Jack Beasley

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The Right Honourable
Jack Beasley
Jack Beasley.jpg
Member of the Australian Parliament
for West Sydney
In office
17 November 1928 – 14 August 1946
Preceded by William Lambert
Succeeded by William O'Connor
Personal details
Born (1895-11-09)9 November 1895
Werribee, Victoria
Died 2 September 1949(1949-09-02) (aged 53)
Darlinghurst, New South Wales
Resting place Frenchs Forest Bushland Cemetery
Political party Labor (1928–31)
Lang Labor (1931–36)
Labor (1936–40)
Lang Labor (1940–41)
Labor (1941–46)
Occupation Unionist

John Albert "Jack" Beasley (9 November 1895 – 2 September 1949) was an Australian politician.[1]

Early life[edit]

Beasley was born in Werribee, Victoria, but moved to Sydney with his family as a child.[citation needed] He had a primary education in Catholic schools then became an apprentice electrician. He worked as an electrician for the Sydney City Council, and became President of the Electrical Trades Union (ETU). From 1922 to 1928 he was President of the Trades and Labour Council of New South Wales (now Unions NSW). At this time he was under the influence of Jock Garden and was briefly a member of the Communist Party of Australia,[citation needed] but he soon left and became an influential member of the Australian Labor Party.[2]

Political career[edit]

In 1928 Beasley was elected for the safe Labor seat of West Sydney. When Labor under Jim Scullin won the 1929 federal election, he became an Honorary Minister (minister without portfolio), but he resigned this position in 1931 in protest at the Scullin government's policies in response to the Great Depression. He became the leading lieutenant of the radical Premier of New South Wales, Jack Lang, and when Lang decided to break with the federal ALP Beasley resigned from the ALP Caucus and became leader of the Lang Labor party in federal Parliament. In December 1931 he led his group across the floor of the House and brought down the Scullin Government on a vote of confidence. This earned him the nickname "Stabber Jack" for the rest of his life.

From 1932 to 1936 Beasley led the Lang group in opposition to both the United Australia Party government of Joseph Lyons and Federal Labor. In 1935 Scullin retired and in early 1936 the new federal leader, John Curtin, brought about a reunification of the NSW and Federal parties, and Beasley joined the Opposition front bench. But in 1940 Lang again broke off relations with the federal party, although by this time he was no longer Premier and no longer had the support of the NSW Branch as a whole. Nevertheless, Beasley again supported Lang and became leader of the so-called Non-Communist Labor Party in federal Parliament.

Lang Labor MPs in 1935 including Beasley

In 1941 Curtin again brought Lang's followers (although not Lang himself) back into the Labor Party. When Curtin became Prime Minister in October 1941, he made Beasley Minister for Supply and Development (later Minister for Supply and Shipping), a vital portfolio in wartime. Beasley proved to be a highly competent minister and played a leading role in co-ordinating Australia's wartime economy and supporting the Allied forces in the Pacific Theatre. Due to ill health he exchanged positions with William Ashley in February 1945 to take the undemanding Vice-President of the Executive Council.[2]

When Curtin died in July 1945, his successor Ben Chifley made Beasley Minister for Defence, but Chifley had been a minister in the Scullin Government and had been the leading opponent of Lang in the NSW ALP through the 1930s. He had not forgiven Beasley and did not want him in the Cabinet, so in 1946 Beasley was appointed High Commissioner in London. He was appointed to the Privy Council in 1946.[2] and was a leading guest at the 1947 wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. .[3] He served as High Commissioner until his sudden death in September 1949 on a visit to Sydney at St Vincent's Hospital, Darlinghurst.


External links[edit]

Pensioners at election rally for Jim Beasley.jpg
Political offices
Preceded by
George McLeay
Minister for Supply and Development/
Minister for Supply and Shipping

Succeeded by
Bill Ashley
Preceded by
Bill Ashley
Vice-President of the Executive Council
Succeeded by
Joe Collings
Preceded by
John Curtin
Minister for Defence
Succeeded by
Frank Forde
Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
William Lambert
Member for West Sydney
Succeeded by
William O'Connor
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
The Viscount Bruce
Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom
Succeeded by
Norman Mighell (Acting)