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George Leake (1856-1902)

George LeakeGeorge Leake was Western Australia's third Premier and its second as a State in the new Commonwealth. Born in Perth, he was articled to his father's legal firm and admitted to the Western Australian Bar in 1880.

In 1894 Leake won the seat of Albany and entered the Legislative Assembly. Within two years he had assumed leadership of a small opposition. At the election of 1897 the goldfields increased their political representation and Leake's parliamentary following grew to 14 out of 44. By 1900, Forrest's majority had been reduced to a handful and he was often forced to make concessions to his opponents.

As a representative to the Australasian Federal Convention in Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne between 1897 and 1898, Leake advocated a strong Senate as a guarantee of State rights. In May 1898 he helped establish the Federal League and as president was its main spokesman. He fought for a referendum in Parliament in alliance with the goldfields' federalists, including the Separation for Federation movement led by John Kirwan. This extract from his letter of 15 June 1900 shows the level of cooperation
Dear Kirwan

Extract from the letterThe Federal session is now over and Federalists may congratulate themselves on the means of their efforts. It only now remains to take the vote of the people.
Let me at once thank you for the support you have given and acknowledge that through your able advocacy and the action of the people on the Goldfields the accomplishment of Federalism is practically attained - Without your agitation we should have had but a poor chance ....
I don't know whether you intend to drop the Separation cry. I hope so at all events until after the referendum. I intend to say that if the popular vote is not in favour of the Bill I shall join the ranks of the Separation Party.
I should like to know whether we are still to work together for the common cause of Union. I am most anxious to do so ....
Yours very sincerely
George Leake [ Battye Library, Acc 383A]
Leake and Forrest eventually campaigned together in 1900 after Forrest persuaded the conservative Legislative Council to pass the Bill which would authorise a referendum on Federation. The victory of the 'Yes' campaign represented a personal triumph for Leake.

Following Forrest's resignation to enter federal politics, his successor George Throssell was unable to form government after the State elections in 1901. With support from the Labor Party Leake was able to form a minority government. Premier for barely twelve months, he collapsed and died in June 1902 at the age of 45.

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