member for West Adelaide, which he continued to represent until 7 Feb. 1900. Entering parliament as a liberal, he soon developed into an advanced radical, identifying himself closely with social reform in the interest of the working classes, and helping to secure the franchise for women, factory legislation, and the establishment of a state bank.

He first held office as attorney-general in the second ministry (16 June 1884–16 June 1885) of (Sir) John Colton [q. v. Suppl. II] and he held the same office in Mr. Thomas Playford's first ministry (11 June 1887-27 June 1889). On the fall of Playford's government he became a prominent member in opposition to the Cockburn ministry. On 16 Jan. 1892 he joined the second Playford administration as chief secretary, and acted as premier during Playford's absence in India from January to May 1892. On 16 June 1893, on the appointment of Playford as agent-general in London, he became premier and attorney-general, and his government remained in power until 1 Dec. 1899, a notable fact in the history of the colony; no former ministry had held office for more than three years.

Kingston had few equals in Australia as a parliamentary draftsman. While a member of the Colton government he drafted the bill for the imposition of land and income taxes. He also prepared and carried the employers' liability bill and a measure to amend the laws of inheritance. Whilst a member of the Playford government he rendered valuable assistance in securing the adoption of a protective tariff and the payment of members. He was a strong opponent of Chinese immigration, and way one of the representatives of his colony in June 1888 at the Australasian conference hold in Sydney on the subject. The measure which he framed for regulating the immigration was adopted by all the colonies represented at the conference with the exception of Tasmania.

His name is intimately associated with the federation of Australia. In 1888, as attorney-general in the Playford government, he took charge of the bill for securing the entry of South Australia into the federal council, and after a severe struggle succeeded in passing it. He was one of the representatives of the colony at the session of the council held at Hobart in February 1889. He was a member of the federal convention held at Sydney in 1891, and assisted Sir Samuel Griffith in preparing the original Commonwealth bill. Acting with Sir George Turner, he also drafted the federal enabling bill, which was adopted at the conference of Australian premiers at Hobart in 1895, and when the second federal convention assembled at Adelaide in March 1897, Kingston was elected president and presided also over the adjourned meetings at Sydney and Melbourne in 1897-8. He was a member of the premiers' conference at Melbourne in 1899, which finally settled the federal constitution bill which was ultimately approved by the referendum.

In 1897 he represented South Australia at Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee celebrations in London, and as president of the federal convention he presented a loyal address. He was made an honorary D.C.L. of Oxford on 30 June and was sworn a member of the privy council on 7 July 1897. He visited England again in May 1900, when he resigned his seat in the House of Representatives. He then accompanied (Sir) Edmund Barton and Mr. Deakin to London to assist in the passing of the commonwealth constitution bill through the imperial parliament.

On his return to Australia he was elected (22 Sept. 1900) to the legislative council of South Australia. He resigned on 31 Dec., and at the first federal elections in March 1901 South Australia returned him at the head of the poll to the commonwealth House of Representatives.

When the first commonwealth administration was formed by Sir Edmund Barton on 1 Jan. 1901 Kingston became minister of trade and customs, and introduced customs tariff bill, impeding high duties which aroused vehement discussion. He fought it successfully through parliament, and when it became law administered it with unprecedented severity. He resigned his position in the ministry on 7 July 1903 owing to differences of opinion with his colleagues over the conciliation and arbitration bill, in which he was more in harmony with the labour party than with other members of the cabinet.

Re-elected without a contest to the commonwealth parliament for the district of Adelaide at the general elections of 1903 and 1906, he took little further part in public affairs. He died at Adelaide on 11 May 1908, and was buried in West Terrace cemetery in that city.

Kingston married in 1873 Lucy May, daughter of Lawrence McCarthy of Adelaide, but there was no issue. He had adopted a son who pre-deceased him.

[Turner's First Decade of the Australian Commonwealth, 1911; The Times, 12 May 1908; Adelaide Chronicle and Adelaide Observer, 16 May 1908; Johns's Notable Australians, 1908; Year Book of Australia, 1908; Dod's Peerage, 1908; Hodder's History of South Australia, 2 vols. 1893; Mennell's Dict. of Australas. Biog. 1892; Colonial Office Records.]

C. A.