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James Henry Scullin

(1876—1953)


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(b. 18 Sept. 1876, d. 28 Jan. 1953).

Prime Minister of Australia 1929–31 Born in Trawalla (Victoria), he left school at 14, but continued his education at night school. He joined the Political Labor Council in 1903, and was elected to the federal parliament in 1910. Despite losing his seat in 1913, he became one of the leading opponents of compulsory military service overseas during World War I. Scullin was elected to the House of Representatives in 1922, and in 1927 became deputy leader of the Labor Party, taking over the leadership in 1928. As the party's expert on economic policy he led attacks against the Bruce-Page government's economic measures.

In 1929 Scullin became Australia's first Roman Catholic and Australian-born Labor Prime Minister. He abandoned the Gold Standard, but his tough deflationary policies to deal with the oncoming Great Depression through a rigorous cut in state expenditure led to strong opposition from within his own party. He also alienated many supporters by reinstating his suspended treasurer, Edward G. Theodore (b. 1884, d. 1950) before he had been cleared of allegations of corruption. Scullin thus split the Labor Party, many followed Lyons, leaving Labor for the United Australia Party (UAP), while others followed Lang and John A. Beasley (b. 1895, d. 1949) by advocating the downfall of Scullin's government and the establishment of a rival Labor organization. Partly because of declining health, and partly because of his inability to reunite the Labor Party, he resigned the party leadership in 1935. He retired from parliament in 1949.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).


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