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Joseph Francis Hannan (1875–1943)

by Peter Love

This article was published:

This entry is from the Australian Dictionary of Biography

Joseph Francis Hannan (1875-1943), by Barroni , 1920s

Joseph Francis Hannan (1875-1943), by Barroni , 1920s

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an24212059

Joseph Francis Hannan (1875?-1943), trade unionist and politician, was born probably in Yorkshire, England, son of Scottish parents James Hannan, pipe-moulder, and his wife Jane, née Hay, a nurse. He migrated to Victoria with his parents in 1888.

Hannan worked for two years in a racing stable before following his father's trade, finding employment in Melbourne's booming economy just before the onset of the depression and strikes of the early 1890s. He took an active interest in union affairs which provided both a career and a higher education. He was a delegate to the Melbourne Trades Hall Council before the turn of the century and was a member of its committee in 1900 that worked to establish the Political Labor Council of Victoria. During his career he was associated with such diverse unions as the Ironfounders, Fuel and Fodder, Pantrymen, Coopers and Cycle Trades.

Hannan held an extraordinary number of positions within the labour movement. He became a member of the executive of the T.H.C., vice-president in 1912 and president in 1913. He served on the Victorian central executive of the Labor Party for many years, taking his turn as president in 1911. As a Victorian delegate to several Australian Labor Party Commonwealth and State conferences he counselled moderate reform. At the 1921 Commonwealth conference he observed that the socialization objective would 'hang like a millstone around the neck of the Movement' and become an electoral liability. Between 1924 and 1928 he reached the pinnacle of the party machine when he was elected federal president. He was also appointed a justice of the peace in 1925.

Tall, with a commanding appearance, Hannan was described as 'a good platform man'. In 1910 he stood unsuccessfully against (Sir) George Fairbairn for the seat of Fawkner in the House of Representatives. He won it in 1913 and again in 1914 but was defeated in 1917 after resolutely opposing conscription. Although he had defended W. M. Hughes against criticism within caucus in mid-1916, he proved his loyalty to the party by seconding the no confidence motion which provoked Hughes's defection in November 1916. His parliamentary speeches reflected deep knowledge of union affairs and scrupulous regard for party principles and policy. In 1918 he won a by-election for the Victorian Legislative Assembly seat of Albert Park, but resigned in 1919 to contest his old seat of Fawkner. He lost. However, he was compensated in 1924 with an appointment to fill a casual Victorian vacancy in the Senate. In 1925 he was defeated again. He contested the assembly seat of Castlemaine and Kyneton in 1927, and that of Albert Park in 1932, and stood for the Federal seats of Kooyong and Flinders in 1934.

After leaving politics he worked as a traveller until his death at Black Rock on 14 March 1943. On 17 March 1903, aged 27, he had married Agnes Theresa Phelan at St Peter and Paul's Roman Catholic Church, South Melbourne. Survived by two daughters and a son, he was buried in Coburg cemetery. He was remembered as 'genial Joe' Hannan who gave a lifetime of faithful service to the labour movement during some of its most difficult years.

Select Bibliography

  • Australian Labor Party (Victoria), Central Executive Report (Melb, 1943)
  • L. F. Crisp, The Australian Federal Labour Party 1901-1951 (Lond, 1955)
  • P. M. Weller (ed), Caucus Minutes, 1901-1949 (Melb, 1975)
  • P. Weller and B. Lloyd (eds), Federal Executive Minutes, 1915-1955 (Melb, 1978)
  • Labor Call, 4 July, 29 Aug 1912, 26 June 1913, 17 Oct 1918, 30 Aug 1934, 18 Mar 1943
  • Argus (Melbourne), 24 July 1916, 15 Mar 1943
  • Herald (Melbourne), 19 Mar 1927
  • Age (Melbourne), 15 Mar 1943
  • Trades Hall Council (Melbourne), minute books, 1890-1940, and Executive minute books, 1904-27 (State Library of Victoria).

Citation details

Peter Love, 'Hannan, Joseph Francis (1875–1943)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 20 May 2024.

© Copyright Labour Australia, 2012

Joseph Francis Hannan (1875-1943), by Barroni , 1920s

Joseph Francis Hannan (1875-1943), by Barroni , 1920s

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an24212059

Life Summary [details]


Yorkshire, England


14 March, 1943 (aged ~ 68)
Black Rock, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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