1913 Australian Labor Party leadership spill

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Australian Labor Party
leadership spill, 1913

← 1907 8 July 1913 1915 →
  Andrew Fisher 1912 (b&w).jpg William Higgs.jpg Billy Hughes.jpg
Candidate Andrew Fisher William Higgs Billy Hughes?
First Ballot 36–42 18–21 1?

Leader before election

Andrew Fisher

Elected Leader

Andrew Fisher

The Australian Labor Party held a leadership spill on 8 July 1913, following the party's defeat at the May 1913 federal election. Andrew Fisher was re-elected to the leadership, defeating William Higgs. It was the first occasion on which a sitting leader had faced a challenge.

Fisher had been elected to the party leadership in 1907, in place of Chris Watson. After a brief period of governing in minority from 1908 to 1909, he led Labor to majority government for the first time at the 1910 election. However, his government was defeated by Joseph Cook's Liberal Party at the 1913 election. The party's loss of power after only a single term brought leadership tensions to the forefront, with James Catts one of the leading agitators. Those opposed to Fisher rallied behind William Higgs, a fellow Queenslander who had been a backbencher throughout the duration of the recent government.[1]

As expected, Fisher won an absolute majority on the first ballot. In his official history of the Labor Party, Ross McMullin states that caucus minutes recorded the result as 42 votes for Fisher, 18 for Higgs, and one for Billy Hughes (who did not actually nominate for the position).[1] David Day, one of Fisher's biographers, also gives those figures.[2] However, contemporary newspapers reported that only 57 members of the caucus were in attendance, and that Higgs had won 21 votes; Hughes was not mentioned as a candidate.[3][4] The party's official announcement of the caucus proceedings made no mention of any challenge to Fisher, and the exact results did not become known to the general public until the following week, when they were leaked to the press by Labor MPs.[5]


  1. ^ a b Ross McMullin (1991). The Light on the Hill: The Australian Labor Party 1891–1991. Oxford University Press. p. 89.
  2. ^ David Day (2008). Andrew Fisher: Prime Minister of Australia. HarperCollins. p. 283. ISBN 978-0-7322-7610-2.
  3. ^ "LABOUR RIFT". The Sydney Morning Herald. 17 July 1913.
  4. ^ "LABOR LEADERSHIP". The Sun. 22 July 1913.
  5. ^ "FEDERAL LABOUR CAUCUS". Melbourne Argus. 17 July 1913.