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Barker, Ernest Herbert (Ernie) (1871–1941)

from West Australian

The death occurred yesterday at his residence in Mt. Lawley of Mr. E. H. [Ernest Herbert] Barker, who from 1924 to 1933 was general secretary of the West Australian branch of the Australian Labour Party. Mr. Barker, who was 70, had been in declining health for some years. After his retirement from the Trades Hall he was a member of the Licensing Bench for six years.

Mr. Barker was born in Norfolk, England, and in his early youth was apprenticed to the engineering trade. Despite the fact that his schooling was done under great difficulties, he was able, before leaving England for Western Australia in 1898, to take a course in economics and trade union principles at Ruskin College, Oxford.

While working at his trade in the Government railway workshops in 1908 he was appointed district secretary of the Amalgamated Engineering Union and five years later he became the first full-time organiser for the union in this State, a post which he relinquished on being appointed secretary of the Labour Party. Ill-health necessitated his retirement from both this post and the Licensing Bench, although for a time after he left the Trades Hall his health showed an improvement.

For many years Mr. Barker was the foremost trade union advocate in this State and he took a leading part in the advocacy before Mr. Justice Higgins in 1920 for the declaration that 44 hours was a reasonable working week in a normal industry. From 1926, when the State Arbitration Act was amended to provide for an annual adjustment of the basic wage, until his retirement, Mr. Barker conducted the trade union case before the Arbitration Court.

Mr. Barker was a trustee of the Public Library and Museum, a member of both the Faculty of Engineering and the Adult Education Board of the University of Western Australia, and a trustee of the endowment funds of the Education Department. He was described yesterday as one of the best-loved men in the State Labour movement and many tributes to his services were paid by trade union leaders. The acting-secretary of the party (Mr. T. G. Davies) said that the Labour movement throughout Australia would mourn Mr. Barker's death. His services were a monument which would inspire the great body of workers whose conditions of life had been immeasurably improved through his advocacy of their industrial claims.

Mr. Barker is survived by a widow. The funeral will take place this afternoon at the Karrakatta cemetery.

Premier's Tribute.
"I heard of the passing of Mr. E. H. Barker with very great regret," the Premier (Mr. J. C. Willcock) said yesterday. "Mr. Barker had given a lifetime of service to the Labour movement in many different capacities and had always held the greatest confidence of the industrial and political sections of the Labour Party. He was a studious man and exceptionally well informed on industrial and economic conditions, and by the use of his knowledge and his undoubted capacity he had been a tower of strength for very many years. The State will be the poorer for the passing of an excellent citizen who, in his sphere of activities, did much to help the progress of Western Australia."

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Citation details

'Barker, Ernest Herbert (Ernie) (1871–1941)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/barker-ernest-herbert-ernie-32038/text39595, accessed 16 October 2021.

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