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Barton contested parliamentary elections in New South Wales for twenty years and two federal convention elections in 1891 and 1897. The first House of Representatives election, held in New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia on 29 March and in Western Australia and Queensland on 30 March, was Barton’s only federal election. His private secretary, Arthur Hunt, managed Barton’s campaign for the seat of Hunter, which included the electorate from which he had resigned late in 1900.

On 17 January 1901 Barton opened the campaign with a policy speech at West Maitland Town Hall. With this speech he set out the tasks ahead for the first Commonwealth parliament, including:

  • providing for female franchise
  • setting up a High Court
  • selecting a site for the federal capital as provided in the Constitution
  • establishing a revenue system through tariffs
  • setting up a system to adjudicate interstate labour disputes
  • building the promised east–west railway across the continent.
King O’Malley warned ‘Brother Barton’ of an electoral challenge

In February 1901 House of Representatives candidate, King O’Malley, warned ‘Brother Barton’ of an electoral challenge from George Reid if Barton did not opt for a strategy of free trade between the States and ‘protection against the outside world’.

NAA: A6, 1901/561, p. 1

Page two of King O’Malley's letter to Edmund Barton, February 1901

Page two of King O’Malley's letter to Edmund Barton, February 1901.

NAA: A6, 1901/561, p. 1

Barton was unopposed. His government took office with 31 Protectionists, 28 Free Trade Party and 14 Labor Party members comprising the first House of Representatives and 2 ‘others’, King O’Malley and Frank Tudor, who then joined the Labor Party. In the Senate only 11 of the 36 senators supported the government – 17 of Reid’s Free Trade supporters and 8 Labor senators were elected.

From the National Archives of Australia collection

Letter from King O’Malley to Edmund Barton, 1901, NAA: A6, 1901/561


These brief election results relate only to this Prime Minister. They are drawn from the online sources below, where further information can be found.

Australian Electoral Commission:
Election results

University of Western Australia:
Australian Government and Politics Database

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