Jack Lang (Australian politician)

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John Thomas Lang (21 December 1876 – 27 September 1975), usually referred to as J.T. Lang during his career, and familiarly known as "Jack" and nicknamed "The Big Fella," was an Australian politician who was Premier of New South Wales for two terms (1925–27, 1930–32). He is the only Premier of an Australian state to have been dismissed by the state Governor.


Early life

Lang was born into an impoverished family in the slums of Sydney. He was born in George Street, Sydney. His father, James Henry Lang, a watchmaker and jeweller, was chronically ill and often unable to work. His mother was Mary Whelan. For a time, Lang lived with an aunt and uncle on their farm in Bairnsdale, Victoria, due to the financial pressures on his family in Sydney. While still of primary school age at St. Francis Marist Brothers' School, Brickfield Hill, he sold newspapers on the streets of downtown Sydney to help support his family, and received a minimal formal education. This spurred him to read and study very widely in private. Lang would never forget the hardships of the working and poor classes and carried for the rest of his life a resolve to improve these conditions.

Early career

During the banking crash of the 1890s which devastated Australia, Lang became interested in politics, frequenting radical bookshops and helping print newspapers and publications for the infant Labor Party, which contested its first election in New South Wales in 1891. He then did odd jobs in the agricultural districts near Parramatta, driving a horse bus and hiring out on poultry farms. He soon moved back to Sydney with his parents, where at the age of 19 he married Hilda Bredt, the 17-year-old daughter of prominent feminist and socialist Bertha Bredt. Hilda's sister, also named Bertha, was married to the author and poet Henry Lawson.

Lang then became a junior office assistant for an accounting practice, where his shrewdness and intelligence saw his career advance. Around 1900 he became the manager of a real estate firm in the then semi-rural suburb of Auburn. He was so successful in this job that he soon set up his own real estate business in an area very much in demand by working-class families looking to escape the squalor and overcrowding of the inner-city slums.

Lang continued in his political pursuits, soon becoming an Alderman on Auburn Municipal Council and eventually mayor. He was elected as a member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly in 1913 for the electorate of Granville, serving as a backbencher in the Labor Party government led by William Holman. When Prime Minister, Billy Hughes, twice tried to introduce conscription to the country in WWI, Lang sided firmly with the anti-conscriptionist wing of the ALP. The mass defection from the ALP of parliamentarians and supporters who supported the military measure opened up opportunities and Lang positioned himself for advancement. His financial skills led him to become Treasurer in Premier Storey's Labor Government from 1920 to 1922. Due to the post-World War I financial recession the state's accounts were in a persistent deficit, and Lang managed to cut this deficit significantly. From 1920 to 1927, he was a member for the multi-member seat of Parramatta.

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