Arthur Fadden

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The Right Honourable
Sir Arthur Fadden
Arthur Fadden.jpg
13th Prime Minister of Australia
In office
29 August – 7 October 1941
Monarch George VI
Governor-General Lord Gowrie
Preceded by Robert Menzies
Succeeded by John Curtin
Leader of the Opposition
In office
7 October 1941 – 23 September 1943
Prime Minister John Curtin
Preceded by John Curtin
Succeeded by Robert Menzies
Treasurer of Australia
In office
28 October 1940 – 6 October 1941
Prime Minister Robert Menzies
Arthur Fadden
Preceded by Percy Spender
Succeeded by Ben Chifley
In office
19 December 1949 – 9 December 1958
Prime Minister Robert Menzies
Preceded by Ben Chifley
Succeeded by Harold Holt
Leader of the Country Party
Elections: 1943, 1946, 1949, 1951, 1954, 1955
In office
12 March 1941 – 26 March 1958
Deputy John McEwen
Preceded by Archie Cameron
Succeeded by John McEwen
Deputy Leader of the Country Party
In office
16 October 1940 – 12 March 1941
Acting leader: 16 October 1940 – 12 March 1941
Leader Vacant
Preceded by Harold Thorby
Succeeded by John McEwen
Member of the Australian Parliament for Darling Downs
In office
6 November 1936 – 10 December 1949
Preceded by Littleton Groom
Succeeded by Reginald Swartz
Member of the Australian Parliament for McPherson
In office
10 December 1949 – 22 November 1958
Preceded by New seat
Succeeded by Charles Barnes
Member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly
for Kennedy
In office
11 June 1932 – 11 May 1935
Preceded by Harry Bruce
Succeeded by Cecil Jesson
Personal details
Born (1894-04-13)13 April 1894
Ingham, Queensland, Australia
Died 21 April 1973(1973-04-21) (aged 79)
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Political party CPNP (until 1936)
Country Party (after 1936)
Spouse(s) Ilma Thornber
(m. 1916; wid. 1973)
Children 4
Education Walkerston State School
Occupation Accountant

Sir Arthur William Fadden, GCMG, PC (13 April 1894 – 21 April 1973) was an Australian politician who served as Prime Minister of Australia from 29 August to 7 October 1941. He was the leader of the Country Party from 1940 to 1958.

Fadden was born in Ingham, Queensland, to Irish immigrant parents. He was raised in Walkerston, and left school at the age of 15. He was appointed town clerk of Mackay in 1916, but following the 1918 cyclone moved to Townsville and opened an accountancy firm. He was elected to the Townsville City Council in 1930, and in 1932 was elected to the Queensland Legislative Assembly for the Country and Progressive National Party. Fadden lost his seat in 1935, but the following year won a by-election to the federal Division of Darling Downs.

In March 1940, Fadden was named a minister without portfolio in the government of Robert Menzies, who led the United Australia Party in a coalition with the Country Party. A few months later, following the deaths of three senior ministers in an air crash, he took over as Minister for Air and Minister for Civil Aviation. In October 1940, Fadden replaced Harold Thorby as deputy leader of the Country Party. The leadership was vacant at the time, following Archie Cameron's resignation, so Fadden became acting leader of the party and de facto deputy prime minister. Menzies subsequently promoted him to Treasurer of Australia.

Fadden served as acting prime minister for four months early in 1941 (while Menzies was away in Europe), and became popular for his conciliatory manner. He became the official leader of the Country Party following a ballot in March 1941. In August 1941, Menzies resigned as prime minister after losing the confidence of his ministry. Fadden was elected leader of the UAP–Country coalition in his place, and consequently became prime minister. However, he held office for just 39 days before being replaced by John Curtin, whose Labor Party had successfully moved a motion of no confidence. After losing the prime ministership, Fadden continued on as Leader of the Opposition for two more years. He eventually resigned in favour of Menzies following the coalition's massive defeat at the 1943 election.

When Menzies returned as prime minister in 1949, Fadden became Treasurer for a second time, holding office until his retirement from politics in 1958. Only Peter Costello has served in the position for longer. Fadden enjoyed one of the most rapid rises in Australian political history, moving from private citizen to the prime ministership in just 11 years. He was the first prime minister born in Queensland, and the first and only member of the Country Party to become prime minister with his own mandate (rather than just serving as a caretaker after the death of a predecessor).

Early life

Fadden was born in Ingham, Queensland, on 13 April 1894. He was the eldest of ten children – seven sons and three daughters – born to Annie (née Moorhead) and Richard John Fadden. His parents were both born in Ireland, his mother in County Tyrone and his father in County Galway. Fadden moved to Walkerston at a young age, where his father was officer-in-charge of the local police station.[1] He had a "typical country childhood", but suffered the deaths of three of his younger siblings in separate accidents. Fadden received his only formal education at the Walkerston State School, except for a brief period at Te Kowai while his usual school was being renovated. His first jobs included collecting cane beetles and performing sound effects at the local cinema. Fadden left school at the age of 15 and began working as a "billy boy" (odd-job man) on a cane-cutting gang at Pleystowe.[2] He later secured an indoor job as an office boy at the Pleystowe Sugar Mill, where his colleagues include two future Labor MPs – Maurice Hynes and George Martens.[3] In his spare time, he developed an interest in the theatre, both as a performer and treasurer of the local company.[4]

In April 1913, Fadden moved to Mackay to become assistant town clerk of the Mackay Town Council. He defeated 56 other applicants for the position.[4] In 1916, his superior, Frederick Morley, was dismissed as town clerk over allegations of theft, which Fadden himself had uncovered. Morley eventually received a two-year jail term, and Fadden was promoted in his place, again defeating more than 50 other applicants; he was reputedly the "youngest town clerk in Australia". He had attempted to enlist in the Australian Army the previous year, but was rejected on health grounds. In 1918, Fadden served on the committee of the relief fund for the Mackay cyclone, which devastated the town and killed thirty people.[5] However, he resigned as town clerk in September of that year and moved to Townsville (the largest settlement in North Queensland), where he established his own accountancy firm.[6] He had qualified as an accountant through a correspondence course from a school in Melbourne.[4]

According to his memoirs, Fadden initially struggled to make ends meet as an accountant, and considered relocating to Brisbane. However, he eventually found an unused loophole in the tax code that allowed him to gain a competitive advantage. His business prospered thereafter, and he was able to take on partners and opened a second office in Brisbane.[6] In 1930, Fadden was elected to the Townsville City Council as part of a non-partisan grouping calling themselves the "serviceable six". He developed a feud with the city's chief engineer, Sidney Roberts, whom he publicly criticised for using coal from New South Wales instead of from the local Bowen Basin mines. He was once again able to use his auditing skills to his advantage, getting Roberts fired for inconsistencies in his balance sheets. The resulting publicity served "as a springboard" for his political career.[7]


Fadden in 1940.

In 1932 Fadden was elected for one term to the Legislative Assembly of Queensland as member for Kennedy.[8] He was defeated in 1935. The following year, though, he won a by-election in the federal seat of Darling Downs. He was a blunt, effective debater and soon made an impression. When Archie Cameron resigned suddenly as Country Party leader in 1940, there was a deadlock between Earle Page and John McEwen in the ballot to select a new leader, and Fadden was chosen as a compromise candidate. He was appointed Minister for Supply and Development, then Minister for Air, then Treasurer (finance minister).

Prime Minister of Australia

In August 1941 Robert Menzies resigned as Prime Minister and leader of the senior party in the coalition, the United Australia Party (UAP).[9] Although the non-Labor Coalition had been in power for a decade, the UAP was so bereft of leadership that it was forced to elect former Prime Minister Billy Hughes as its new leader. Under normal circumstances, this would have made Hughes Prime Minister for a second time. However, Hughes was a month shy of 78, and was viewed as too old and frail to be anything other than a stopgap leader, especially during wartime. Under the circumstances, on 28 August a joint UAP-Country meeting chose Fadden as Coalition leader even though the Country Party was the smaller of the two non-Labor parties. Fadden was duly sworn in as Prime Minister the next day, and also remained Treasurer. He was the only member of the Country/National Party to serve as Prime Minister without an expectation of a short tenure (the other two Country/National Prime Ministers, Page and McEwen, served as caretakers).

Nevertheless, Fadden's term of office was troubled from the start. Even parliamentarians in his own party feared the worst. It was later reported that Fadden decided against moving into The Lodge, the official Prime Minister's residence in Canberra, after fellow Country Party member Archie Cameron crudely told him that he would "scarcely have enough time to wear a track from the backdoor to the shithouse before you’ll be out".[10]

On 3 October, the two independent legislators who had been keeping the Coalition in office for the last year, Arthur Coles and Alexander Wilson, voted against Fadden's budget. Coles and Wilson had been so disgusted with how Menzies had been treated that they refused to support the Coalition any longer. Due to this loss of supply, Fadden submitted his government's resignation to the Governor-General Lord Gowrie later the same day. This was the last occasion to date on which an Australian government was forced to resign after being defeated on the floor of the House of Representatives.[11] Fadden joked that he was like the Flood: he had "reigned for 40 days and 40 nights".

The Governor-General was reluctant to call an election for a House that was barely a year old, especially considering that the war had recently been brought to the nation's doorstep with Japan's advances. However, he would have been left with no other option if Labor leader John Curtin did not have enough support to govern. With this in mind, Gowrie summoned Coles and Wilson and obtained their assurances that they would support Curtin as Prime Minister and end the instability that had plagued the government since 1940. Coles and Wilson agreed to this, and Curtin was sworn in on 7 October.

Leader of the Opposition

Following the fall of his ministry, a joint UAP-Country Party meeting endorsed Fadden as Leader of the Opposition, even though the UAP was nominally the senior coalition partner. The Coalition sank into near-paralysis in opposition. Even allowing for Curtin's personal popularity, as well as the significant advantages which an incumbent government in a Westminster system has in wartime, Fadden proved a disappointment as Leader of the Opposition; he was unable to get the better of Curtin. The Coalition suffered a crushing loss in the 1943 election. It was reduced to 19 seats, including a mere seven for Fadden's Country Party. Accepting responsibility for this severe defeat, Fadden then handed the Opposition leadership back to Menzies, who had resumed the UAP leadership.

Later years

Fadden in 1949.

After the Coalition was again vanquished at the 1946 election, Fadden resumed his political partnership with Menzies. Two years earlier, Menzies had folded the UAP into the new Liberal Party of Australia. There was some speculation that the Country Party would be included in the merger (as had already happened in several states), but Fadden was keen to assert the independence of his party.

Always an outspoken conservative, in the late 1940s he became a strong anti-communist, urging Menzies to ban the Communist Party if he ever came to power. Indeed, in the lead up to the 1949 election, Fadden often made inflammatory claims about the "socialist" nature of the Labor Party which Menzies could then "clarify" or repudiate as he saw fit, thus appearing more "moderate". His often extreme views were concealed behind a jolly and jovial public manner and he enjoyed his nickname of "Artie."[citation needed]

Fadden was a friend of Robert Frederick Bird Wake, one of the country's leading security experts at the time. It was an odd relationship, based on their mutual love of Queensland and Queenslanders. Wake, who was a founder director with the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (1949), was supplied with inside information by Fadden about security leaks in the UK. Although Wake was more inclined to support the Labor Party, the relationship stood the test of time and proved mutually beneficial.[12]

The Coalition won a massive victory in the 1949 election, and Fadden, who transferred to the newly created seat of McPherson on the Gold Coast, became Treasurer in the second Menzies government. Although inflation was high in the early 1950s, forcing him to impose several "horror budgets", he generally presided over a booming economy, with times especially good for farmers.[citation needed]

Fadden retired at the 1958 election. He became the Chairman of Centenary Estate which was half owned by LJ Hooker.[13] Centenary Estate developed the Centenary Suburbs, which was a housing development undertaken in the 1960s, south west of Brisbane. Thereafter he faded from public view, living quietly in Brisbane until his death in 1973. He was accorded a state funeral which proceeded from the Toowong Presbyterian Church to the Mt Thompson Crematorium.[14][15]

Personal life

Fadden with his wife Ilma and daughter Betty at a ball in 1951

On 27 December 1916, Fadden married Ilma Nita Thornber (1895–1987).[16] She was the daughter and sister-in-law of two Mayors of Mackay – James Thornber and George Fay.[17][18] The couple had four children together – Gordon, John, Mavis, and Betty.[19]


Bust of Arthur Fadden by sculptor Wallace Anderson located in the Prime Minister's Avenue in the Ballarat Botanical Gardens

Fadden was made a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) in 1951.[20] The honour was conferred upon Fadden by King George VI in London on 31 January 1952, only a week before the King's death.[21] In 1958 Fadden raised to Knight Grand Cross (GCMG) of the order.[22] The Canberra suburb of Fadden and the Division of Fadden are named after him.

In 1975 he was honoured on a postage stamp bearing his portrait issued by Australia Post.[23][24]

See also


  1. ^ Arklay, Tracey M. (2014). Arthur Fadden: A Political Silhouette. Australian Scholarly Publishing. p. 1. 
  2. ^ Arklay (2014), p. 2.
  3. ^ Arklay (2014), p. 3.
  4. ^ a b c Arklay (2014), p. 4.
  5. ^ Arklay (2014), p. 5.
  6. ^ a b Arklay (2014), p. 6.
  7. ^ Arklay (2014), p. 7.
  8. ^ "Alphabetical Register Of Members Of The Legislative Assembly 1860 – 2012" (PDF). Parliament of Queensland. Archived from the original (PDF) on 31 October 2013. Retrieved 22 November 2012. 
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 13 November 2013. Retrieved 2012-10-17. 
  10. ^ Arklay, p. 80.
  11. ^ Gavin Souter, Acts of Parliament, p. 341
  12. ^ Valdemar Robert Wake, No Ribbons or Medals: the story of 'Hereward' an Australian counter espionage officer
  13. ^ “£8 Million Town To Be Built”, The Sydney Morning Herald, 11 November 1961. Retrieved 26 November 2017.
  14. ^ "Family Notices". The Canberra Times. 47, (13,418). Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 25 April 1973. p. 13. Retrieved 8 May 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  15. ^ Arthur William Fadden (1895 - 1973) — Heaven Address. Retrieved 8 May 2016.
  16. ^ Australia's PMs > Arthur Fadden > Ilma Fadden - National Archives of Australia. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  17. ^ James Henry Thornber - Mayors of Mackay. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  18. ^ George Bergin Fay - Mayors of Mackay. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  19. ^ Fast facts: Arthur Fadden - National Archives of Australia. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  20. ^ It's an Honour - Fadden KCMG Archived 2 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  21. ^ "Sir Arthur Fadden Invested By King". 1 February 1952. Retrieved 30 March 2011. 
  22. ^ It's an Honour - Fadden GCMG Archived 2 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  23. ^ "Arthur Fadden". Australian Coin and Stamp Company. Retrieved 22 November 2012. 
  24. ^ "Australian Stamps - Year 1975". Australia Postage Stamps. Archived from the original on 19 November 2012. Retrieved 22 November 2012. 

Further reading

  • Arklay, T. (2014) Political Silhouette, Australian Scholarly: Melbourne. ISBN 978 1 925003 84 0.
  • Fadden, Arthur (1969), They Called Me Artie, Jacaranda Press
  • Hughes, Colin A (1976), Mr Prime Minister. Australian Prime Ministers 1901-1972, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, Victoria, Ch.14. ISBN 0-19-550471-2

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
James Fairbairn
Minister for the Air
Minister for Civil Aviation

Succeeded by
John McEwen
Preceded by
Robert Menzies
Treasurer of Australia
1940 – 1941
Succeeded by
Ben Chifley
Prime Minister of Australia
Succeeded by
John Curtin
Preceded by
John Curtin
Leader of the Opposition
1941 – 1943
Succeeded by
Robert Menzies
Preceded by
Ben Chifley
Treasurer of Australia
1949 – 1958
Succeeded by
Harold Holt
Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
Littleton Groom
Member for Darling Downs
Succeeded by
Reginald Swartz
New division Member for McPherson
Succeeded by
Charles Barnes
Parliament of Queensland
Preceded by
Harry Bruce
Member for Kennedy
1932 - 1935
Succeeded by
Cecil Jesson
Party political offices
Preceded by
Archie Cameron
Leader of the Country Party
1940 – 1958
Succeeded by
John McEwen
Preceded by
Harold Thorby

Deputy Leader of the Country Party

Succeeded by
John McEwen
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