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Robert Stewart (Bobbie) Hastie (1861–1914)

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Robert Hastie, n.d.

Robert Hastie, n.d.

Robert (Stewart) (Bobbie) Hastie (1861-1914) goldminer, parliamentarian and mining and commission agent. 

Birth: 27 July 1861 at Glasgow, Scotland, son of William Hastie, a pensioner from the 63rd Regiment and Christina, née Stewart. Unmarried: Death: 9 April 1914 in hospital at Hawthorn, Melbourne, Victoria. Religion: Anglican. 

  • Educated in Glasgow. In his early days he was said to have been an athlete of some repute” and a “splendid shot”, competing at champion shootings of his native country” in the 1880s.
  • Emigrated to New Zealand. Prospected in Thames district. Arrived in Victoria in 1890.
  • To Western Australia 1895. In 1897 assisted in the formation of the first Boulder Literature Society. Engaged in goldmining at Kanowna. Member Kalgoorlie and Boulder branch of the Amalgamated Workers' Association. Delegate to Electoral Reform Convention. Strong Federalist. Member of the Australian Labor Party.
  • Elected member of the WA Legislative Assembly for Kanowna on 24 April 1901. He was leader of the Parliamentary Labor Party from May 1901 to July 1904 – the first Labor leader in WA. Criticised as ineffectual by Westralian Worker. Reputedly well known as ‘Wee Rabbie’.  “Truthful Thomas” described him as “somewhat squarely built for his inches, and looks more diminutive than he really is. Speaks in spasms more or less protracted, and most of his words are distorted with a particularly aggressive Scotch accent . . . Cannot fathom the financial problem of a wife, and therefore takes the risk of single blessedness”.
  • A senior figure in WA’s first Labor ministry, led by Henry Daglish; he held the portfolios of Justice and Mines from 1904 to June 1905 and of Justice and Labour until the government fell in August 1905. He was defeated in the preselection ballot for the October 1905 election and drifted away from the Labor Party.
  • After leaving parliament he worked as a mining and commission agent in Perth. In April 1910 he contested the Federal seat of Coolgardie in the House of Representatives as a Liberal (non-Labor) candidate. Appointed to the Royal Commission on miners’ phthisis in 1911.
  • In hospital, he stricken with aphasia and loss of the powers of speech and writing, and was “absolutely without means”, in October 1913 a testimonial fund was raised to allow him to take a sea voyage “to restore his health”. Travelled to Victoria.
  • Cause of death: cancer of the tongue, extensive ulceration and exhaustion.

David Black and Geoffrey Bolton, Biographical Register of Members of the parliament of Western Australia (Perth 2010); Verity Burgmann, In Our Time: Socialism and the Rise of Labor, 1885-1905, (Sydney, 1985).

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'Hastie, Robert Stewart (Bobbie) (1861–1914)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 23 June 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Robert Hastie, n.d.

Robert Hastie, n.d.

Life Summary [details]


27 July, 1861
Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland


9 April, 1914 (aged 52)
Hawthorn, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Cause of Death

cancer (tongue)

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

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