1940 Australian federal election

The 1940 Australian federal election was held in Australia on 21 September 1940. All 74 seats in the House of Representatives and 19 of the 36 seats in the Senate were up for election. The incumbent Coalition, consisting of the United Australia Party led by Prime Minister Robert Menzies and the Country Party led by Archie Cameron, defeated the opposition Labor Party under John Curtin despite losing the overall popular vote.

The Coalition had won 36 seats, two short of a majority, but formed a government on 28 October 1940 with the support of both independent crossbenchers, Alexander Wilson and Arthur Coles. The four MPs elected to Lang Labor's successor, the Australian Labor Party (Non-Communist), officially re-joined the ALP just months after the election in February 1941, bringing the ALP seat tally up to 36. The UAP–Country minority government lasted only until October 1941, when the two independents crossed the floor and allowed the ALP to form a minority government with Curtin as prime minister. It remains the only time since the 1910 introduction of an elected two-party system where the government changed as the result of a parliamentary confidence vote.

Future opposition leaders H.V. Evatt and Arthur Calwell both entered parliament at this election.

Background

Until the 1940 Canberra air disaster on 13 August, Menzies was not planning an election so early, as it was not due until December 1940 or even as late as January 1941.[citation needed] However, the loss of three Cabinet ministers meant that three by-elections would have been required, followed within a few short months by a general election. Bringing the general election on earlier than planned was the preferred solution.

Both the Coalition and Labor supported Australia's ongoing participation in World War II. The Coalition's advertisements asked Australians to "Cast Your Vote for Unity and an All-in War Effort / Back the Government that's Backing Churchill", with a large picture of the British Prime Minister. Labor promised "A New Deal / for the Soldier / for the Soldier's wife / Widows, the Aged and Infirm / the Taxpayer / the Working Man / the Primary Producer".[1]

Results

House of Representatives

Australian Federal Election, 1940
House of Reps (IRV) — 1940–43—Turnout 94.82% (CV) — Informal 2.56%
Party Votes % Swing Seats Change
  UAP–Country coalition 1,703,185 43.93 –4.65 36 –8
  United Australia  1,171,788 30.22 –3.49 23 –5
  Country  531,397 13.71 –1.84 13 –3
  Labor 1,556,941 40.16 −3.01 32 +3
  Lang Labor 202,721 5.23 +5.23 4 +4
  State Labor 101,191 2.61 +2.61 0 0
  Defence Movement 15,313 0.40 +0.40 0 0
  Protestant Labor 8,300 0.21 +0.21 0 0
  Independents 289,335 7.46 +1.90 2 0
  Total 3,876,986     74
Two-party-preferred (estimated)
  UAP–Country coalition 49.70 −0.90 36 −8
  Labor 50.30 +0.90 32 +3

Notes
Popular Vote
Labor
40.16%
United Australia
30.22%
Country
13.71%
Lang Labor
5.23%
State Labor
2.61%
Independent/Other
8.07%
Two Party Preferred Vote
Labor
50.30%
Coalition
49.70%
Parliament Seats
Coalition
48.64%
Labor
43.24%
Lang Labor
5.41%
Independent
2.70%

Senate

Senate (P BV) — 1940–43—Turnout 94.75% (CV) — Informal 9.56%
Party Votes % Swing Seats Won Seats Held Change
  UAP–Country coalition 1,831,138 50.41 +3.70 16 19 –1
  UAP–Country joint ticket 1,649,241 45.40 +16.72 10 N/A N/A
  United Australia  181,897 5.01 –11.12 6 15 –1
  Country N/A N/A N/A 0 4 0
  Labor 1,363,072 37.52 –10.96 3 17 +1
  Non-Communist Labor 274,861 7.57 +7.57 0 0 0
  State Labor 70,091 1.93 +1.93 0 0 0
  Defence Movement 9,536 0.26 +0.26 0 0 0
  Independents 84,119 2.32 –1.07 0 0 0
  Total 3,632,817     19 36

Notes
  • Of the ten senators elected on UAP–Country joint tickets, seven were UAP members and three were Country Party members.

Seats changing hands

Seat Pre-1940 Swing Post-1940
Party Member Margin Margin Member Party
Barton, NSW   United Australia Albert Lane 1.8 13.9 12.1 H. V. Evatt Labor  
Calare, NSW   Country Harold Thorby 2.2 5.6 3.4 John Breen Labor  
Cook, NSW   Labor Tom Sheehan N/A 33.9 13.6 Tom Sheehan Labor (N-C)  
Dalley, NSW   Labor Sol Rosevear N/A 14.9 7.2 Sol Rosevear Labor (N-C)  
Denison, Tas   Labor Gerald Mahoney 3.9 5.0 1.1 Arthur Beck United Australia  
Henty, Vic   United Australia Henry Gullett N/A 3.2 13.5 Arthur Coles Independent  
Lang, NSW   Labor Dan Mulcahy N/A 13.4 16.0 Dan Mulcahy Labor (N-C)  
Macquarie, NSW   United Australia John Lawson 2.1 10.2 8.1 Ben Chifley Labor  
Maranoa, Qld   Country James Hunter 4.3 5.9 1.6 Frank Baker Labor  
Riverina, NSW   Country Horace Nock 7.2 8.8 1.6 Joe Langtry Labor  
Wakefield, SA   Labor Sydney McHugh 6.7 10.0 3.4 Jack Duncan-Hughes United Australia  
Wannon, Vic   United Australia Thomas Scholfield 1.3 5.0 3.7 Don McLeod Labor  
Warringah, NSW   Independent Percy Spender 1.9 23.6 25.5 Percy Spender United Australia  
Watson, NSW   United Australia John Jennings 3.8 5.8 2.0 Max Falstein Labor  
West Sydney, NSW   Labor Jack Beasley 100.0 64.3 14.3 Jack Beasley Labor (N-C)  
Wilmot, Tas   Labor Lancelot Spurr 0.2 5.2 5.0 Allan Guy United Australia  
  • Members in italics did not contest their seat at this election.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Hasluck, Paul (1965). Australia in the War of 1939–1945. Series 4 – Civil - Volume 1, The Government and the People, 1939–1941. Canberra: Australian War Memorial. pp. 256–263.

References