Labour Australia

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Browse Lists:

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

John Joseph Daly (1891–1942)

by Ray Broomhill

This article was published:

This entry is from the Australian Dictionary of Biography

John Joseph Daly (1891-1942), by Vandyck Studios, 1920s

John Joseph Daly (1891-1942), by Vandyck Studios, 1920s

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an24171226

John Joseph Daly (1891-1942), lawyer and politician, was born on 10 November 1891 at Hemington, South Australia, twin son of John Daly, carpenter and unionist, and his wife Margaret, née Hayes. Daly was educated at St John the Baptist School, Thebarton, but left at 13 to serve on a pie and saveloy stall. Encouraged by his father he attended evening classes at Remington Training College, while working there of a day as a rouseabout. Later he became an office-boy in the legal firm of Sir Josiah Symon, advancing to the position of conveyancing clerk; in 1912 he became chief conveyancing clerk to W. J. Denny and Frank Villeneuve Smith; he was articled to them in 1914. In April 1919 he was called to the Bar, and did much work for trade unions. It was said he would often take a brief without fee.

Daly was a member of the Australian Workers' Union from 1914 and received life membership of the Tramways Employees' Association for his work during the strike of 1918. He sat on the State (S.A.) executive of the Australian Labor Party in 1918-28 and was president in 1927; he was on the federal executive in 1924-28. National president of the Hibernian Australasian Catholic Benefits Society in 1925-28, he led the South Australian delegation to the 1928 Sydney Eucharistic Congress. He was secretary of the Self-Determination for Ireland League of Australia in 1916 and supported the Irish National Foresters and the Australian Natives' Association. In later life he was an avowed pacifist.

Defeated in the elections for the Legislative Council in 1921 and for the Senate in 1925, he became a senator in 1928. A brilliant speaker, he was soon unanimously elected as leader of the Opposition in the Senate; in 1929, under the Scullin government, he was Senate leader. He was also vice-president of the Executive Council, and minister in charge of development and migration, and of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. In 1931 he was minister for defence. During Scullin's absence overseas from August 1930 to January 1931, Daly, acting as attorney-general, reputedly engineered the appointments of Bert Evatt and E. McTiernan to the High Court: this was against Scullin's expressed wish. Daly also joined with Frank Anstey and Jack Beasley in opposing the deflationary Niemeyer Plan, appearing with Jack Lang in Queanbeyan. In March 1931 when caucus decided on a cabinet 'spill' Daly, Anstey and Beasley lost their places. By June, however, Daly had changed his views and supported the Premiers' Plan; he was re-elected and remained until January 1932 as minister without portfolio.

Daly's support for the plan induced the South Australian branch to expel him from the party both in 1931 and in 1933, when he pledged his support for any non-Labor candidate who would back Scullin's financial policy. He failed to gain Labor pre-selection in 1934 and after the expiry of his Senate term next year, returned to his law practice. He died on 13 April 1942 at North Adelaide and was buried in the Catholic cemetery, West Terrace. He was survived by his wife Eva, née Bird, whom he had married on 16 October 1918 at St Francis Xavier's Cathedral, Adelaide, and by his five children.

Select Bibliography

  • L. F. Crisp, Ben Chifley (Melb, 1961)
  • N. Makin, Federal Labor Leaders (Syd, 1961)
  • I. Young, Theodore (Syd, 1971)
  • J. Robertson, J. H. Scullin (Perth, 1974)
  • Parliamentary Debates (Commonwealth), 1942, 571-73
  • Herald (Melbourne), 25 June 1929, 3 Nov 1930, 10, 14 Feb, 15 Apr, 7 June 1933, 14 Aug 1944
  • Chronicle (Adelaide), 27 June 1929, 16 Apr 1942
  • Australian Worker, 21 Aug, 27 Nov 1929, 15 Apr 1942
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 3, 6 Mar, 26 June 1931, 14 Apr 1933, 14 Aug 1934
  • South Australian Worker, 21 Apr 1933, 17 Apr 1942
  • Supreme Court, No 128 of 1914 (South Australia).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Ray Broomhill, 'Daly, John Joseph (1891–1942)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 20 July 2024.

© Copyright Labour Australia, 2012

John Joseph Daly (1891-1942), by Vandyck Studios, 1920s

John Joseph Daly (1891-1942), by Vandyck Studios, 1920s

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an24171226

Life Summary [details]


10 November, 1891
Thebarton, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia


13 April, 1942 (aged 50)
North Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.