Tuesday 15 November 2016
Hansard of the Legislative Council

Commercial Travellers Association of Tasmania


Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Mr President, the travelling salesman with his leather case of samples is long gone.  The travelling salesman is dead, and the Launceston base of the Commercial Travellers Association of Tasmania clubhouse has long been closed.  Its site at 78 Charles Street is now occupied by Target.  Its facade of brick and carved sandstone, a magnificent building, has been replaced by red brick and glass.  It is no match for the beauty and style of early Launceston, but the club's assets are still working for the community.

The CTA was incorporated in 1901 to look after the interests of travelling members, who plied their goods to all parts of Tasmania.  Sometimes they would only have a chance to spend weekends with their families before setting out again for the next working week.

Ms Rattray - Not unlike some members of parliament.

Mr FINCH - Yes, it sounds very similar, doesn't it? 

As membership of the CTA grew, the association established high standards in both transport and accommodation.  They had their own certification as CTA approved.  That was to indicate a certain standard of accommodation.  They also had inspectors who would look at the hotels and lobby for better rates on rail services for members, and also for the general public, to have that service available to them at a good standard.

Those clubhouses in Launceston and Hobart were built to offer members the places of comfort while they were away on the road.  Generally they had a brief that meant they had to travel right around the state.  Clubhouse facilities included bars, snooker tables, reading and writing rooms, card rooms and meals.  The Launceston clubhouse also offered accommodation, it had a 20-room motel called the Archway Motel. 

If we look back at the history, the CTA's peak membership would have been in the 1950s.  It started to decline when television drew members away and also businesses found different methods of distributing their goods around Tasmania.  If the travelling salesman was not already dead, the advent of the internet would have been the last nail in his coffin. 

When I first came to Launceston in 1974, it was very welcoming.  I became a member of the CTA club.  It was a very welcoming place to socialise, to meet people, particularly people who are involved in marketing and in sales.  I met many of Launceston's current successful businesspeople at the CTA club.  Also, my eldest son's godfather was vice-president at that stage of the CTA club.  It was a great social gathering place and welcoming place in Launceston.

I might point out the foundation stone of the Launceston clubhouse was laid in 1910 and has just been put back in place with a lovely brass plaque with a brief history and an engraving of that magnificent original facade of the building.  All that is long gone but when the club was wound up last year, its assets of some $570 000 were marked for distribution to selected charities and other Tasmanian organisations.

The two biggest beneficiaries were the St Giles Society, which helps child development and disability services, and the Royal Flying Doctor Service.  Each received $150 000.  Numerous other causes received funds, including the New Horizons Club, which is the sporting club for people with disabilities, Launceston Legacy, the Cancer Council, Diabetes Tasmania, the RSPCA and the City Mission in both Hobart and Launceston.  Travelling salesmen may no longer be on the road but their legacy continues with a proportion of the CTA membership payments over their 100 years still working for their community.

With the generosity of those members who are still involved with the CTA club - and I was a former board member of the CTA club and very proud to be - others have kept on going and are looking to make this contribution of the funds back to the community.  Alan Beecroft is the leader and he has donated this book which tells the story of the Commercial Travellers Association of Tasmania - I spoke about this many years ago - called Knights of the Road. That book has just been donated to the Parliamentary Library for people to read about the history that has now long gone in Tasmania.