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29 April 1899 King O'Malley

 29 April 1899   King O'Malley

The colourful and loquacious politician King O'Malley lost his seat in the election of 29 April 1899.

O'Malley claimed that he was born in Canada, of American parents, and grew up in the United States. He worked as a shoe salesman and then sold land on the west coast before coming to Australia in 1888 to sell insurance. In 1889 he moved from Melbourne to Hobart and first appeared in Adelaide in 1893, probably via Western Australia.

In 1896 he was an Independent candidate for the electorate of Encounter Bay which he won. An advocate of the temperance movement, he was also concerned with protecting the status and respectability of women and in particular tried to have barmaids banned from work in public houses. This failed at the time, although it was achieved later after O'Malley had left South Australia.

Following his defeat in 1899 he went back to Tasmania and in 1901 was elected to the new Federal Parliament. During his time in parliament he served as Minister of Home Affairs in the early Labor Governments and is credited with instituting old age pensions as well as founding the Commonwealth Bank and the transcontinental railway. He was defeated in the election of 1917, stood again in 1919 and 1922 but failed to regain a seat. 

An interesting and at times controversial figure, his background in America was always something of a mystery. He died in Melbourne in 1953 aged 99, the last of the 1901 parliamentarians. His memory is perpetuated in the King and Amy O'Malley Trust scholarships for home economics, and in a play entitled The Legend of King O'Malley.

A.R. Hoyle,  King O'Malley 'The American Bounder' , MacMillan, Melbourne, 1981.
Hansard, SA House of Assembly, 11 August 1992, p. 75.

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