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The fall of Menzies

Twenty-five years after replacing Robert Menzies as Prime Minister in 1941, Arthur Fadden recalled the event in an episode of his memoirs, published in the Brisbane Herald on 18 July 1968.

NAA: A5954, 62/1, p. 16

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’.

Letter of congratulation

China's Consul-General in Australia wrote a letter of congratulation, pledging support to Australia's new Prime Minister Arthur Fadden on 30 August 1941.

NAA: A461, P4/1/12, p. 20

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’.

Arthur Fadden's script for a radio broadcast

Prime Minister Arthur Fadden's script for a radio broadcast on the evening of Sunday, 7 September 1941, the week of the second anniversary of the declaration of World War II.

NAA: CP6/2, 69, p. 3

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.

Letter from Administrator of Norfolk Island

The Administrator of Norfolk Island, World War I hero Major-General Sir Charles Rosenthal, wrote to Prime Minister Arthur Fadden the morning after his radio broadcast on 7 September 1941, expressing the support of his family, with three sons serving abroad.

NAA: A461, P4/1/12, p. 9

Sources

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

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