MILLAR, John Andrew
Labour leader and politician.
A new biography of Millar, John Andrew appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.
J. A. Millar was born in Jullundur, India, in 1855, the son of a major-general in the Bengal Staff Corps. He was sent to New Zealand in 1870 to take up sheep farming but went to sea instead and rose to become a captain in the coastal trade. In 1887 he was appointed secretary of the Federated Seamen's Union. In 1889 Millar formed the powerful Maritime Council, combining seamen's, watersiders', miners', and railwaymen's unions. For a year he was the undisputed spokesman of New Zealand labour until the collapse of the council following the defeat of the maritime strike late in 1890.
Millar contested the Chalmers seat unsuccessfully in 1890. He entered Parliament in 1893 as a Liberal supporter, was appointed Chairman of Committees in 1903, and joined the Ward Cabinet in 1906 where he held the portfolios of Labour, Marine, Customs and, later, Railways. As Minister of Labour, Millar had to deal with the growing revolt against the Arbitration Act led by the “Red” Federation of Labour. He soon lost all trade union support and, from 1908 on, a Labour candidate opposed him at general elections. When Sir Joseph Ward resigned in March 1912, Millar had hopes of succeeding him as Premier, but was passed over by the Liberal caucus. In the no-confidence debate of July 1912, he crossed the floor of the House to vote for W. F. Massey who rewarded him with a seat in the Legislative Council. Millar died soon afterwards, in October 1915.
by Herbert Otto Roth, B.A., DIP.N.Z.L.S., Deputy Librarian, University of Auckland.
Auckland Star, 16 Oct 1915 (Obit).