Profile - John Smith (Jock) Garden (1882-1968)

Scotsman Jock Garden migrated to Australia in 1904 and within a few years had joined the Australian Labor Party (ALP). He attempted to enter politics between 1910 and 1917 but was unsuccessful.  

A sailmaker by trade, in 1914 Jock became president of the Sailmakers' Union and its delegate on the Labor Council of New South Wales. He soon became the Council’s assistant secretary (1916) and secretary (1918).  

At the 1919 ALP Conference, the conservative AWU-led faction clashed over the issue of conscription with the more extremist members of the Party in the industrial faction, the ‘Trades Hall Reds’, which included Jock Garden.   

Jock was a member of the Socialist Party of Australia and the Industrial Socialist Labor Party, when he and William Earsman sought to establish the Communist Party of Australia (CPA) in October 1920. He attended the All-Australian Trade Union Congress (1921) and the Second Profintern and Fourth Comintern congresses in Moscow (1922).  

Inspired by Lenin’s calls for unity within the Labor Movement, Jock re-joined the ALP with plans to push a socialist agenda, but this unimpressed many including new leader Jack Lang. The executive ruled that no communist could be a member of the ALP and in November Jock was expelled. He ran for the CPA against Labor in the 1925 Election in the seat of Sydney and suffered a humiliating defeat.  

By 1926, Jock had resigned from the CPA and sought to re-join the ALP, stating that the former had little political future. In 1927 he was highly instrumental in the formation of the Australasian (Australian) Council of Trade Unions. He successfully ran as an ALP candidate in the Sydney Municipal Council elections and served from 1930-34. Jock grew close to Lang and was described as “Lang's hatchet man in the demolition of the party's socialisation units” (B Nairn 1981).  

In the 1934 Federal Election, Jock won the seat of Cook but his relationship with Lang soured and he was expelled from state Labor Party in 1936. This was overturned by John Curtin in 1937, however Lang ensured that he lost pre-selection at the 1940 election.  

In the 1940s Jock worked as a liaison officer for the Federal Minister for Labour. In 1948 he was charged, along with his son and others, with forgery and falsification in connection with financial dealings in New Guinea. He was sentenced to three years in jail but was later acquitted.   

Jock Garden died in hospital on 31 December 1968.  



Nairn, B 1981, John Smith (Jock) Garden (1882-1968), Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, accessed <>

Tracey, P n.d., Jock Garden: a reassessment, Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, accessed <>



John Smith (Jock) Garden, c. 1930s

John Smith (Jock) Garden, c. 1930s

A demonstration of 700 timber workers from the Australian Timber Workers' Union, Sydney, 1929. Jock Garden is pictured front right. (N78-5).

A demonstration of 700 timber workers from the Australian Timber Workers' Union, Sydney, 1929. Jock Garden is pictured front right. (N78-5).