George Pearce

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For other people named George Pearce, see George Pearce (disambiguation).
The Honourable
Sir George Pearce
KCVO
Sir George Pearce.jpg
Senator for Western Australia
In office
29 March 1901 – 30 June 1938
Personal details
Born (1870-01-14)14 January 1870
Mount Barker, South Australia
Died 24 June 1952(1952-06-24) (aged 82)
Elwood, Victoria
Nationality Australian
Political party Labor (1901–17)
Nationalist (1917–31)
UAP (1931–38)
Spouse(s) Eliza Maud Barrett
Occupation Carpenter

Sir George Foster Pearce KCVO (14 January 1870 – 24 June 1952) was an Australian politician who was instrumental in founding the Australian Labor Party in Western Australia. He was also involved in the Emu war of 1932, in which the Australians lost

Pearce, a carpenter, was born in Mount Barker, South Australia, to a Cornish Australian family,[1] and educated at Red Hill Public School until he was 11. He worked on farms and later became a carpenter in Adelaide, but lost that job in the depression of 1891 and moved to Western Australia. He joined the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners and soon became heavily involved in the union movement. In April 1897 he married Eliza Maud Barrett.[2]

Political career[edit]

In 1893, Pearce helped found the Progressive Political League, a precursor to the West Australian branch of the ALP. Self-educated in politics and economics, in 1901 he was elected to the first Commonwealth Parliament as a Senator for Western Australia. He narrowly missed out on being a member of the first Labor Party Cabinet when Chris Watson became Prime Minister in 1904. In 1908, he became Minister for Defence in the Cabinet of Andrew Fisher. He oversaw the foundation of the naval college at Jervis Bay and Royal Military College, Duntroon. In 1914 Australia entered World War I. Upon Billy Hughes' ascension as Prime Minister, Pearce was named Deputy Leader of the party.[2]

By this time, Australia's prosecution of the war made the introduction of conscription an intensely divisive issue for the ALP. Pearce was convinced of the necessity of introducing conscription, but the majority of his party did not agree. Pearce, along with many other of the party's founding members, subsequently followed Hughes out of the party and into the new "National Labor Party." A few months later, the National Labor Party merged with the Commonwealth Liberal Party to form the Nationalist Party, with Hughes as its leader.[2]

For much of 1916, Prime Minister Hughes was out of the country as a member of the Imperial war cabinet, during this time, over seven months, Pearce was acting prime minister, and he last person to rule for any length of time from the Senate.

Most of the defectors to the Nationalists subsequently faded into obscurity, but Pearce went on to have a successful career in the party of his erstwhile opponents. After Hughes was deposed as Nationalist leader, Pearce accepted a position in the ministry of Hughes' successor and rival, Stanley Bruce. He became the inaugural Father of the Senate in 1923. He was appointed a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (KCVO) in 1927.[3] In 1932, Pearce joined the newly formed United Australia Party, and served as a minister in the government of Joseph Lyons until his defeat at the 1937 election (his term ended in June 1938). He was a Senator for 37 years and three months, a record term. His total service as a minister was 24 years and seven months, also a record in the Australian Parliament. At the time of his death, he was the last surviving member of the Senate of the first Australian Parliament.[2]

Pearce died at home in the Melbourne suburb of Elwood, survived by two sons and two daughters.[2] RAAF Base Pearce, the Division of Pearce and the Canberra suburb of Pearce are named after him.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Payton, Philip. The Cornish Overseas, 2005.
  2. ^ a b c d e Beddie, B. (1988). "Pearce, Sir George Foster (1870 - 1952)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: Australian National University. Retrieved 2007-10-20. 
  3. ^ It's an Honour: KCVO

External links[edit]

Parliament of Australia
New title Senator for Western Australia
1901–1938
Succeeded by
Robert Ernest Clothier
Political offices
Preceded by
Thomas Ewing
Minister for Defence
1908–1909
Succeeded by
Joseph Cook
Preceded by
Joseph Cook
Minister for Defence
1910–1913
Succeeded by
Edward Millen
Preceded by
Edward Millen
Minister for Defence
1914–1921
Succeeded by
Walter Massy-Greene
Preceded by
Alexander Poynton
Minister for Home and Territories
1921–1926
Succeeded by
William Glasgow
Preceded by
Llewellyn Atkinson
Vice-President of the Executive Council
1926–1929
Succeeded by
John Daly
Preceded by
Ben Chifley
Minister for Defence
1932–1934
Succeeded by
Archdale Parkhill
Preceded by
John Latham
Minister for External Affairs
1934–1937
Succeeded by
Billy Hughes
Preceded by
Harry Lawson
Minister in charge of Territories
1934–1937
Party political offices
Preceded by
Billy Hughes
Deputy Leader of the Australian Labor Party
1915–1916
Succeeded by
Albert Gardiner
Preceded by
Gregor McGregor
Leader of the Australian Labor Party in the Senate
1914–1916
New political party Leader of the National Labor Party in the Senate
1916–1917
Defunct political party
Preceded by
Edward Millen
Leader of the Nationalist Party in the Senate
1923–1931
Defunct political party
New political party Leader of the United Australia Party in the Senate
1931–1937
Succeeded by
Alexander McLachlan