4. Sir Walter Hartwell James (1863-1942), lawyer and politician
Walter James was the son of a Perth publican. He became a lawyer and political activist. In the 1880s he was a stalwart of the Liberal Association, an organisation which aimed to create a more egalitarian society by destroying the elite clique of certain families that had ruled the colony for many decades.
Walter James was a founder of the W.A. Football Association at a time when football was the sport of the working classes. He became the spokesman of the workers during the 1890s in the Perth City Council and as MLA for East Perth. From 1894 he supported John Forrest’s programs of public works and land settlement, but insisted that “roads and bridges were not enough”. He worked in Parliament for votes for women, worker’s compensation, early shop closing, legalisation of trade unions and the establishment of an arbitration court.
He was minister without portfolio in the short-lived government of George Leake. When Leake died in 1902, Walter James had sufficient personal support to form his own government that was committed to social reform. The James government accomplished the first reforms for mental health care and the treatment of prisoners. In addition, James supported state enterprises including the establishment of state hotels. His main concern was to reduce the power of the conservative Legislative Council. Predictably, the Upper House defeated his reform proposals.
In the 1904 elections, the new Labor Party and the remainder of the Forrest Party defeated Walter James and his supporters. James resigned from Parliament and returned to his legal practice. He accepted a knighthood in 1907.