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Hall, John Joseph (1884–1949)

by R. C. Duplain

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

John Joseph Hall (1884-1949), journalist and rural politician, was born on 18 February 1884 at Eaglehawk, Victoria, sixth child of Joseph Hall, goldminer and later tea merchant, and his wife Isabella, née Gray, both from northern England. Of their seven children, only John and a sister survived to adulthood. John's father was a Primitive Methodist lay preacher who imbued his son with a sense of service to others and of the need to uphold principles.

Educated at the local state school and by reading in mechanics' institutes, Hall joined the Victorian Railways as a booking clerk at 15. He taught himself shorthand and became a cadet with the Bendigo Advertiser. His rounds in the north-west of the State gave him an empathy with small farmers and townspeople. Through association with John Allan he became interested in the Kyabram reform movement. This populist revolt of the rural quarter against the State government taught the young Hall the importance of founding a separate rural political party. He married Clarissa Jessamine Snell, dressmaker, on 26 December 1907 at Bendigo; they had four sons and two daughters. Hall's Advertiser salary was supplemented by his appointment as Argus mining correspondent in the Bendigo region. He developed a vigorous writing style and a vast knowledge of rural matters.

When Bowser's 'Economy Party' emerged in 1916 from within the Liberal Party, Hall urged primary producers to take direct political action. In April a meeting at Fern Hill had brought Hall together with Isaac Hart and led to amalgamation with P. G. Stewart's Mallee movement. Through press campaigns and rural gatherings, in September this threesome established the Victorian Farmers' Union (after 1926 known as the Victorian Country Party). Hall constantly demanded that members 'stick to principles': farmer representation on marketing boards and endorsed farmer candidates pledged to the V.F.U. platform. He moved his family to Melbourne and became an estate agent in Collins Street before becoming first editor of the V.F.U. journal, the Farmers' Advocate, in January 1917. His stirring editorials and his work as general secretary of the V.F.U. made the union a serious political threat.

Hall won Kara Kara in November 1917 by a narrow margin but lost the seat after a recount. Undaunted, he contested the Flinders Federal by-election against S. M. (Viscount) Bruce in 1918 and by withdrawing his candidature at the last minute secured a deal from W. M. Hughes for the V.F.U. He ran unsuccessfully for Kara Kara in 1920 and Benambra in 1924.

When the Advocate folded in 1924, Hall became managing editor of the Morning Post. This paper was incorporated with the Sun News-Pictorial in 1927 and Hall was made country editor and State political reporter, a post he held until 1946. He was a close adviser to (Sir) Keith Murdoch and (Sir) Albert Dunstan during these years. His colourful editorials focused on 'The exploitation of the primary producer', 'Who are the profiteers?' and 'The metropolis gaining over the country'. For three years before his death he was editor of the Leader.

Hall was a bookish man and serious when discussing politics and newspapers. He mellowed in later life, held a part-ownership in a racehorse and enjoyed spectator sports. He died at Richmond on 30 June 1949 after an ulcer operation and was cremated. One son became editor of leading country newspapers.

Select Bibliography

  • U. R. Ellis, A History of the Australian Country Party (Melb, 1963)
  • B. D. Graham, The Formation of the Australian Country Parties (Canb, 1966)
  • Age (Melbourne), 2 July 1949
  • Countryman (Melbourne), 28 Sept 1956
  • private information.

Citation details

R. C. Duplain, 'Hall, John Joseph (1884–1949)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/hall-john-joseph-6527/text11207, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 20 November 2018.

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

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