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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Craigie, Edward John (1871–1966)

by Suzanne Edgar

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

Edward John Craigie (1871-1966), single taxer and politician, was born on 5 December 1871 at Moonta, South Australia, son of Scottish parents Henry Cameron Craigie, miner, and his wife Jane, née Moyle. At 11 he left the local public school and worked in Adelaide for a baker and at Kithers', butchers. He became a rationalist and was interested in socialism. In 1900 he was converted to the single-tax theories of Henry George. In 1904 he returned to Moonta, joined the United Labor Party and wrote on political topics for the Plain Dealer (Kadina) and the People's Weekly (Moonta). Like George he favoured a zealous evangelical style. In 1905-11 he sat on the Moonta Corporation, then went back to Adelaide to become secretary of the Single Tax League (later Henry George League) of South Australia. On 2 February 1912 at Mile End he married Beatrice Maud Sedgman, a shop assistant.

Craigie's career as a prolific pamphleteer probably began with his 1914 booklet, Fallacies of Protection. Australian Georgians saw his output as 'an invaluable armoury of dialectical weapons'. He organized State-wide meetings, including soap-box harangues in Botanic Park; he campaigned against conscription for World War I. Bespectacled, he 'seemed a small, mild and rather insignificant man', but he argued clearly in a 'dry, matter of fact, unhurried style'. From 1921 he edited the League newspaper, the People's Advocate. In 1929 in Edinburgh at the fourth international conference to promote land value taxation and free trade, Craigie presented two papers. At the 1939 New York conference, celebrating the centenary of George's birth, he became president of the international union of single taxers.

A non-Labor parliamentary candidate from 1910, in 1930-41 Craigie held the seat of Flinders in the House of Assembly as an independent. He opposed income tax, stamp duties, probate and motor taxes and insisted that the correct and only source of revenue should be 'the rental value of land brought into existence by the collective presence and energy of the people'. In some campaigns he had been stoned and pushed off the platform by Labor Party supporters. After the 1938 elections Tom Stott asked him to join in a government of independents, but Craigie 'preferred to stand alone'.

In 1948 Craigie retired as League secretary but remained a trustee of the Henry George Foundation (Aust). In 1954 he visited Britain. A 'health fanatic', his lifelong devotion to 'the cause' had meant that he was hardly a family man, but his son Tom worked for years as his secretary. Predeceased by his wife and survived by three sons, Craigie died on 17 January 1966 at his Rose Park home. He had prudently invested in stocks and shares, and his estate was sworn for probate at $58,440.

Select Bibliography

  • Progress (Melbourne), Feb 1966
  • Good Government (Sydney), Mar 1966
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 24 Mar 1938, 25 Apr 1944, 18 Jan 1966
  • Peoples' Advocate (Adelaide), 21 Aug 1948
  • private information.

Citation details

Suzanne Edgar, 'Craigie, Edward John (1871–1966)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 22 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

View the front pages for Volume 8

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