Premier of Western Australia

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Premier of Western Australia
Colin Barnett (formal) crop.jpg
Incumbent
Colin Barnett
Style The Honourable
Appointer Governor of Western Australia
Term length At Her Majesty's pleasure
Inaugural holder John Forrest
Formation 29 December 1890

The Premier of Western Australia is the head of the executive branch of government in the Australian state of Western Australia. The Premier has similar functions in Western Australia to those performed by the Prime Minister of Australia at the national level, subject to the different Constitutions. The current premier is Colin Barnett, who was sworn into office by Governor Ken Michael on 23 September 2008.[1]

Function[edit]

The premier must be a member of one of the two Houses of the Parliament of Western Australia; by convention the premier is a member of the lower house, the Legislative Assembly.[a] He or she is appointed by the governor on the advice of the lower house, and must resign if he or she loses the support of the majority of that house. Consequently, the premier is almost always the leader of the political party or coalition of parties with the majority of seats in the lower house.

History[edit]

Sir John Forrest, the first Premier of Western Australia, who served from 1890 to 1901.

The office of premier of Western Australia was first formed in 1890, after Western Australia was officially granted responsible government by Britain in 1889. The Constitution of Western Australia does not explicitly provide for a premier, and the office was not formally listed as one of the executive offices until the appointment of Ross McLarty in 1947. Nonetheless, John Forrest immediately adopted the title on taking office as first premier of Western Australia in 1890, and it has been used ever since.

John Forrest was the only premier of Western Australia as a self-governing colony. Following the Federation of Australia in 1901, Western Australia became an Australian state and the responsibilities of the office of premier were diminished.

Party politics began in Western Australia with the rise of the Labor party in 1901. By 1904, the party system was entrenched in Western Australian politics. Since then the premiers have been associated with political parties.

Western Australia's constitution contains nothing to preclude the premier being a member of the upper house, the Western Australian Legislative Council. Historically and by convention, however, the premier is a member of the Assembly. The only exception has been Hal Colebatch, a member of the Legislative Council who accepted the premiership in April 1919 on the understanding that an Assembly seat would be found for him, only to resign a month later when no seat could be found.

During the economic boom of the 1980s, the Western Australian government became closely involved with a number of large businesses. A succession of deals were made between the government and businesses, and these ultimately caused great losses for the state. A subsequent royal commission found evidence of widespread corruption. Three former premiers were found to have acted improperly and two of them, Ray O'Connor and Brian Burke, were jailed. This scandal became popularly known as WA Inc.

List of Premiers of Western Australia[edit]

Name
(lifespan)
Portrait Constituency Party Term of office Ministry Election(s) Ref
1 Sir John Forrest
(1847–1918)
John Forrest.jpg MLA for Bunbury
1890–1901 (resigned)
none[b]
(pro-Forrest)
29 December
1890
15 February
1901
Forrest Ministry 1890
1894
1897
[2]
Appointed by Governor William Robinson as the first premier of Western Australia. Began large-scale public works projects, including Fremantle Harbour and the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme. Perth Mint opened. Represented Western Australia at Federation conferences. Resigned in February 1901 to run for the seat of Swan in the federal House of Representatives.
2 George Throssell
(1840–1910)
George Throssell (1840-1910).jpg MLA for Northam
1890–1904 (resigned)
MLC for East Province
1907–1910 (died)
none[b]
(pro-Forrest)
15 February
1901
27 May
1901
Throssell Ministry 1901 [3]
Took over as Premier and Treasurer after Forrest's resignation in February 1901. Contested the 1901 election as Premier, but resigned after his faction failed to win a majority of seats.
3 George Leake (I)
(1856–1902)
George Leake.jpg MLA for Roebourne
1890 (resigned)
MLA for Albany
1894–1900 (resigned)
MLA for West Perth
1901–1902 (died)
none[b]
(Opposition)
27 May
1901
21 November
1901
1st Leake Ministry [4]
Became Premier as a compromise between the opposing factions of Frederick Illingworth and George Throssell. Served for five months before his government was defeated on a no-confidence vote.
4 Alf Morgans
(1850–1933)
Alf Morgans (1850-1933).jpg MLA for Coolgardie
1897–1904 (resigned)
none[b]
(Ministerialist)
21 November
1901
23 December
1901
Morgans Ministry [5]
Served as Premier for 32 days as a compromise after George Leake's government was defeated. Resigned after members of his Cabinet were defeated in a ministerial by-election.

(3)
George Leake (II)
(1856–1902)
George Leake.jpg MLA for Roebourne
1890 (resigned)
MLA for Albany
1894–1900 (resigned)
MLA for West Perth
1901–1902 (died)
none[b]
(Opposition)
23 December
1901
1 July[c]
1902
2nd Leake Ministry [4]
Again became Premier after the failure of Alf Morgans' government. Died in office on 24 June 1902.
5 Sir Walter James
(1863–1943)
Walter James.jpg MLA for East Perth
1894–1904 (resigned)
none[b]
(Opposition)
1 July[c]
1902
10 August
1904
James Ministry 1904 [6]
Sworn in as Premier after Leake's death. Led a reforming government, which legalised trade unions and introduced workers' compensation and a stronger Arbitration Act. Unsuccessfully attempted to reform the franchise. Defeated in a no-confidence motion after the 1904 election.
6 Henry Daglish
(1866–1920)
HenryDaglish.jpeg MLA for Subiaco
1901–1911 (lost seat)
Labor Party 10 August
1904
25 August
1905
Daglish Ministry [7]
Western Australia's first Labor premier. John Drayon, a newspaper editor, imprisoned under parliamentary privilege. Defeated after twelve months over plans to buy out the Midland Railway Company for £1.5 million.
7 Sir Cornthwaite Rason
(1858–1927)
Cornthwaite Rason (1858-1927).jpg MLC for Swan
1889–1890 (resigned)
MLA for South Murchison
1897–1901 (resigned)
MLA for Guildford
1901–1906 (resigned)
Ministerialist 25 August
1905
7 May
1906
Morgans Ministry 1905 [8]
Became premier after Henry Daglish's government was defeated. Headed a Royal Commission on immigration. Resigned in 1906 after appointing himself Agent General.
8 Sir Newton Moore
(1870–1936)
Newton Moore (1870-1936).jpeg MLA for Bunbury
1904–1911 (resigned)
Ministerialist 7 May
1906
16 September
1910
Moore Ministry 1908 [9]
Began as premier at age 36, with only two years of parliamentary experience, at the time the youngest ever premier. Placed emphasis on agriculture and rural development, establishing the Wheatbelt and implementing the Income and Land Tax. Resigned in September 1910 on grounds of ill health.
9 Frank Wilson (I)
(1859–1918)
Frank Wilson (1859-1918).jpeg MLA for Canning
1895–1901 (seat abolished)
MLA for Perth
1901 (lost seat)
MLA for Sussex
1904–1917 (lost seat)
Ministerialist 16 September
1910
7 October
1911
1st Wilson Ministry 1911 [10]
Pushed through legislation which established the University of Western Australia and a number of electoral reform bills. Lost in a landslide to Labor at the 1911 election.
10 John Scaddan
(1876–1934)
John Scaddan.jpg MLA for Ivanhoe
1904–1911 (seat abolished)
MLA for Brown Hill-Ivanhoe
1911–1916 (resigned)
1916–1917 (lost seat)
MLA for Albany
1919–1924 (did not contest)
MLA for Maylands
1930–1933 (lost seat)
Labor Party 7 October
1911
27 July
1916
Scaddan Ministry 1914 [11]
Passed a number of reform bills, established a state income tax, extended workers' compensation, reformed the education system, and set up a number of state-owned industries, including the State Shipping Service, abattoirs, sawmills, quarries, brickworks and farms. SS ''Koombana'' wrecked off the coast of Port Hedland. Government defeated July 1916, in part due to heavy debt and the Nevanas affair.

(9)
Frank Wilson (II)
(1859–1918)
Frank Wilson (1859-1918).jpeg MLA for Canning
1895–1901 (seat abolished)
MLA for Perth
1901 (lost seat)
MLA for Sussex
1904–1917 (lost seat)
Liberal Party 27 July
1916
28 June
1917
2nd Wilson Ministry [10]
Returned as premier after Scaddan's Labor government lost a majority in the lower house. Replaced by Henry Lefroy as premier after a new Nationalist Party was formed, without Wilson and several of his ministers.
11 Henry Lefroy
(1854–1930)
Henry Lefroy.jpg MLA for Moore
1892–1901 (did not contest)
1911–1921 (did not contest)
Nationalist Party 28 June
1917
17 April
1919
Lefroy Ministry 1917 [12]
Elected leader by the newly formed majority Nationalist Party. Moore River Native Settlement established 1918. Resigned in 1919 after an unsuccessful leadership spill which forced Lefroy to cast the deciding vote on his premiership.
12 Hal Colebatch
(1872–1953)
Hal Colebatch.jpg MLC for East Province
1912–1923 (resigned)
Nationalist Party 17 April
1919
17 May
1919
Lefroy Ministry [13]
After being elected leader of the Nationalist Party, Colebatch served as premier from the Legislative Council with the understanding that a lower house seat would be found for him. Resigned after a month when no seat could be found for him. Pelted with rocks during the Fremantle wharf crisis. The only person to serve as premier while a member of the upper house, and the short-serving premier.
13 Sir James Mitchell (I)
(1866–1951)
Sir James Mitchell.jpg MLA for Northam
1905–1933 (lost seat)
Nationalist Party 17 May
1919
16 April
1924
1st Mitchell Ministry 1921
1924
[14]
Established a strong Western Australian dairy industry. Initiated the Group Settlement and Soldier Settlement Schemes in the South West. Race riots in Broome in 1920. Defeated by Labor at the 1924 election.
14 Philip Collier (I)
(1873–1948)
Philip Collier.jpg MLA for Boulder
1905–1948 (died)
Labor Party 16 April
1924
24 April
1930
1st Collier Ministry 1927
1930
[15]
Reduced taxation, allowing the first surplus in 16 years. Continued the previous government's rural development initiatives. Woods Royal Commission on the Forrest River massacre. Centenary of Western Australia celebrated. Introduced a minimum wage and a 40-hour working week.

(13)
Sir James Mitchell (II)
(1866–1951)
Sir James Mitchell.jpg MLA for Northam
1905–1933 (lost seat)
Nationalist Party 24 April
1930
24 April
1933
2nd Mitchell Ministry 1933 [14]
Returned after the 1930 election, governing in coalition with the Country Party. Secession referendum held in 1933 was passed with 66% of the vote, however, the Nationalist/Country coalition lost power at the 1933, and the returning Labor government did not act on the results. Moseley Royal Commission regarding the treatment of Aboriginals established.

(14)
Philip Collier (II)
(1873–1948)
Philip Collier.jpg MLA for Boulder
1905–1948 (died)
Labor Party 24 April
1933
19 August
1936
2nd Collier Ministry 1936 [15]
Led his party to victory at the 1936 election. Resigned August 1936. Over his two terms, served nine years and 126 days, the longest by a Labor premier.
15 John Willcock
(1879–1956)
John Willcock.jpg MLA for Geraldton
1917–1947 (died)
Labor Party 20 August
1936
31 July
1945
Willcock Ministry 1939
1943
[16]
Introduced a range of small secondary industries. Considered a plan for a Jewish homeland in the Kimberley. Japanese planes attack Broome and the MV Koolama. Represented Western Australia at the coronation of King George V in 1937. Resigned in 1945 due to ill health.
16 Frank Wise
(1897–1986)
Honfrankjosephwise.jpg MLA for Gascoyne
1933–1951 (resigned)
Labor Party 31 July
1945
1 April
1947
Wise Ministry 1947
Chosen to serve as premier after John Willcock's resignation. Introduced Air Beef Scheme in the Kimberley. Wise's government was defeated at the 1947 election.
17 Sir Ross McLarty
(1891–1962)
Ross McLarty.jpg MLA for Murray-Wellington
1930–1962 (resigned)
Liberal Party 1 April
1947
23 February
1953
McLarty–Watts Ministry 1953
1950
[17]
Governed in coalition with the Country Party. Introduced post-war industrial development, including oil refineries at Kwinana. Established the State Housing Commission. Lost office at the 1953 election.
18 Albert Hawke
(1900–1986)
Albert Hawke (uncropped).jpg MLA for Northam
1933–1968 (did not contest)
Labor Party 23 February
1953
2 April
1959
Hawke Ministry 1956
1959
[18]
Improved public housing. Aboriginal Australians given citizenship rights in 1954. Passed heavily criticised anti-profiteering legislation. The first premier born in the 20th century.
19 Sir David Brand
(1912–1979)
OIC dongara david brand statue in shire chambers.jpg MLA for Greenough
1945–1975 (resigned)
Liberal Party 2 April
1959
3 March
1971
Brand–Watts Ministry
Brand–Nalder Ministry
1962
1965
1968
1971
[19]
First mining of iron ore in the Pilbara. Expanded mineral processing at Kwinana and in the South West. 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games held in Perth.Federal funding obtained for Ord River Scheme. Controversy over proposed demolition of the Barracks Arch. Mining Posiedon bubble burst. Conflict with the federal government over wheat quotas. Lost power at the 1971 election.
20 John Tonkin
(1902–1995)
State Badge of Western Australia.svg MLA for North-East Fremantle
1933–1950 (seat abolished)
MLA for Melville
1950–1977 (did not contest)
Labor Party 3 March
1971
8 April
1974
Tonkin Ministry 1974
Emphasis on education and further industrial development.
21 Sir Charles Court
(1911–2007)
Charles Court 1953.jpg MLA for Nedlands
1953–1982 (resigned)
Liberal Party 8 April
1974
25 January
1982
Court–McPharlin Ministry
Court Ministry
1977
1980
Emphasised development of mining, oil and natural gas industries, precipitating a mining boom. Perth–Fremantle railway line closed September 1979. Murdoch University and Art Gallery of Western Australia opened. 150th anniversary of European settlement celebrated. Retired January 1982.
22 Ray O'Connor
(1926–2013)
State Badge of Western Australia.svg MLA for North Perth
1959–1962 (seat abolished)
MLA for Mount Lawley
1962–1984 (resigned)
Liberal Party 25 January
1982
25 February
1983
O'Connor Ministry 1983
Continued Charles Court's policies of mining and industrial development. Perth Mint Swindle. Lost power at the 1983 election. In 1992, jailed for six months as part of the WA Inc scandal.
23 Brian Burke
(born 1947)
State Badge of Western Australia.svg MLA for Balcatta
1973–1974 (seat abolished)
1977–1983 (did not contest)
MLA for Balga
1974–1977 (seat abolished)
1983–1988 (did not contest)
Labor Party 25 February
1983
25 February
1988
Burke Ministry 1986
Fremantle railway line re-opened. Capital punishment abolished 1984. Stock market crash. In 1992, jailed for seven months as part of the WA Inc scandal.
24 Peter Dowding
(born 1943)
State Badge of Western Australia.svg MLC for North Province
1979–1986 (resigned)
MLA for Maylands
1986–1990 (resigned)
Labor Party 25 February
1988
12 February
1990
Dowding Ministry 1989
Took over from Brian Burke as premier in 1988. Resigned in 1990 after being challenged for the ALP leadership after a slump in the polls.
25 Dr Carmen Lawrence
(born 1948)
Carmen Lawrence 2012.JPG MLA for Subiaco
1986–1989 (seat abolished)
MLA for Glendalough
1989–1994 (resigned)
Labor Party 12 February
1990
16 February
1993
Lawrence Ministry 1993
Called a Royal Commission into WA Inc. Northern Suburbs Transit System begun. Perth City Busport opened. Defeated at the 1993 election. Later charged with perjury over the Easton affair. First female premier of any Australian state.
26 Richard Court
(born 1947)
State Badge of Western Australia.svg MLA for Nedlands
1982–2001 (resigned)
Liberal Party 16 February
1993
10 February
2001
Court–Cowan Ministry 1996
2001
Governed in coalition with the Nationals, led by Hendy Cowan. Scandals over the logging of old-growth forests and a finance-broking scheme. Graham Farmer Freeway and final stage of the Kwinana Freeway completed.
27 Dr Geoff Gallop
(born 1951)
Geoffrey Gallop Midland (cropped).jpg MLA for Victoria Park
1986–2006 (resigned)
Labor Party 10 February
2001
25 January
2006
Gallop Ministry 2005
Swan Valley Nyungah Community closed after allegations of rape, substance abuse and child abuse, later the subject of the Gordon Inquiry. Resigned in 2006 to deal with depression.
28 Alan Carpenter
(born 1957)
Alan Carpenter (cropped).jpg MLA for Willagee
1996–2009 (resigned)
Labor Party 25 January
2006
23 September
2008
Carpenter Ministry 2008
Mandurah railway line opened. Removed three ministers after allegations of impropriety involving former premier Brian Burke by the Corruption and Crime Commission.
29 Colin Barnett
(born 1950)
Colin Barnett (formal) crop.jpg MLA for Cottesloe
1990–present
Liberal Party 23 September
2008
Incumbent Barnett Ministry 2013
Minority government in first term in partnership with the National Party. Developed Perth's foreshore, introduced plans for a new Perth Stadium, partially deregulated Perth's shopping hours, and sunk the railway line that divides Perth and Northbridge

Opposed federal Resource Super Profits Tax and Mineral Resource Rent Tax, and attempts to decrease Western Australia's GST revenues. Forrest Highway completed.

Living former premiers[edit]

As of 12 July 2014, six former premiers are alive, the oldest being Peter Dowding (born 1943), who served from 1988 to 1990. The most recent premier to die was Ray O'Connor, on 25 February 2013, aged 86.

Name Term as premier Date of birth Current age
Brian Burke 1983–1988 25 February 1947 67 years, 137 days
Peter Dowding 1988–1990 6 October 1943 70 years, 279 days
Dr Carmen Lawrence 1990–1993 2 March 1948 66 years, 132 days
Richard Court 1993–2001 27 September 1947 66 years, 288 days
Dr Geoff Gallop 2001–2006 27 September 1951 62 years, 288 days
Alan Carpenter 2006–2008 4 January 1957 57 years, 189 days

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

a The only premier to serve in the upper house while premier was Sir Hal Colebatch, who was elected by the Nationalist Party to fill the vacancy presented by the resignation of Henry Lefroy, on the condition that a seat in the lower house would be found for him. He served as premier for a month before resigning after no seat could be found.
b Prior to the 1904 election, no organised political parties existed, other than the Australian Labor Party. Parliamentary factions included the Ministerialist, or pro-Forrest, faction, and the Opposition, or pro-Leake, faction.
c Leake died in office on 24 June 1902 from complications resulting from pneumonia, but the new Walter James-led ministry was not sworn in until 1 July 1902. Walter Kingsmill served as Acting Premier during this time.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Barnett sworn in as WA's 29th Premier, The West Australian, 23 September 2008
  2. ^ Crowley, F. K. "Forrest, Sir John (1847–1918)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Australian National University. Retrieved 30 January 2012. 
  3. ^ Garden, Donald S. "Throssell, George (1840–1910)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Australian National University. Retrieved 30 January 2012. 
  4. ^ a b De Garis, B. K. "Leake, George (1856–1902)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Australian National University. Retrieved 30 January 2012. 
  5. ^ Bolton, G. C. "Morgans, Alfred Edward (1850–1933)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Australian National University. Retrieved 30 January 2012. 
  6. ^ Hunt, Lyall. "James, Sir Walter Hartwell (1863–1943)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Australian National University. Retrieved 30 January 2012. 
  7. ^ Gibbney, H. J. "Daglish, Henry (1866–1920)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Australian National University. Retrieved 30 January 2012. 
  8. ^ Bolton, G. C. "Rason, Sir Cornthwaite Hector William James (1858–1927)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Australian National University. Retrieved 30 January 2012. 
  9. ^ Adams, David. "Moore, Sir Newton James (1870–1936)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Australian National University. Retrieved 30 January 2012. 
  10. ^ a b Black, David. "Wilson, Frank (1859–1918)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Australian National University. Retrieved 30 January 2012. 
  11. ^ Robertson, J. R. "Scaddan, John (1876–1934)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Australian National University. Retrieved 30 January 2012. 
  12. ^ Cameron, Catherine. "Lefroy, Sir Henry Bruce (1853–1930)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Australian National University. Retrieved 30 January 2012. 
  13. ^ De Garis, B. K. "Colebatch, Sir Harry Pateshall (Hal) (1872–1953)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Australian National University. Retrieved 30 January 2012. 
  14. ^ a b Bolton, G. C. "Mitchell, Sir James (1866–1951)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Australian National University. Retrieved 30 January 2012. 
  15. ^ a b Black, David. "Collier, Philip (1873–1948)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Australian National University. Retrieved 30 January 2012. 
  16. ^ Doohan, Noelene. "Willcock, John Collings (1879–1956)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Australian National University. Retrieved 30 January 2012. 
  17. ^ Layman, Lenore. "McLarty, Sir Duncan Ross (1891–1962)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Australian National University. Retrieved 30 January 2012. 
  18. ^ Pendal, Phillip. "Hawke, Albert Redvers George (Bert) (1900–1986)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Australian National University. Retrieved 30 January 2012. 
  19. ^ Baclk, David. "Brand, Sir David (1912–1979)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Australian National University. Retrieved 30 January 2012. 

Further reading[edit]