Although the UAP was the nominal senior partner in the Coalition and had been in government since 1931, it found itself bereft of leadership following the forced resignation of its leader, Robert Menzies. Hughes succeeded him as UAP leader, which would have normally positioned him to become Prime Minister for a second time. However, Hughes was a month shy of 78 and already in declining health. With Hughes deemed too frail to lead the country in war, Country Party leader Fadden was thus forced to take over as Prime Minister. Fadden only stayed in office for six weeks before the two independents who had been keeping the UAP in office since 1940 joined Labor in voting down his budget. Governor-GeneralLord Gowrie was reluctant to call an election for a Parliament barely a year old, especially considering the international situation. At his urging, the independents threw their support to Labor for the remainder of the parliamentary term.
Over the next two years, Curtin proved to be a very popular and effective leader, and the Coalition was unable to get the better of him. Labor thus went into the election in a strong position, and scored an 18-seat swing on 58 percent of the two-party vote. The Coalition saw its seat count cut in half, to 19 seats--including only seven for the Country Party. Notably, Labor won every seat in Western Australia and all but one in South Australia. Archie Cameron, the member for Barker, South Australia, was left as the only Coalition MP outside the eastern states.
This election was significant in the fact that it resulted in the election of the first female member of the House of Representatives, the UAP's Enid Lyons for Darwin, Tasmania; and the first female Senator, Labor's Dorothy Tangney in Western Australia. The election remains Labor's greatest federal victory in terms of proportion of seats and two-party votes in the lower house, and primary vote in the Senate.