1931 Australian federal election

Federal elections were held in Australia on 19 December 1931. All 75 seats in the House of Representatives and 18 of the 36 seats in the Senate were up for election.

The incumbent first-term Australian Labor Party (ALP) government led by Prime Minister James Scullin was defeated in a landslide by the United Australia Party (UAP) led by Joseph Lyons. To date, no subsequent sitting government at federal level has been defeated after only a single term in office. The election was held at a time of great social and political upheaval, coming at the peak of the Great Depression in Australia. The UAP had only been formed a few months before the election, as a merger of the Nationalist Party, the Australian Party, and a few ALP defectors (including Lyons himself).

Scullin's position eroded further when five left-wing Labor MPs from New South Wales who supported NSW Premier Jack Lang broke away and moved to the crossbenches in protest of Scullin's economic policy. Late in 1931, they supported a UAP no-confidence motion and brought down the government. The two Labor factions were decimated; massive vote-splitting left them with only 18 seats between them (14 for the official ALP and four for the Langites).

Prior to the election, it was assumed that the Country Party, led by Earle Page, would hold the balance of power, and Page tentatively agreed to support the UAP if that were the case. The two parties campaigned separately and stood candidates against each other in the House of Representatives, but ran joint tickets in Senate. However, the UAP came up four seats short of a majority. The UAP's South Australian Emergency Committee counterparts in South Australia joined the UAP party room, giving the UAP enough numbers to form a majority government in their own right. Page was still willing to form a coalition with the Country Party, but negotiations broke down and Lyons decided the UAP would govern by itself – the First Lyons Ministry was composed solely of UAP members.[2]

Australian federal election, 1931

19 December 1931

All 75 seats of the House of Representatives
38 seats were needed for a majority in the House
18 (of the 36) seats of the Senate
  Joseph Lyons Portrait of the Right Hon. J. H. Scullin Earle Page
Leader Joseph Lyons James Scullin Earle Page
Party United Australia Labor Country
Leader since 7 May 1931 26 April 1928 5 April 1921
Leader's seat Wilmot (Tas.) Yarra (Vic.) Cowper (NSW)
Last election 14 seats 46 seats 10 seats
Seats won 39 seats[1] 14 seats 16 seats
Seat change Increase25 Decrease32 Increase6
Percentage 58.50% 41.50%
Swing Increase15.20% Decrease15.20%

Prime Minister before election

James Scullin

Subsequent Prime Minister

Joseph Lyons
United Australia


House of Reps (IRV) — 1931–34—Turnout 95.04% (CV) — Informal 3.48%
Party Votes % Swing Seats Change Notes
  United Australia Party 1,145,083 36.10 +2.20 34 +20 (1 elected
  Australian Labor Party 859,513 27.10 −21.74 14 −32
  Country Party 388,544 12.25 +1.98 16 +6 (3 elected
  Australian Labor Party (NSW) 335,309 10.57 * 4 +4
  Emergency Committee (SA) 174,288 5.49 * [1] 6 +6
  Independents 260,786 8.22 +6.09 1 −3
  Other 8,511 0.27 0 −1
  Total 3,172,034     75
  United Australia Party WIN 58.50 +15.20 [1] 39 +15
  Australian Labor Party 41.50 −15.20 14 −32
Popular Vote
United Australia
Labor (NSW)
Emergency Committee (SA)
Two Party Preferred Vote
UAP / Country
Parliament Seats
United Australia Party
Emergency Committee (SA)
Labor (NSW)
Senate (P BV) — 1931–34—Turnout 95.02% (CV) — Informal 9.60%
Party Votes % Swing Seats Won Seats Held Change
  UAP/Country (Joint Ticket) 945,741 30.16 * 6
  Australian Labor Party 917,218 29.25 −19.70 3 10 +3
  United Australia Party 791,870 25.26 −14.02 9 21 −3
  Australian Labor Party (NSW) 379,870 12.12 * 0 0 0
  Communist Party of Australia 29,443 0.94 * 0 0 0
  Country Party * * −11.18 0 5 0
  Independents 71,181 2.27 +1.68 0 0 0
  Total 3,135,323     18 36

Seats changing hands

Seat Pre-1931 Swing Post-1931
Party Member Margin Margin Member Party
Adelaide, SA   Labor George Edwin Yates 11.4 21.0 9.6 Fred Stacey Emergency Committee  
Angas, SA   Labor Moses Gabb 4.7 31.5 26.8 Moses Gabb Ind. Emergency Committee [1]  
Ballaarat, Vic   Labor Charles McGrath 7.4 20.7 13.3 Charles McGrath United Australia  
Barton, NSW   Labor James Tully 17.6 20.8 3.2 Albert Lane United Australia  
Bass, Tas   Labor Allan Guy 10.4 24.9 14.5 Allan Guy United Australia  
Batman, Vic   Labor Frank Brennan 25.8 26.6 0.8 Samuel Dennis United Australia  
Bendigo, Vic   Labor Richard Keane 5.1 14.6 9.5 Eric Harrison United Australia  
Boothby, SA   Labor John Price 5.6 29.6 24.0 John Price Emergency Committee  
Brisbane, Qld   United Australia Donald Charles Cameron 2.4 3.1 0.7 George Lawson Labor  
Calare, NSW   Labor George Gibbons 1.6 11.7 10.1 Harold Thorby Country  
Corangamite, Vic   Labor Richard Crouch 2.1 15.0 12.9 William Gibson Country  
Corio, Vic   Labor Arthur Lewis 6.0 16.6 10.6 Richard Casey United Australia  
Dalley, NSW   Labor Ted Theodore N/A 8.9 14.0 Sol Rosevear Labor (NSW)  
Darling Downs, Qld   United Australia Arthur Morgan N/A 17.7 9.8 Littleton Groom Independent  
Denison, Tas   Labor Charles Culley 9.2 14.2 5.0 Arthur Hutchin United Australia  
East Sydney, NSW   Labor (NSW) Eddie Ward 5.7 11.7 1.7 John Clasby United Australia  
Eden-Monaro, NSW   Labor John Cusack 0.1 13.7 13.6 John Perkins United Australia  
Fawkner, Vic   Independent Nationalist George Maxwell N/A 21.7 20.3 George Maxwell United Australia  
Flinders, Vic   Labor Jack Holloway 0.2 18.5 18.3 Stanley Bruce United Australia  
Franklin, Tas   Labor Charles Frost 1.9 13.0 17.9 Archibald Blacklow United Australia  
Fremantle, WA   Labor John Curtin 7.0 13.5 5.5 William Watson United Australia  
Grey, SA   Labor Andrew Lacey 9.6 17.1 7.5 Philip McBride Emergency Committee  
Gwydir, NSW   Labor Lou Cunningham 3.7 13.5 9.8 Aubrey Abbott Country  
Hume, NSW   Labor Parker Moloney 6.6 14.1 7.5 Thomas Collins Country  
Hunter, NSW   Labor Rowley James 100.0 57.2 7.2 Rowley James Labor (NSW)  
Indi, Vic   Labor Paul Jones 1.4 14.4 13.0 William Hutchinson United Australia  
Lang, NSW   Labor William Long 16.2 20.4 4.2 Dick Dein United Australia  
Macquarie, NSW   Labor Ben Chifley 15.6 16.2 0.6 John Lawson United Australia  
Maribyrnong, Vic   Labor James Fenton 23.2 23.6 0.4 James Fenton United Australia  
Martin, NSW   Labor John Eldridge 6.4 22.7 16.3 William Holman United Australia  
North Sydney, NSW   Independent Nationalist Billy Hughes 16.1 23.6 7.5 Billy Hughes United Australia  
Oxley, Qld   United Australia James Bayley 0.1 5.9 5.8 Francis Baker Labor  
Parramatta, NSW   Labor Albert Rowe 3.3 19.5 16.2 Frederick Stewart United Australia  
Reid, NSW   Labor Percy Coleman N/A 55.3 5.3 Joe Gander Labor (NSW)  
South Sydney, NSW   Labor Edward Riley 16.3 21.4 5.1 John Jennings United Australia  
Wannon, Vic   Labor John McNeill 2.0 14.3 12.3 Thomas Scholfield United Australia  
Wentworth, NSW   Independent Nationalist Walter Marks 8.3 58.3 15.8 Eric Harrison United Australia  
Werriwa, NSW   Labor Bert Lazzarini 15.4 17.1 1.7 Walter McNicoll Country  
West Sydney, NSW   Labor Jack Beasley 36.5 11.4 15.1 Jack Beasley Labor (NSW)  
Wimmera, Vic   Country Progressive Percy Stewart N/A 21.8 11.8 Hugh McClelland Country  
Wilmot, Tas   Labor Joseph Lyons 2.9 25.0 22.1 Joseph Lyons United Australia  
  • Members in italics did not contest their seat at this election.


The election was dominated by the Great Depression in Australia, which was at its height. As the Labor Government had come to office two days before the Wall Street Crash of 1929, it was seen as being responsible for many of the economic and social problems Australia faced, which sparked the historic Australian Labor Party split of 1931. The result was Labor's primary vote dropping to its lowest level since 1901. The two Labor factions, official Labor and Lang Labor, won only 18 seats between them.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Labor-turned-independent MP Moses Gabb was endorsed in the Division of Angas by the Emergency Committee of South Australia (formed by the state UAP for this election) who did not run their own candidate in Angas. Though Gabb is often listed as Emergency Committee, he remained an independent and did not help form or sit with the government and as such has been removed from government tallies, meaning that though six MPs are listed elected as Emergency Committee candidates, there were only five Emergency Committee MPs.
  2. ^ Page, Sir Earle Christmas (1880–1961), Australian Dictionary of Biography

Further reading

  • Cook, Peter. "Labor and the Premiers' Plan." Labour History (1969): 97-110. in JSTOR
  • Denning, Warren, and Alan Douglas Reid. Caucus crisis: the rise & fall of the Scullin government (Hale & Iremonger, 1982)
  • Head, Brian. "Economic crisis and political legitimacy: the 1931 federal election." Journal of Australian Studies (1978) 2#3 pp: 14-29. online
  • Richardson, Nick. "The 1931 Australian Federal Election—Radio Makes History." Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television (2010) 30#3 pp: 377-389. DOI:10.1080/01439685.2010.505037
  • Roberts, Stephen H. "The Crisis in Australia: September, 1930-January, 1932." Pacific Affairs (1932) 5#4 pp: 319-332. in JSTOR
  • Robinson, Geoff. "The Australian class structure and Australian politics 1931-40." APSA 2008: Australasian Political Science Association 2008 Conference. Australasian Political Science Association, 2008. online
  • Robertson, J. R. "Scullin as Prime Minister: seven critical decisions." Labour History (1969): 27-36. in JSTOR
  • Robertson, John. J.H. Scullin: A political biography (University of Western Australia Press, 1974)


Candidates of the 1931 Australian federal election

This article provides information on candidates who stood for the 1931 Australian federal election. The election was held on 19 December 1931.

In 1931, the Nationalist Party had become the United Australia Party, absorbing several Labor defectors. In New South Wales, the Labor Party split, with the Lang Labor group voting against the Labor Government. Seats held by Labor defectors are here considered to be held by the Labor Party.

Electoral results for the Division of Forrest

This is a list of electoral results for the Division of Forrest in Australian federal elections from the division's creation in 1922 until the present.

Electoral results for the Division of Fremantle

This article lists electoral results for the Division of Fremantle in Australian federal elections from the division's creation in 1901 to the present.

Electoral results for the Division of Kalgoorlie

This is a list of electoral results for the Division of Kalgoorlie in Australian federal elections from the division's creation in 1901 until its abolition in 2010.

Electoral results for the Division of Perth

This is a list of electoral results for the Division of Perth in Australian federal elections from the division's creation in 1901 until the present.

Electoral results for the Division of Swan

This is a list of electoral results for the Division of Swan in Australian federal elections from the division's creation in 1901 until the present.

James Scullin

James Henry Scullin (18 September 1876 – 28 January 1953) was an Australian Labor Party politician and the ninth Prime Minister of Australia. Scullin led Labor to government at the 1929 election. The Wall Street Crash of 1929 transpired just two days after his swearing in, which would herald the beginning of the Great Depression in Australia. Scullin's administration would soon be overwhelmed by the economic crisis, with interpersonal and policy disagreements causing a three-way split of his party that would bring down the government in late 1931. Despite his chaotic term of office, Scullin remained a leading figure in the Labor movement throughout his lifetime, and served as an éminence grise in various capacities for the party until his retirement in 1949.

The son of working-class Irish-immigrants, Scullin spent much of his early life as a laborer and grocer in Ballarat. An autodidact and passionate debater, Scullin would join the Australian Labor Party in 1903, beginning a career spanning five decades. He was a political organizer and newspaper editor for the party, and was elected to the House of Representatives first in 1910 and then again in 1922 until 1949. Scullin quickly established himself as a leading voice in parliament, rapidly rising to become deputy leader of the party in 1927 and then Leader of the Opposition in 1928.

After Scullin had won a landslide election in 1929, events took a dramatic change with the crisis on Wall Street and the rapid onset of the Great Depression around the world, which hit heavily indebted Australia hard. Scullin and his Treasurer Ted Theodore responded by developing several plans during 1930 and 1931 to repay foreign debt, provide relief to farmers and create economic stimulus to curb unemployment based on deficit spending and expansionary monetary policy. Although the Keynesian Revolution would see these ideas adopted by most Western nations by the end of the decade, in 1931 such ideas were considered radical and the plans were bitterly opposed by many who feared hyperinflation and economic ruin. The still opposition-dominated Senate, and the conservative-dominated boards of the Commonwealth Bank and Loan Council, repeatedly blocked the plans.

With the prospect of bankruptcy facing the government, Scullin backed down and instead advanced the Premiers' Plan, a far more conservative measure that met the crisis with severe cutbacks in government spending. Pensioners and other core Labor constituencies were severely affected by the cuts, leading to a widespread revolt and multiple defections in parliament. After several months of infighting the government collapsed, and was resoundingly defeated by the newly formed United Australia Party at the subsequent 1931 election.

Scullin would remain party leader for four more years but the party split would not be healed until after Scullin's return to the backbenches in 1935. Scullin became a respected elder voice within the party and leading authority on taxation and government finance, and would eventually play a significant role in reforming both when Labor returned to government in 1941. Although disappointed with his own term of office, he nonetheless lived long enough to see many of his government's ideas implemented by subsequent governments before his death in 1953.

List of elections in 1931

The following elections occurred in the year 1931.

Argentine general election, 1931

Chilean presidential election, 1931

Guatemalan general election, 1931

Liberian general election, 1931

Luxembourgian legislative election, 1931

Norwegian local elections, 1931

Philippine House of Representatives elections, 1931

Philippine Senate elections, 1931

Salvadoran general election, 1931

Swiss federal election, 1931

Lyons Government

The Lyons Government was the federal Executive Government of Australia led by Prime Minister Joseph Lyons. It was made up of members of the United Australia Party in the Australian Parliament from January 1932 until the death of Joseph Lyons in 1939. Lyons negotiated a coalition with the Country Party after the 1934 Australian Federal election. The Lyons government stewarded Australia's recovery from the Great Depression

Nationalist Party (Australia)

The Nationalist Party (or National Party) was an Australian political party. It was formed on 17 February 1917 from a merger between the conservative Commonwealth Liberal Party and the National Labor Party, the latter formed by Prime Minister Billy Hughes and his supporters after the 1916 Labor Party split over World War I conscription. The Nationalist Party was in government (from 1923 in coalition with the Country Party) until electoral defeat in 1929. From that time it was the main opposition to the Labor Party until it merged with pro-Joseph Lyons Labor defectors to form the United Australia Party (UAP) in 1931. The UAP was the immediate predecessor to the current Liberal Party of Australia, the main centre-right party in Australia.

Radio broadcasting in Australia

The history of broadcasting in Australia has been shaped for over a century by the problem of communication across long distances, coupled with a strong base in a wealthy society with a deep taste for aural communications in a silent landscape. Australia developed its own system, through its own engineers, manufacturers, retailers, newspapers, entertainment services, and news agencies. The government set up the first radio system, and business interests marginalized the hobbyists and amateurs. The Labor Party was especially interested in radio because it allowed them to bypass the newspapers, which were mostly controlled by the opposition. Both parties agreed on the need for a national system, and in 1932 set up the Australian Broadcasting Commission, as a government agency that was largely separate from political interference.

The first commercial broadcasters, originally known as "B" class stations were on the air as early as 1925. Many were sponsored by newspapers in Australia, by theatrical interests, by amateur radio enthusiasts and radio retailers, and by retailers generally. Almost all Australians were within reach of a station by the 1930s, and the number of stations remained relatively stable through the post-war era. However, in the 1970s, the Labor government under Prime Minister Gough Whitlam commenced a broadcasting renaissance so that by the 1990s there were 50 different radio services available for groups based on tastes, languages, religion, or geography. The broadcasting system was largely deregulated in 1992, except that there were limits on foreign ownership and on monopolistic control. By 2000, 99 percent of Australians owned at least one television set, and averaged 20 hours a week watching it.

Results of the 1931 Australian federal election (House of Representatives)

This is a list of electoral division results for the Australian 1931 federal election.

Elections and referendums in Australia
Federal elections

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