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Arthur Fadden was Prime Minister of a coalition government for 40 days, from 29 August to 7 October 1941. The United Australia Party was an unsettled coalition partner – its members jostled for influence after deposing Robert Menzies and installing WM Hughes as a stopgap leader. Though Labor leader John Curtin maintained Labor’s unyielding stand against an all-party wartime ‘national government’, Fadden later reflected that the Leader of the Opposition had provided steady ‘friendship, cooperation, understanding and loyalty’.
Fadden’s most memorable speech as Prime Minister was given on 7 September 1941. This had been declared a day of national prayer, marking the completion of the second year of war. Fadden made a radio broadcast exhorting Australians to be united in the ‘supreme task of defeating the forces of evil in the world’.
On 3 October 1941, the Fadden coalition government fell. It was defeated in a vote in the House of Representatives when the two Independent members, Arthur Coles and Alex Wilson, voted with the Opposition to reject Fadden’s budget. Fadden advised the Governor-General Lord Gowrie that Labor leader John Curtin should be commissioned as Prime Minister and Curtin was sworn in on 7 October 1941.
Costa, Brian and Vlahos, Peter, 'Sir Arthur William Fadden' in Michelle Grattan (ed.), Australia’s Prime Ministers, New Holland Press, Sydney, 2001.
Hughes, Colin, Mr Prime Minister: Australian Prime Ministers 1901–1972, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1976.
From the National Archives of Australia collection
Personal correspondence – Australia. Rt Hon. Sir Arthur Fadden, 1962–68, NAA: A5954, 62/1
Fadden, AW [invitations, congratulations etc], 1941–42, NAA: A461, P4/1/12
Fadden, AW [newscuttings re budget etc], 1941, NAA: CP6/2, 69