George Leake (1856-1902) was Western Australia's third Premier. Born in Perth, he was articled to his father's legal firm and admitted to the Western Australian Bar in 1880.
- In 1883 George Leake was appointed Crown Solicitor and Public Prosecutor
- He served briefly in the Legislative Council in 1886 and 1888
- In 1890, Leake was elected to the Legislative Assembly (representing the seat of Roebourne), but resigned shortly after to continue as Crown Solicitor.
- In 1894 Leake won the seat of Albany and re-entered the Legislative Assembly. Within two years he had assumed leadership of a small opposition.
- At the election of 1897 the goldfields increased their political representation and Leake's parliamentary following grew to 14 out of 44.
He opposed John Forrest’s government and was viewed as an unofficial leader of the opposition. By 1900, Forrest's majority had been reduced to a handful and he was often forced to make concessions to his opponents.
Constitutional Conventions and Federal League
Leake was a representative to the Australasian Federal Conventions in Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne between 1897 and 1898. He advocated for a strong Senate as a guarantee of State rights. In May 1898 he helped establish the Federal League and became its president and main spokesman. He fought for a referendum in Parliament in alliance with the goldfields' federalists, including the Separation for Federation movement led by John Kirwan.
Campaign for Federation
Leake and Forrest eventually campaigned together in 1900 after Forrest persuaded the Legislative Council to pass the Bill to authorise a referendum on Federation. The victory of the 'Yes' campaign represented a personal triumph for Leake.
Following Forrest's resignation to enter federal politics, his successor George Throssell was unable to form government after the State elections in 1901. With support from the Labor Party Leake was able to form a minority government. He was premier for barely twelve months, before he collapsed and died from pneumonia in June 1902 at the age of 45.
- George Leake’s career benefited from nepotism. What is nepotism? Can you find any more examples of it in others involved with Federation in WA?
- George Leake was strongly in favour of Federation. Why do you think he felt this way?
- What do you think George Leake’s relationship with John Forrest was like? Provide examples of how it changed over time.
Leader of the opposition