James Mitchell (Australian politician)

James Mitchell (Australian politician)

Sir James Mitchell GCMG (27 April 186626 July 1951) was Premier of Western Australia from 17 May 1919 to 15 April 1924, and again from 24 April 1930 to 24 April 1933.

Mitchell the eldest of thirteen children and was educated at Bunbury, Western Australia and in 1885 joined the Western Australian Bank. He later was a farmer.

In 1906, the premier Newton Moore made Mitchell honorary minister, agricultural expansion. In 1909 he was promoted, being given the ministership of lands and agriculture. He recruited William Lowrie as director of agriculture.

On the 17 May 1919 the premier, Hal Colebatch, resigned and Mitchell became premier. Mitchell won the 1921 election and remained premier until 1924. During this period he garnered much publicity for his strong support for the Soldier-Settlement Scheme in the South-West of Western Australia. As a result of his enthusiastic promotion of this scheme (which ultimately proved very costly in terms of money and resources) he was dubbed "Moo-Cow" Mitchell by the local press. Nonetheless the establishment of a dairy industry in Western Australia can be largely credited to him. He also proved adept at dealing with the divisions between the Nationalist Party and the Country Party.

Mitchell's second term in office was marred by the onset of the Great Depression. As a consequence his government was defeated at the 1933 state elections, in addition to which he became the first West Australian Premier to lose both a state election and his parliamentary seat (of Northam).

As a result of financial difficulties during the Great Depression, Tasmania had appointed a lieutenant-governor in the 1930s. With the approval of all major political parties, in July 1933 Mitchell was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Western Australia. This meant that, although he resided in Government House, and was governor in all but name, he drew no salary, thus making no demand on the public purse at a time when ordinary people were under severe restraint. He held the Lieutenant-Governor position until he was finally appointed Governor of Western Australia in 1948. He retired as Governor in June 1951, and died only a month later.

Mitchell was the first Australian-born Governor of Western Australia, and he remains the only person to serve as both premier and governor of the state.


*G. C. Bolton, ' [http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A100520b.htm Mitchell, Sir James (1866 - 1951)] ', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, MUP, 1986, pp 530-532.

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