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John Thomas Lang

(1876—1975)


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(b. 21 Dec. 1876, d. 27 Sept. 1975).

Premier of New South Wales (Australia) 1925–7, 1930–2 Born in Sydney, the land agent and auctioneer was secretary of his local branch of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) from 1903 and became a member of the legislative assembly of New South Wales in 1913. Rising to prominence after the ALP split in 1916 over compulsory military service overseas, he became treasurer (1920–2, 1925–7, 1930–2) and party leader (1923). As premier, he introduced widows' pensions, increased workers' compensation and re-established the forty-four-hour working week. At the same time, the aloof, pugnacious, and abrasive Lang remained a controversial figure, even within his own party. He lost the 1927 elections, but returned to power in 1930. He responded to the Great Depression with the Lang Plan, which was to suspend interest payments on overseas loans in order to reduce public expenditure. This was contrary to the action of all other state premiers, and of the federal government, led by an ALP ministry under Scullin. He thus split the Labor Party in New South Wales, where he managed to impose his own authority on the state party machine, until it was integrated into the federal ALP in 1936. He was expelled from the ALP in 1943 for his criticism of Curtin, and in 1944 founded the new Lang Labor Party. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1946, but lost his seat in 1949.

Subjects: Australasian and Pacific History.


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