History of the State Law Publisher and The Government Printer
The State Law Publisher originated from the operations of the Government Printing Office, which in the latter years of its operation was known as the State Printing Division and State Print. The story of the Government Printer begins in 1870 with the Colonial Secretary Fred Barlee appointing Mr Richard Pether as the Government Printer.
Mr Pether had learnt his trade as an apprentice to the printing trade at the publishers of Inquirer Newspaper in 1852 at the age of 13. By 1865 he had given up printing and became a clerk in the Colonial Secretary’s Office. In 1870 at the age of 31, Mr Richard Pether was appointed Government Printer and together with William Watson a compositor, collected the three printing presses, equipment, type and paper from the Fremantle Prison, then boarded the paddle steamer, “Puffing Billy” for the trip to Perth to the newly created Government Printing Office. Formerly a home for destitute women, the premises at the corner of Pier and Murray Streets in Perth housed the Government Printing Office for the next 89 years.

On the 2nd of August 1870, a two-page Western Australian Government Gazette was printed which was the first Government Gazette to be produced by the newly established Government Printing Office. An official notice announcing the appointment of Mr Richard Pether as the Government Printer was also published in this Gazette. Richard Pether remained the Government Printer until his retirement in 1901, and was then succeeded by Mr William Watson.

In 1876 the Legislative Council required the Parliamentary Debates to be printed and bound which resulted in further expansion of the Government Printing Office. 1880 saw new presses and a steam engine installed, and the appointment of an engine driver.

In 1898 Mr Pether visited England and ordered the first Monotype typesetting machines at a cost of £4,000. The Monotype machines were considered to be more suitable than the Linotype as they were better for tabular work. These machines were to take over the major role of manual typesetting by compositors.

With the rapid advance of the Colony following the development of the goldfields, the volume of work produced in the office and the number of employees increased rapidly. In 1899 electrical power was installed in the building, with the number of staff growing to 84 compositors and machinists, and 15 bookbinders.

In 1907 a third storey was added to the building to accommodate new equipment and increases in the number of staff. Mr William Watson also retired and Mr Frederick Simpson was appointed the Government Printer. Mr Simpson is the longest serving Government Printer in WA to date with 36 years in this role until he retired in 1942 when Mr Robert Harold Miller was appointed the Government Printer.

World War II imposed a lull on the development of the Government Printing Office as staff struggled to maintain production in the face of diminishing supplies and reduced numbers of staff. One of the most important tasks undertaken by the Government Printer at the time was the production of military maps. 1946 saw the retirement of Mr Miller and the appointment of Mr William Henry Wyatt.

The 1950s saw the installation of modern machinery and the move in 1959 from the original premises in Perth to Wembley. 1958 also saw Mr Alexander Beverley Davies appointed as the Government Printer.

In 1971 Mr William Charles Brown was appointed the Government Printer. Mr Brown, together with his Deputy Mr William Benbow, oversaw the transition of the Government Printing Office from hot metal to offset and by the late 1980’s hot metal was almost completely phased out, only being used for some specialised work.

Following a review of its operations in the mid 1980s, the Government Printing Office re-emerged as the State Printing Division and was placed under the Department of Services in the latter half of 1986.

1987 saw the appointment of Mr Garry Duffield as the Government Printer. Mr Duffield oversaw a reform program that included a substantial injection of capital into the State Printing Division to introduce state-of-the-art equipment combined with appropriate changes in management and work practices that served to make the State Printing Division a commercially viable organisation.

These changes made the operations very successful and the State Printing Division became a leader in the printing industry with the training of apprentices and the introduction of Quality Assurance Certification to AS 3902 and ISO 9000 series, being the first major printing establishment in Western Australia to achieve such accreditation and certification.

In late 1993 in line with Government policy at the time, the privatisation of the printing operations of State Print commenced with advertisements in the daily press calling for "Expressions of Interest" from parties interested in purchasing these operations.

The privatisation process was conducted over some 12 months culminating with a sale and handover in January 1995 to the Coventry Group, a Western Australian company. The operations were sold as a going concern being the first and only Government Printery in Australia to be sold in this format as most previously had been closed and disposed of as an asset sale of plant and equipment.

As part of the privatisation process, the Government retained a small part of the printing operation and established the State Law Publisher. The role of the State Law Publisher was to continue servicing the overnight document reproduction needs of Parliament, and for the publishing and dissemination of legislation and statutory information including publication of the Government Gazette.

The State Law Publisher was moved from the Wembley site to the Perth CBD in William Street in June 1995. The privatised part of the State Print continued operating at the Wembley site until November 1995 and was then moved to premises in Dyer Rd Bassendean under the banner of “Allwest Print”. The Allwest operations changed hands in approximately 1998 to the Sands Print Group and continued to operate from the Bassendean premises before closing in early 2001.

From its very humble beginnings under Mr Richard Pether, the State Law Publisher continues to be the official publisher and publishes "under authority" of the Government Printer for the Parliament and Government of Western Australia. Previous operations saw major capital investment of plant and equipment whereas now operations consist of a small modern installation with state of the art technology, with its digital on-demand document reproduction facilities. Private sector printers produce major documents, with the State Law Publisher undertaking a contract management role and ensuring quality and timeliness of these documents is maintained for its clients.

In November of 1995, with closure of the Department of State Services the State Law Publisher was transferred to the then Ministry and now the Department of the Premier and Cabinet where it still continues to operate today. At its peak, the Government Printing Office operations employed some 460 staff and produced most of the printing for the Parliament and Government, as well as telephone directories for Western Australia. In the earlier years the necessity for a Government Printery existed as the facilities and skills were not available in the private sector. Over time the printing industry in Western Australia has grown substantially and to a point where now all current state of the art technology and facilities are available and able to meet the needs of Government.

Government Printer Photo Gallery