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1940: What to do in an electoral draw

posted on 2019-05-14, 00:00 authored by Benjamin JonesBenjamin Jones
Even in committed democracies, it is not unusual far elections to be suspended in times of war. In the grim war year of 1940 there were certainly some calls far the scheduled federal election to be delayed and far the formation of an emergency government with special powers. The decision was made to conduct the election as normal and the result was nation-shaping . Although Robert Menzies and his United Australia Party-Country Party coalition retained power, the ultimate victor was the Australian Labor Party and John Curtin, who would rise to the task of wartime leader just over a year later. The hung parliament of 1940 was an unlikely outcome and reveals the ever-present role of fortune in politics, Were it not far the tragic deaths of several frontbenchers, the UAP failing to run a candidate in a key division, Curtin defying the odds to retain his own seat, and the slowly revealed impact of postal votes, Menzies would almost certainly have secured an absolute majority in the House of Representatives and served as prime minister far the remainder of the war. The 1940 result exemplifies the.flexibility of Australia's Westminster system and its ability to function without a clear majority winner. It also highlights the sometimes crucial function of Independent MPs. At a philosophic level, .Australia was still negotiating and constructing its national identity in 1940. Menzies and Curtin were not the polar opposites sometimes presented but they were different leaders with different visions of Australia and its place in the world. The hung parliament meant that both men would serve as prime minister during the turbulent war years,· securing two very different legacies. The direction of Australia's war effort and the agenda of the early post-war years were dramatically shaped by the election of 1940.



Jones BT; Bongiorno F; Uhr J

Parent Title

Elections Matter: Ten Federal Elections That Shaped Australia

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Monash University Publishing

Place of Publication

Clayton, Vic.

Open Access

  • No

Era Eligible

  • Yes

Number of Chapters