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 James Henry Scullin

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James Henry Scullin Famous memorial

Birth
Trawalla, Pyrenees Shire, Victoria, Australia
Death
28 Jan 1953 (aged 76)
Melbourne, Melbourne City, Victoria, Australia
Burial
Carlton North, Melbourne City, Victoria, Australia
Plot
MGC-RC-Comp-NA-No-916
Memorial ID
7253162 View Source

Australian Prime Minister. He served as the Prime Minister of Australia from October 22, 1929 to January 6, 1932. He was born at Trawala, 41 kilometers west of Ballarat, Victoria. He was the first Roman Catholic Prime Minister, the first Labor Prime Minister to have been born in Australia, and the first Prime Minister with an Irish background. His parents came from County Londonderry, now in Northern Ireland. His father was a railway laborer, who emigrated to Australia, where his mother later joined him. James was the fourth of eight children in a devout Catholic family. He attended Trawala State School from 1881 until 1887, when the family moved to Mount Rowan, now part of the City of Ballarat. He attended Mount Rowan State School until twelve years of age. At about age fourteen he attended night school in Ballarat, where he often attended the public library and became an avid reader. He had various part-time manual jobs in the Ballarat area until his mid-twenties. Then he ran a Ballarat grocery for James McKay & Sons for ten years. He was active in the Catholic Young Men's Society, where he developed debating skills, which led to a long association with the famous Ballarat South Street Society competitions, where he was both a contestant and an adjudicator. In 1903, he joined the Political Labor Council and assisted with Labor campaigns in State elections. In 1906 he was the Labor candidate for Ballaarat in the Federal election, competing against the Prime Minister, Alfred Deakin, who won 66.2% of the vote. In 1907 he married Ballarat dressmaker Sarah Maria McNamara. They had no children. Despite being a non-drinker and non-smoker all his life, he had frequent and often serious bouts of illness. Sarah was a crucial care-giver for him, providing care and support, especially in his final years. Sarah was frequently required to assist, or stand in for him, at social occasions when his illness prevented him from attending personally. Sarah was also a member of the Labor Party, and was always well-informed on politics. Unusually for the times, she would often attend parliamentary sessions, listening to the political debates. In 1910, he won his first election as the Labor candidate for the Federal seat of Corangamite, securing 54.7% of the vote and defeating Liberal member Gratton Wilson, who had been elected as a Free Trade Member in 1903. In 1910, Andrew Fisher's Labor Party became the first Party to win a majority in both houses of Federal Parliament. In 1913 he lost Corangamite to Liberal candidate Chester Manifold, who won 52.2% of the vote. From 1913 until 1922 Scullin was the editor of a Labor daily, the Ballarat Evening Echo. In 1916-1917 he was a leading opponent of conscription for overseas military service, and at a special interstate Labor conference in Melbourne in December 1916, he moved a motion to confirm the expulsion from the Party of all those who had supported conscription for overseas military service. He was President of the Victorian Branch of the Labor Party [1918-19]. A by-election for Corangamite was held in December 1918, following the death of Nationalist MP Chester Manifold. Victorian Farmers defeated the Nationalist Party, with Scullin winning 43.7% of the vote on a two-party-preferred basis. He had become more radical by 1918, especially in his assessments of the Great War and in his support for the Irish struggle against the British for Irish home rule. He was elected as Federal Member for Yarra, following the death of Labor Member Frank Tudor, at a by-election in February 1922, where he won 78.1% of the vote on a two-party preferred basis and he held Yarra until 1949. His win in Yarra necessitated a relocation of his home from Ballarat to Richmond. He was immediately plunged into controversies over the industrial legislation of the Bruce-Page Government, and its changes to Federal-State financial relations. He became an authority on taxation law, and voiced his concerns about the deteriorating state of the Australian economy. He had mellowed after his firebrand pro-Irish, pro-socialist early post-war years. As a devout Catholic, he was heavily influenced on social issues by Pope Leo XIII's "Rerum Novarum," an encyclical that addressed the condition of the working classes, the relationships between, and mutual duties of labor and capital and the amelioration of "the misery and wretchedness pressing so unjustly on the majority of the working class." He was a supporter of the White Australia Policy and for high levels of protection for manufacturing industries. In March 1927, he became Deputy Leader of the Labor Party, then led by Matthew Charlton, and Deputy Leader of the Opposition. When Charlton resigned in March 1928, Scullin became Leader of the Opposition. From 1927, he made a remarkable series of speeches attacking the Government's economic policies. He stressed the dangers of Australia's adverse trade balance and growing external debt, and alone amongst parliamentarians, gave an essentially accurate economic forecast for the coming years. Labor politics at this time were dominated by New South Wales Premier Jack Lang, who was Premier from June 1925 until October 1927, and then from November 1930 until he was dismissed by Governor Philip Game on May 13, 1932. Scullin had already clashed with Lang and had inherited the difficult task of trying to restore unity between the hostile factions within the New South Wales Branch. Despite internecine rivalries and strikes, Scullin gained eight seats in the 1928 Federal election. In 1929, with increasing economic difficulties and increased industrial disputation, Prime Minister Bruce made the extraordinarily ill-advised decision to dismantle the Federal arbitration system. This precipitated an early Federal election, which resulted in a sweeping Labor victory, winning 46 out of the 75 seats in the House of Representatives. At the moment Scullin became Prime Minister, the New York Stock Exchange crashed, which attracted little interest in Australia, but Scullin's predictions as to the state of the Australian economy were materializing, with the economy encumbered with debt, growing unemployment and slumping export prices. At a time when credit expansion was vital, orthodox views on credit expansion prevented it. The Government's legislative power to insist on credit expansion was limited by the fact that the National Party and Country Party opposition coalition controlled the Senate. A lockout of coal miners in northern New South Wales was in progress when Scullin took office as Prime Minister. His Deputy, Treasurer Ted Theodore, had unwisely made an election promise to have the mines quickly re-opened, paying the wage rates stipulated by the coal miners. When the miners were forced back to work on the employers' terms, Scullin was criticized. The economy continued to deteriorate and expenditure using loan funds was cut by half in 1930, thus accentuating the fall in business activity. Difficulties in redeeming the overseas short-term debt caused Scullin to agree to a mission led by Sir Otto Niemeyer from the Bank of England to examine Australia's public finances. On July 9, 1930, Theodore resigned as Treasurer following the release of a Queensland Royal Commission report that found that, as Queensland Premier in 1922, he had profited through the purchase by the Government of mines at Mungana. Scullin assumed the additional role as Treasurer from July 9, 1930 until January 28, 1931, when Theodore resumed the Treasurership. Scullin delivered his first budget on July 9, 1930, hours after Theodore's resignation. The budget increased income tax and postal charges and introduced sales tax, with a proposed increase in expenditure compared with 1929-1930, and it claimed that the budget would be in balance. At a special Premiers' conference in Melbourne, Niemeyer put forward a solution to the economic crisis, essentially proposing reduced wages and reduced government expenditure, and reduced social outlays. In what was known as the "Melbourne Agreement," the Premiers agreed to balanced budgets, and Scullin endorsed this proposal, despite opposition from Labor leaders in Sydney. Unemployment rose to over 20% by September 1930 and argument ensued between supporters of the Niemeyer approach and those who wished to expand credit to finance public works programs to provide jobs for the unemployed. Controversially, Scullin decided at this time to renew the term of Sir Robert Gibson, Chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board, who had been steadfastly refusing to extend credit to the Scullin Government! Scullin also decided to attend the Imperial Conference in London. While he was absent (August 25, 1930 to January 6, 1931) he secured the appointment, but not without King George V's express disapproval, of Sir Isaac Isaacs as Australia's first Australian born Governor General. He also claimed to have secured British Government agreement for a more favorable tariff position for Australia, and agreement by Britain to reduce the Australian Government's interest bill. On October 25, 1930, Lang, who had repudiated the Melbourne Agreement, won the New South Wales State election. The absent Scullin supported his acting Prime Minister James Fenton and acting Treasurer Joe Lyons, but expenditure cuts of only 1.3 million pounds were implemented, compared with cuts of 4 million pounds planned by Lyons. On January 6, 1931, Scullin persuaded caucus to re-instate Theodore as Treasurer. Hardly surprisingly, Fenton and Lyons, both offended, resigned from cabinet, and then joined Labor's opponents in the newly created United Australia Party. In February 1931, another special Premiers' conference resulted in total disagreement between Scullin and Lang over a Depression Policy. Scullin supported Theodore's plan, which relied on substantial credit from the Commonwealth Bank. Lang urged repudiation of overseas interest payments, and reduction of interest to 3% on government borrowings in Australia. By now, a splinter group of Lang followers held the balance of power in the House of Representatives. Gibson then refused any more Commonwealth Bank credit unless Scullin agreed to reduce pensions, which Scullin refused to do. Scullin then approved a note issue of 18 million pounds, requiring special legislation. On March 27, 1931, a federal conference of the Labor Party expelled Lang's New South Wales Branch. Days later, Lang defaulted on payment of interest due from New South Wales to Westminster Bank. When Scullin paid the interest, and then took steps to recover the money from New South Wales, the Commonwealth Bank then had to negotiate a merger with the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales, to stem a run on its deposits. On April 17, 1931, the Senate rejected the fiduciary notes bill and the problem of meeting overseas short-term debt interest reached crisis point. Scullin attempted to ship gold to London to pay interest, but again the Senate rejected the necessary bill. Scullin was faced with defaulting, which he had vowed never to do, or coming to terms with the Opposition and accepting further expenditure cuts. A further Premiers' conference in May-June 1931 agreed to restructure Australia's public finances. Lang agreed to this latest plan, as did the Federal Opposition, which enabled the Senate to pass legislation authorizing the shipping of gold. The plan bought Scullin some months of relative calm, an internal conversion loan was successful and interest rates began to fall. Governments began to reduce their deficits and wheat and wool prices rallied briefly. In November 1931, Lang chose to remove the Scullin Government, and various aggrieved Labor factions combined with the United Australia Party to achieve this result. After a disastrous Federal election on December 19, 1931, Scullin's party won only fourteen seats. Lyons succeeded Scullin as Prime Minister on January 6, 1932. Scullin had always known that a borrower nation could not afford to repudiate debt obligations, but he also opposed cuts in social welfare and wages. These twin aims had become incompatible, because the London creditors refused to extend further credit unless Scullin made the necessary cuts to achieve a balanced budget, and because the Senate had blocked his gold-shipping alternative. The Premiers' plan was politically inevitable. J.M. Keynes observed that it "saved the economic structure of Australia." It was overwhelmingly endorsed by voters in the 1931 Federal election. Scullin suffered a further crushing defeat as Opposition Leader in 1934. On October 1, 1935 he resigned the Labor leadership and was succeeded by John Curtin. He remained in Parliament until 1949, acing as something of an eminence grise, and occupying an office between those of his successors, Curtin and Ben Chifley. Early in 1942 he was one of the three member Commonwealth committee on uniform taxation. Following this committee's report, widely differing State taxes on income were replaced by a uniform Federal tax. Although ill, he attended a caucus meeting on December 9, 1942 to help defeat a move by future Opposition Leader Arthur Calwell to overturn the government's conscription plan. His consistent ill-health continued to return in bouts and his health declined significantly in 1947. In June 1947 he announced that he would retire at the 1949 election.

Australian Prime Minister. He served as the Prime Minister of Australia from October 22, 1929 to January 6, 1932. He was born at Trawala, 41 kilometers west of Ballarat, Victoria. He was the first Roman Catholic Prime Minister, the first Labor Prime Minister to have been born in Australia, and the first Prime Minister with an Irish background. His parents came from County Londonderry, now in Northern Ireland. His father was a railway laborer, who emigrated to Australia, where his mother later joined him. James was the fourth of eight children in a devout Catholic family. He attended Trawala State School from 1881 until 1887, when the family moved to Mount Rowan, now part of the City of Ballarat. He attended Mount Rowan State School until twelve years of age. At about age fourteen he attended night school in Ballarat, where he often attended the public library and became an avid reader. He had various part-time manual jobs in the Ballarat area until his mid-twenties. Then he ran a Ballarat grocery for James McKay & Sons for ten years. He was active in the Catholic Young Men's Society, where he developed debating skills, which led to a long association with the famous Ballarat South Street Society competitions, where he was both a contestant and an adjudicator. In 1903, he joined the Political Labor Council and assisted with Labor campaigns in State elections. In 1906 he was the Labor candidate for Ballaarat in the Federal election, competing against the Prime Minister, Alfred Deakin, who won 66.2% of the vote. In 1907 he married Ballarat dressmaker Sarah Maria McNamara. They had no children. Despite being a non-drinker and non-smoker all his life, he had frequent and often serious bouts of illness. Sarah was a crucial care-giver for him, providing care and support, especially in his final years. Sarah was frequently required to assist, or stand in for him, at social occasions when his illness prevented him from attending personally. Sarah was also a member of the Labor Party, and was always well-informed on politics. Unusually for the times, she would often attend parliamentary sessions, listening to the political debates. In 1910, he won his first election as the Labor candidate for the Federal seat of Corangamite, securing 54.7% of the vote and defeating Liberal member Gratton Wilson, who had been elected as a Free Trade Member in 1903. In 1910, Andrew Fisher's Labor Party became the first Party to win a majority in both houses of Federal Parliament. In 1913 he lost Corangamite to Liberal candidate Chester Manifold, who won 52.2% of the vote. From 1913 until 1922 Scullin was the editor of a Labor daily, the Ballarat Evening Echo. In 1916-1917 he was a leading opponent of conscription for overseas military service, and at a special interstate Labor conference in Melbourne in December 1916, he moved a motion to confirm the expulsion from the Party of all those who had supported conscription for overseas military service. He was President of the Victorian Branch of the Labor Party [1918-19]. A by-election for Corangamite was held in December 1918, following the death of Nationalist MP Chester Manifold. Victorian Farmers defeated the Nationalist Party, with Scullin winning 43.7% of the vote on a two-party-preferred basis. He had become more radical by 1918, especially in his assessments of the Great War and in his support for the Irish struggle against the British for Irish home rule. He was elected as Federal Member for Yarra, following the death of Labor Member Frank Tudor, at a by-election in February 1922, where he won 78.1% of the vote on a two-party preferred basis and he held Yarra until 1949. His win in Yarra necessitated a relocation of his home from Ballarat to Richmond. He was immediately plunged into controversies over the industrial legislation of the Bruce-Page Government, and its changes to Federal-State financial relations. He became an authority on taxation law, and voiced his concerns about the deteriorating state of the Australian economy. He had mellowed after his firebrand pro-Irish, pro-socialist early post-war years. As a devout Catholic, he was heavily influenced on social issues by Pope Leo XIII's "Rerum Novarum," an encyclical that addressed the condition of the working classes, the relationships between, and mutual duties of labor and capital and the amelioration of "the misery and wretchedness pressing so unjustly on the majority of the working class." He was a supporter of the White Australia Policy and for high levels of protection for manufacturing industries. In March 1927, he became Deputy Leader of the Labor Party, then led by Matthew Charlton, and Deputy Leader of the Opposition. When Charlton resigned in March 1928, Scullin became Leader of the Opposition. From 1927, he made a remarkable series of speeches attacking the Government's economic policies. He stressed the dangers of Australia's adverse trade balance and growing external debt, and alone amongst parliamentarians, gave an essentially accurate economic forecast for the coming years. Labor politics at this time were dominated by New South Wales Premier Jack Lang, who was Premier from June 1925 until October 1927, and then from November 1930 until he was dismissed by Governor Philip Game on May 13, 1932. Scullin had already clashed with Lang and had inherited the difficult task of trying to restore unity between the hostile factions within the New South Wales Branch. Despite internecine rivalries and strikes, Scullin gained eight seats in the 1928 Federal election. In 1929, with increasing economic difficulties and increased industrial disputation, Prime Minister Bruce made the extraordinarily ill-advised decision to dismantle the Federal arbitration system. This precipitated an early Federal election, which resulted in a sweeping Labor victory, winning 46 out of the 75 seats in the House of Representatives. At the moment Scullin became Prime Minister, the New York Stock Exchange crashed, which attracted little interest in Australia, but Scullin's predictions as to the state of the Australian economy were materializing, with the economy encumbered with debt, growing unemployment and slumping export prices. At a time when credit expansion was vital, orthodox views on credit expansion prevented it. The Government's legislative power to insist on credit expansion was limited by the fact that the National Party and Country Party opposition coalition controlled the Senate. A lockout of coal miners in northern New South Wales was in progress when Scullin took office as Prime Minister. His Deputy, Treasurer Ted Theodore, had unwisely made an election promise to have the mines quickly re-opened, paying the wage rates stipulated by the coal miners. When the miners were forced back to work on the employers' terms, Scullin was criticized. The economy continued to deteriorate and expenditure using loan funds was cut by half in 1930, thus accentuating the fall in business activity. Difficulties in redeeming the overseas short-term debt caused Scullin to agree to a mission led by Sir Otto Niemeyer from the Bank of England to examine Australia's public finances. On July 9, 1930, Theodore resigned as Treasurer following the release of a Queensland Royal Commission report that found that, as Queensland Premier in 1922, he had profited through the purchase by the Government of mines at Mungana. Scullin assumed the additional role as Treasurer from July 9, 1930 until January 28, 1931, when Theodore resumed the Treasurership. Scullin delivered his first budget on July 9, 1930, hours after Theodore's resignation. The budget increased income tax and postal charges and introduced sales tax, with a proposed increase in expenditure compared with 1929-1930, and it claimed that the budget would be in balance. At a special Premiers' conference in Melbourne, Niemeyer put forward a solution to the economic crisis, essentially proposing reduced wages and reduced government expenditure, and reduced social outlays. In what was known as the "Melbourne Agreement," the Premiers agreed to balanced budgets, and Scullin endorsed this proposal, despite opposition from Labor leaders in Sydney. Unemployment rose to over 20% by September 1930 and argument ensued between supporters of the Niemeyer approach and those who wished to expand credit to finance public works programs to provide jobs for the unemployed. Controversially, Scullin decided at this time to renew the term of Sir Robert Gibson, Chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board, who had been steadfastly refusing to extend credit to the Scullin Government! Scullin also decided to attend the Imperial Conference in London. While he was absent (August 25, 1930 to January 6, 1931) he secured the appointment, but not without King George V's express disapproval, of Sir Isaac Isaacs as Australia's first Australian born Governor General. He also claimed to have secured British Government agreement for a more favorable tariff position for Australia, and agreement by Britain to reduce the Australian Government's interest bill. On October 25, 1930, Lang, who had repudiated the Melbourne Agreement, won the New South Wales State election. The absent Scullin supported his acting Prime Minister James Fenton and acting Treasurer Joe Lyons, but expenditure cuts of only 1.3 million pounds were implemented, compared with cuts of 4 million pounds planned by Lyons. On January 6, 1931, Scullin persuaded caucus to re-instate Theodore as Treasurer. Hardly surprisingly, Fenton and Lyons, both offended, resigned from cabinet, and then joined Labor's opponents in the newly created United Australia Party. In February 1931, another special Premiers' conference resulted in total disagreement between Scullin and Lang over a Depression Policy. Scullin supported Theodore's plan, which relied on substantial credit from the Commonwealth Bank. Lang urged repudiation of overseas interest payments, and reduction of interest to 3% on government borrowings in Australia. By now, a splinter group of Lang followers held the balance of power in the House of Representatives. Gibson then refused any more Commonwealth Bank credit unless Scullin agreed to reduce pensions, which Scullin refused to do. Scullin then approved a note issue of 18 million pounds, requiring special legislation. On March 27, 1931, a federal conference of the Labor Party expelled Lang's New South Wales Branch. Days later, Lang defaulted on payment of interest due from New South Wales to Westminster Bank. When Scullin paid the interest, and then took steps to recover the money from New South Wales, the Commonwealth Bank then had to negotiate a merger with the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales, to stem a run on its deposits. On April 17, 1931, the Senate rejected the fiduciary notes bill and the problem of meeting overseas short-term debt interest reached crisis point. Scullin attempted to ship gold to London to pay interest, but again the Senate rejected the necessary bill. Scullin was faced with defaulting, which he had vowed never to do, or coming to terms with the Opposition and accepting further expenditure cuts. A further Premiers' conference in May-June 1931 agreed to restructure Australia's public finances. Lang agreed to this latest plan, as did the Federal Opposition, which enabled the Senate to pass legislation authorizing the shipping of gold. The plan bought Scullin some months of relative calm, an internal conversion loan was successful and interest rates began to fall. Governments began to reduce their deficits and wheat and wool prices rallied briefly. In November 1931, Lang chose to remove the Scullin Government, and various aggrieved Labor factions combined with the United Australia Party to achieve this result. After a disastrous Federal election on December 19, 1931, Scullin's party won only fourteen seats. Lyons succeeded Scullin as Prime Minister on January 6, 1932. Scullin had always known that a borrower nation could not afford to repudiate debt obligations, but he also opposed cuts in social welfare and wages. These twin aims had become incompatible, because the London creditors refused to extend further credit unless Scullin made the necessary cuts to achieve a balanced budget, and because the Senate had blocked his gold-shipping alternative. The Premiers' plan was politically inevitable. J.M. Keynes observed that it "saved the economic structure of Australia." It was overwhelmingly endorsed by voters in the 1931 Federal election. Scullin suffered a further crushing defeat as Opposition Leader in 1934. On October 1, 1935 he resigned the Labor leadership and was succeeded by John Curtin. He remained in Parliament until 1949, acing as something of an eminence grise, and occupying an office between those of his successors, Curtin and Ben Chifley. Early in 1942 he was one of the three member Commonwealth committee on uniform taxation. Following this committee's report, widely differing State taxes on income were replaced by a uniform Federal tax. Although ill, he attended a caucus meeting on December 9, 1942 to help defeat a move by future Opposition Leader Arthur Calwell to overturn the government's conscription plan. His consistent ill-health continued to return in bouts and his health declined significantly in 1947. In June 1947 he announced that he would retire at the 1949 election.

Bio by: James Nicol


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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 10 Mar 2003
  • Find a Grave Memorial ID: 7253162
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/7253162/james-henry-scullin: accessed ), memorial page for James Henry Scullin (18 Sep 1876–28 Jan 1953), Find a Grave Memorial ID 7253162, citing Melbourne General Cemetery, Carlton North, Melbourne City, Victoria, Australia; Maintained by Find a Grave .