Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Jamieson, Colin John (1923–1990)

by Harry C. J. Phillips

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

Colin John Jamieson (1923-1990), carpenter and politician, was born on 26 May 1923 in Perth, son of Western Australian-born George Archibald Jamieson, clerk, and his wife Mona, née Colvin, from Victoria. Colin’s mother died when he was 5; he was reared by his father’s sister and, after she died, by his maternal grandfather. Educated at Leederville State and Perth Junior Technical schools until 1937, he worked first in a vehicle body-building workshop and in 1938-42 for a fruit and vegetable business. In World War II he served in Australia in the Australian Army Service Corps, Australian Imperial Force (1942-44), and as a wireless assistant and radar mechanic in the Royal Australian Air Force (1944-46). He was a labourer and storeman with the Midland Railway Co. of Western Australia before training as a carpenter and joiner in 1949-53. A member of the Australian Labor Party from 1946, he was active in local branches of the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners’ Union and the Building Workers Industrial Union of Australia.

On 14 February 1953 Jamieson won the seat of Canning in the State’s Legislative Assembly. Subsequently he was returned for the seats of Beeloo (1956-68), Belmont (1968-74) and Welshpool (1974-86). From 1959 to 1976 he was State president of the ALP. In John Tonkin’s government (1971-74) he held the portfolio of works and water supplies, and at times was also responsible for electricity and traffic safety. Elected deputy-leader in 1974, he succeeded Tonkin as leader in 1976. Next year the party suffered a decisive electoral defeat and in February 1978 replaced him as leader with Ronald Davies. Jamieson held several shadow portfolios before retiring from parliament at the 1986 election. From 1977 he was known as `Father of the House’.

A staunch supporter of the parliamentary system, Jamieson had a reputation for his careful scrutiny of every piece of legislation and for his command of standing orders. He was an original member (1984-89) of the Parliamentary History Advisory Committee. In his last speech to the assembly, on 17 October 1985, he asserted that he entered parliament as `a socialist with commitments. In my travels and experiences I have seen nothing which has convinced me that my commitment at that time was not a correct one. Indeed, the more I think about it, the more I think that left is right’. He was described by the Liberal premier Sir Charles Court as `honest and straightforward’, a man who `took his duty seriously and always kept his word’. His former press secretary observed that he was regarded as a `walking encyclopaedia’.

Jamieson supported numerous community organisations. He was president (1971-83) of the executive committee of the Western Australian Amateur Football League and a keen tennis player. A member of several horticultural societies, he successfully exhibited roses, dahlias and chrysanthemums. He was appointed AO in 1988. Jamieson had married Emily Margaret Male, a schoolteacher, on 14 May 1960 at the Holy Family Catholic Church, Como; they lived in the Perth suburb of Cloverdale. Survived by his wife and their son and daughter, he died of pulmonary embolism on 27 March 1990 at Subiaco and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • D. Black (ed), The House on the Hill (1991)
  • Parliamentary Debates (Western Australia), 17 Oct 1985, p 2529
  • West Australian, 12 Apr 1974, p 1, 26 Mar 1976, p 1, 14 Feb 1978, p 9, 22 Feb 1978, p 1, 28 Mar 1990, p 9
  • Sunday Times (Perth), 23 June 1985, `Sunday Magazine’, p 1
  • S. Reid, interview with C. Jamieson (typescript, 1989, State Library of Western Australia).

Citation details

Harry C. J. Phillips, 'Jamieson, Colin John (1923–1990)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/jamieson-colin-john-12693/text22881, published in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 24 July 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

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