Robert Hastie

Robert "Bob" Hastie (27 July 1861 – 9 April 1914) was an Australian politician who was the first parliamentary leader of the Labour Party[a] in Western Australia. He was a member of the state's Legislative Assembly from 1901 to 1905.

Robert Hastie
Robert Hastie.png
Leader of the Labour Party[a]
in Western Australia
In office
10 May 1901 – 8 July 1904
Preceded byNone (new position)
Succeeded byHenry Daglish
Member of the Legislative Assembly
of Western Australia
In office
24 April 1901 – 27 October 1905
Preceded byNone (new seat)
Succeeded byThomas Walker
Personal details
Born(1861-07-27)27 July 1861
Glasgow, Scotland
Died9 April 1914(1914-04-09) (aged 52)
Hawthorn, Victoria, Australia
Political partyLabour[a] (to 1905)
Commonwealth Liberal (1910)

Hastie was born in Glasgow, Scotland, and spent time in New Zealand and Victoria before arriving in Western Australia in 1895 during the gold rush. Prominent in the labour movement on the Eastern Goldfields, he entered parliament at the 1901 state election, and was elected party leader shortly after. Hastie was replaced as leader by Henry Daglish in July 1904, who became premier the following month. He served as a minister in Daglish's government, but was defeated for preselection at the early 1905 election. Hastie eventually left the Labour Party, and unsuccessfully stood for the Commonwealth Liberal Party at the 1910 federal election.

Early lifeEdit

Hastie was born in Glasgow, Scotland, to Christina (née Stewart) and William Hastie, his father being a British Army soldier.[1] He studied at the Andersonian Institute in Glasgow, and then as a young man emigrated to New Zealand.[b] He spent five years in the North Island, including a period prospecting in Thames (the site of an earlier gold rush). In 1890, Hastie moved to Victoria, where he spent another five years before coming to Western Australia.[5] Settling in the Eastern Goldfields, he spent a short time prospecting in the Coolgardie area, and then moved to Boulder, where he spent a few years before moving on to Kanowna. On the goldfields, Hastie became involved with the union movement, and eventually became president of the local branch of the Amalgamated Workers' Association (AWA), an early general union. He was a frequent letter-writer to local newspapers, sometimes under a pseudonym, and was the organiser a weekly lecture series in Kanowna. A 1901 article in the Westralian Worker noted that Hastie had been "an active and leading member" in both the movement for federation and the Goldfields secession movement.[6]

Parliamentary careerEdit

At the 1901 state election, Hastie stood for the seat of Kanowna, which was one of a number of new seats created in the Eastern Goldfields. He faced five other candidates, all running for the Opposition faction (which opposed the government of George Throssell), but polled exactly 60 percent of the vote to record a large victory. Of the six successful Labour candidates, only Fergie Reid (69.0%) and John Reside (68.3%) polled higher percentages.[7] At the first meeting of the Labour caucus after the election, on 10 May, Hastie was elected to the party's leadership.[8] His leadership was renewed twice, in July 1902 and July 1903.[9][10] Because the Labour Party did not form the official opposition (instead sitting on the crossbench), Hastie never became Leader of the Opposition. On at least one occasion, in August 1903, approaches were made to other non-government members about the Labour Party forming an official opposition, but they were rebuffed.[11]

At the 1904 state election, held on 28 June, the Labour Party won 22 seats and became the largest party in parliament, four seats short of forming a majority government. Hastie was re-elected to his own seat unopposed.[7] At the first post-election meeting of the Labour caucus, on 8 July, he announced that he did not wish to be remain leader of the party, and was replaced by Henry Daglish, who was elected almost unanimously (George Taylor being the only other candidate).[12] On 10 August, Daglish became premier at the head of a Labor minority government. Hastie therefore narrowly missed becoming the first Labor Premier of Western Australia. Hastie was appointed Minister for Justice and Minister for Mines in the new ministry.[13] As Minister for Justice, he was the state's top legal officer, and was responsible for the administration of the Crown Law Department. In all previous ministries, the top legal officer had held the title of the Attorney-General, but Hastie had no formal legal training and that title was felt to be inappropriate. William Sayer, the Crown Solicitor (equivalent to solicitor-general), was appointed acting attorney-general to fulfil certain constitutional requirements, but was not a formal member of the ministry.[14]

In a ministerial reshuffle in June 1905, Hastie replaced John Holman as Minister for Labour, but lost the mines portfolio to William Johnson. He remained in the ministry only until August 1905, when the Daglish government was defeated on a confidence motion.[13] The new premier, Hector Rason, called an early election for November 1905. Hastie stood for Labour preselection in Kanowna for a third time, but was defeated by Thomas Walker (who went on to hold the seat until his death in 1932). He placed only third out of five candidates, with 19.1 percent of the vote.[15]

Later lifeEdit

After leaving parliament, Hastie went into business in Perth as a mining and commercial agent.[1] He remained involved in public life, giving several lectures on political topics at the Perth Trades Hall.[16][17] In May 1906, Hastie sued the Kalgoorlie Sun for libel, claiming £1,000 in damages for an article in January 1906 that he believed portrayed him as corrupt.[18] The jury found against him, and awarded costs to the defendants.[19] Later in 1906, he testified before a royal commission into gold stealing, which eventually resulted in the creation of the Gold Stealing Detection Unit of the Western Australia Police.[20] In August 1908, Hastie announced himself as a candidate for the seat of Perth at the 1908 state election. However, he withdrew before the close of nominations in order to support another candidate.[21]

In January 1910, Hastie announced his intention to contest the Division of Coolgardie at the 1910 federal election, standing for the Commonwealth Liberal Party against the sitting Labour member, Hugh Mahon.[22] A Kalgoorlie newspaper speculated that "ingratitude for services rendered" was the cause of his defection,[23] while The Sunday Times of Perth reported Hastie as saying "I haven't left the Labor Party, the Labor Party has left me".[22] In a speech at Kookynie during his campaign, Hastie stated that his political positions were unchanged, but that he was no longer willing to bind himself to any political party.[23] Hastie lost the election to Mahon by a large margin, polling 23.8 percent of the vote. However, the swing to the Labour Party was just 2.3 points, compared to the nationwide swing of 13.3 points.[24] In late 1910, Hastie joined in the rush to Bullfinch (near Southern Cross), representing the interests of a Perth gold-mining syndicate.[25]

In August 1913, Hastie was hospitalised in Perth after being struck with aphasia (an inability to speak or write).[26] As he was "absolutely without means", an appeal was made for funds to support him, which raised over £110.[27] On the advice of doctors, Hastie travelled to Melbourne later in the year, with the hope that the long sea journey would aid his recovery.[28] He was hospitalised again in December,[29] and died in Melbourne in April 1914, aged 53.[30] He was unmarried.[1]


  1. ^ a b c The party has spelled its name without a "u" (i.e., as "Labor") since 1912.
  2. ^ The year that Hastie left for New Zealand has been given in various sources as 1877,[2] 1880,[3] 1885,[4] and 1889.[5]


  1. ^ a b c Robert (Stewart) Hastie – Biographical Register of Members of the Parliament of Western Australia. Retrieved 12 October 2016.
  2. ^ "MR. ROBERT HASTIE.", Kalgoorlie Miner, 11 April 1914.
  3. ^ "The New Ministry.", The Northam Advertiser, 13 August 1904.
  4. ^ "PERSONAL", Kalgoorlie Miner, 10 January 1910.
  5. ^ a b "BIOGRAPHIES OF NEW MINISTERS.", Western Mail, 20 August 1904.
  6. ^ "ABOUT THE LABOR CANDIDATES.", Westralian Worker, 19 April 1901.
  7. ^ a b Black, David; Prescott, Valerie (1997). Election statistics : Legislative Assembly of Western Australia, 1890-1996. Perth, [W.A.]: Western Australian Parliamentary History Project and Western Australian Electoral Commission. ISBN 0730984095.
  8. ^ "THE LABOUR MEMBERS: MR. HASTIE APPOINTED LEADER.", The Western Mail, 18 May 1901.
  9. ^ "THE LABOUR PARTY LEADERSHIP.", The Western Mail, 26 July 1902.
  10. ^ "NEWS AND NOTES.", The West Australian, 17 July 1903.
  11. ^ "THE POLITICAL SITUATION.", The West Australian, 29 July 1903.
  12. ^ "CAUCUS MEETING OF THE LABOUR PARTY.", The West Australian, 9 July 1904.
  13. ^ a b David Black (2014), The Western Australian Parliamentary Handbook (Twenty-Third Edition) Archived 3 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Perth [W.A.]: Parliament of Western Australia.
  14. ^ "AN ACTING ATTORNEY-GENERAL.", The West Australian, 11 August 1904.
  15. ^ "MR. HASTIE REJECTED.", Kalgoorlie Miner, 17 October 1905.
  16. ^ "LECTURE BY MR. ROBERT HASTIE.", The West Australian, 31 July 1906.
  17. ^ "LECTURE BY MR. R. HASTIE.", The West Australian, 15 July 1907.
  18. ^ "A LIBEL ALLEGED", The Daily News, 2 May 1906.
  19. ^ "A LIBEL ALLEGED", The Daily News, 3 May 1906.
  20. ^ "KALGOORLIE GOLD STEALING.", Bendigo Advertiser, 20 September 1906.
  21. ^ "MR. HASTIE WITHDRAWS HIS CANDIDATURE.", The West Australian, 26 August 1908.
  22. ^ a b "Hastie Opposes Mahon", The Sunday Times, 9 January 1910.
  23. ^ a b "KOOKYNIE KICKSHAWS.", The Sun (Kalgoorlie), 6 February 1910.
  24. ^ Psephos: Adam Carr's Election Archive. Retrieved 12 October 2016.
  25. ^ "THE BULLFINCH BOOM.", The West Australian, 10 November 1910.
  26. ^ "PERSONAL ITEMS", Kalgoorlie Miner, 19 August 1913.
  27. ^ "ROBERT HASTIE TESTIMONIAL.", The West Australian, 21 October 1913.
  28. ^ "PERSONAL.", The Adelaide Advertiser, 3 October 1913.
  29. ^ "PERSONAL ITEMS.", Kalgoorlie Miner, 22 December 1913.
  30. ^ "DEATH OF ROBERT HASTIE", The Daily News, 11 April 1914.
Parliament of Western Australia
New seat Member for Kanowna
Succeeded by
Thomas Walker
Political offices
Preceded by
Walter James
Minister for Justice
Succeeded by
Hector Rason
Preceded by
Henry Gregory
Minister for Mines
Succeeded by
William Johnson
Preceded by
John Holman
Minister for Labour
Succeeded by
John Sydney Hicks