Diary of a Labour Man


1928 On the backbenches

Monday 3 December Perth

A Federal election group. Westralian Worker, 7 December 1928, page 4. JCPML00984/238
JCPML. Records of the Australian Labor Party WA Branch.  A Federal election group. Westralian Worker, 7 December 1928, page 4.  JCPML00984/238

Attends meeting of Board of Directors of the People’s Printing and Publishing Co., at which he formally resigns his appointment as editor of the Westralian Worker.

'Dear Comrade - Having been declared elected as Labor member for the Fremantle Division of the House of Representatives I beg to tender my resignation as editor of the "Westralian Worker".

It is now nearly twelve years since you were good enough to entrust the appointment to me, and I cannot take the step now made necessary without deep regret at the official severance it involves with a work that has been congenial in the highest sense, and which has been performed under the most pleasant and satisfactory relationship with yourselves.

Over that long period I have been accorded by every member of the staffs of the various departments in the office the maximum of co-operation and support. This generous assistance has been a sustaining strength in every difficulty and been the source of much happiness to myself. I cannot adequately express the gratitude I feel for the splendid spirit of mateship which has marked every day's contact I have had with the whole of my fellow employees throughout my association with them. They have been ever eager for the welfare of the company, and I have found in their enthusiasm and zeal a stimulus to the exertion of my best capacity and endeavour to a similar end.

All of us together have fought hard for the common purpose and whatever use I have been in aiding the progress of the paper, the widening of its influence, and the promotion of its prestige, has been made entirely possible by the friendship that has been given me, and, more particularly, by the example of industry and sincerity which has surrounded me from the day I entered service down to the present moment.

I feel I can look back with pride at the work that has been accomplished, and with thankfulness to the fate which called me to so responsible and, indeed, so inspiring an office.

Although I go off the list of employees I shall remain in spirit a fellow worker in the enterprise of which your Board is the directing authority, eager to help its undertakings and advance its progress.

To Mr Watson I feel a particular obligation. He met me on the wharf at Fremantle when I arrived a stranger in a new land going to a job that promised grievous problems: his daily fellowship has been a precious asset that has contributed more than I can measure towards their solution. Mr Nielson has been a magnificent ally and very often has found the way out for difficulties which otherwise would have proved insuperable. The members of the literary staff with whom I have worked have each proved intensely loyal and splendidly capable. To leave my desk is a tearing-up of roots that are down deep in my heart, and I cannot do more than thank everybody for an experience that has gratified my nature and made me feel that I was a fortunate sharer in a very rare companionship.

Anything that may be open to me in the future to justify the warm friendships of the past will be regarded as a happy thanksgiving for the lovely years I've lived as editor of the" WestralianWorker" - may it live and grow, a force for good and a spirit to inspire the Labor Movement, of the Commonwealth!

Yours fraternally

(sgd.) JOHN CURTIN.'

'The resignation was accepted and it was decided to place in the records the Directors' appreciation of Mr Curtin's long and faithful service as editor.1

The Board presented him with a leather armchair and paid tribute to his ability to enable men 'to see beyond the miserable present, to the future that was theirs for the taking.2

The board noted in the minutes of their meeting:

Mr McKenzie/Mr Millcock - That Mr Curtin's resignation as Editor be accepted with regret and that we place on record our appreciation of his long and faithful service in that position. It was also decided to offer heartiest congratulations on his having won the Fremantle House of Representatives seat in the Commonwealth Parliament.

It was decided to offer Mr & Mrs Curtin a social evening at Keoghs Hall prior to their departure for Canberra and also to make a presentation to both on behalf of the company. 2a

Attends declaration of the poll for the Perth seat. 3

Saturday 8 December
South Beach, Fremantle

John Curtin speaking at opening of South Beach, Fremantle, 8 December 1928. JCPML00139/68
JCPML. Records of the Curtin Family.  John Curtin speaking at opening of South Beach, Fremantle, 8 December 1928. JCPML00376/160

Attends first public function as Member for Fremantle.

'Mr Curtin performed his first public function on Saturday afternoon by declaring the South Beach season open. A very large crowd was present. Members of Parliament in the district and councillors of the Municipality, with their wives and friends were entertained at afternoon tea at the Hydrodrome at the conclusion of the function.'

evening Trades Hall, Fremantle

Attends Victory Social.

Laborites celebrated 'the magnificent victory achieved by the return of Mr John Curtin as its Federal member for Fremantle. Many victory socials have been celebrated at the port, but this will be the biggest and brightest of them all.'4

'As anticipated a tremendous crowd turned up at the Trades Hall Fremantle on Saturday night last to celebrate the return of Mr John Curtin MHR, as Labor representative for the Fremantle Division in the Federal Parliament. Mr A V Hughes, president of the Fremantle District Council ALP, was in charge of the proceedings. There were only two speakers – Hon Minister W H Kitson, MLC, and the new Federal member Mr John Curtin. The latter delivered an inspiring address.

Secretary Jim Burgess and his committee deserve the highest credit for the painstaking and very complete arrangements made for the enjoyment of the large gathering. The hall was tastefully decorated.

The Minister for Works (Alex McCallum, MLA) and Mrs McCallum arrived late in the evening having been delayed by the spectacular railway smash on the Wongan Hills line. A sensational rumour was current at the opening of South Beach that Mr and Mrs McCallum were on the train that was derailed but were not seriously injured. Laborites were relieved and pleased to see the Minister and his better half arrive at the Trades Hall in good order and condition.

Mr Curtin received a flattering welcome and his remarks were punctuated with enthusiastic applause.

A sparkling musical programme of exceptional merit was rendered, the following artistes taking part: Misses Bessie Rockliffe, Rona Collett, Alice O'Donnell, Hazel, Collett, Mrs Truran and Messrs H Gibson, and David Carr. A dainty supper was served at the conclusion of the programme.

Laborties attended with the firm intention of enjoying themselves, which they did without stint or measure. Dancing concluded the most enjoyable and successful function ever celebrated at the Fremantle Trades Hall.' 5
Thursday 13 December Offices of Westralian Worker

JCPML. Records of the Curtin Family. Directors and staff of the Westralian Worker gather to bid farewell to Mr J Curtin MHR on his retirement, December 1928. JCPML00376/15

Last day working for Westralian Worker.


Last Thursday was Jack Curtin's last day at the "Worker" office, and on the day a connection was broken that has meant much to Labor in Western Australia.

It was in the blood years, when the fortunes of Labor were at their lowest ebb, when strife and dissension had rent the Party in twain, when no man knew where his neighbour stood, and many hardly knew where they stood themselves – that Mr Curtin took his seat in the editorial chair. He leaves that chair with the Party welded into a compact whole, and with a faith in itself that was never stronger.

In the splendid transformation Mr Curtin has played no small part. He has been a rallying point when the fight was hardest, and an inspiration at all times.

“When other men were ready to surrender I stood fast," said Garibaldi. Jack Curtin would not make that boats, but those words fittingly describe his actions.

He was one of the few who saw clearly through the murk of those hateful years and possessed the God-given gift of enabling other men to see beyond the miserable present, to the future that was theirs for the winning. Brilliant with pen and tongue he has not spared himself, his talent has never been hidden, wherever needed there he has been found. His going will leave the "Worker" poorer, but his spirit must still continue to find expression in its pages. The associations of twelve years are not to be broken entirely, and those who succeed him cannot but make a brave attempt to carry on the traditions which he has established.

Of the future who can say? That Mr Curtin will rise high is the confident prediction of all, but of this we are certain: In whatever position he is called upon to occupy he will still be the same kindly considerate Jack Curtin that we have known for the last twelve years.' 6
Friday 14 December
Unity Theatre, Perth

Attends, with Mrs Curtin, the Metropolitan Council of ALP 'At Home' to the Labor candidates in the recent Federal elections

'Unity Theatre, Perth, was the scene of much gaiety including the renewal of old friendships among Laborites, etc. on Friday evening, December 14 when the Metropolitan Council of the ALP was "At Home" to the Labor candidates in the recent Federal elections. The hall was draped with colored streamers, and on the platform were many beautiful palms and flowers. A very large crowd of men, women and children were present and the proceedings went with a swing throughout. The function took the form of a conversazione, being interspersed with musical items, speeches, and dancing. Mr C Cornish in the absence of Mr J J Kenneally (president) occupied the chair. Mr P J Mooney acted as MC and Mr A H Panton, MLA represented the Parliamentary Labor Party.

In welcoming Senator and Mrs E Needham, Mr J Curtin, MHR, and Mrs Curtin, and Mr A J Watts (Messrs. Barker and Graham being unavoidably absent) the chairman said that although the Movement had received something of a setback its wonderful spirit of solidarity still remained. Senator Needham was optimistic in spite of the result of the poll, and all hoped that he would soon be back again in his old place.

Mr Panton … heartily congratulated Mr J Curtin, whose election speeches he had heard often during the last few weeks and which he greatly enjoyed. … Senator Needham, who was received with musical honors and great enthusiasm expressed the sincere thanks of Mrs Needham and himself for the splendid expression of cordial comradeship extended to them that night. … One of his greatest comforts at the moment was to know that his comrades in the Movement were not fair weather friends, and held the same opinion of his integrity though he was defeated. It should be their comfort to know that his loss would be compensated for by the election of Mr J Curtin. …


Mr J Curtin, MHR said that it was very charming of them all to come together to express jointly their goodwill to the candidates who had carried Labor's standard in the recent election. Most of the socials previously given in his honor were to express sympathy with him in the hard knocks which had been his portion. This change of fortune was undoubtedly due to the work of the Movement, as he was exactly the "same man"' now as he was in 1925, a little older and more crotchety perhaps when he had been defeated. He took his job very seriously. Senator Needham was more than generous in saying that his own loss would be offset by the election of himself (Curtin). The facts were that the new member for Fremantle would be learning lessons daily for the next six months regarding procedure, etc. from the rich and ripe experience of Senator Needham. Senator Needham's early return to the Federal Parliament was absolutely necessary for the good Government of this Commonwealth. As editor of the "Worker" he had been greatly indebted throughout to Senator Needham, who had kept him supplied with information in such a way as to enable him to place up-to-date information regarding Federal affairs before the readers of the paper. When one thought of the power of the combined press, the nature of the issue, the fight on the waterfront, one could not but feel that Labor had done well in the recent election. Unlike the other parties, Labor was adding younger blood to its Parliamentary Party, and this, he hoped, would help to preserve and accentuate its courageous and adventurous spirit.

Misses Kieve and Hamilton rendered charming songs, as also did Messrs P Roxby, Savage and Hally, Miss E Platt acted as accompanist, and the Serenaders supplied the music. Subsequently a dainty supper was handed round.

Mrs E Needham looked charming in a pale pink crepe de chine frock with overdress of lace and silver beading; Mrs Curtin was in flesh-colored silk, with a black lace overdress; Mrs J J Kenneally, black georgette with silver embroidery and pink roses: Mrs P J Mooney, black silk lace with tracings of gold; Mrs Rapley, floral chenille frock; Mrs Griffen , was in black silk, as also was Mrs Somerville; Mrs E Morgan, floral rayon, coffee lace; Miss N Morgan, cream crepe de chine; Mrs Terry.' 8

Friday 21 December

Implement Works, Rocky Bay, North Fremantle

Attends break up of the Implement Works for the Christmas holidays.

'The annual festivities in connection with the "break-up" of the Implement Works for the Christmas holidays took place on Friday afternoon last. Short speeches, musical items and toasts provided an enjoyable programme.

Special interest was attached to the proceedings, as subdued expectancy was apparent as to the future fate of the works owing to the defeat in the Legislative Council of the Government Partnership Bill with Westralian Farmers Ltd. Opinions on the subject were divided. Mr Les Heery in a characteristic speech when proposing the toast of Parliament, referred to the presence of Labor politicians. Messrs Curtin, Sleeman, Rowe and Gray, the first time for fifteen years since the inception of the works, that such a representative body of parliamentarians had been present. The Implement Works were on the edge of a precipice, he said, and hoped that the attendance in force of their political representatives was not an indication that the works were going to be pushed over.

Mr John Curtin, MHR and Mr J B Sleeman, MLA, replied to the toast.

The address of the manager, Mr Shaw, was listened to with interest. It was of a most depressing character. If words mean anything the manager is about fed up with the whole business. Mr Shaw concluded his address by reciting the poem. "Not Understood." This was a fitting conclusion to a mournful outlook on the position….' 9