Arthur Fadden

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The Right Honourable
Sir Arthur Fadden
13th Prime Minister of Australia
Elections: 1943
In office
29 August 1941 – 7 October 1941
Monarch George VI
Governor-General Lord Gowrie
Preceded by Robert Menzies
Succeeded by John Curtin
Treasurer of Australia
In office
19 December 1949 – 9 December 1958
Prime Minister Robert Menzies
Preceded by Ben Chifley
Succeeded by Harold Holt
In office
28 October 1940 – 6 October 1941
Prime Minister Robert Menzies (1940-1941)
Himself (1941)
Preceded by Percy Spender
Succeeded by Ben Chifley
Minister for Civil Aviation
Minister for Air
In office
14 August 1940 – 28 October 1940
Prime Minister Robert Menzies
Preceded by James Fairbairn
Succeeded by John McEwen
3rd Leader of the Country Party
In office
12 March 1941 – 26 March 1958
Deputy John McEwen
Preceded by Archie Cameron
Succeeded by John McEwen
7th Deputy Leader of the Country Party
In office
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
Resting place Cremated
Political party Country Party
Other political
Country and Progressive National Party
Spouse(s) Ilma Nita Thornber
Children 4
Religion Presbyterian

Sir Arthur William Fadden, GCMG (13 April 1894 – 21 April 1973) was an Australian politician and the 13th Prime Minister of Australia.

Early life

Fadden was born in Ingham, Queensland, on 13 April 1894 the son of a Presbyterian police officer. He was educated at state schools, and later studied accountancy while working as a clerk. Once he had qualified he became assistant Town Clerk of Mackay, then Town Clerk. In 1919 Fadden helped form the North Queensland Rugby League, and served as its founding secretary.[1] In the 1920s he established a successful accountancy firm with offices in Brisbane and Townsville. He was active in the Country Party from its foundation.


In 1932 Fadden was elected for one term to the Legislative Assembly of Queensland as member for Kennedy.[2] 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).

Arthur Fadden

Prime Minister of Australia

Portrait of Arthur Fadden

In August 1941 Robert Menzies resigned as Prime Minister and leader of the senior party in the coalition, the United Australia Party (UAP).[3] 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 as his own 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.

In the event, however, Fadden's tenure was short-lived. On 3 October, the two independent parliamentarians who had been keeping the Coalition in office for the last year, Arthur Coles and Alex 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.[4] Fadden joked that he was like the Flood: he had "reigned for 40 days and 40 nights".

Gowrie then summoned Coles and Wilson and demanded that, if he commissioned opposition leader John Curtin as Prime Minister, they would support him and end the instability in government. Coles and Wilson agreed to this, and Curtin was sworn in on 7 October.

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 the significant advantages an incumbent government in a Westminster system has in wartime, Fadden was unable to get the better of Curtin. The Coalition suffered a crushing defeat in the 1943 election. It was reduced to 19 seats, including only 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.

After the Coalition was again consigned to opposition in 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 federal 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 public manner and he enjoyed his nickname "Artie."

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.[5]

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 very 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. He retired before the 1958 election and lived quietly until his death in Brisbane in 1973.


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.[6] The honour was conferred upon Fadden by King George VI in London on 31 January 1952, only a week before the King's death.[7] In 1958 Fadden raised to Knight Grand Cross (GCMG) of the order.[8] 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.[9][10]

Fadden Ministry

29 August 1941 to 7 October 1941

  • Rt Hon Arthur Fadden, MP: Prime Minister, Treasurer (CP)
  • Rt Hon William Morris Hughes, MP: Attorney-General, Minister for the Navy (UAP)
  • Rt Hon Robert Menzies, KC MP: Minister for Defence Co-ordination (UAP)
  • Hon Percy Spender, KC MP: Minister for the Army (UAP)
  • Senator Hon George McLeay: Vice-President of the Executive Council, Minister for Supply and Development (UAP)
  • Hon John McEwen, MP: Minister for Air, Minister for Civil Aviation (CP)
  • Senator Hon Hattil Foll: Minister for the Interior, Minister for Information (UAP)
  • Rt Hon Sir Earle Page, GCMG MP: Minister for Commerce (CP)
  • Hon Sir Frederick Stewart, MP: Minister for External Affairs, Minister for Health, Minister for Social Services (UAP)
  • Senator Hon Philip McBride: Minister for Munitions (UAP)
  • Hon Eric Harrison, MP: Minister for Trade and Customs (UAP)
  • Hon Harold Holt, MP: Minister for Labour and National Service (UAP)
  • Senator Hon Herbert Collett: Minister for Repatriation (UAP)
  • Hon Thomas Collins, MP: Postmaster-General (CP)
  • Senator Hon John Leckie: Minister for Aircraft Production (UAP)
  • Hon Larry Anthony, MP: Minister for Transport (CP)
  • Hon Eric Spooner, MP: Minister for War Organisation of Industry (UAP)
  • Hon Joe Abbott, MP: Minister for Home Security (CP)
  • Hon Allan MacDonald, MP: Minister for External Territories (UAP)


  1. Sean Fagan. "Australia's "Rugby League" Prime Ministers". RL1908. Retrieved 30 March 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Alphabetical Register Of Members Of The Legislative Assembly 1860 – 2012" (PDF). Parliament of Queensland. Retrieved 22 November 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Gavin Souter, Acts of Parliament, p. 341
  5. Valdemar Robert Wake, No Ribbons or Medals: the story of 'Hereward' an Australian counter espionage officer
  6. It's an Honour - Fadden KCMG
  7. "Sir Arthur Fadden Invested By King". 1 February 1952. Retrieved 30 March 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. It's an Honour - Fadden GCMG
  9. "Arthur Fadden". Australian Coin and Stamp Company. Retrieved 22 November 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Australian Stamps - Year 1975". Australia Postage Stamps. Retrieved 22 November 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • 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