Jack Beasley

Jack Beasley

John Albert (Jack) Beasley (1895-1949), trade unionist and politician, was born in rural Victoria and came to Sydney in 1918, as an electrician at Cockatoo Island. He became a shop steward for the Electrical Trades Union and was President of the Labor Council of NSW (1922-28) and of the E.T.U. (1924-30).

He fell under the spell of Jock Garden and the Communist Party until 1926 when he was able to observe Italian fascism and Russian communism. He won the safe federal seat of West Sydney in 1928. After the 1929 election he impressed Prime Minister Scullin. However he was now associated with J.T.Lang: he supported the ‘Lang Plan’ and therefore lost his cabinet post in 1931. As leader of the Federal ‘Lang Labor Party’ he helped to bring down the Scullin government.

The Langites returned to the A.L.P. in 1936 but in 1940 Lang formed a new group, the Australian Labor Party (Non-Communist), with Beasley as its Federal leader. Beasley persuaded the Lang MPs (but not Lang himself) to rejoin the A.L.P. in February 1941.

When the Curtin government took office in 1941, Beasley became Minister for Supply and Development, organizing Australia’s war effort and mobilizing the labour movement’s support. In 1946 he became resident minister in London. He resigned from parliament and was High Commissioner until he died.

Beasley was friendly and popular despite being a non-smoker and teetotaller. With little formal education, he built on his own experience and intelligence.