1906 Australian federal election

The 1906 Australian federal election was held in Australia on 12 December 1906. All 75 seats in the House of Representatives, and 18 of the 36 seats in the Senate were up for election. The incumbent Protectionist Party minority government led by Prime Minister Alfred Deakin retained government, despite winning the fewest House of Representatives votes and seats of the three parties. Parliamentary support was provided by the Labour Party led by Chris Watson, while the Anti-Socialist Party (renamed from the Free Trade Party), led by George Reid, remained in opposition.

1906 Australian federal election

← 1903 12 December 1906 (1906-12-12) 1910 →

All 75 seats in the House of Representatives
38 seats were needed for a majority in the House
18 (of the 36) seats in the Senate
  First party Second party
  Portrait of Alfred Deakin seated at his desk (cropped).jpg George Reid crop.jpg
Leader Alfred Deakin George Reid
Party Protectionist Anti-Socialist
Leader since 24 September 1903 (1903-09-24) 11 May 1901 (1901-05-11)
Leader's seat Ballaarat (Vic.) East Sydney (NSW)
Last election 26 seats 24 seats
Seats won 21 seats 27 seats
Seat change Decrease5 Increase3
Popular vote 156,425 363,257
Percentage 16.44% 38.17%
Swing Decrease13.26% Increase3.80%

  Third party Fourth party
  John Christian Watson.jpg JohnForrest1909.jpg
Leader Chris Watson John Forrest
Party Labour Western Australia Party
Leader since 20 May 1901 (1901-05-20) 1906 (1906)
Leader's seat South Sydney (NSW) Swan (WA)
Last election 23 seats 0 seats
Seats won 26 seats 2 seats
Seat change Increase3 Increase2
Popular vote 348,711 22,154
Percentage 36.64% 2.33%
Swing Increase5.69% Increase2.33%

Prime Minister before election

Alfred Deakin

Resulting Prime Minister

Alfred Deakin

Watson resigned as Labour leader in October 1907 and was replaced by Andrew Fisher. The Protectionist minority government fell in November 1908 to Labour, a few days before Reid resigned as Anti-Socialist leader, who was replaced by Joseph Cook. The Labour minority government fell in June 1909 to the newly formed Commonwealth Liberal Party led by Deakin. The party was formed on a shared anti-Labour platform as a merger between Deakin, leader of the Protectionists, and Cook, leader of the Anti-Socialists, in order to counter Labour's growing popularity. The merger didn't sit well with several of the more progressive Protectionists, who defected to Labour or sat as independents.

The merger would allow the Deakin Commonwealth Liberals to construct a mid-term parliamentary majority, however less than a year later at the 1910 election, Labour won both majority government and a Senate majority, representing a number of firsts: it was Australia's first elected federal majority government, Australia's first elected Senate majority, the world's first Labour Party majority government at a national level, and after the 1904 Watson minority government the world's second Labour Party government at a national level.


House of RepresentativesEdit

  Labour: 26 seats
  Protectionist: 16 seats
  Anti-Socialist: 26 seats
  Independent: 6 seats
  Western Australian: 1 seat
House of Reps 1906–10 (FPTP) – Turnout 51.48% (Non-CV) – Informal 3.73% [1]
Party Votes % Swing Seats Change
  Anti-Socialist [a] 363,257 38.17 +3.80 27 +3
  Labour 348,711 36.64 +5.69 26 +3
  Protectionist 156,425 16.44 –13.26 16 –10
  Ind. Protectionist 46,074 4.84 +4.84 4 +4
  Western Australian 22,154 2.33 +2.33 2 +2
  Independents/Other 15,067 1.58 −2.91 0 –1
  Total 951,688 [b]     75
  Labour/Protectionist WIN 42 −7
  Anti-Socialist 26 +2
Popular Vote
Ind. Protectionist
Western Australian
Parliament Seats
Ind. Protectionist
Western Australian


Senate 1906–10 (FPTP BV) – Turnout 50.21% (Non-CV) – Informal N/A[4]
Party Votes % Swing Seats Won Seats Held Change
  Anti-Socialist [c] 469,917 47.4 +15.6 12 17 +4
  Labour 384,171 38.7 +5.7 5 15 +1
  Protectionist 92,931 9.4 −6.7 1 3 −5
  Independents/Other [d] 44,871 4.5 0 1 0
  Total 991,850     18 36


It was the third federal election in Australia following the adoption of the federal government. The election was largely important as it would demonstrate which of the parties (if any) could hold together a stable government after the unstable second term of the previous one, which saw four different governments in power. It would also see if all parties could survive the implementation of protectionist policies which differentiated the two. This was also the first election where all seats for the House of Representatives were voted for via a First-past-the-post system (at previous elections some states voted as one electorate, using a bloc vote), and the first time that Tasmania was divided into separate electorates. The election result was the continuation of a Protectionist government led by Deakin and supported by Labour, which remained in power largely due to the unwillingness of the Anti-Socialist Party to support a vote of no confidence against it.

George Reid adopted a strategy of trying to reorient the party system along Labour vs non-Labour lines – before the election, he renamed his Free Trade Party to the Anti-Socialist Party. Reid envisaged a spectrum running from socialist to anti-socialist, with the Protectionist Party in the middle. This attempt struck a chord with politicians who were steeped in the Westminster tradition and regarded a two-party system as very much the norm.[5]

Since the Protectionist primary platform of government tariffs had been dealt with by previous governments, the party had become somewhat redundant. Those who remained were largely supporting the Party's leader, Alfred Deakin, rather than its policies. Of the three, the Labour Party, led by Chris Watson, now had the most realistic chance of becoming the dominant party after their gains in the 1903 election and after their leading status in the four minor states they were looking to make the same type of gains in Victoria and New South Wales.

The first federal referendum in Australia's history was held in conjunction with the election. The proposed alteration to the Constitution, to change the start date of Senators' terms from 1 January to 1 July, passed in all states and was carried.

Seats changing handsEdit

Seat Pre-1906 Swing Post-1906
Party Member Margin Margin Member Party
Balaclava, Vic   Protectionist George Turner 100.0 41.8 4.0 Agar Wynne Ind. Protectionist  
Barker, SA   Protectionist Langdon Bonython 100.0 58.1 8.1 John Livingston Anti-Socialist  
Batman, Vic new division 1.7 Jabez Coon Protectionist  
Bendigo, Vic   Protectionist John Quick 1.1 51.7 1.7 John Quick Ind. Protectionist  
Brisbane, Qld   Labour Millice Culpin 2.1 13.4 11.3 Justin Foxton Anti-Socialist  
Capricornia, Qld   Labour David Thomson 9.6 15.2 5.6 Edward Archer Anti-Socialist  
Cowper, NSW   Anti-Socialist Henry Lee 13.0 13.9 0.9 John Thomson Protectionist  
Denison, Tas   Protectionist Philip Fysh 0.2 15.1 10.5 Philip Fysh Anti-Socialist  
Fawkner, Vic new division 13.9 George Fairbairn Ind. Protectionist  
Franklin, Tas   Revenue Tariff William McWilliams 4.6 100.0 100.0 William McWilliams Anti-Socialist  
Fremantle, WA   Labour William Carpenter 11.3 12.2 0.9 William Hedges Western Australian  
Indi, Vic   Protectionist Isaac Isaacs 100.0 44.4 2.7 Joseph Brown Anti-Socialist  
Macquarie, NSW   Anti-Socialist Sydney Smith 4.0 51.3 1.3 Ernest Carr Labour  
Maribyrnong, Vic new division 6.9 Samuel Mauger Protectionist  
Melbourne Ports, Vic   Protectionist Samuel Mauger 6.8 9.4 2.6 James Mathews Labour  
Moreton, Qld   Ind / Labour James Wilkinson [e] 5.8 18.3 12.5 Hugh Sinclair Anti-Socialist  
New England, NSW   Anti-Socialist Edmund Lonsdale 1.9 51.8 1.8 Frank Foster Labour  
Oxley, Qld   Protectionist Richard Edwards 2.3 14.3 16.6 Richard Edwards Anti-Socialist  
South Sydney, NSW   Anti-Socialist George Edwards 6.0 12.4 6.4 Chris Watson Labour  
Wannon, Vic   Anti-Socialist Arthur Robinson 2.9 5.7 2.8 John McDougall Labour  
Werriwa, NSW   Anti-Socialist Alfred Conroy 18.7 20.5 1.8 David Hall Labour  
Wimmera, Vic   Protectionist Pharez Phillips 0.1 14.6 14.2 Sydney Sampson Ind. Protectionist  
  • Members in italics did not contest their seat at this election.

Post-election pendulumEdit

Protectionist/Labour Coalition
Gippsland (Vic) George Wise PROT 00.3 vs AS
Calare (NSW) Thomas Brown LAB 00.7 vs AS
Cowper (NSW) John Thomson PROT 00.9 vs AS
Macquarie (NSW) Ernest Carr LAB 01.3 vs AS
Batman (Vic) Jabez Coon PROT 01.7 vs LAB
New England (NSW) Frank Foster LAB 01.8 vs AS
Werriwa (NSW) David Hall LAB 01.8 vs AS
Melbourne Ports (Vic) James Mathews LAB 02.6 vs PROT
Laanecoorie (Vic) Carty Salmon PROT 02.7 vs LAB
Perth (WA) James Fowler LAB 02.7 vs WAP
Wannon (Vic) John McDougall LAB 02.8 vs AS
Herbert (Qld) Fred Bamford LAB 02.9 vs AS
Cook (NSW) James Catts LAB 03.0 vs AS
Gwydir (NSW) William Webster LAB 03.3 vs AS
Riverina (NSW) John Chanter PROT 04.1 vs AS
Wide Bay (Qld) Andrew Fisher LAB 04.5 vs AS
Mernda (Vic) Robert Harper PROT 04.7 vs LAB
Corio (Vic) Richard Crouch PROT 05.0 vs AS
West Sydney (NSW) Billy Hughes LAB 05.5 vs AS
Fairly safe
South Sydney (NSW) Chris Watson LAB 06.4 vs AS
Bourke (Vic) James Hume Cook PROT 06.7 vs LAB
Maribyrnong (Vic) Samuel Mauger PROT 06.9 vs LAB
Kennedy (Qld) Charles McDonald LAB 07.8 vs AS
Darling (NSW) William Spence LAB 07.9 vs AS
Darwin (Tas) King O'Malley LAB 09.5 vs AS
Yarra (Vic) Frank Tudor LAB 09.6 vs IND
Melbourne (Vic) William Maloney LAB 10.4 vs AS
Hume (NSW) William Lyne PROT 11.7 vs AS
Bass (Tas) David Storrer PROT 12.3 vs AS
Darling Downs (Qld) Littleton Groom PROT 15.1 vs LAB
Ballaarat (Vic) Alfred Deakin PROT 16.2 vs LAB
Newcastle (NSW) David Watkins LAB 17.2 vs PAS
Eden-Monaro (NSW) Austin Chapman PROT 17.8 vs AS
Maranoa (Qld) Jim Page LAB 18.8 vs AS
Very safe
Coolgardie (WA) Hugh Mahon LAB 23.1 vs WAP
Barrier (NSW) Josiah Thomas LAB 24.5 vs AS
Richmond (NSW) Thomas Ewing PROT 26.4 vs AS
Kalgoorlie (WA) Charlie Frazer LAB 29.0 vs WAP
Adelaide (SA) Charles Kingston PROT unopposed
Boothby (SA) Lee Batchelor LAB unopposed
Grey (SA) Alexander Poynton LAB unopposed
Hindmarsh (SA) James Hutchison LAB unopposed
Anti-Socialist Party
Echuca (Vic) Albert Palmer [f] AS 00.0 vs PROT
Hunter (NSW) Frank Liddell AS 00.8 vs LAB
Flinders (Vic) William Irvine AS 01.5 vs PROT
Dalley (NSW) William Wilks AS 02.7 vs LAB
Indi (Vic) Joseph Brown AS 02.7 vs LAB
Wilmot (Tas) Llewellyn Atkinson AS 04.2 vs LAB
East Sydney (NSW) George Reid AS 04.9 vs LAB
Capricornia (Qld) Edward Archer AS 05.6 vs LAB
Grampians (Vic) Hans Irvine AS 05.8 vs LAB
Fairly safe
Corangamite (Vic) Gratton Wilson AS 06.6 vs PROT
Robertson (NSW) Henry Willis AS 07.0 vs LAB
Barker (SA) John Livingston AS 08.1 vs LAB
Denison (Tas) Philip Fysh AS 10.5 vs LAB
Brisbane (Qld) Justin Foxton AS 11.3 vs LAB
Kooyong (Vic) William Knox AS 12.0 vs PROT
Moreton (Qld) Hugh Sinclair AS 12.5 vs LAB
Nepean (NSW) Eric Bowden AS 13.3 vs LAB
Angas (SA) Paddy Glynn AS 13.6 vs LAB
Illawarra (NSW) George Fuller AS 13.8 vs LAB
Oxley (Qld) Richard Edwards AS 13.8 vs LAB
Wakefield (SA) Frederick Holder AS [a] 13.8 vs LAB
Very safe
Lang (NSW) Elliot Johnson AS 20.4 vs LAB
Wentworth (NSW) Willie Kelly AS 23.2 vs LAB
Parkes (NSW) Bruce Smith AS 28.2 vs IND
Franklin (Tas) William McWilliams AS unopposed
North Sydney (NSW) Dugald Thomson AS unopposed
Parramatta (NSW) Joseph Cook AS unopposed
Fremantle (WA) William Hedges WAP 00.9 vs LAB
Bendigo (Vic) John Quick IND PROT 01.7 vs LAB
Balaclava (Vic) Agar Wynne IND PROT 04.0 vs IND
Fawkner (Vic) George Fairbairn IND PROT 13.9 vs LAB
Wimmera (Vic) Sydney Sampson IND PROT 14.2 vs LAB
Swan (WA) John Forrest WAP 16.2 vs LAB

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Anti-Socialist party figures for the House of Representatives include Frederick Holder (Wakefield, SA) who was endorsed by the party,[2] however he was the Speaker for his entire parliamentary career and did not take part in Anti-Socialist party activities.[3]
  2. ^ Seven members of the House of Representatives were elected unopposed – three Anti-Socialist, three Labour, and one Protectionist.
  3. ^ The figures for the Anti-Socialist Party include Joseph Vardon (SA), whose election was subsequently declared void, and Henry Dobson (Tas), who was elected as part of the Revenue Tariff Party.
  4. ^ Independent: William Trenwith (Vic)
  5. ^ James Wilkinson (Moreton, Qld) was elected as an independent labour candidate and joined the Labour caucus in 1904.[6]
  6. ^ Palmer's election was subsequently declared void and he won the seat in a by-election with an increased majority.


  1. ^ "House of Representatives election 1906". Australian politics and elections database. The University of Western Australia. Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  2. ^ "Federal elections". Evening Journal. 7 December 1906. p. 2. Retrieved 20 May 2019 – via National Library of Australia.
  3. ^ Carr, Adam. "1906 legislative election: House of Representatives, South Australia". Psephos.
  4. ^ "Election of 12 December 1906 Senate: National summary". Psephos Adam Carr's Election Archive. Retrieved 21 February 2017.
  5. ^ Fusion: The Party System We Had To Have? - by Charles Richardson CIS 25 January 2009
  6. ^ Carr, Adam. "1903 legislative election: House of Representatives, Queensland". Psephos.