Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Moran, Charles John (1868–1936)

by G. C. Bolton

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

Charles John Moran (1868-1936), politician and farmer, was born on 20 November 1868 near Toowoomba, Queensland, son of Irish parents John Hacket Moran, labourer, and his wife Anne, née Armstrong. After education at local state schools and St Killen's College, Brisbane, he became a qualified pupil-teacher and matriculated to the University of Sydney in 1890, but did not proceed to higher study.

Late in 1890 he migrated to Western Australia and was articled to the architect A. Stombuco; he superintended part of the construction of the General Post Office (later Treasury) building. Following the discovery of gold at Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie Moran worked briefly for a contractor supplying water to the goldfields. He participated in the abortive Siberia rush of late 1893, and gained such repute that next year he won the Legislative Assembly seat for the new mining constituency of Yilgarn, defeating former Opposition leader L. V. De Hamel. A handsome man with thick wavy hair and a luxuriant moustache, Moran was a fluent but unpolished speaker. He walked and cycled hundreds of miles, carrying swag and billy, while electioneering. In parliament as an Independent he staunchly supported the developmental policies of the Forrest ministry, especially the goldfields water-supply scheme. Despite prevalent anti-Forrest goldfields sentiment, he was re-elected in 1897 for the East Coolgardie seat based on Kalgoorlie. He was now a director of several mining companies.

Against most of his constituents, Moran opposed Federation in 1900 as premature, broke with the Forrest ministry over the issue and supported a motion of no confidence; and after Forrest's retirement to enter Federal politics in 1901, he accepted office as commissioner of crown lands under George Throssell. He lasted only long enough to authorize F. S. Drake-Brockman's expedition to the Kimberley. At the April 1901 elections he was ousted after a turbulent campaign. He contested West Kimberley unsuccessfully at a by-election in July but a year later won West Perth as an opponent of (Sir) Walter James's Liberal government.

After the 1904 elections, seven survivors of the old Forrest party joined with Labor to carry a vote of no confidence in the James ministry. Moran then formed with three others an Independent group whose support gave Henry Daglish the majority that enabled him to form Western Australia's first Labor government. Ambition and pique partly motivated Moran, but he was also spurred by a strong, if uncritical, belief in economic development, especially in agriculture. The 'mark time' policy of the Daglish ministry in its first year dissatisfied Moran and his followers and, in July 1905 after a cabinet reshuffle, the Independents negotiated an agreement under which the government pledged itself to a more energetic developmental policy. In August however the Independents voted against the terms on which the government intended to purchase the privately owned Midland Railway Co., and the ministry fell. Conjecture that Moran would form a ministry proved groundless; instead the Liberals came to power and at the October elections won a large majority. Moran was among the casualties and never again sat in parliament.

In 1907 he began farming at Wagin. He was prominent in the Farmers and Settlers' Association formed in 1912 and its offshoot, the Country Party. In 1921 he became a trustee of the Agricultural Bank. As such he was associated with its expansive credit policies in the 1920s and shared the censure when a 1934 royal commission accused the trustees of laxity; they were replaced next year. Moran wrote many articles on land settlement and was also a trustee of the Rural Relief Board. The government consulted him on rural policy until his death at West Perth on 18 December 1936.

On 28 August 1895 at Fremantle Moran had married Elizabeth Frances Healy, who survived him with three sons and three daughters. Moran died intestate; he was buried in the Roman Catholic section of Karrakatta cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • W. B. Kimberly (compiler), History of West Australia (Melb, 1897)
  • Morning Herald (Perth), 25 June 1904
  • West Australian, 19 Dec 1936
  • D. Mossenson, Gold and Politics: The Influence of the Eastern Goldfields in the Political Development of Western Australia, 1890-1904 (M.A. thesis, University of Western Australia, 1952).

Citation details

G. C. Bolton, 'Moran, Charles John (1868–1936)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/moran-charles-john-7646/text13369, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 7 December 2019.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

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