12. John “Happy Jack” Scaddan (1876-1934), politician
John Scaddan spent his early years in South Australia and Victoria, where he learned to operate stationary engines in the mines. He arrived in Western Australia in 1896 to find work in the goldfields.
He was interested in the politics of the region, and in 1904 was elected to the seat of Ivanhoe in the Legislative Assembly. Scaddan was recognised as one of Labor’s main parliamentary speakers, and it was not unknown for him to speak for up to three hours in debate. In 1910, Scaddan was elected leader of a reformist Labor government with an 18-seat majority.
Prior to World War I, it was obvious that the gold production industry was in decline. The key to future development focused on the primary industries, namely wheat production. Scaddan saw that railways were the key to viable agricultural industries and focused the government’s efforts on expanding the state’s rail infrastructure. Between 1911 and 1916 wheat production trebled.
Scaddan served as Premier from October 1911-July 1916. From 1919 to 1933 he changed his political parties a number of times – joining with the Liberals to form the National Party, then moving to the newly-formed Country Party before returning to the Nationals.
Throughout his political career, he held the portfolios of railways, mines, police, industries and forests. He was a member of the six-man committee which prepared the case for secession. John Scaddan was remembered as “Happy Jack”; a jovial man of great energy. His industrious, pragmatic, humanitarian approach suited a pioneering state in need of industry and development.