Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Green, Albert Ernest (1869–1940)

by G. C. Bolton

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Albert Ernest Green (1869-1940), politician, was born on 21 December 1869 at Avoca, Victoria, youngest of four children of Thomas Green, builder, and his wife Mary, née Marshall. His mother was a strong-minded personality who, although in her eighties before she learned to read, encouraged her children to take an interest in literature and the labour movement. After a local primary education Albert Green worked for a Ballarat telephone company and then entered the family's bricklaying business. Between 1889 and 1895 he travelled extensively and adventurously in the United States and Central America, returning with socialist ideals and the lifelong nickname of 'Texas'.

In June 1895 Green followed his brother to the gold rushes in Western Australia, where he established a branch of the Australian Natives' Association in Perth. Qualifying for the public service, he became a clerk at the Coolgardie post office in November 1895, and was soon transferred to Kalgoorlie. There he founded branches of the A.N.A. and the Post and Telegraphists' Union and threw himself into local Labor politics. A strong supporter of Federation, he was Western Australian president of the A.N.A. for several years. With Charles Lee and Julian Stuart he helped found the Amalgamated Workers' Association in 1897 and in 1904-11 was vice-president of the Kalgoorlie branch of the Australian Labor Federation. In 1906 he was foundation president of the Social Democratic Association, an organization for the discussion of economic and social questions and the grooming of Labor speakers. A popular and energetic figure in the goldfields community, he was endorsed for Kalgoorlie at the 1911 State elections, winning the seat in a landslide from (Sir) Norbert Michael Keenan.

Green served in the Legislative Assembly from October 1911 to December 1913, when he resigned to seek pre-selection for the Federal seat of Kalgoorlie but was beaten by Hugh Mahon. Re-elected to his State seat in October 1914 he sat until defeated in March 1921 by John Boyland. A strong advocate of state industries and a persistent though unsuccessful champion for a rail link between Kalgoorlie and Esperance, Green survived the conscription split although his support of the 'No' case placed him in opposition to his colleagues in the A.N.A.

Between March 1921 and December 1922 Green was goldfields business manager for the Westralian Worker. At the Federal election of 1922 he won back Kalgoorlie for the Australian Labor Party and retained the seat easily for the rest of his life. In Australia's largest electorate he was a tireless local member, travelling vast distances to maintain touch with his constituents, at first by camel, later over execrable roads by motor. An early campaigner for a strong Australian air force, he was minister for defence in the Scullin government from 22 October 1929 to 4 February 1931, and despite the Depression managed to implement a training scheme for Australian pilots and the purchase of a few aircraft. Compulsory military service was abolished and economies imposed on the army and navy. Between February 1931 and January 1932 he was postmaster-general and minister for works and railways. He was greatly distressed by the defection of Joe Lyons, and of James Fenton (whom he had known since schooldays). When Lyons left Canberra railway station to begin the discussions which led to his change of party allegiance, Green ran alongside the departing train calling out 'For God's sake, don't do it, Joe!'. Subsequently he took a major part in promoting the claims of John Curtin to whom he brought the offer of support for the Federal leadership of the party in 1935.

Well-read, generous, and extrovert, Green was an apt representative for Labor's outback supporters in the early twentieth century: a strong nationalist, limitlessly confident in Australia's developmental potential, but concerned that economic development should foster social justice and greater egalitarianism. He was affectionately remembered on the goldfields for many years after his death on 2 October 1940 at East Coolgardie. He was buried at Kalgoorlie after a state funeral, survived by his wife Emily Elenor, née Berry, whom he had married on 25 January 1899 at St John's Church of England, Kalgoorlie, and by three sons and a daughter.

Select Bibliography

  • J. S. Battye (ed), Cyclopedia of Western Australia, vols 1-2 (Adel, 1912, 1913)
  • Australian Worker, 18 Dec 1929
  • West Australian, 2, 3 Oct 1940
  • family papers.

Citation details

G. C. Bolton, 'Green, Albert Ernest (1869–1940)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/green-albert-ernest-6468/text11077, published in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 2 September 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

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