Blog post from Saturday, 4 July, 2015

On this day, 4th July 1854, controversial political figure, King O’Malley claimed he was born.

King O'Malley claimed that he was born at Stanford Farm on the Canadian American border, although the exact date and place of his birth is not completely certain. He immigrated to Australia in 1889 where he worked as an itinerant insurance salesman, also preaching evangelical Christianity and temperance. After living in Melbourne, Tasmania and Western Australia, he settled in South Australia in 1893, and in 1896 he was elected to the South Australian House of Assembly as a radical democrat, opposed to the wealthy landowners who then dominated colonial politics.

O'Malley became a controversial figure and prominent in Australian politics. He became Minister for Home Affairs and played a prominent role in selecting the site of the future capital of Australia. O'Malley drove in the first survey peg marking the beginning of the development of the city of Canberra on 20 February 1913. He was responsible for the highly unpopular ban on alcohol in the Australian Capital Territory. He was instrumental in beginning the building of the Transcontinental Railway from Melbourne to Perth, and pushed for the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, a state-owned savings and investment bank. He was also the one who advocated the spelling of “Labor” in the Australian Labor Party as being more modern than “Labour”.

O'Malley died on 20 December 1953. His role in helping to develop the national capital is remembered in Canberra with the suburb of O'Malley being named after him.

The Hon. King O'Malley presenting Lady Denman with the name of the Federal Capital City of Australia, March 12th, 1913 [photograph] State Library of NSW

Mr O'Malley driving the first peg on the Federal site