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Byrnes's early death was caused by sudden physical illness: measles followed by pneumonia.

Image title:
Thomas Byrnes

State Library of Queensland

Image ID:
neg. no. 194401

Thomas Byrnes (1860–1898)

Premier of Queensland, and an anti-federalist

Byrnes came from a poor family and when he was seven his father died. He won scholarships to study at Brisbane Grammar School and the University of Melbourne. He became a lawyer in Brisbane.

He entered politics in the 1890s, when the two parties led by Thomas McIlwraith and Samuel Griffith had combined to oppose the new Labor Party. He soon became a minister in this coalition government. It was very suspicious of Federation, fearing that a united Australia would be too democratic and stop Pacific Islanders working in Queensland's many sugar plantations.

In 1897 the government sent Byrnes to a meeting of the Federal Council. He was to put up a scheme that the members of the Federal Council should be elected. The council would gradually increase its powers and a federal government would be unnecessary. Alfred Deakin was the chief speaker against this scheme and it was not adopted.

After a series of scandals, Byrnes became premier in 1898, though he was the youngest of all the ministers. He was not as conservative as the others, and much was hoped of him. However, he died after five months in the job.