The PM from the Hills

By Ivor Jones

Did you know that an MP who once lived locally and represented the Hills area in Federal Parliament was also Prime Minister of Australia?

Joseph Cook was first elected as a Labor member of the State Parliament representing Hartley and became Leader of the Labor Party in 1893.

During a split in the Labor Party during 1893-94, Joseph Cook and most of the other Labor Members of Parliament broke away from the Labor movement.

After Federation in 1901, Joseph Cook looked towards representing the area and sought election as the first Member for the new Federal Seat of Parramatta which, at that time, covered a vast area taking most of the Hills, the Blue Mountains and stretching as far west as Lithgow and included Cook’s State seat of Hartley.

The electoral population of the seat of Parramatta was only 12,194.

Cook was successful in his attempt to enter Federal politics and in1906 decided to move to a more exclusive part of his electorate, moving his family to Windsor Road in a dwelling named “Corovo” situated where “The Willows” Retirement Village is now located.

In 1906 a new seat of Nepean was created out of the western portion of Parramatta which included Lithgow and Hartley.

The new boundaries of the seat of Parramatta contained most of Sydney’s Upper North Shore, The Hills and The Central Coast as well as Parramatta itself.

Cook who, as leader of the “Free Traders”, joined his party in a coalition with Alfred Deakin’s Liberals in 1909. By January 1913 Cook, who was by then Deputy Leader of the Liberals, took over the leadership from Alfred Deakin and in the following Federal elections (June 1913) defeated the Labor Party led by Andrew Fisher.

Joseph Cook thus became Prime Minister of Australia. Just twelve months later Cook was to announce the first Double Dissolution of Federal Parliament, claiming that he was unable to govern with a hostile Senate and a bare majority of one in the House of Representatives. Cook was still Prime Minister at the outbreak of World War 1 but at the election held in September 1914, Cook’s Liberals were defeated by Andrew Fisher’s Labor Party.

Cook went on to form a coalition in 1916 between his Liberals and Billy Hughes newly formed National Labor Party. This coalition was to become the National Party.

Sir Joseph Cook retired from politics at the 1921 election to take up the position of High Commissioner in London until his retirement in 1927, returning to live at Bellevue Hill until his death in 1947.

Cook Street Baulkham Hills serves as a reminder in the area of Joseph Cook, the former Prime Minister of Australia, who lived and represented the area in our first Federal Parliament and remained our Federal representative for 20 years from 1901 to 1921.
Don’t forget to vote on Saturday 21st May.

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