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Often called 'Nutty James', Walter James had a 'hypernervous untameable' nature, according to his friend Deakin.

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Walter H James

National Library of Australia

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Walter James (1863–1943)

Federationist and premier of Western Australia

James worked in the country as a jackeroo, played Australian Rules football and only slowly developed a good business as a lawyer. He was a lively and witty man.

In politics he was a reformer. He worked to get compensation for working people if they were injured at work and to have shops closed at 6 pm so that the shop-workers did not have to work long hours.

He attended the 1897–98 Federal Convention and was less worried about the big states controlling the small in the new Commonwealth than the rest of the Western Australian delegates. When the premier John Forrest would not put the constitution to the people, wanting a better deal for his colony, James worked hard to make him. Alfred Deakin, with whom he had become friends, sent him advice and money for his campaign.

Soon after Federation he became premier of Western Australia. Like other premiers, he became unhappy with the power of the new federal government. Though he had been a friend of the workers, he was pushed aside by the new Labor Party.