1940 Australian federal election

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1940 Australian federal election

← 1937 21 September 1940 1943 →

All 74 seats of the House of Representatives
38 seats were needed for a majority in the House
19 (of the 36) seats of the Senate
  First party Second party
  Robert Menzies in 1939.jpg JohnCurtin.jpg
Leader Robert Menzies John Curtin
Party UAP/Country coalition Labor
Leader since 26 April 1939 1 October 1935
Leader's seat Kooyong (Vic.) Fremantle (WA)
Last election 44 seats 29 seats
Seats won 36 seats 32 seats
Seat change Decrease8 Increase3
Percentage 49.70% 50.30%
Swing Decrease0.90% Increase0.90%

Australia 1940 federal election.png
Popular vote by state with graphs indicating the number of seats won. As this is an IRV election, seat totals are not determined by popular vote by state but instead via results in each electorate.

Prime Minister before election

Robert Menzies
UAP/Country coalition

Subsequent Prime Minister

Robert Menzies
UAP/Country coalition

The 1940 Australian federal election was held in Australia on 21 September 1940. All 74 seats in the House of Representatives and 19 of the 36 seats in the Senate were up for election. The incumbent Coalition, consisting of the United Australia Party led by Prime Minister Robert Menzies and the Country Party led by Archie Cameron, defeated the opposition Labor Party under John Curtin despite losing the overall popular vote.

The Coalition had won 36 seats, two short of a majority, but formed a government on 28 October 1940 with the support of both independent crossbenchers, Alexander Wilson and Arthur Coles. The four MPs elected to Lang Labor's successor, the Australian Labor Party (Non-Communist), officially re-joined the ALP just months after the election in February 1941, bringing the ALP seat tally up to 36. The UAP–Country minority government lasted only until October 1941, when the two independents crossed the floor and allowed the ALP to form a minority government with Curtin as prime minister. It remains the only time since the 1910 introduction of an elected two-party system where the government changed as the result of a parliamentary confidence vote.

Future opposition leaders H.V. Evatt and Arthur Calwell both entered parliament at this election.

Background[edit]

The 15th parliament elected in the 1937 election first sat on 30 November 1937.[1] Under the constitution, the parliament would expire in November 1940 and a general election would have to held by January 1941.[2][3] Throughout 1940, there were debates on whether the general election should be held or postponed in the midst of a world war.[4] Throughout July and August 1940, Prime Minister Robert Menzies contemplated the prospect of an early election.[5] The loss of three Cabinet ministers in the 1940 Canberra air disaster on 13 August also meant that three by-elections would have been required, followed within a few short months by a general election.

Both the Coalition and Labor supported Australia's ongoing participation in World War II. The Coalition's advertisements asked Australians to "Cast Your Vote for Unity and an All-in War Effort / Back the Government that's Backing Churchill", with a large picture of the British Prime Minister. Labor promised "A New Deal / for the Soldier / for the Soldier's wife / Widows, the Aged and Infirm / the Taxpayer / the Working Man / the Primary Producer".[6]

Results[edit]

House of Representatives[edit]

Australian Federal Election, 1940
House of Reps (IRV) — 1940–43—Turnout 94.82% (CV) — Informal 2.56%
Party Votes % Swing Seats Change
  UAP–Country coalition 1,703,185 43.93 –4.65 36 –8
  United Australia  1,171,788 30.22 –3.49 23 –5
  Country  531,397 13.71 –1.84 13 –3
  Labor 1,556,941 40.16 −3.01 32 +3
  Lang Labor 202,721 5.23 +5.23 4 +4
  State Labor 101,191 2.61 +2.61 0 0
  Defence Movement 15,313 0.40 +0.40 0 0
  Protestant Labor 8,300 0.21 +0.21 0 0
  Independents 289,335 7.46 +1.90 2 0
  Total 3,876,986     74
Two-party-preferred (estimated)
  UAP–Country coalition 49.70 −0.90 36 −8
  Labor 50.30 +0.90 32 +3

Notes
Popular Vote
Labor
40.16%
United Australia
30.22%
Country
13.71%
Lang Labor
5.23%
State Labor
2.61%
Independent/Other
8.07%
Two Party Preferred Vote
Labor
50.30%
Coalition
49.70%
Parliament Seats
Coalition
48.64%
Labor
43.24%
Lang Labor
5.41%
Independent
2.70%

Senate[edit]

Senate (P BV) — 1940–43—Turnout 94.75% (CV) — Informal 9.56%
Party Votes % Swing Seats Won Seats Held Change
  UAP–Country coalition 1,831,138 50.41 +3.70 16 19 –1
  UAP–Country joint ticket 1,649,241 45.40 +16.72 10 N/A N/A
  United Australia  181,897 5.01 –11.12 6 15 –1
  Country N/A N/A N/A 0 4 0
  Labor 1,363,072 37.52 –10.96 3 17 +1
  Non-Communist Labor 274,861 7.57 +7.57 0 0 0
  State Labor 70,091 1.93 +1.93 0 0 0
  Defence Movement 9,536 0.26 +0.26 0 0 0
  Independents 84,119 2.32 –1.07 0 0 0
  Total 3,632,817     19 36

Notes
  • Of the ten senators elected on UAP–Country joint tickets, seven were UAP members and three were Country Party members.

Seats changing hands[edit]

Seat Pre-1940 Swing Post-1940
Party Member Margin Margin Member Party
Barton, NSW   United Australia Albert Lane 1.8 13.9 12.1 H. V. Evatt Labor  
Calare, NSW   Country Harold Thorby 2.2 5.6 3.4 John Breen Labor  
Cook, NSW   Labor Tom Sheehan N/A 33.9 13.6 Tom Sheehan Labor (N-C)  
Dalley, NSW   Labor Sol Rosevear N/A 14.9 7.2 Sol Rosevear Labor (N-C)  
Denison, Tas   Labor Gerald Mahoney 3.9 5.0 1.1 Arthur Beck United Australia  
Henty, Vic   United Australia Henry Gullett N/A 3.2 13.5 Arthur Coles Independent  
Lang, NSW   Labor Dan Mulcahy N/A 13.4 16.0 Dan Mulcahy Labor (N-C)  
Macquarie, NSW   United Australia John Lawson 2.1 10.2 8.1 Ben Chifley Labor  
Maranoa, Qld   Country James Hunter 4.3 5.9 1.6 Frank Baker Labor  
Riverina, NSW   Country Horace Nock 7.2 8.8 1.6 Joe Langtry Labor  
Wakefield, SA   Labor Sydney McHugh 6.7 10.0 3.4 Jack Duncan-Hughes United Australia  
Wannon, Vic   United Australia Thomas Scholfield 1.3 5.0 3.7 Don McLeod Labor  
Warringah, NSW   Independent Percy Spender 1.9 23.6 25.5 Percy Spender United Australia  
Watson, NSW   United Australia John Jennings 3.8 5.8 2.0 Max Falstein Labor  
West Sydney, NSW   Labor Jack Beasley 100.0 64.3 14.3 Jack Beasley Labor (N-C)  
Wilmot, Tas   Labor Lancelot Spurr 0.2 5.2 5.0 Allan Guy United Australia  
  • Members in italics did not contest their seat at this election.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Parliament". Trove. The Canberra Times. 16 November 1937. Retrieved 15 October 2020.
  2. ^ "War Time Elections". Trove. The Daily News. 19 August 1940. Retrieved 15 October 2020.
  3. ^ "Election during the war". Trove. The Daily News. 9 July 1940. Retrieved 15 October 2020.
  4. ^ "Federal Election Question". Trove. The Advocate. 10 July 1940. Retrieved 15 October 2020.
  5. ^ {[cite web|url=https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/74457507%7Ctitle=A forced election|date=12 August 1940|publisher=The Advertiser|website=Trove|accessdate=15 October 2020}}
  6. ^ Hasluck, Paul (1965). Australia in the War of 1939–1945. Series 4 – Civil - Volume 1, The Government and the People, 1939–1941. Canberra: Australian War Memorial. pp. 256–263.

References[edit]