1931 Australian federal election

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1931 Australian federal election
Flag of Australia (converted).svg
  1929 19 December 1931 1934  

All 75 seats of the House of Representatives
38 seats were needed for a majority in the House
18 (of the 36) seats of the Senate
 First partySecond partyThird party
  Joseph Lyons.jpg Portrait of the Right Hon. J. H. Scullin.png Earle Page - Falk Studios (cropped).jpg
Leader Joseph Lyons James Scullin Earle Page
Party United Australia Labor Country
Leader since7 May 1931 26 April 1928 5 April 1921
Leader's seat Wilmot (Tas.) Yarra (Vic.) Cowper (NSW)
Last election14 seats46 seats10 seats
Seats won39 seats [1] 14 seats16 seats
Seat changeIncrease2.svg25Decrease2.svg32Increase2.svg6
Percentage58.50%41.50%
SwingIncrease2.svg15.20%Decrease2.svg15.20%

Australia 1931 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

James Scullin
Labor

Subsequent Prime Minister

Joseph Lyons
United Australia

The 1931 Australian federal election was held in Australia on 19 December 1931. All 75 seats in the House of Representatives and 18 of the 36 seats in the Senate were up for election.

Contents

The incumbent first-term Australian Labor Party (ALP) government led by Prime Minister James Scullin was defeated in a landslide by the United Australia Party (UAP) led by Joseph Lyons. To date, this is the last time that a sitting government at federal level has been defeated after a single term.

The election was held at a time of great social and political upheaval, coming at the peak of the Great Depression in Australia. The UAP had only been formed a few months before the election, when Lyons and a few ALP dissidents joined forces with the Nationalist Party and the Australian Party. Although it was dominated by former Nationalists, Lyons became the merged party's leader, with Nationalist leader John Latham as his deputy.

Scullin's position eroded further when five left-wing Labor MPs from New South Wales who supported NSW Premier Jack Lang broke away and moved to the crossbenches in protest of Scullin's economic policy, reducing Scullin to a minority government. Late in 1931, they supported a UAP no-confidence motion and brought down the government. The two Labor factions were decimated; massive vote-splitting left them with only 18 seats between them (14 for the official ALP and four for the Langites).

Prior to the election, it was assumed that the Country Party, led by Earle Page, would hold the balance of power, and Page tentatively agreed to support the UAP if that were the case. The two parties campaigned separately and stood candidates against each other in the House of Representatives, but ran joint tickets in Senate. However, the UAP came up four seats short of a majority. The five MPs from the Emergency Committee of South Australia, which contested the election in that state in place of the UAP and Country Party, joined the UAP party room, giving the UAP enough numbers to form a majority government by two seats. Page was still willing to form a coalition with the Country Party, but negotiations broke down and Lyons decided the UAP would govern by itself. As a result, the First Lyons Ministry was composed solely of UAP members. [2]

Labor would spend the next 10 years in opposition; it would not return to power until 1941.

Results

House of Reps (IRV) — 1931–34—Turnout 95.04% (CV) — Informal 3.48%
PartyVotes%SwingSeatsChangeNotes
  United Australia Party 1,145,08336.10+2.2034+20(1 elected
unopposed)
  Australian Labor Party 859,51327.1021.741432
  Country Party 388,54412.25+1.9816+6(3 elected
unopposed)
  Australian Labor Party (NSW) 335,30910.57*4+4
  Emergency Committee (SA) 174,2885.49* [1] 6+6
  Independents 260,7868.22+6.0913
 Other8,5110.2701
 Total3,172,034  75
  United Australia Party WIN58.50+15.20 [1] 39+15
  Australian Labor Party 41.50−15.201432
Popular Vote
United Australia
36.10%
Labor
27.10%
Country
12.25%
Labor (NSW)
10.57%
Emergency Committee (SA)
5.49%
Others
0.27%
Independent
8.22%
Two Party Preferred Vote
UAP / Country
58.50%
Labor
41.50%
Parliament Seats
United Australia Party
45.33%
Country
21.33%
Labor
18.67%
Emergency Committee (SA)
6.67%
Labor (NSW)
5.33%
Independent
2.67%
Senate (P BV) — 1931–34—Turnout 95.02% (CV) — Informal 9.60%
PartyVotes%SwingSeats WonSeats HeldChange
 UAP/Country (Joint Ticket)945,74130.16*6
  Australian Labor Party 917,21829.2519.70310+3
  United Australia Party 791,87025.2614.029213
  Australian Labor Party (NSW) 379,87012.12*000
  Communist Party of Australia 29,4430.94*000
  Country Party **11.18050
  Independents 71,1812.27+1.68000
 Total3,135,323  1836

Seats changing hands

SeatPre-1931SwingPost-1931
PartyMemberMarginMarginMemberParty
Adelaide, SA  Labor George Edwin Yates 11.421.09.6 Fred Stacey Emergency Committee 
Angas, SA  Labor Moses Gabb 4.731.526.8 Moses Gabb Ind. Emergency Committee [1]  
Ballaarat, Vic  Labor Charles McGrath 7.420.713.3 Charles McGrath United Australia 
Barton, NSW  Labor James Tully 17.620.83.2 Albert Lane United Australia 
Bass, Tas  Labor Allan Guy 10.424.914.5 Allan Guy United Australia 
Batman, Vic  Labor Frank Brennan 25.826.60.8 Samuel Dennis United Australia 
Bendigo, Vic  Labor Richard Keane 5.114.69.5 Eric Harrison United Australia 
Boothby, SA  Labor John Price 5.629.624.0 John Price Emergency Committee 
Brisbane, Qld  United Australia Donald Charles Cameron 2.43.10.7 George Lawson Labor 
Calare, NSW  Labor George Gibbons 1.611.710.1 Harold Thorby Country 
Corangamite, Vic  Labor Richard Crouch 2.115.012.9 William Gibson Country 
Corio, Vic  Labor Arthur Lewis 6.016.610.6 Richard Casey United Australia 
Dalley, NSW  Labor Ted Theodore N/A8.914.0 Sol Rosevear Labor (NSW) 
Darling Downs, Qld  United Australia Arthur Morgan N/A17.79.8 Littleton Groom Independent 
Denison, Tas  Labor Charles Culley 9.214.25.0 Arthur Hutchin United Australia 
East Sydney, NSW  Labor (NSW) Eddie Ward 5.711.71.7 John Clasby United Australia 
Eden-Monaro, NSW  Labor John Cusack 0.113.713.6 John Perkins United Australia 
Fawkner, Vic  Independent Nationalist George Maxwell N/A21.720.3 George Maxwell United Australia 
Flinders, Vic  Labor Jack Holloway 0.218.518.3 Stanley Bruce United Australia 
Franklin, Tas  Labor Charles Frost 1.913.017.9 Archibald Blacklow United Australia 
Fremantle, WA  Labor John Curtin 7.013.55.5 William Watson United Australia 
Grey, SA  Labor Andrew Lacey 9.617.17.5 Philip McBride Emergency Committee 
Gwydir, NSW  Labor Lou Cunningham 3.713.59.8 Aubrey Abbott Country 
Hume, NSW  Labor Parker Moloney 6.614.17.5 Thomas Collins Country 
Hunter, NSW  Labor Rowley James 100.057.27.2 Rowley James Labor (NSW) 
Indi, Vic  Labor Paul Jones 1.414.413.0 William Hutchinson United Australia 
Lang, NSW  Labor William Long 16.220.44.2 Dick Dein United Australia 
Macquarie, NSW  Labor Ben Chifley 15.616.20.6 John Lawson United Australia 
Maribyrnong, Vic  Labor James Fenton 23.223.60.4 James Fenton United Australia 
Martin, NSW  Labor John Eldridge 6.422.716.3 William Holman United Australia 
North Sydney, NSW  Independent Nationalist Billy Hughes 16.123.67.5 Billy Hughes United Australia 
Oxley, Qld  United Australia James Bayley 0.15.95.8 Francis Baker Labor 
Parramatta, NSW  Labor Albert Rowe 3.319.516.2 Frederick Stewart United Australia 
Reid, NSW  Labor Percy Coleman N/A55.35.3 Joe Gander Labor (NSW) 
South Sydney, NSW  Labor Edward Riley 16.321.45.1 John Jennings United Australia 
Wannon, Vic  Labor John McNeill 2.014.312.3 Thomas Scholfield United Australia 
Wentworth, NSW  Independent Nationalist Walter Marks 8.358.315.8 Eric Harrison United Australia 
Werriwa, NSW  Labor Bert Lazzarini 15.417.11.7 Walter McNicoll Country 
West Sydney, NSW  Labor Jack Beasley 36.511.415.1 Jack Beasley Labor (NSW) 
Wimmera, Vic  Country Progressive Percy Stewart N/A21.811.8 Hugh McClelland Country 
Wilmot, Tas  Labor Joseph Lyons 2.925.022.1 Joseph Lyons United Australia 

Issues

The election was dominated by the Great Depression in Australia, which was at its height. As the Labor Government had come to office two days before the Wall Street Crash of 1929, it was seen as being responsible for many of the economic and social problems Australia faced, which sparked the historic Australian Labor Party split of 1931 in which Lyons and four other Labor dissidents crossed the floor to the opposition, and ultimately merged into the UAP. Although the UAP was basically an upper- and middle-class conservative party, the presence of ex-Labor MPs allowed the party to project an image of national unity.

By the time the writs were issued, official Labor and Lang Labor were in open warfare, making a UAP victory all but certain. Due to massive vote splitting brought on by a large number of three-cornered contests, Labor tallied its lowest primary vote since Federation. The two Labor factions, official Labor and Lang Labor, won only 18 seats between them. The two Labor factions would not reunite until 1936.

See also

Notes

  1. 1 2 3 4 Labor-turned-independent MP Moses Gabb was endorsed in the Division of Angas by the Emergency Committee of South Australia (formed by the state UAP for this election) who did not run their own candidate in Angas. Though Gabb is often listed as Emergency Committee, he remained an independent and did not help form or sit with the government and as such has been removed from government tallies, meaning that though six MPs are listed elected as Emergency Committee candidates, there were only five Emergency Committee MPs.
  2. Page, Sir Earle Christmas (1880–1961), Australian Dictionary of Biography

Further reading

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References