On Wednesday 27 April, Ross McMullin will kick off the 2016 Local Labor lecture series with a talk on Chris Watson and his 1904 Labor Government.
Ross McMullin is a leading Australian historian, whose books include The Light on the Hill (the ALP centenary history), and the award winning Pompey Elliott and Farewell, Dear People: biographies of Australia’s lost generation.
The lecture will be held at the Victorian Trades Hall (Meeting Room 1, 6.30pm for a 7pm start, entry by gold coin donation).
The blurb for the lecture is below:
A century ago, Australia led the world with many progressive social initiatives. Admiring visitors crossed the globe to inspect this advanced social laboratory. Prime Minister Chris Watson’s 1904 ministry, the culmination of Australian Labor’s astonishingly rapid rise, was the first national Labor government in the world. This lecture aims to recall for us this fascinating story of that pioneering government so that we can learn from our past when it comes to reclaiming our national future from wealthy conservative elites.
Its accomplished prime minister, little known today, led a cabinet that included two future prime ministers, together with a practically blind ex-labourer and a hard-drinking defence minister who feuded with the British commander-in- chief of Australia’s defence forces. Watson’s cabinet also included the only MP to serve in a Labor ministry without being a member of the Labor Party, and the only MP to be expelled from Australia’s federal parliament. This lecture will explain how the government came to office, assesses its record and achievements, analyses its defeat, and illuminates its place in Australian history.
The 2016 Local Labor lecture series, organised by Race Mathews, seeks to interrogate the legacy of each Labor government from Watson to Keating.