Today’s Electoral Anniversaries: Hughes And Fraser

Today, December 13, is the anniversary of two federal elections, the first in 1919, the second in 1975.

On December 13, 1919, Prime Minister William Morris Hughes was re-elected, defeating the ALP led by Frank Tudor. Hughes had been prime minister since 1915, first for the Labor Party and then as leader of the Nationalist Party that was formed from the Liberals and Labor defectors after the ALP split over conscription.

The election is historic for a couple of reasons. It was the first general election to use preferential voting, instead of first-past-the-post. And it was the first general election contested by the newly-formed Country Party. Not yet a national party, it consisted of different organisations in the states, but it won 11 seats, eating into Hughes’s majority.

On December 13, 1975, Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser led the Liberal-Country party coalition to the biggest ever win in Australian federal history, before or since. The coalition parties won 91 seats in the 127-seat House of Representatives. The ALP won 36 seats, a loss of 30.

Fraser had been prime minister for one month and two days, having been appointed caretaker prime minister on November 11, following Governor-General Sir John Kerr’s dismissal of Gough Whitlam.

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