Diary of a Labour Man


1933 On the backbenches

Throughout 1933 Perth

[During the period 1931-1933 when he was out of Parliament, John Curtin worked as a journalist and was publicity officer for the Perth Trades Hall Council. He wrote regular columns on behalf of the Labor Party for both Perth’s daily newspapers, The West Australian and the Daily News, on many themes including the problems of the Depression. His work included weekly syndicated articles for country journals, and he contributed occasional articles to other newspapers, including the Melbourne Herald. He also wrote for the Westralian Worker, taking over the sporting page as a one-day-a-week casual. Articles have not been listed exhaustively and links have been made to a selection only. Columns written for The West Australian are available at JCPML SER0425 and those for the Daily News at JCPML SER0404.] 1

c. Monday 2 January Perth
  Writes article for The West Australian Newspaper.

‘…Every civilisation that perished in the past did so because it contained, within itself, the seeds of its own destruction.  The present order has created the terrific problem of unemployment, and, notwithstanding the New Year assertions that convalescence has been reached, the fact is that adhering to the capitalist system involves world collapse more imminently than many imagine….’ 2
c. Thursday 12 January Perth
  Writes article for the Daily News.

‘…Some time ago there was a controversy regarding the employment of married women in industry and business. The New South Wales Government has since dismissed from the Education Department a number of married women teachers. Generally speaking, the arguments of those opposed to the employment of married women are that in earning money outside their households, they are taking jobs away from breadwinners – that is men with families or single women with dependants.

These contentions are based on the two main rules of capitalist economic theory: that money can only given to people in return for work, and that that is the only source of purchasing power. In an era when work is being denied to millions, these rules occasion widespread misery and destitution…’ 3
c. Friday 13 January Perth
  Writes article for the Daily News.


Mr Curtin States His View of the Problem


HOW ARE we to tackle the problem of finding jobs for the army of boys now leaving school?

Insofar as we associate employment as a cardinal feature of education and training for boys and youths, we have to keep clearly in our minds that the work we find for them must be as the junior helpers and auxiliaries of their elders, and not as their substitutes or competitors. Any separate scheme of employment for boys detached from a general plan of employment would be a social blunder. That is why I plead that the boy's case is the father's. If we cannot serve both we serve neither…’ 4
c. Monday 16 January Perth
  Writes article for The West Australian Newspaper.

‘…All but a few men and women have to work for a living. If we do not count children and old people, and those who are the dependents of breadwinners, only a very small proportion of the population gets food and clothing without working for them. In Australia out of every 100 people who work for a living - on farms, in mines, in the factories, railways, tramways, and industry generally - about 70 are wage and salary employees and 20 are working on their own account. It is, therefore, the fact that the "nation" is overwhelmingly a nation of workers…’ 5
c. Thursday 2 February Perth
  Writes article for The West Australian.

Reduced and Increased Expenditure
Expenditure in Western Australia since the last election upon education has been reduced as follows:-
1930-31 £692,000
1931-32 £549,115
Reduction £142,885
Is that a good thing? Hardly! We spend less on the intellectual welfare on the people; but we have spent more on satisfying the money-lenders.’

[Curtin wrote ‘articles for The West Australian and the Daily News which he penned on behalf of the ALP under headings such as “Labor Views”.’] 6
c. Monday 13 February Perth
  Writes article for The West Australian Newspaper.

‘…This week saw the definite opening of the general election campaign. The Premier, Sir James Mitchell, delivered his policy speech at Northam, and the Leader of the Country Party, Mr. C G Latham, spoke at York. Next week Mr Collier will deliver the policy speech for the Labour Party at Boulder. These addresses enable, or should enable, the people to form an estimate of the intentions of each of the various parties should it be commissioned to administer the affairs of the State…’ 7
Thursday 16 February Perth

Is appointed to the Metropolitan Milk Board. 8

[John Curtin was a member of the Metropolitan Milk Board, later known as the Metropolitan Whole Milk Board from 16 February 1933 to mid-September 1934, serving as one of the two consumers’ representatives. The Board was a very active body, and Curtin would have attended numerous meetings, but these are not documented.]

More about John Curtin's term as a member of the
Metropolitan Whole Milk Board.

Friday 17 February Department of Agriculture offices, Perth
  Attends initial meeting of the Metropolitan Milk Board, called by the Minister for Agriculture P D Ferguson.

Members of the Board were T H Wilson, Chairman; J Curtin and F E Gibson, Consumers’ Representatives; A Groves and C R Opitz, Producers’ Representatives.

‘The Minister gave a brief sketch of the problems of whole milk supply and distribution and outlined the history of previous efforts to stabilize prices and control supplies.’

An endeavour was being made to secure centrally situated offices for the permanent accommodation of the Board. 9
Saturday 18 February Department of Agriculture offices, Perth
Attends meeting of the Metropolitan Milk Board, which fixed milk prices at 1/1 a gallon at the Depot. 10
c. Monday 20 February Perth
  Writes article for The West Australian Newspaper.

‘…It was with a sense of deep shock and sincere regret that members of the Labour Party learned of the tragically sudden death of Mr T A L Davy. The deceased gentleman had been regarded as a very able and conscientious servant of the State who did his duty fearlessly and with goodwill to those who differed from him. His passing at so comparatively an early age is a loss which the community can ill afford; in the late Attorney-General was typified a public spirit unfortunately too rare in these somewhat cynical days.

There can be no doubt that the exacting strain of high office told even upon his strong physique, as it does more than is generally understood upon the most virile men who essay a public career. The manifold variety of the tasks imposed upon politicians takes a too heavy toll, and I cannot but feel that more consideration should be extended to men of all parties in this respect…’ 11
Tuesday 21 February Department of Agriculture offices, Perth

Attends meeting of Metropolitan Milk Board, which got down ‘to formal activities and securing suitable offices, obtaining secretarial assistance and generally surveying’ the big task. 12

Tuesday 7 March Wells Hall, Cottlesloe, Western Australia

Chairs meeting at which ‘Jack’ Tonkin, the selected Labor candidate speaks in his campaign for the seat of North East Fremantle.

‘Mr Tonkin made an excellent impression, and gave ample evidence that he is not a one speech candidate. His address lasted from ten minutes past eight o’clock till 9.30 pm. The candidate held a grip on his audience for the whole period, and there was not a flagging moment.’ 13

Thursday 16 March Wesley Hall, South Fremantle, Western Australia
  Supports Mr McCallum in the opening of his campaign for South Fremantle. 14
c. Friday 24 March Perth
  Writes article for the Daily News.

‘…At the election to be decided on Saturday week the Labor Party appeals to the people to change the Government. It does this on the basic principle that an entire change of viewpoint is required to deal with the economic problem…’ 15
Tuesday 28 March Perth

Broadcasts from station 6PR (Nicholson’s Service).

‘An interesting feature of the broadcast was the fact that a receiving set and loud speaker was installed at the great Labor Rally in Weld Square on the same evening, and Mr Curtin’s speech, in effect, opened the proceedings although he actually was not present.’ 16

full text

Friday 31 March Perth
  Writes article for the Westralian Worker, ‘The labor movement and the secession referendum: what Australian history teaches.’ 17
Late March - early April Perth
  Took ‘leading part’ in the State Election campaign. 18
c. Monday 3 April Perth
  Writes article for The West Australian Newspaper.

‘…Broadly, the purpose of an election is to decide the elect of the people, and, at least within the British speaking world, to determine the Government of the day; in short, it gives to us in a very real sense the leaders of the people.  The polling booth is the tribunal of democracy. It is, there, in the highest degree important that the people's choice be made with clear judgment and on the basis solely of an appeal to reason. Democracy is judged by its decisions. It is proper that it should lose or gain as the result. Whether it actually does is another thing…’ 19
c. Tuesday 4 April Perth
  Writes article for Daily News.

‘…Every section of the community is deeply concerned in the elections to be decided next Saturday. The workers, the traders, the producers, the unemployed -- to cite the important groups -- have both an economic and civic interest in the result. That is to say, they are affected not only in their sectional or group interests, but also in the larger sense as members of the community as a whole.

The viewpoint of the Labor Party is twofold. It has primary concern for the workers as workers; but it is equally concerned for them as citizens. Taken broadly, it is a serious blunder for anyone to suppose that we can ever have a restoration of economic prosperity with the prices of wheat, wool, meat, metals and other products of our industries reduced to half their original prices, while those industries still labor under the staggering burdens of debts, mortgages, rents, and taxes imposed in prosperous times…’ 20
Saturday 8 April Perth
  State election and referendum on secession.  Mitchell’s conservative Government was defeated, and Collier returned to power. The Labor party had campaigned against secession, however 68% of the 237,198 voters voted in favour of secession. 21
c. April Cottesloe
  Takes spell due to ‘stress of campaigning’. 22
Probably late April - early May Perth

John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library.  Records of the J S Battye Library of West Australian History.  Commonwealth Grants Commission, Perth 1935.  JCPML00139/72
JCPML. Records of the J S Battye Library of West Australian History. Commonwealth Grants Commission, Perth. JCPML00139/72.
Courtesy J.S Battye Library. Photo 7558B.

Appointed by Collier as chairman of a committee to draw up a submission on behalf of Western Australia for the Commonwealth Grants Commission, on the same salary he was earning as editor of Westralian Worker. Provided with a desk in the office of the Treasury’s assistant under-secretary, he was ‘sober, austere, studious, determinedly restrained’, working ‘head down for hours…’ 23
Tuesday 2 May Trades Hall, probably Perth

John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library.  Records of the Curtin Family.  Mrs John Curtin, 1933.  JCPML00382/38
JCPML. Records of the Curtin Family. Mrs John Curtin, 1933. JCPML00382/38

Mrs Curtin attends ‘Labor’s Big Corroboree’.

‘The Trades Hall was radiant with pink and white streamers … when over 1000 supporters of the Labor Movement in this State gathered together to celebrate the great victory of the ALP. Haley’s Orchestra, always a charming inspiration at Labor’s social gatherings, excelled itself on the occasion, and hundreds of dancers of all ages jostled each other on the floor in joyous good humour, while an innate sense of fellowship in a great cause permeated the big assembly.

During the evening Madame Clear’s beautiful voice was much appreciated, as also was a song by Miss Holmes and a clog dance by little Miss McDonald. Mr Nat Handley, the well-known operatic singer, gave a number of attractive turns to the intense enjoyment of all present and Mr Wally Hadley, who was described as Australia’s foremost banjo player, also brought down the house.

Mr J J Kenneally delivered a short address, and the remainder of the time was devoted to dancing and musical items. Many members of Parliament with their wives, were present, also large numbers of union officials and their womenfolk. The bulk of the gathering consisted of young people. … There was also a big contingent of guests from the Old Men’s Home. Supper was served at about 10.30 pm and the dance went on till midnight.’ 24
Friday 5 May Perth

Writes article for Westralian Worker on ‘Great socialist foresees collapse of capitalism: Each crisis breaks up the system’. 25

full text

Wednesday 10 May Victoria Hall, Fremantle

Attends South Fremantle Branch of the ALP’s Victory Social.

‘About 500 people attended. … A feature of the evening was the lack of speeches indulged in, the only speakers being the president of the branch, Mr E M Davies, who introduced Mr McCallum (hardly necessary). In the course of his speech, Mr McCallum thanked all who had assisted him in the campaign … The organising of the function was efficiently carried out by the South Fremantle ALP secretary, Mr W P  Griffiths. The branch desire to thank the following artists who kindly rendered their services: Messrs Cole, Woodward, Russell and Tagberg; Mesdames Green, Truran and Miss May Holman, MLA. The music was supplied by Nylanders’ Orchestra. The supper arrangements were capably catered for by Mrs Black. A very pleasant evening came to an end at 11 pm with the singing of “Auld Lang Syne.”' 26

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Thursday 1 June Trades Hall, probably Perth

Attends meeting of Labor Study Circle.

‘The study class, which was formed recently in connection with the Metropolitan Council, held its second meeting at the Trades Hall on June1, and was conducted by Mr Elliott, supported by Mr Curtin. Over twenty people were present, including four women, and of these it transpired that at least eight were good speakers which augurs well for the success of the class and promises a lot of genuine pleasure to those who have a bent for research and debate.’ 27
Sunday 4 June Trades Hall, Fremantle
  Delivers an address at the inaugural meeting of the Young Men’s Labor League, Fremantle.

‘The meeting opened with the presidential address, Mr Bartley stressing the objects of the League and appealing generally for new members.

Mr J Curtin was the principal speaker of the evening. The League is very fortunate in having a man of Mr Curtin’s ability to support them. In opening his address, Mr Curtin outlined to those present the objects and principles of the Labor Party and the value of youth to the movement, he also clearly illustrated the opportunities for young men today and advised them to utilise their time in the right direction. Mr Curtin embodied his remarks in the form of a lesson, and he explained in a simple manner the main necessities of study, reading and writing, and impressed the power of thought. During the course of his address the speaker quoted different books and authorities on literature on whom members may rely for information in order to increase their studies and knowledge. He advocated the reading of H G Wells (Outline of History), J R  Green (History of
English Speaking Race), Thorold Rogers (Work and Wages). The speaker also urged members to study Shakespeare, poetical works, novelists and dramatists, that will give them an insight into the rise of human possibility. After a constructive talk on public speaking and article writing Mr Curtin closed his address.

The members of the League are very much indebted to Mr Curtin for his interesting address, and they hope that at some future date he will again be with them at their meetings. 28
Tuesday 20 June Perth - Sydney
  Travels by trans-train. 29
Monday 26 June, and for several days following Sydney

John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library.  Records of the Australian Labor Party WA Branch.  Westralian Worker, 14 July 1933, page 1, Federal Labor Conference Clears the Way Towards Unity of the Labor Movement.  JCPML01151/90
JCPML. Records of the Australian Labor Party WA Branch. Westralian Worker, 14 July 1933, page 1, Federal Labor Conference Clears the Way Towards Unity of the Labor Movement. JCPML01151/90.
Courtesy Australian Labor Party, WA Branch

Attends 13th ALP interstate conference, and chairs the Unity Committee. 30

full text

July Perth

Is appointed as a Trustee of the Public Library, Museum and Art Gallery of Western Australia. 3

More about Curtin's term as a
Trustee of Public Library, Museum and Art Gallery of Western Australia.

Friday 21 July Perth

Writes article for the Westralian Worker and the Melbourne Herald on ‘Why Labor is still disunited: conference rejection of NSW demand.’ 32


Tuesday 25 July Perth
Broadcasts from Station 6PR as part of a series of speeches, which include Mr Collier and J J Kenneally.

‘Workers are invited to report to Mr P J  Trainer at the Trades Hall their comments … particularly with respect to reception and the views they may form regarding the broadcasting generally.’ 33
c. Thursday 27 July Perth
  Writes article for the Daily News – ‘Labor’s views on Betting’. 34
c. late July - early August  

Presents "to the Commonwealth Claims Commission the case on behalf of the Western Australian Govt", according to a meeting of the Board of Directors of the People's Printing and Publishing Company on the 28 July 1933. 34a

At their meeting of the 4 August 1933, they discuss filling Curtin's vacancy while he is absent:

The vacancy caused by Mr Curtin's absence had been filled at a cost of £5 per week. For the use of the office, Mr Curtin was doing the football, Mr Cusack was doing the sporting and the Editor was arranging for other copy. 34b

c. Thursday 3 August Perth
  Writes article for Daily News.

‘… We are thus led back to the fundamental question of restoring the balance between production and consumption, which lies ultimately at the root of all unemployment. This problem involves a radical economic reconstruction. It will not yield to mere palliatives.

If we are not willing to embark upon larger measures of public control the out-look loses hope. Further depression can only be avoided by well conceived and carefully executed social measures to give to those workers scrapped by machinery a place in the life of the world…’ 35
c. Monday 14 August Perth

Probably attends a meeting of the Trustees of the Public Library, Museum and Art Gallery of Western Australia. 36

More about Curtin's term as a
Trustee of Public Library, Museum and Art Gallery of Western Australia.

c. Monday 11 September Perth

Probably attends a meeting of the Trustees of the Public Library, Museum and Art Gallery of Western Australia. 37

More about Curtin's term as a
Trustee of Public Library, Museum and Art Gallery of Western Australia.

c. Thursday 21 September Perth
  Writes article for Daily News.

‘…Modern machine production has completely revolutionised the economics of industry; yet we still adhere to a price system adjusted to man-power values, with a wages and hours system that fixes purchasing power at man-power rates. Little wonder that under such an obsolete and contradictory system Australia and other industrialised nations are drifting rapidly towards economic disaster.’ 38
c. Thursday 28 September Perth
  Writes article for Daily News.

‘… The Labor movement in Australia believes in protection as a fiscal policy. It has always determinedly safeguarded the industries of the country, both primary and secondary, by the levying of deterrent duties on imported goods.

The farmers and manufacturers owe a great deal to Labor initiative and support in this respect, and might well have shown some gratitude for the assistance thus received. They have never done so. On the contrary, they have been openly, as well as covertly, hostile to the protection of those whom they employ, and have used all the forces at their command to keep down the living standards of the whole working class.’ 39
c. Monday 9 October Perth

Probably attends a meeting of the Trustees of the Public Library, Museum and Art Gallery of Western Australia. 40

More about Curtin's term as a
Trustee of Public Library, Museum and Art Gallery of Western Australia.

Thursday 26 October Perth Trades Hall
  Attends Eighth Labor Women’s Conference. 41
Friday 27 October Perth Trades Hall
  Attends Eighth Labor Women’s Conference. 42
c. Monday 13 November Perth

Probably attends a meeting of the Trustees of the Public Library, Museum and Art Gallery of Western Australia. 43

More about Curtin's term as a
Trustee of Public Library, Museum and Art Gallery of Western Australia.

c. Tuesday 5 December Perth
  Broadcasts, speaking on the Depression and War. 44
Beginning of December Adelaide
  Has a ‘rushed’ visit and prepares case for Grants Commission. 45
Monday 11 December-Monday 20 December Adelaide

John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library.  Records of the Curtin Family.  Grants Commission, 1933.  JCPML00376/148
JCPML. Records of the Curtin Family. Grants Commission, 1933. JCPML00376/148.

Represents the Government of Western Australia at a hearing of Commonwealth Grants Commission. 46

Commonwealth Grants Commission 1933

Thursday 21 December Adelaide - Perth
  Returns to Western Australia.
c. Middle of December Cottesloe

John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library.  Records of the Curtin Family.  John F Curtin, September 1933.  JCPML00382/42
JCPML. Records of the Curtin Family. John F Curtin, September 1933. JCPML00382/42.

Breaks an ankle while playing tennis with son, John. Is laid up for a fortnight with leg in plaster.

‘[The front garden] wasn’t used for anything except to play tennis on for me and my friends. Every so often father would insist on playing because he knew how to do it properly and one occasion he followed a forehand retrieving shot too far into the surrounds and over he went on the garden edge. There he lay, carrying on verbally, telling me and my mate to get his so-and-so shoe off. …Then we had to half carry him on one leg along the path up the stairwayand on to a bed. We were verbally … harassed, because it was our fault for playing the ball wherever we played it. … He broke an ankle.’ 47
c. middle December – end December Cottesloe
  Spends a fortnight in bed with leg in plaster.

‘Personally 1933 treated me very decently and I have no complaints. And I think I can say I treated it well also. Honours between old Father Time and me are even. Neither of us has yet beaten the other.’ 48