Jim McClelland

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Jim McClelland
Chief Judge of the Land and Environment Court of New South Wales
In office
14 April 1980 – 2 June 1985
Preceded byNew office
Succeeded byJerrold Cripps
Minister for Labor and Immigration
In office
6 June 1975 – 11 November 1975
Prime MinisterGough Whitlam
Preceded byClyde Cameron
Succeeded byTony Street
Minister for Manufacturing Industry
In office
10 February 1975 – 6 June 1975
Prime MinisterGough Whitlam
Preceded byKep Enderby
Succeeded byLionel Bowen
Senator for New South Wales
In office
16 March 1971 – 21 July 1978
Preceded byJames Ormonde
Succeeded byKerry Sibraa
Personal details
Born(1915-06-03)3 June 1915
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Died16 January 1999(1999-01-16) (aged 83)
Wentworth Falls, New South Wales, Australia
Political partyAustralian Labor Party
Spouse(s)1) Nora Fitzer
2) Freda Watson
3) Gillian Appleton
Alma materUniversity of Melbourne
University of Sydney
OccupationSolicitor, unionist

James Robert McClelland[a] (3 June 1915 – 16 January 1999) was an Australian lawyer, politician, and judge. He was a member of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) and served as a Senator for New South Wales from 1971 to 1978. He briefly held ministerial office in the Whitlam government in 1975 as Minister for Manufacturing Industry and Minister for Labor and Immigration. He later served as the inaugural Chief Judge of the Land and Environment Court of New South Wales from 1980 to 1985, as well as presiding over the 1984 McClelland Royal Commission into British nuclear tests in Australia.

Early life[edit]

McClelland was born in Melbourne and educated at St Patrick's College, Ballarat. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Melbourne University in 1936. Under the influence of Laurie Short, he became a Trotskyist and joined the Federated Ironworkers' Association of Australia. He served in the Royal Australian Air Force between 1943 and 1946. After the war, he studied law, graduating with a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Sydney in 1950.[1]

The legal practice of McClelland dealt mainly with workers' compensation claims. He played a large part (with Bob Santamaria) in helping Laurie Short take control of the Federated Ironworkers' Association from the Communist Ernie Thornton. He abandoned Trotskyism and joined the Labor Party.[1]


McClelland was elected to represent New South Wales for the ALP in the 1970 Senate election, his term to begin on 1 July 1971. In March 1971 he was appointed to a casual vacancy for the remainder of the term of the late senator James Ormonde. He was again elected in the double dissolution election of May 1974. In the Third Whitlam Ministry he was Minister for Manufacturing Industry from 10 February to 6 June 1975. From 6 June to 11 November 1975 he was Minister for Labor and Immigration and Minister assisting the Prime Minister in matters relating to the Public Service. He was again elected at the December 1975 double dissolution election. According to an article by C. J. Coventry, McClelland had been an informer for the U.S..[2] He resigned from the Senate on 21 July 1978.

Later life[edit]

In 1980 McClelland was appointed the first chief judge of the Land and Environment Court of NSW, holding that office until his 70th birthday in June 1985.

In 1984, as Justice McClelland, he was President of the Royal Commission into British nuclear tests in Australia at Maralinga.

He was reviled by the right as is indicated in Roderick Meagher's portrait in Quadrant, and associated with Edmund Campion, Patrick White, Manning Clark and Donald Horne.[citation needed]


McClelland married three times:

  • in 1947 to Nora Fitzer with whom he adopted two children but divorced in 1968
  • in 1968 to Freda Watson who brought three stepchildren. She died in 1976
  • in 1978 to Gillian Appleton.


  1. ^ Although he was nicknamed "Diamond Jim" by the Australian media, at McClelland's funeral, Gough Whitlam indicated that McClelland disliked this Americanism.


  1. ^ a b Waterson, D B. "McClelland, James Robert (1915–1999)". The Biographical Dictionary of the Australian Senate. Retrieved 23 December 2022.
  2. ^ Coventry, C. J., "The Eloquence of Robert J Hawke: United States informer, 1973-79," Australian Journal of Politics and History, 67:1 (2021), 85.


External links[edit]


Political offices
Preceded by Minister for Manufacturing Industry
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister for Labour and Immigration
Succeeded by
Legal offices
New title Chief Judge of the Land and Environment Court (NSW)
Succeeded by