Commissioner, Royal Commission to inquire into the coal-mining industry and the coal-trade in the State of New South Wales, 15/04/1919 - 31/07/1920
Puisne Judge, Supreme Court of New South Wales, 01/09/1922 - 22/11/1929
Commissioner, Royal Commission of Inquiry into the standard price of gas (Manly Gas Company Ltd), 16/11/1922 - 29/12/1922
Commissioner, Royal Commission of Inquiry into the standard price of gas (Manly Gas Company Ltd), 14/10/1924 - 07/11/1924
Commissioner, Royal Commission into the price of electricity of certain suppliers (Electric Light and Power Supply Corporation Limited), 14/10/1924 - 24/11/1924
Commissioner, Royal Commission of Inquiry into the standard price of gas (North Shore Gas Company Ltd), 10/05/1926 - 04/06/1926
Commissioner, Royal Commission of Inquiry into the standard price of gas (City of Newcastle Gas and Coke Company Ltd), 30/11/1926 - 21/01/1927
Commissioner, Royal Commission of Inquiry into the standard price of gas (Manly Gas Company Ltd), 05/07/1927 - 02/09/1927
President, Commonwealth Court of Inquiry into the collision between the 'Greycliffe' and the R.M.S. 'Tahiti', 09/11/1927 - 07/01/1928
Commissioner, Queensland Royal Commission appointed to inquire and report upon matters relating to Mungana, Chillagoe Mines, etc., 28/02/1930 - 04/07/1930
James Lang Campbell was born on 23 November 1858 at Houston and Killellan, Renfrewshire, Scotland, the son of George Murray Campbell and his wife Elizabeth nee Lang. He arrived at Hervey Bay, Queensland, per the ship 'Sultana' on 28 February 1866. The family moved to New South Wales after eight years in Queensland. Educated privately, Campbell initially worked in commerce and banking. While working at the Australian Joint Stock Bank, he became familiar with finances and accounting, and also studied law.(1)
Campbell was called to the New South Wales Bar on 17 August 1886. He read in the chambers of Richard Edward O'Connor. In 1887-1888 he was employed as Acting Secretary to the Attorney-General during the absence of WW Stephen, a role that raised questions in the Legislative Assembly. Campbell practised mainly on the Common Law courts and his chambers were at Wentworth Court (1887-1894), Wigram Chambers (1895-1913) and University Chambers (1914-1922). His nephew, Arthur Lang Campbell, was also in University Chambers. By 1906 James Lang Campbell's knowledge of finances saw him appointed standing counsel for the Taxation Commissioners in the Court of Review and he was also an Examiner in law to the Public Service Board. By 1912 he was standing counsel for the New South Wales Government in all closer settlement resumptions. His appointment as a King's Counsel was approved by the Executive Council on 1 March 1910. He was a member of the Council of the Bar of New South Wales from 1911/12 to 1919/20. (2)
Campbell was sole Commissioner of the Royal Commission to inquire into the coal-mining industry and the coal-trade in the State of New South Wales. Established by Letters Patent on 15 April 1919 for three months, it was extended on 9 July to 14 October and later to 14 November 1919. Campbell's first report was presented on 7 November 1919 and his second report on 31 July 1920. He was required to investigate existing coalmines since 1 January 1914, their ownership, output, average cost of production, the price of coal, its method of sale and any commissions, discounts etc, capital invested and wages paid, working conditions and hours, possible effects of any changes in the latter on output, production costs and wages, and finally if any changes to the industry were needed 'in the public interest'. His first report consisted of factual material on the existing conditions of the industry and the coal trade. The second report dealt with housing, hours and working conditions and the question of changes. (3)
Campbell was appointed a Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales on 1 September 1922. In 1929 problems arose over his age. As he was born in 1858, he reached the mandatory retirement age for judges (seventy years) on 23 November 1928. But he kept changing his birth year. In Cyclopedia of New South Wales (1907) and Who's Who in Australia of 1914 and 1922 he gave his birth year as 1859, making himself a year younger. In Who's Who of 1927 he stated he was born in 1860. His verdict in Celebrity Pictures Pty Ltd vs Turnbull (1929) was challenged on the grounds that he was past retiring age. The summons was dismissed but the New South Wales Parliament passed An Act to validate certain judicial acts of the Honourable James Lang Campbell, as one of the Justices of the Supreme Court (Act No.29, 1929, assented to 19 November 1929). He retired on 22 November 1929. (4)
Campbell conducted a number of inquiries under the Gas Act (Amendment) Act 1920 (Act No.14, 1920). Beginning with the Gas Act, 1912 (Act No.71, 1912), the Government created the concept of a standard price for gas by linking the highest consumer price able to be charged by a company to its production costs and a maximum shareholder dividend. A Royal Commission was necessary for a gas producer to increase their standard price. The 1912 Act originally applied only to the Australian Gaslight Company, North Shore Gas Company Limited and the City of Newcastle Gas and Coke Company Limited. The 1920 Act enabled a standard price to be calculated for other producers following a Royal Commission. Between 1922 and 1927, Campbell conducted five Commissions under the 1920 Act. The first, under Letters Patent dated 16 November 1922, looked at whether the Manly Gas Company Ltd should have a standard price applied. In December 1922 it was added to Schedule One of the Act and its standard price set at 6 shillings and 6 pence. The other four inquiries dealt with applications by producers to increase their standard price. In November 1924 Campbell raised the standard price for the Manly Gas Company Ltd to 7 shillings and 3 pence following an inquiry under Letters Patent dated 14 October 1924 and amended 21 October. In June 1926 he increased the standard price for the North Shore Gas Company Ltd to 6 shillings and 3 pence following an inquiry under Letters Patent dated 10 May 1926. In January 1927 the standard price for the City of Newcastle Gas and Coke Company Ltd was raised to 6 shillings following an inquiry under Letters Patent dated 30 November 1926. In September 1927 he lifted the standard price for the Manly Gas Company Ltd to 8 shillings following an inquiry under Letters Patent dated 5 July 1927. (5)
From 1920 the New South Wales Government applied the same system of price control to electricity that it used for the gas industry, that is a Royal Commission. These were held to examine potential price increases or decreases for bulk supply to Local Government Councils. The Municipal Council of Sydney Lighting (Amendment) Act, 1920 (Act No.22, 1920) applied to the Council of Sydney as an electricity producer from 1 December and used the average price in 1915 as its standard price. In December 1920 this price control was extended to other electricity producers including the (Balmain) Electric Light and Power Supply Corporation Ltd through the Supply of Electricity (Variation of Agreements) Act, 1920 (Act No.30,1920). The (Balmain) Electric Light and Power Supply Corporation, a private company, operated the Balmain Power Station at Iron Cove from 30 September 1909 until taken over by the Electricity Commission in 1957-8. The first Royal Commission for the Balmain Company was held in 1921 under Sir Charles Gregory Wade and gave the company a four-tenths of a penny per kilo-watt increase. (6)
In 1924 Campbell held the second Royal Commission on the (Balmain) Electric Light and Power Supply Corporation Limited. It was called by the Minister for Labour and Industry, rather than by the Company, to see if production costs had decreased and therefore the bulk price should be reduced. Letters Patent were issued on 14 October 1924. A second Letter Patent was issued on 11 November 1924 extending the time for the Commission until the 24 November 1924. (7)
Campbell was president of the Court of Inquiry, conducted under the Commonwealth Navigation Act, into the collision on Sydney Harbour, off Bradleys Head, between the ferry 'Greycliffe' and the Union Steamship Company's R.M.S. 'Tahiti' on 3 November 1927. Forty people were killed and more than fifty injured. The inquiry began on 9 November 1927 and took evidence till 7 January 1928. Campbell's findings did not agree with those of the Coronial inquest or the later Admiralty Court inquiry. (8)
After his retirement from the Supreme Court, Campbell conducted the Royal Commission appointed to inquire and report upon matters relating to Mungana, Chillagoe Mines, etc. for the Queensland Government. This commission was established on 28 February 1930 and reported on 4 July 1930. Although Campbell stated that four people, including two politicians, were guilty of fraud in persuading the State to purchase the Mungana Mines for forty thousand pounds, a subsequent civil case found them not guilty and not liable to pay compensation to the government. (9)
Campbell was active in the community. He was involved in the Boys' Brigade and was for a time Honorary Treasurer. (10)
Campbell died at his home in Edgecliff on 7 December 1936, survived by his wife, Laura Augusta Georgina (Lily) nee Gadsen. The couple were married on 9 September 1885. (11)
1. Information supplied by Professor Richard Campbell, 23 March 2012; Fred Johns, Johns's Notable Australian, various, 1906, p.42; 1908, p.89; Fred Johns, Fred Johns's Annual, various, 1912, p.49; 1913, p.24; 1914, p.29; Fred Johns, Who's Who in the Commonwealth of Australia, various, 1922, p.43; 1927-8, p.41; Who's Who in Australia, Melbourne, Herald Press, 1933-34, pp.77-8; 1935, p.102; Cyclopedia of New South Wales, Sydney, McCarron, Stewart and Company, 1907, reprinted Modbury, SA, Archive CD Book Australia Pty Ltd, pp.311-12; Sydney Morning Herald, 9 December 1936, p.18; JM Bennett, 'Campbell, James Lang (1858-1936)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Online Edition, http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A070554b.htm (cited 11 January 2008).
2. Barristers Admission Board; NRS 13665, Roll of Barristers, 15 June 1876 - 1 December 1926; Reel 2147, p.3; Cyclopedia of New South Wales, op cit.; JM Bennett, 'Campbell, James Lang (1858-1936)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, op cit.; Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Assembly during the session of 1887-8, Sydney, NSW Government Printer, 1888, Vol.1, p.558 (3 July 1888); New South Wales Law Almanac, Sydney, NSW Government Printer, 1887, p.24; 1894, p.36; 1895, p.36; 1897, p.37; 1904, p.44; 1911, p.54; 1914, p.58; 1918, p.59; 1922, p.55; Fred Johns, op.cit., 1906, p.42; 1912, p.49; Attorney General's Department [III]; NRS 333, Letters received - Special Bundles, 1874-1984; [10/42918] Correspondence re appointment of King's Counsels, 1898-1941; NSW Government Gazette, No.31, 2 March 1910, p.1261; 'Bar Councillors 1910-1920', New South Wales Bar Association, http://www.nswbar.asn.au/docs/about/history/bclist1910_1920.php (cited 9 April 2009).
3. Agency Detail for Agency 4953 Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Coal Mining Industry and the Coal Trade in the State of New South Wales, http://investigator.records.nsw.gov.au/Entity.aspx?Path=\Agency\4953 (cited 9 April 2009); D H Borchardt, Checklist of Royal Commissions Select Committees of Parliament and Boards of Inquiry, Part IV New South Wales 1855-1960, Bundoora, La Trobe University Library, 1975, pp.279-80; Joint Volume of Papers presented to the Legislative Council and Legislative Assembly, 1919, Sydney, NSW Government Printer, 1920, Vol.3, p.212.
4. NSW Government Gazette, No.132, 8 September 1922, p.4960; State Reports New South Wales, Sydney, Law Book Company of Australasia Ltd, Vol.22 (1922); Cyclopedia of New South Wales, op cit.; Fred Johns, op.cit., 1914, p.29; 1922, p43; 1927-8, p.41; JM Bennett, 'Campbell, James Lang (1858-1936)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, op cit.; New South Wales Law Almanac for 1941, Sydney, NSW Government Printer, 1941, p.44.
5. NSW Government Gazette No.163, 24 November 1922, pp.6196-97; No.176, 29 December 1922, p.6774; No.134, 17 October 1924, p.4785; No.136, 24 October 1924, p.4854; No.142, 7 November 1924, p.5074; No.59, 14 May 1926, p.2104; No.72, 4 June 1926, p.2435; No.158, 3 December 1926, p.5126; No.8, 21 January 1927, p.304; No.94, 15 July 1927, pp.3482-83; No.122, 2 September 1927, pp.4310-11; NRS 5739, Notebooks: Commissions of Inquiry [Justice J.L. Campbell]; [7/9897 part] 1922-1927; NRS 5740, Notebooks: Associate's Book - Commissions of Inquiry [Justice J.L. Campbell]; [7/9897 part] 1922-1927.
6. 'Balmain Power Station, New South Wales - Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia', http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balmain_Power_Station,_New_South_Wales (cited 3 April 2008); Joint Volume of Papers presented to the Legislative Council and Legislative Assembly and ordered to be printed, 1921, Sydney, NSW Government Printer, 1922, Vol.3, pp.1-2; New South Wales Government Gazette No.32, 4 March 1921, pp.1504-5; No.45, 1 April 1921, p.2067; No.92, 1 July 1921, pp.3867-68. The report of the Commission was published in the Industrial Gazette 31 July 1921.
7. NSW Government Gazette No.134, 17 October 1924, p.4786; No.144, 14 November 1924, p.5167; NRS 5739, op.cit.; NRS 5740, op.cit.
8. Steve Brew, 'Tahiti', The Thin Blue Line, http://www.policensw.com/info/history/tahiti.html (cited 8 April 2009); John Morcombe, 'Manly Daily, 20 December 2003', http://brew.clients.ch.MDaily.htm (cited 7 April 2009); Sydney Morning Herald 9 December 1936, p.18; NRS 5741, Notebooks: Court of Marine Inquiry [Justice J.L. Campbell]; [7/9895] 1927-28.
9. JM Bennett, 'Campbell, James Lang (1858-1936)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, op cit.; Queensland State Archives Agency ID 2645 Royal Commission appointed to inquire into and report upon matters relating to Mungana, Chillagoe Mines etc, http://www.archivessearch.qld.gov.au/Search/AgencyDetails.aspx?AgencyId=2645 (cited 8 April 2009); Queensland State Archives Series ID 5172 Briefs and papers of the Mungana Mines/Chillagoe Smelters Case: The King vs. Goddard, Reid, McCormack and Theodore, http://www.archivessearch.qld.gov.au/Search/SeriesDetails.aspx?SeriesId=5172 (cited 8 April 2009).
10. Sydney Morning Herald 9 December 1936, p.18.
11. Sydney Morning Herald 9 December 1936, pp.16, 18; Who's Who in Australia, Melbourne, Herald Press, 1935, p.102; JM Bennett, 'Campbell, James Lang (1858-1936)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, op cit.