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WM Hughes contested three elections in colonial New South Wales, in 1894, 1895 and 1898. From 1901 to 1951 he contested 20 federal elections in 4 electorates. From 1901 to 1917 he held the seat of West Sydney. After he was expelled from the Labor Party, he held the seat of Bendigo from 1917 to 1922. He then won the seat of North Sydney and held it from 1922 to 1949. That year, at age 87, he stood for the new electoral division of Bradfield, and was still the member for Bradfield when he died in 1952.

WM Hughes' election speech, 1922

WM Hughes' election speech on 26 October 1922 outlined the government's record and the issues before the voters.

NAA: A5954, 2400/1, p. 221

29 March 1901

In the first federal election, Hughes won the seat of West Sydney, which incorporated the area he had represented in the New South Wales colonial parliament. With 31 seats, the Protectionists formed a government led by Edmund Barton. The Free Trade Opposition, led by George Reid, held 28 seats and Labor won 14.

Party affiliation was loose and political organisations were different in each State. Some candidates – such as Frank Tudor in Victoria and King O’Malley in Tasmania – did not contest the election for Labor, but joined the party after their election to parliament.

In the Senate, Labor won 8 seats. With only 11 seats the Protectionists were outnumbered, by 17 Free Trade senators. At this first federal election, 56.7 per cent of those enrolled cast their votes, with women voting only in Western Australia and South Australia.

16 December 1903

This was the first federal election where women had the right to vote on the same basis as men. Hughes held his West Sydney seat and Labor made substantial gains in this election, returning 23 members in the House of Representatives, and winning 10 of the 19 Senate seats contested. After a re-sorting of party affiliation, Labor held 26 seats in the lower House and 14 in the Senate. These increases made the three parties almost equal.

With the support of the Labor members, Alfred Deakin remained Prime Minister of a House almost evenly divided between the three parties – the parliament Deakin referred to as the ‘three elevens’.

12 December 1906

Hughes retained the seat of West Sydney. Though Labor was the largest single party in the lower House, Alfred Deakin continued to govern with an unstable majority. In the House there were 16 Protectionists, 4 Independent Protectionists, 26 Labor members, 2 from a West Australian Party, and 27 Anti-Socialists (formerly George Reid’s Free Traders).

For the Senate half-election, 2 Protectionist, 5 Labor and 11 Anti-Socialist senators won the 18 seats. The new Senate thus comprised 13 Labor, 6 Protectionists, 15 Anti-Socialists and 2 Independents.

13 April 1910

With an increase in voter turnout to 62.80 per cent, a landslide victory returned a Labor government with 43 seats in the House of Representatives to 31 for Deakin’s Liberal Party. Labor also won all 18 seats contested in the Senate, resulting in Labor holding 23 of the 36 Senate seats.

Hughes retained West Sydney and became Attorney-General in Andrew Fisher’s second ministry.

A referendum on two measures to amend the Constitution was also held at this election. The first, to institute a per capita Commonwealth grant to the States, was lost. The second, a provision for the Commonwealth to takeover post-1901 public debts incurred by the States, was successful.

31 May 1913

The amalgamation of the Anti-Socialists with the Deakinite Liberals meant that a Liberal government led by Joseph Cook won office by a single seat at this election. The new House of Representatives had 38 Liberal and 37 Labor members. Labor retained a majority in the Senate, with 8 Labor and 11 Liberal senators elected. Returned for West Sydney, Hughes sat in Opposition.

5 September 1914

The parliament’s first double dissolution election ended Joseph Cook’s term as Prime Minister and returned a Labor government under Andrew Fisher. Hughes was one of the 42 Labor members returned to the House of Representatives, and there were 32 Liberals and 1 Independent.

Labor also won 31 of the 36 Senate seats.

5 May 1917

Hughes chances of holding the working-class electorate of West Sydney vanished after he was expelled from the Labor Party, so he stood instead for the seat of Bendigo. He won the seat and retained government in his first election as Prime Minister, and as leader of the newly formed Nationalist Party. The Nationalists won 53 seats and Labor 22.

13 December 1919

Hughes retained Bendigo comfortably in this first election after the end of World War I.

This was the first federal election to use preferential voting, a change sought by the new Country Party but strongly resisted by Prime Minister Hughes. Under the new voting system, the Country Party increased its seats to 11, while the Nationalist Party held 37 with 1 ‘Independent Nationalist’ and the Labor Party won 26 seats in the House of Representatives. The Hughes Nationalist government was returned, though 8 seats were lost to the new Country Party and 4 were lost to Labor.

16 December 1922

For this election Hughes switched to the electorate of North Sydney, which he won easily. The Nationalist Party won 26 House of Representatives seats, the Country Party 14 and the South Australia–Victoria Liberal Party 5. Labor won 29 seats and there was 1 Independent. The Nationalists needed Country Party support to retain government, but Country Party leader Earle Page refused to serve with Hughes. Hughes resigned party leadership in favour of SM Bruce.

14 November 1925

Hughes held North Sydney. The Nationalist Party improved its position with 37 seats in the House of Representatives to 14 Country Party seats, 23 Labor seats and 1 Independent. The Bruce–Page Coalition remained in office.

17 November 1928

Hughes held North Sydney. The Coalition were again returned, but with a reduced majority. The Nationalists held 29 seats overall, the Country Party 13, Labor 31 and there was 1 Independent.

12 October 1929

This election had been precipitated by Hughes. Labor won 46 seats in a landslide victory that returned a government led by James Scullin. The Nationalists held only 14 seats and the Country Party 10, with 3 ‘Independent National Party’ (one was WM Hughes), 1 ‘Country Progressive’ and 1 Independent.

19 December 1931

Joseph Lyons, a former Labor minister, led the new United Australia Party to an overwhelming victory and was able to govern without Country Party support. Hughes won the seat of North Sydney, one of the 34 seats won by the United Australia Party. The Country Party won 16 seats, South Australia ‘Emergency Committee’ 6 and 1 Independent. Labor won 14 seats, and ‘Lang Labor’ 4 seats.

15 September 1934

Hughes held North Sydney, one of the 28 seats won by the United Australia Party. The Lyons government remained in office, with Labor winning 18 seats, Lang Labor 9, the Country Party 14 and South Australia’s Liberal Country League 5 seats in the House of Representatives.

In the Senate, the United Australia Party won 16 seats and the Country Party 2 seats.

23 October 1937

The Lyons Coalition government was returned with 29 seats in the House of Representatives, 1 held by an ‘Independent UAP’ candidate, and 16 Country Party seats. The Labor Party, led by John Curtin after James Scullin’s retirement, won 29 seats.

Labor won 16 seats in the Senate, while the United Australia Party won only 3.

21 September 1940

The United Australia Party, led by Robert Menzies after the death of Joseph Lyons in April 1939, narrowly retained government with the help of the Country Party. Hughes held North Sydney, but the United Australia Party won only 23 seats (and lost one when Arthur Coles declared himself an Independent) to Labor’s 32. The Country Party won 14 seats, Lang Labor 4 seats and there was 1 Independent.

The United Australia Party and Country Party won 16 Senate seats, and Labor won 3.

On 28 August Menzies was replaced as United Australia Party leader and Country Party leader Arthur Fadden became Prime Minister. Fadden was unable to retain majority support in the House of Representatives and, on 7 October 1941, John Curtin became Prime Minister.

WM Hughes emphasised his own wartime political experience

As leader of the United Australia Party, in his August 1943 election campaign WM Hughes emphasised his own wartime political experience 25 years earlier.

NAA: A5954, 598/1, p. 13

21 August 1943

Curtin won a sweeping victory at this wartime election. Hughes won North Sydney with only 44 per cent of the primary vote, and led the United Australia Party to defeat with only 12 seats to Labor’s 49. The Country Party won 7 seats, with 3 Country National Party, 1 Liberal Country Party, 1 Queensland Country Party, and 1 Independent in the House of Representatives.

Labor won all 19 Senate seats contested.

Hughes resigned the leadership of the United Australia Party after this election.

28 September 1946

The Labor government, led by Ben Chifley after the death of John Curtin, won 43 House of Representatives seats. Robert Menzies’ new Liberal Party won 15 seats and the Country Party won 11. Hughes won North Sydney comfortably as a Liberal. Two seats went to the Liberal and Country League (South Australia), 1 to Lang Labor and 1 to Victoria’s Liberal Country Party.

In the Senate, the Liberal and Country Party alliance won 3 seats to Labor’s 16.

10 December 1949

The Liberal Party led by Robert Menzies won government with 55 seats in the House of Representatives, to the Country Party’s 19 and Labor’s 47. In 1949 the size of the House of Representatives was increased from 75 to 121 seats, and the Senate from 36 to 60 seats. Hughes won the new House of Representatives seat of Bradfield.

At this election 42 Senate seats were contested, the Coalition winning 23 and Labor 19.

28 April 1951

This was a double dissolution election, the first since 1914. The Menzies government was returned with a reduced majority in the House of Representatives, but with control of the Senate. In the House, the Liberal Party and the Labor Party each won 52 seats, and the Country Party 17 seats. At the age of 87, Hughes retained Bradfield for the Liberal Party in his last electoral campaign.

Of the 60 Senate seats, the Coalition won 28, Labor 26 and the Country Party 6.

From the National Archives of Australia collection

Speeches of WM Hughes and SM Bruce [in Shedden Collection] 1922–55, NAA: A5954, 2400/1

Election campaign, July/August 1943, Mr. Hughes … with political and press comment, NAA: A5954, 598/1


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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