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Joseph Cook

Joseph Cook was 31 in 1891 when he became Labor member for Hartley in the New South Wales parliament. Three years later, he was a minister in George Reid’s Free Trade government. He joined the first federal parliament in 1901 as a Free Trade member and, despite being described as having ‘no glow’, held the federal seat of Parramatta for 20 years.

Joseph Cook and Mary Cook meet the people of Parramatta

Joseph Cook (second from left) and Mary Cook (right) meet the people of Parramatta, New South Wales on 2 November 1913, the 125th anniversary of its foundation.

NAA: M3614, 8

A man of great determination, he was quick to make the most of two major re-alignments of political parties in the parliament’s first two decades. In 1909 he became Defence Minister, after taking a key role in the fusion of non-Labor parties that year. In 1917, he led the Liberal Party in a merger to form the Nationalist Party and served as Navy Minister and as Treasurer in WM Hughes’ government.

Joseph Cook was Australia’s sixth Prime Minister, taking office in 1913 with a Liberal Party majority of only one seat in the House of Representatives. On leaving politics, Cook served as Australia’s third High Commissioner in London from 1921 to 1927.

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