13. Philip Collier (1873-1948), Premier of Western Australia
Philip Collier was born in Victoria. At the age of 16 he left school to try his luck in the goldfields of New South Wales and Victoria. He moved to Western Australia in 1904 to work with the Perseverance Gold Mining Company in Boulder. Collier became a delegate for the Amalgamated Workers’ Association and Vice President of the Goldfields Trades and Labour Council. These appointments helped him win the seat of Boulder in the Legislative Assembly in 1905, marking the beginning of a parliamentary career that would span 43 years, including 19 years as Labor leader and nine years as Premier.
During his term as Premier, Philip Collier continued the rural development begun by Sir James Mitchell. He opened up and doubled the land area for wheat crops and encouraged the development of a dairy industry in the south-west. In 1925 he signed an agreement with the British government to accept British migrants and settle them on the land. From 1925-28, 4,000 migrants per year were given assisted passage.
The Collier Labor Government cooperated with the union movement, and despite problems with a hostile Upper House, a state basic wage and a 44-hour week were introduced to Western Australia.
Collier lost government in 1930 but was returned in 1933 to be confronted with the electorate’s vote on secession from the Commonwealth of Australia. Collier was opposed to secession, but the petition to the British Parliament went ahead regardless, to be defeated. Collier stepped down from the premiership in 1936, and stayed on the backbench for another 12 years.