J.H. Scullin, prime minister in adversity

Colegrove, John Wesley (1967). J.H. Scullin, prime minister in adversity B.A. Thesis, School of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Classics, The University of Queensland.

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Author Colegrove, John Wesley
Thesis Title J.H. Scullin, prime minister in adversity
School, Centre or Institute School of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Classics
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 1967
Thesis type B.A. Thesis
Supervisor Unknown
Language eng
Subjects 160601 Australian Government and Politics
Formatted abstract

In delving into the two years and three months of the Scullin Government, we have explored an area which is only partially known and little traversed. Denning's "Caucus Crisis", Copland's "Australia in the World Crisis, 1929-33", and Lang's "The Great Bust" are about the only works which are devoted to the period, though there are numerous chapters in books written on other topics, as in Greenwood's "Australia, a Political and Social History", Whitington's "The House Will Divide", Crisp's "Ben Chifley" and Barratt's "Promises and Performances in Australian Politics." Single chapters in books cannot be expected to deal with such a complicated period, even if they are scholarly and substantial in length. An adequate account of these years could without difficulty occupy 150,000 words, and then some aspects would have to be left out. Such a work does not exist.

Much of this thesis has been occupied with discussion of facets which have been previously dealt with cursorily or are unknown. The coal dispute has been described in detail. Hitherto, this important issue has been described in a few sentences or paragraphs, and Scullin's involvment in the situation underestimated as a result.

The Prime Minister's activities in London have been set down as fully as space and the availability of information will allow. With the exception of the appointment of Sir Isaac Isaacs as Governor-General, this area has been almost untouched. There are also some aspects of events in Australia while Scul in was absent which have been dealt with for probably the first time, particularly the rise of agitation for double dissolution, and details of the Conversion Loan of November-December 1930. Scullin's suggestion for a conference of Parliament has been discussed where previously this rather important matter has hardly been touched upon, if dealt with at all. Events after the signing of the Premiers' Plan have been explored to fill in what has been a twilight region. Less important but interesting events like Scullin's speech before the League of Nations, his meeting with Mussolini, and his discussions with the French on trade matters have been recounted for what is probably the first time. 

In areas where the facts are relatively well-known, new and illuminating details have sometimes been added, or interpretations different from those previously accepted have been put forward. Some of the changes are minor. It is pointed out, for example, that the visit of Niemeyer would have had a less far-reaching effect if Scullin had kept Sir Otto's activities within the original aims of the visit. It was the action which Scullin took after Sir Otto stepped ashore at Perth which caused most of the trouble, whereas it has been assumed without any explicit statement to the effect, that Niemeyer carried out in Australia the task he has sent to perform, and that danger lurked from the moment he was summoned from England. Proceeding to more important matters, there is the question of Theodore and the extent to which the Queensland Government was responsible for the delay in bringing him to trial. The normal interpretation is that the Queensland Government was solely responsible for this,1 but we have grave doubts and suspect that Theodore was largely to blame. Important changes have been made with regard to the reappointment of Gibson. It is the normal assumption that Gibson was dictating policy to the Government before he was reappointed, but this assumption has been proven untenable,2 thus making Scullin's decision correspondingly more reasonable. The reason's for Scullin's subservience to the banker have also been explored, and again his attitude seems more defensible than is normally accepted. Instead of a ruthless and determined Chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board bent on dictating policy to the Government, Sir Robert comes out in our account as a frequently cautious man whose attitude to the Government arose more out of a sincere to run his bank on what he considered to be sound banking lines than to dictate policy. Scullin's acceptance of this domination was largely a matter of economic philosophy, both he and Gibson accepting orthodox economic principles. Observations that Scullin was awed by the banker, and that he admired him for his domination3 find little support in this thesis, though it is agreed that Scullin should have brought Gibson to heel by some means or other, and that his activities did amount to domination of the Government. ............................................

1 see, e.g. Crisp,L.F., "Ben Chifley" Longmans,1960 p50
2 see, e.g. Denning Warren ,"Caueus Crisis" Cumberland, Argus, 1937, p74
3 e.g. Whitington, Don "The House Will Divide" Georgian House, 195
Keyword Australia -- Politics and government -- 1901-1922
Australia -- Politics and government -- 1922-1945

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Created: Wed, 30 Jul 2014, 13:37:52 EST by Nicole Rayner on behalf of Scholarly Communication and Digitisation Service