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William Morris Hughes

William Morris Hughes was Australia’s longest serving Prime Minister until 1957 when Robert Menzies overtook Hughes’ record term from 1915 to 1923. Hughes’ other record still stands: no parliamentarian has surpassed his 51 years and 7 months of continuous service as a member of Australia’s House of Representatives – from the 1st parliament in 1901 to the 20th in 1952.

National Library of Australia, Bib ID 2709002

Australian soldiers carry 'the little digger', Prime Minister 'Billy' Hughes in triumph, outside the Australian Imperial Force Headquarters in Horseferry Road, London on Armistice Day, 1918.

National Library of Australia, Bib ID 2709002.

Before Federation, Hughes had been a Labor member of the New South Wales parliament from 1894 to 1901. In March 1901 he won a seat in the first House of Representatives. He served in the Labor Cabinets of JC Watson and Andrew Fisher. He then replaced Andrew Fisher as Prime Minister in 1915 and led Australia during World War I.

Hughes’ campaign for conscription during the 1914–18 war split the Labor Party and affected political alignment in Australia for the next half century. After the war, Hughes was instrumental in the international recognition of Australia as an independent nation through its membership of the League of Nations.

Hughes lost office in February 1923, but served in parliament for three decades more.

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