1906 Australian federal election

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1906 Australian federal election
Flag of Australia (1903-1908).svg
  1903 12 December 1906 (1906-12-12) 1910  

All 75 seats in the House of Representatives
38 seats were needed for a majority in the House
18 (of the 36) seats in the Senate
 First partySecond partyThird party
  Portrait of Alfred Deakin seated at his desk (cropped).jpg George Reid crop.jpg ChrisWatsonBW crop.jpg
Leader Alfred Deakin George Reid Chris Watson
Party Protectionist Anti-Socialist Labour
Leader since24 September 1903 (1903-09-24)11 May 1901 (1901-05-11)20 May 1901 (1901-05-20)
Leader's seat Ballaarat (Vic.) East Sydney (NSW) South Sydney (NSW)
Last election26 seats24 seats23 seats
Seats won21 seats27 seats26 seats
Seat changeDecrease2.svg5Increase2.svg3Increase2.svg3
Popular vote156,425363,257348,711

 Fourth party
  John Forrest.jpg
Leader John Forrest
PartyWestern Australia Party
Leader since1906 (1906)
Leader's seat Swan (WA)
Last election0 seats
Seats won2 seats
Seat changeIncrease2.svg2
Popular vote22,154

Prime Minister before election

Alfred Deakin

Resulting Prime Minister

Alfred Deakin

The 1906 Australian federal election was held in Australia on 12 December 1906. All 75 seats in the House of Representatives, and 18 of the 36 seats in the Senate were up for election. The incumbent Protectionist Party minority government led by Prime Minister Alfred Deakin retained government, despite winning the fewest House of Representatives votes and seats of the three parties. Parliamentary support was provided by the Labour Party led by Chris Watson, while the Anti-Socialist Party (renamed from the Free Trade Party), led by George Reid, remained in opposition.


Watson resigned as Labour leader in October 1907 and was replaced by Andrew Fisher. The Protectionist minority government fell in November 1908 to Labour, a few days before Reid resigned as Anti-Socialist leader, who was replaced by Joseph Cook. The Labour minority government fell in June 1909 to the newly formed Commonwealth Liberal Party led by Deakin. The party was formed on a shared anti-Labour platform as a merger between Deakin, leader of the Protectionists, and Cook, leader of the Anti-Socialists, in order to counter Labour's growing popularity. The merger didn't sit well with several of the more progressive Protectionists, who defected to Labour or sat as independents.

The merger would allow the Deakin Commonwealth Liberals to construct a mid-term parliamentary majority, however less than a year later at the 1910 election, Labour won both majority government and a Senate majority, representing a number of firsts: it was Australia's first elected federal majority government, Australia's first elected Senate majority, the world's first Labour Party majority government at a national level, and after the 1904 Watson minority government the world's second Labour Party government at a national level.


House of Representatives

Labour: 26 seats
Protectionist: 16 seats
Anti-Socialist: 26 seats
Independent: 6 seats
Western Australian: 1 seat Australian House of Representatives, 1906.svg
  Labour: 26 seats
  Protectionist: 16 seats
  Anti-Socialist: 26 seats
  Independent: 6 seats
  Western Australian: 1 seat
House of Reps 1906–10 (FPTP) – Turnout 51.48% (Non-CV) – Informal 3.73%  [1]
Australia House of Representatives 1906.svg
  Anti-Socialist   [lower-alpha 1] 363,25738.17+3.8027+3
  Labour 348,71136.64+5.6926+3
  Protectionist 156,42516.44–13.2616–10
  Ind. Protectionist 46,0744.84+4.844+4
  Western Australian 22,1542.33+2.332+2
 Total951,688 [lower-alpha 2]   75
Popular Vote
Ind. Protectionist
Western Australian
Parliament Seats
Ind. Protectionist
Western Australian


Senate 1906–10 (FPTP BV) – Turnout 50.21% (Non-CV) – Informal N/A [4]
Australian Senate 1906.svg
PartyVotes%SwingSeats WonSeats HeldChange
  Anti-Socialist   [lower-alpha 3] 469,91747.4+15.61217+4
  Labour 384,17138.7+5.7515+1
  Protectionist 92,9319.4−6.7135
  Independents/Other  [lower-alpha 4] 44,8714.5010
 Total991,850  1836


It was the third federal election in Australia following the adoption of the federal government. The election was largely important as it would demonstrate which of the parties (if any) could hold together a stable government after the unstable second term of the previous one, which saw four different governments in power. It would also see if all parties could survive the implementation of protectionist policies which differentiated the two. This was also the first election where all seats for the House of Representatives were voted for via a First-past-the-post system (at previous elections some states voted as one electorate, using a bloc vote), and the first time that Tasmania was divided into separate electorates. The election result was the continuation of a Protectionist government led by Deakin and supported by Labour, which remained in power largely due to the unwillingness of the Anti-Socialist Party to support a vote of no confidence against it.

George Reid adopted a strategy of trying to reorient the party system along Labour vs non-Labour lines – before the election, he renamed his Free Trade Party to the Anti-Socialist Party. Reid envisaged a spectrum running from socialist to anti-socialist, with the Protectionist Party in the middle. This attempt struck a chord with politicians who were steeped in the Westminster tradition and regarded a two-party system as very much the norm. [5]

Since the Protectionist primary platform of government tariffs had been dealt with by previous governments, the party had become somewhat redundant. Those who remained were largely supporting the Party's leader, Alfred Deakin, rather than its policies. Of the three, the Labour Party, led by Chris Watson, now had the most realistic chance of becoming the dominant party after their gains in the 1903 election and after their leading status in the four minor states they were looking to make the same type of gains in Victoria and New South Wales.

The first federal referendum in Australia's history was held in conjunction with the election. The proposed alteration to the Constitution, to change the start date of Senators' terms from 1 January to 1 July, passed in all states and was carried.

Seats changing hands

Balaclava, Vic  Protectionist George Turner Agar Wynne Ind. Protectionist 
Barker, SA  Protectionist Langdon Bonython John Livingston Anti-Socialist 
Batman, Vic new division1.7 Jabez Coon Protectionist 
Bendigo, Vic  Protectionist John Quick John Quick Ind. Protectionist 
Brisbane, Qld  Labour Millice Culpin 2.113.411.3 Justin Foxton Anti-Socialist 
Capricornia, Qld  Labour David Thomson 9.615.25.6 Edward Archer Anti-Socialist 
Cowper, NSW  Anti-Socialist Henry Lee John Thomson Protectionist 
Denison, Tas  Protectionist Philip Fysh Philip Fysh Anti-Socialist 
Fawkner, Vic new division13.9 George Fairbairn Ind. Protectionist 
Franklin, Tas   Revenue Tariff William McWilliams 4.6100.0100.0 William McWilliams Anti-Socialist 
Fremantle, WA  Labour William Carpenter 11.312.20.9 William Hedges Western Australian 
Indi, Vic  Protectionist Isaac Isaacs Joseph Brown Anti-Socialist 
Macquarie, NSW  Anti-Socialist Sydney Smith Ernest Carr Labour 
Maribyrnong, Vic new division6.9 Samuel Mauger Protectionist 
Melbourne Ports, Vic  Protectionist Samuel Mauger James Mathews Labour 
Moreton, Qld  Ind / Labour James Wilkinson   [lower-alpha 5] 5.818.312.5 Hugh Sinclair Anti-Socialist 
New England, NSW  Anti-Socialist Edmund Lonsdale 1.951.81.8 Frank Foster Labour 
Oxley, Qld  Protectionist Richard Edwards 2.314.316.6 Richard Edwards Anti-Socialist 
South Sydney, NSW  Anti-Socialist George Edwards Chris Watson Labour 
Wannon, Vic  Anti-Socialist Arthur Robinson John McDougall Labour 
Werriwa, NSW  Anti-Socialist Alfred Conroy 18.720.51.8 David Hall Labour 
Wimmera, Vic  Protectionist Pharez Phillips 0.114.614.2 Sydney Sampson Ind. Protectionist 

Post-election pendulum

Protectionist/Labour Coalition
Gippsland (Vic) George Wise PROT00.3 vs AS
Calare (NSW) Thomas Brown LAB00.7 vs AS
Cowper (NSW) John Thomson PROT00.9 vs AS
Macquarie (NSW) Ernest Carr LAB01.3 vs AS
Batman (Vic) Jabez Coon PROT01.7 vs LAB
New England (NSW) Frank Foster LAB01.8 vs AS
Werriwa (NSW) David Hall LAB01.8 vs AS
Melbourne Ports (Vic) James Mathews LAB02.6 vs PROT
Laanecoorie (Vic) Carty Salmon PROT02.7 vs LAB
Perth (WA) James Fowler LAB02.7 vs WAP
Wannon (Vic) John McDougall LAB02.8 vs AS
Herbert (Qld) Fred Bamford LAB02.9 vs AS
Cook (NSW) James Catts LAB03.0 vs AS
Gwydir (NSW) William Webster LAB03.3 vs AS
Riverina (NSW) John Chanter PROT04.1 vs AS
Wide Bay (Qld) Andrew Fisher LAB04.5 vs AS
Mernda (Vic) Robert Harper PROT04.7 vs LAB
Corio (Vic) Richard Crouch PROT05.0 vs AS
West Sydney (NSW) Billy Hughes LAB05.5 vs AS
Fairly safe
South Sydney (NSW) Chris Watson LAB06.4 vs AS
Bourke (Vic) James Hume Cook PROT06.7 vs LAB
Maribyrnong (Vic) Samuel Mauger PROT06.9 vs LAB
Kennedy (Qld) Charles McDonald LAB07.8 vs AS
Darling (NSW) William Spence LAB07.9 vs AS
Darwin (Tas) King O'Malley LAB09.5 vs AS
Yarra (Vic) Frank Tudor LAB09.6 vs IND
Melbourne (Vic) William Maloney LAB10.4 vs AS
Hume (NSW) William Lyne PROT11.7 vs AS
Bass (Tas) David Storrer PROT12.3 vs AS
Darling Downs (Qld) Littleton Groom PROT15.1 vs LAB
Ballaarat (Vic) Alfred Deakin PROT16.2 vs LAB
Newcastle (NSW) David Watkins LAB17.2 vs PAS
Eden-Monaro (NSW) Austin Chapman PROT17.8 vs AS
Maranoa (Qld) Jim Page LAB18.8 vs AS
Very safe
Coolgardie (WA) Hugh Mahon LAB23.1 vs WAP
Barrier (NSW) Josiah Thomas LAB24.5 vs AS
Richmond (NSW) Thomas Ewing PROT26.4 vs AS
Kalgoorlie (WA) Charlie Frazer LAB29.0 vs WAP
Adelaide (SA) Charles Kingston PROTunopposed
Boothby (SA) Lee Batchelor LABunopposed
Grey (SA) Alexander Poynton LABunopposed
Hindmarsh (SA) James Hutchison LABunopposed
Anti-Socialist Party
Echuca (Vic) Albert Palmer [lower-alpha 6] AS00.0 vs PROT
Hunter (NSW) Frank Liddell AS00.8 vs LAB
Flinders (Vic) William Irvine AS01.5 vs PROT
Dalley (NSW) William Wilks AS02.7 vs LAB
Indi (Vic) Joseph Brown AS02.7 vs LAB
Wilmot (Tas) Llewellyn Atkinson AS04.2 vs LAB
East Sydney (NSW) George Reid AS04.9 vs LAB
Capricornia (Qld) Edward Archer AS05.6 vs LAB
Grampians (Vic) Hans Irvine AS05.8 vs LAB
Fairly safe
Corangamite (Vic) Gratton Wilson AS06.6 vs PROT
Robertson (NSW) Henry Willis AS07.0 vs LAB
Barker (SA) John Livingston AS08.1 vs LAB
Denison (Tas) Philip Fysh AS10.5 vs LAB
Brisbane (Qld) Justin Foxton AS11.3 vs LAB
Kooyong (Vic) William Knox AS12.0 vs PROT
Moreton (Qld) Hugh Sinclair AS12.5 vs LAB
Nepean (NSW) Eric Bowden AS13.3 vs LAB
Angas (SA) Paddy Glynn AS13.6 vs LAB
Illawarra (NSW) George Fuller AS13.8 vs LAB
Oxley (Qld) Richard Edwards AS13.8 vs LAB
Wakefield (SA) Frederick Holder AS  [lower-alpha 1] 13.8 vs LAB
Very safe
Lang (NSW) Elliot Johnson AS20.4 vs LAB
Wentworth (NSW) Willie Kelly AS23.2 vs LAB
Parkes (NSW) Bruce Smith AS28.2 vs IND
Franklin (Tas) William McWilliams ASunopposed
North Sydney (NSW) Dugald Thomson ASunopposed
Parramatta (NSW) Joseph Cook ASunopposed
Fremantle (WA) William Hedges WAP00.9 vs LAB
Bendigo (Vic) John Quick IND PROT01.7 vs LAB
Balaclava (Vic) Agar Wynne IND PROT04.0 vs IND
Fawkner (Vic) George Fairbairn IND PROT13.9 vs LAB
Wimmera (Vic) Sydney Sampson IND PROT14.2 vs LAB
Swan (WA) John Forrest WAP16.2 vs LAB

See also


  1. 1 2 Anti-Socialist party figures for the House of Representatives include Frederick Holder (Wakefield, SA) who was endorsed by the party, [2] however he was the Speaker for his entire parliamentary career and did not take part in Anti-Socialist party activities. [3]
  2. Seven members of the House of Representatives were elected unopposed – three Anti-Socialist, three Labour, and one Protectionist.
  3. The figures for the Anti-Socialist Party include Joseph Vardon (SA), whose election was subsequently declared void, and Henry Dobson (Tas), who was elected as part of the Revenue Tariff Party.
  4. Independent: William Trenwith (Vic)
  5. James Wilkinson (Moreton, Qld) was elected as an independent labour candidate and joined the Labour caucus in 1904. [6]
  6. Palmer's election was subsequently declared void and he won the seat in a by-election with an increased majority.

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  1. "House of Representatives election 1906". Australian politics and elections database. The University of Western Australia. Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  2. "Federal elections". Evening Journal . 7 December 1906. p. 2. Retrieved 20 May 2019 via National Library of Australia.
  3. Carr, Adam. "1906 legislative election: House of Representatives, South Australia". Psephos.
  4. "Election of 12 December 1906 Senate: National summary". Psephos Adam Carr's Election Archive. Retrieved 21 February 2017.
  5. Fusion: The Party System We Had To Have? - by Charles Richardson CIS 25 January 2009
  6. Carr, Adam. "1903 legislative election: House of Representatives, Queensland". Psephos.