Joseph Aloysius (Joe) Lyons

One of the great dramas of parliament’s history began with the defection of “Honest Joe Lyons” (1879-1939) from Labor in 1931. Anti-socialist politicians regrouped around Lyons to form the United Australia Party, which held power until 1941. Lyons began his political career as a fiery Tasmanian socialist. He had been forced to go to work at the age of nine, but was later able to return to school and became a teacher. Premier of Tasmania for five years in the 1920s, he moved to federal politics in 1929. The Lyons government began the rearmament which saw Australia regain at least some military capacity in the lead up to the Second World War, and put measures into place which permitted the rapid mobilization of human and economic resources when the war started. Slow economic recovery from the depths of the Depression is said by some historians to have been made possible by Lyons, and by others to have been hampered by him. He died in office in April 1939.

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6 January 1932

Joe Lyons becomes Prime Minister

The Scullin Labor government is defeated after a single term at the 1931 election. Former Tasmanian Premier Joe Lyons had resigned from the government earlier that year and with the Nationalists formed a new party — the United Australia Party — and won the federal election. Lyons becomes Prime Minister and establishes the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and reduces government spending in an attempt to bolster recovery from the Depression. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


Joe Lyons c.1932.