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As leader of the first Western Australian Opposition, Australian-born Leake helped his state develop a two-party system.

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George Leake

National Library of Australia

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George Leake (1856–1902)

Western Australian premier and federalist

Leake was a lawyer who entered parliament in 1890, just as Western Australia became self-governing. John Forrest, the first premier, was a strong leader with a large following. Leake took up the difficult task of leading a new political opposition to him. Forrest was a bluff, solid man; Leake was witty and much better liked.

Leake and Forrest both went to the 1897–98 Federal Convention and worked together to protect the interests of the small colonies. But when Forrest, hoping for a better deal, would not put the constitution to the people, Leake and his colleague Walter James campaigned to let the people vote on Federation. They were supported by thousands of miners on the new goldfields who had come from the east. Forrest eventually gave way and Leake joined him in campaigning for a 'Yes' vote.

After Forrest left for federal politics, Leake was briefly premier. He was a reformer and, with the help of the new Labor Party, was able to pass laws to protect workers and their living standards.