On the Opposition benches 1930-1933

The Collier Labor Government was defeated by a narrow margin in the general election of April 1930 and James Mitchell, Leader of the United Australia Party, became Premier of Western Australia.

In Australian history, said the Minister for Public Works, .. it has seldom happened that a Government has been returned after six years in office, but I think we would have achieved that distinction, had it not been for two factors - the existing Depression and the new Commonwealth tariff.
'State Elections. Ministry defeated', West Australian, 14 April 1930 [1]
The Mitchell Government’s term from 1930 to 1933 was turbulent. With the country in the harsh grip of the Depression, the government’s attempted solutions to the State’s problems failed and unemployment 'soared from 15 per cent just before the change of government to 25 per cent by the end of 1930, peaking at above 30 per cent in 1932’. [2]

Alex McCallum continued his constituency work as Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) for South Fremantle and also served as Deputy Leader to the Party in Opposition, having defeated John Willcock in the ballot for the post.

In 1932 McCallum was strongly criticized for abandoning his union constituents by voting for bulk-handling of wheat at a time of low employment. But he was so concerned about unemployment and monopolies that he called for and sat on a select committee of investigation in which he was the sole dissenter. [3]

In the desperate economic situation of these years, some within the Labor movement supported the idea of the State seceding from the Commonwealth, but Alex McCallum and the State Executive opposed the notion.

Perhaps McCallum found more time in these years free of ministerial duties to spend with his family and to indulge in his hobby of bird breeding:

Chinese golden pheasants, budgerigars, Japanese manikins and finches of all descriptions combine to make a colorful and picturesque display in the aviaries of Mr Alex McCallum, MLA, at his home in South Fremantle.
'Budgerigars and finches. Legislator’s fine collection', clipping from unidentified paper, c 1930 [4]

He many also have had more time to enjoy the farm life at his property Koorjarlee at Muntadgin where he continued to breed Clydesdale horses:

A consignment of stud stock from Victoria arrived at Fremantle yesterday on the Westralia. Two Clydesdale mares were imported by Mr A McCallum, MLA, who purchased them from Mr W Pizer, a well-known identity in the Victorian horse trade. The mares are aged four and five years, respectively. Mr McCallum will send them to his property at Muntadgin.
'Stud stock. Shipment from Victoria', West Australian, 13 July 1933 [5]

Alex McCallum always enjoyed listening to and telling good stories and the characters who worked on the Muntadgin farm featured in one lively tale his son Don recalls him relating. The story provides a glimpse of 'Alick’s’ humour.

The story revolves around two well known figures of the time. Stanley Melbourne Bruce, Australia’s youngest Prime Minister (aged 39) from 1923 to 1929 who was said to be 'more English than the English' and Lord Stonehaven, Governor General from 1925 to 1931. People who know the Australian out back are well aware of that great phenomenon - the compulsive drinker. He can go for a year without a drink and then suddenly break out and spend everything he possesses on one magnificent splurge. He then goes back to work again for another 12 months, builds up a good credit and draws his money only to spend it all in a matter of weeks on drinking booze with complete strangers, people he has never met in his life before. Strangely enough they all say at the end of it, 'Ah, but it was worth it’.
Two contract workers who worked on my farm at Muntadgin, south of Merredin, the centre of the eastern wheat belt, were perfect examples of compulsive drinkers. They were Swedes - delightful fellows named Olaf Lind and Olaf Ollsen. After their annual 'holiday' they would return to 'Koojarlee' and always say: 'It was worth it but next year we are going to Sydney.’ They were convinced they would do just that but each year the same thing would happen. They would get to Merredin thirty miles to the north; the money would burn a hole in their pockets while they waited for the Kalgoorlie Express to get aboard and go on to Sydney.
'Well just one' they would say in one voice, and that would be the end of it. They would be back to Kalgoorlie in a couple of weeks, very sick in the head and flat, motherless broke, 'Ah, but it was worth it!’
One real character was a stockman from a station out of Leonora. He used to do exactly the same thing and never got past the Railway Hotel at Kalgoorlie, until one year someone got hold of him and persuaded him differently. The story is told of how he cashed his cheque at a bank in Kalgoorlie (not at the Pub), went to the railway station and bought a return ticket to Sydney. He shunned the hotels and when the Trans Australian Express was about to leave, raced past the Railway Refreshment Room Bar on Kalgoorlie Station and took his seat on the Express. He enjoyed the journey that day. He had made it! He grinned all over his weather beaten features. At last! Next morning he looked out the window, not a tree to be seen, and so hot it was almost unbearable. There was no air-conditioning in those days and the red dust stirred up by the air movement under the train was choking 'Gawd, I would have been better off in Kalgoorlie!’ Eventually he could stand it no longer and walked the length of the train until he reached the final carriage at the end. Here things seemed somehow a little different. He ignored, or did not understand the sign 'Private’ and proceeded in his way. He found two gentlemen seated in a very comfortable lounge compartment and glanced in. The two gentlemen were busily engaged in disposing of a magnificent luncheon of turkey, ham, chicken, salads, asparagus and there in an enormous ice bucket reclined two magnums of Veuve Cliquot Champagne. The two gentlemen happened to be His Excellency the then Governor General of Australia, Lord Stonehaven, the other was the Right Honorable Stanley Melbourne Bruce, Prime Minister of Australia.
Leonora said, 'Christ it's hot isn’t it?'’
Stonehaven said, 'It is indeed old boy.. Care to join us in a glass of wine?'
'Struth', said Leonora, 'are yous fair dinkum?'
Stonehaven assured him they would be delighted to have his company, so he sat down and quaffed the finest glass of intoxicating liquor that had ever been poured down his parched throat. Stonehaven chatted away happily with him. Bruce ignored him. A few more glasses of champagne followed the first and then Bruce drew his handsome and noble looking figure to its full height and excused himself and left the palatial compartment. Leonora's eyes followed him with an awed admiration. Then he turned to Stonehaven and whispered 'Eh, 'es a fine lookin' bastard isn't he? What's his name?'
'He is the Right Honourable Stanley Melbourne Bruce, Prime Minister of Australia!'
'Christ,' said Leonora, 'You don't say, the bloody Prime Minister! Fancy 'im talkin' to a pair of bastards like you and me.'

Excerpt from the memoirs of Donald Ferres McCallum relating to his father Alex McCallum, 1973 [6]
A less pleasant aspect of life in this period for McCallum was his involvement in a drawn out legal dispute concerned with the sale of his property at Pinjarra and the subsequent default by the buyer. [7] During this dispute, as indeed throughout their marriage, McCallum's wife Bessie was a constant support to him. There seems little doubt that Bessie was conservative but she was also a strong and determined woman. She had to cope with her husband’s busy career, his many illnesses, extensive travel and a life in the public gaze. She was a naturally shy woman (some have also described her as dour) and she would not have enjoyed being in constant demand for public appearances. [8]


Alex McCalllum, relaxed, 1930s
McCalllum home in Fremantle
Draught horse at Koojarlee, 1920s

Top: Alex McCallum in a relaxed mood, 1930s
John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library. Records of Alex McCallum. Alex McCallum "relaxed", 193? JCPML00830/30

Middle: The back yard of the McCallum home in Wray Ave, Fremantle, showing the avaries.
John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library. Records of Alex McCallum. McCallum family home back garden, Wray Avenue, Fremantle, 192? JCPML00830/115

Bottom: One of McCallum's draught horses on the farm at Koojarlee
John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library. Records of Alex McCallum. Draught horse at Koojarlee, 192? JCPML00830/177

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