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John Storey (politician)

John Storey
20th Premier of New South Wales
Election: 1920
In office
13 April 1920 – 5 October 1921
Preceded byWilliam Holman
Succeeded byJames Dooley
Personal details
Born(1869-05-15)15 May 1869
Huskisson, New South Wales
Died5 October 1921(1921-10-05) (aged 52)
Darlinghurst, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Political partyLabor Party
John Storey Memorial Clinic, Chippendale

John Storey (15 May 1869 – 5 October 1921) was an Australian politician who was Premier of New South Wales from 12 April 1920 until his sudden death in Sydney. His leadership enabled the New South Wales Labor Party to recover after the split over conscription and to allow it to continue to be a left-wing pragmatist rather than a socialist party.

Early life

Storey was born at or near Huskisson, New South Wales, Australia to English immigrant parents, William John, a shipbuilder, and Elizabeth Graham. His family moved to Balmain when he was six,[1] but his father died soon afterwards. He was educated at Darling Road Superior Public School and at night school. At fourteen he was apprenticed to boilermaking with Perdriau and West and then worked at Mort's Dock.[2] He helped found the Balmain Cricket Club in 1897 and was a leading all-rounder for its top grade team. He was a member of the United Society of Boilermakers and Iron Ship Builders of New South Wales. In 1908 Storey was a founder of the Balmain District Rugby League Football Club.[3]

Elected to Parliament

Storey joined the Labor Electoral League, the precursor of the Labor Party, on its foundation in 1891, and was elected to represent Balmain North in the Legislative Assembly in 1901. Although he was an effective parliamentarian, he was beaten for election to the recreated seat of Balmain by Walter Anderson in 1904, but defeated Anderson in 1907. The McGowen Labor government came to power in 1910, but Storey did not nominate for election to Cabinet.[1]

In 1916, the non-parliamentary party attempted to discipline Premier William Holman, and elected a Cabinet headed by Storey on 27 April. The party reversed that decision on 4 May and Storey handed back power to Holman,[1] although legally there had never been any transfer of power. However, the split in the party widened further with the dispute over conscription and, in November, Holman, along with Prime Minister Billy Hughes, were expelled from the party. The remnants of the Labor Party were then in opposition to Holman's Nationalist Government, but Storey refused to become party leader and Ernest Durack was elected to that position. Durack resigned unexpectedly in February 1917 and Storey had no choice but to accept the leadership. His good public speaking and amiability helped to reduce the scale of Labor's defeat in the 1917 election. He worked hard in 1918 and 1919 to prevent socialists taking over the party and his policy speech for the 1920 election promised child endowment and suburban rail electrification rather than socialism.[1]


Labor won the 1920 election with a majority of one and Storey became Premier. His thin majority, combined with a substantial minority in Legislative Council (made up of life appointees) and attacks of nephritis made his job hard. His private secretary at this time was V. Gordon Childe, later internationally famous in the field of archaeology, who wrote the book How Labor Governs, based on his experience as Storey's secretary. In June 1920, he appointed Judge Norman Ewing to carry out a royal commission in to the imprisonment of twelve IWW members in 1916 for treason, arson, sedition and forgery. On Ewing's recommendation, ten were released in August. In early 1921, he prorogued Parliament to prevent his Government being overthrown during a six months absence to visit financiers and a Harley Street doctor in London. Despite the warnings of his doctor, he undertook heavy work in London and on his return to Sydney in July.


He was admitted to hospital and died at Clermont Private Hospital, Darlinghurst and was survived by his wife, three sons and two of his three daughters.[1] His funeral service was held at St. Andrew's Cathedral on 7 October 1921, and he was buried at the Field of Mars Cemetery in Ryde the same day.[4]

In 1926, Premier Jack Lang opened the John Storey Memorial Dispensary in Little Regent Street, Chippendale, New South Wales. It served as a practical memorial to John Storey and still functions as a pathology clinic.


  1. ^ a b c d e Nairn, Bede. "Storey, John (1869–1921)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. ISSN 1833-7538. Retrieved 23 September 2019.
  2. ^ "Mr John Storey (1869–1921)". Former members of the Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 23 September 2019.
  3. ^ Tony Collins (2006). Rugby's Great Split: Class, Culture and the Origins of Rugby League Football (2nd ed.). UK: Routledge. p. 173. ISBN 9781134221370. Retrieved 13 July 2014.
  4. ^ Sydney Morning Herald: Funeral Notice, 07/10/1921 (page 7)


New South Wales Legislative Assembly Preceded byBill Wilks Member for Balmain North 1901–1904 District abolished Preceded byWalter Anderson Member for Balmain 1907–1920 Succeeded byHimself& 4 others Preceded byHimself Member for Balmain 1920–1921 Served alongside: Doyle, Quirk, Smith, Stuart-Robertson Succeeded byTom Keegan Political offices Preceded byWilliam Holman Premier of New South Wales 1920–1921 Succeeded byJames Dooley Party political offices Preceded byErnest Durack Leader of the Australian Labor Party in New South Wales 1917–1921 Succeeded byJames Dooley
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John Storey (politician)
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