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Australian federal election, 1940

Australian federal election, 1940

21 September 1940

All 74 seats of the Australian House of Representatives
38 seats were needed for a majority in the House
19 (of the 36) seats of the Australian Senate
  First party Second party
Leader Robert Menzies John Curtin
Party UAP/Country coalition Labor
Leader since 26 April 1939 1 October 1935
Leader's seat Kooyong Fremantle
Last election 44 seats 29 seats
Seats won 36 seats 32 seats
Seat change Decrease8 Increase3
Percentage 49.70% 50.30%
Swing Decrease0.90 Increase0.90

Prime Minister before election

Robert Menzies
UAP/Country coalition

Resulting Prime Minister

Robert Menzies
UAP/Country coalition

Federal elections were 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 of Australia Robert Menzies and the Country Party led by Archie Cameron, defeated the opposition Australian Labor Party led by John Curtin. The Coalition won 36 seats, two short of a majority, but formed a government with the support of two independent MPs.[1] In October 1941 the two independents switched their support to Labor, bringing Curtin to power.

House of Reps (IRV) — 1940–43—Turnout 94.82% (CV) — Informal 2.56%
  Party Votes % Swing Seats Change
  Australian Labor Party 1,556,941 40.16 −3.02 32 +3 (1 elected
  United Australia Party 1,171,788 30.22 −3.48 23 -5
  Country Party 531,397 13.71 −1.84 13 -3
  Australian Labor Party (Non-Communist) 202,721 5.23 * 4 +4
  State Labor Party 101,191 2.61 * 0 0
  Independents 312,948 8.07 +3.89 2 +1
  Total 3,876,986     74
  UAP/Country coalition 49.70 −0.90 36 −8
  Australian Labor Party 50.30 +0.90 32 +3

Independents: Arthur Coles (Henty, Vic), Alexander Wilson (Wimmera, Vic)

Note that the Victorian Country Party at this election was split into two factions, the United Country Party, which was loyal to the state party, and the Liberal Country Party, loyal to the federal party and formed following John McEwen's expulsion from the UCP. The UCP elected one member and the LCP two.
Senate (P BV) — 1940–43—Turnout 94.75% (CV) — Informal 9.56%
  Party Votes % Swing Seats Won Seats Held Change
  UAP/Country (Joint Ticket) 1,587,541 43.70 +15.02 10
  Australian Labor Party 1,363,072 37.52 −10.96 3 17 +1
  Non-Communist Labor Party 274,861 7.57 * 0 0 0
  United Australia Party 243,597 6.71 −9.42 6 15 −1
  Country Party * * −1.90 0 4 0
  Independents 71,760 1.98 −1.41 0 0 0
  Other 91,986 2.53 0 0 0
  Total 4,097,326     19 36


  • Background 1
  • Seats changing hands 2
  • See also 3
  • Notes 4
  • References 5


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. 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]

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


  1. ^ a b 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. 


  • University of WA election results in Australia since 1890
  • Two-party-preferred vote since 1937
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