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Charles Harper’s contribution to economic development in Western Australia was felt long after he died in 1912. One of his most important legacies was his first born son, Charles Walter Harper (1880–1956), who was more commonly known as Walter Harper. He inherited his father’s passion for co-operatives, was well known in agricultural co-operation circles and, even before his father’s death, was a director of the Producers Markets Ltd and the Fruitgrowers Association (Sandford 1955, p. 29; Thompson 2014, pp. 17–18). Walter Harper subsequently played a leading role in establishing Wesfarmers and subsequently served on its board for 31 years (Thompson 2014, p. 15). As the eldest sibling, he also inherited the family home of Woodbridge, where he carried on his father’s interest in experimental farming and innovative agricultural schemes (Smith 1983). Indeed, he emulated his father in every respect save in the arena of politics, which he avoided following his experience chairing the 1924/1925 Royal Commission into the Group Settlement Scheme (Smith 1983). The trajectory of Walter Harper’s career and the contribution he made—both in terms of style and outcome—may therefore be interpreted as a variation of the professional path taken by his father (Shann 1925). However, an equally important legacy left by Charles Harper was the co-operative template, incorporating the government’s significant economic role, which provided the framework for less conservative men to see Western Australia’s economic foundation would be placed at risk as a result of political pressure. Therefore, this chapter summarily examines the development of the Western Australian economy up until the commencement of the Great Depression in order to demonstrate the risks associated with Harper’s economic module after his conservative influence was removed.
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- A Step Too Far: Western Australian State Socialism (1912–1930)
David J. Gilchrist
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