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Robert James (Bob) Stuart-Robertson (1866–1933)

Another Labor stalwart passed away yesterday when the death of Mr. R. J. [Robert James] Stuart-Robertson, member for Annandale in the Legislative Assembly, was announced.

Mr. Stuart-Robertson was one of the oldest members of the Assembly. He first entered public life as the member for Camperdown in 1907, and held the seat for Labor for ten years till group electorates were introduced. In 1917 he was one of the five elected members for Balmain, and continued in that capacity for another ten years.

The redistribution affected in 1927 saw him contesting Annandale, whose seat he won easily and retained — always with substantial majorities — till the time of his death.

Of a painstaking, studious and thorough-going type, Mr. Stuart-Robertson never sought the limelight. He was a loyal, dependable party man who put the movement before self. Without being spectacular he was a sincere and forceful speaker, whose voice was ever raised on behalf of the toilers. In recognition of his stirling services in Parliament on behalf of his follow industrialists, he was appointed Chairman of Committees in 1920, and in 1925 achieved Cabinet rank as Minister for Health.

During the time he was chairman of Committees, the Opposition endeavored to make the job as uncomfortable as possible, but Mr. Stuart-Robertson was generally a match for his tormentors. Giving as good as he got, he found an effective policy.

In the industrial field he was closely identified with the early history of the Shop Assistants' Union — now a flourishing organisation— which encountered not a little hostility at its inception.

It is interesting to glance back to 1889, when the union was first mooted by an energetic committee, those associated with the earliest efforts to combine for common protection including such well-known figures as Messrs. Tom Furse, W. M. Hughes, E. Bennett, J. H. (now Sir James) Murdoch, W. Mahony and others. The union was actually launched in 1903, Mr. Geo. Young, now an Inspector in the Industrial Department, being first secretary.

Mr. Stuart-Robertson was an executive officer at the time, subsequently became industrial advocate for the union, and appeared in that capacity in all the cases before the courts for about ten years. He took part in the first legal battle for registration. The proceedings were contested at every point by the employers, but the union eventually won out.

It was due largely to Mr. Stuart Robertson's efforts that the Newcastle branch of the union was formed. This unit is now a sturdy, well-organised child of the parent body.

The Railways (Laborers) Union, later merged in the A.W.C., also depended on Mr. Stuart-Robertson's advocacy of their claims in the industrial jurisdiction.

However, the pressure of political work ultimately compelled Mr. Stuart-Robortson to relinquish those activities. Thereafter he devoted the whole of his time to Parliamentary affairs.

For some time past he had been in falling health and his untimely death at 69 years of age, was not altogether unexpected.

The funeral will leave St. Michael's Church, Stanmore, at 3 p.m., to-day, for the South Head Cemetery.

Mr. Lang's Tribute
"The entire Labor Movement will regret the passing of Mr. Stuart Robertson said the Leader of the Party, Mr. Lang, last night.

"His Parliamentary life was a model of sincerity and loyalty to the cause he espoused, and while more brilliant men fell by the wayside, each crisis in the Party's affairs found him always true to his principles.

"His long illness, no doubt, was increased by the strain he endured as a member of the last parliament, when the pressure upon each member was of a truly testing nature. His death again illustrates the toll that Parliament took of the men who gave service to Labor."

Executive's Sympathy
The general secretary of the A.L.P., Mr. J. J. Graves, said that the whole Labor Movement extended its heartfelt sympathy to the relatives of the late Mr. Stuart-Robertson in their bereavement.

"The Movement" he added, "had lost another of its worthy stalwarts — one who was never found wanting in any crisis. Never once did he waver in his allegiance to the Labor Movement, and his integrity and honesty were never in question."

Original publication

Additional Resources

  • photo, Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 9 December 1913, p 11
  • profile, Australian Worker (Sydney), 11 March 1920, p 11

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

'Stuart-Robertson, Robert James (Bob) (1866–1933)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 22 July 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


16 September, 1866
Booligal, New South Wales, Australia


2 June, 1933 (aged 66)
Stanmore, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death


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