Member for South Fremantle 1921-1924

Alex McCallum made a third attempt to enter State Parliament in March 1921 and this time he was successful in winning the seat of South Fremantle, although his majority was just 90 votes. Labor remained in Opposition with the National Coalition retaining a sizable majority in the Legislative Assembly. McCallum must have had mixed feelings about the value of State governments, as shortly after becoming a Member of the Legislative Assembly he told his colleague John Curtin:

The State Parliaments of to-day are the local Roads Boards of to-morrow, Jack... You should never enter one, or attempt to do so. [1]

Despite these reservations, McCallum proved himself a talented addition to Labor's strength on the Opposition benches where his knowledge of industrial affairs and his skills 'as a logical and forceful debater' [2] on the floor of the House were put to good use.

However, mid year of 1921, McCallum suffered from Dengue fever, probably contracted in his 1916 visit to New Guinea, and he took time off to recover, spending June and July in the eastern states and particularly in Adelaide. In letters to his son Don, now twelve, he wrote about his hobby of breeding birds, an interest that Don obvioiusly shared, as well as giving his reflections on the places he visited. The affection he felt for his 'little laddie’ is evident in this correspondence. On 2 July, McCallum wrote:

I wish you were here to help me pick some [birds] but when you and your Mother come over at Christmas you can make up for any mistake I may make... There are a lot of men out of work here [in Melbourne] but all the Theatres and the amusement halls are full. I went for a nice motor run through National Park which was very beautiful. I may call at Newcastle to see the big steel works. We went to the landing spot of Captain Cook and saw a facsimile of his original chart. I hope Grandma is well, give Mother a big hug and kiss for me. [3]
  Postcard of Alex McCallum at Leura Falls, Blue Mountains, 1921Letter from Claude Hall to Alex McCallum, 1921
Excerpt from election flyer endorsing Alex McCallum for seat of South Fremantle, 1920

Top left: Post card of Alex McCallum and others at Leura Falls, NSW, sent by McCallum to his son Don in 1921. 'My Dear Little Laddie, This photo was taken at the foot of Leura Fall in the Blue Mountains NSW. The man on who I have my right hand is T L Jones who defeated the Premier of Queensland. These are very high mountains 4,000 feet high. We had snow the other day and O'Laughlin and I had a fight with snow balls. It is the prettiest spot I have seen in Australia. Very much like Mt Wellington in Hobart but no strawberrys. Lots of love from Dad'
John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library. Records of Alex McCallum. Post card from Dad [Alex McCallum] to Laddie [Don McCallum], 1921. JCPML00832/8.

Top right: McCallum's hobby of breeding birds saw him corresponding with bird suppliers across Australia. In this letter, Claude Hall at the Kairouan Pigeon Lofts in Caulfield, Victoria, indicates that he can send '2 Archangel hens - they are Captain Allen's strain. The price will be 40/-'.
John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library. Records of Alex McCallum. Letter from Claude Hall to Alex McCallum, 29 June 1921. JCPML00832/16

Bottom: Excerpt from second page of an election flyer endorsing Alex McCallum for seat of South Fremantle. The flyer features a letter of commendation for McCallum written by E D Millen, Minister for Repatriation.
John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library. Records of Alex McCallum. Election flyers endorsing Alex McCallum for seat of South Fremantle, 1920. JCPML00836/2

  The Australian Labor Party organised a complimentary social for McCallum on 9 September 1921 in appreciation of his years of service. Party Leader Philip Collier presented him with a 'valuable bookcase’ but it is clear from McCallum's speech on this night that his years as General Secretary had seen their share of strife and that he was pleased to be serving Labor in a different capacity. The West Australian reported that McCallum spoke about
the growth of the industrial movement since his association with it in Western Australia, and said he never could have accomplished what he had done without the whole-hearted assistance of the rank and file. He did not think the State Executive had treated him fairly, and he was sorry that the end of his term of office had not been as pleasant as it might have been. However, he had always pursued a straightforward and honest policy, and had spoken his mind, and though he had made enemies outside and inside the Labour movement, he found such a policy paid in the long run. He was confident that the knowledge and experience he had gained in the trade union movement would serve him in good stead in his new position in Parliament, where he hoped to still be able to serve the cause of industrial unionism. [4]

The Daily News also quoted from McCallum's speech at this function:

I have been misunderstood on many occasions by those with whom we have had to fight. Very often the movement has come to a decision with which I entirely disagreed, but I never hesitated to go out and fight for it. My future is in the lap of the Gods. The first day I was in the House I fell foul of the Speaker, but I have not felt out of place, nor am I without confidence that the knowledge and experience I have gained in the Labor Movement will stand me in good stead . I feel that I will be able to use that to the advantage of the workers of Western Australia. [5]
When the Mitchell Government appointed a Royal Commission to enquire into arbitration matters McCallum was one of the three Commissioners, although the Commission did not function due to its cancellation on the change of government in the next elections. He was also a member of the Licensing Commission and the War Gratuities Commission. No longer General Secretary, McCallum now contributed to the Labor movement as a Labor parliamentarian, in which capacity he attended the 11th Labor Congress held in Perth in 1922.

Over this three year period from 1921, McCallum worked tirelessly as Member for South Fremantle, so consolidating his position as a local member that when nominations closed for the 1924 elections, he was the only candidate and had an unopposed return.


Commemorative plaque presented to Alex McCallum by ALP, 1921Perth Freemasons' Club, 1873-1923, Jubliee souvenir
Delegates to the 11th Labor Congress, 1922

Top left: Commemorative plaque presented to Alex McCallum, inscribed 'In recognition of valuable services rendered whilst General Secretary from April 1911 to June 1921'.
John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library. Records of Alex McCallum. Commemorative plaque, 1921. JCPML00839/12.

Top right: McCallum was a member of the Freemasons in Perth. The Club celebrated its Jubilee in 1923.
John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library. Records of Alex McCallum. The Freemasons' Club, Perth. 1873 - 1923 Jubilee Souvenir. 15 October 1923. JCPML00821/4

Bottom: Alex McCallum (2nd back row, 8th from left) and John Curtin (2nd back row, 3rd from right) with other delegates to the 11th Labor Congress, 1922.
John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library. Records of Lloyd Ross. John Curtin and delegates to 11th Labor Congress, 1922. JCPML00799/4. Original held by National Library of Australia, MS 3939 1982 addition.

Alex McCallum home page
Growing up in South Australia 1887-1897 Rising through the union ranks 1898-1911 General Secretary of the WA labour movement 1911-1921 Member for South Fremantle 1921-1924 Cabinet Minister 1st Collier Government 1924-1930
On the Opposition benches 1930-1933 Deputy Premier 2nd Collier Government 1933-1935 Chairman of the Agricultural Bank 1933-1935