James Scullin And The GCMG

James Scullin And The GCMG
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James Scullin was the manager of a small grocery store who continued to educate himself, and then became a union organiser.

He was elected to Commonwealth Parliament in 1910, lost his seat in 1913, and was re-elected in 1923. He became Australian Labor Party leader in 1928.

Labor won the 1929 election and Scullin became Prime Minister – the first Catholic to do so. Unfortunately, this was also the start of the Depression.

One week after Scullin’s electoral victory, the Wall Street stock market crashed, and investors raced to withdraw their investments. Australia depended on foreign loans to support much of its economic activity, so the loss of loan money, together with the need to repay existing debts and falls in the price of our major agricultural exports, led to huge unemployment as employers had to cut back on their activities.

The new Prime Minister, James Scullin, refused to take up residence in The Lodge. Instead, he offered to rent it out to defray the costs of the Prime Ministership. Scullin had backbone, and even when his mission to appoint an Australian-born Governor-General met with furious opposition from the British Government and Australian public disapproval, he insisted on forwarding the name of only one candidate – Sir Isaac Isaacs.

King George V was not amused, but the precedent had been set – in effect the Governor-General was being appointed not by the King but by the Prime Minister – and Isaacs was anointed to the Order of St Michael and St George as Knight Grand Cross (GCMG) and presented with the insignia chain.

James Scullin (1876–1953) was Prime Minister of Australia from October 1929 to January 1932. The GCMG is held at the National Library of Australia in Canberra.

The Prime Ministers' National Treasures is also available for purchase from the NFSA Online Shop.