Alfred Deakin

Alfred Deakin (1856-1919) served as Australian prime minister three times (1903-04, 1905-08 and 1909-10). He was the central figure in Australian political life during the first decade of Federation. As well as being one of the makers of Federation, he was one of the greatest orators in Australian political history. Ernest Scott described his style: ‘body spoke as well as tongue, and every sentence was animated by its appropriate action…passages delivered with the throb of passion in every syllable … shot out of the mouth like lightning flashes’.

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To learn more, visit Alfred Deakin on ADB Online, the Alfred Deakin library, and Alfred Deakin at the National Archives.

Events

24 September 1903

Alfred Deakin becomes Prime Minister

Attorney-General Alfred Deakin is sworn in as Prime Minister when Edmund Barton resigns to take a seat on the first Bench of the High Court. During Deakin’s first term as Prime Minister, parliament passes no legislation. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.

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Alfred Deakin 1918.
5 July 1905

Alfred Deakin becomes Prime Minister for a second time

Protectionist leader Alfred Deakin forms a government with Labour support when George Reid resigns after the Governor-General rejects his request for a double dissolution election. Deakin’s second government is productive, establishing the Bureau of Census and Statistics, and the Bureau of Meteorology, increasing the number of High Court judges from three to five, and establishing Australian control over Papua. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.

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Alfred Deakin 1918.
2 June 1909

Alfred Deakin becomes Prime Minister for the third time

Alfred Deakin becomes Prime Minister for the third time after the Fisher Labour government is defeated in the House of Representatives. After losing office to Fisher’s Labour Party in 1908, Deakin had arranged a merger of his followers in May 1909 (some were still known as Protectionists, while others were calling themselves Deakinites) with his former political foes, the Free Traders (now led by Joseph Cook, who had succeeded GH Reid as leader of the group in November 1908). The new grouping is known as the ‘Fusion’, and it represents the beginning of Australia’s two-party system. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.

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Alfred Deakin 1918.
2 June 1909

Fusion — the two-party system

Alfred Deakin forms a coalition of his Protectionist Liberal Party with the Free Trade Party led by Joseph Cook, known as the Fusion. It brings stability to the federal parliament and ends the fragile political coalitions that saw six changes of government in the first eight years after Federation.

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Alfred Deakin, 1898.