Member of the Privy Council (1932), Order of the Companion of Honour (1936) 

United Australia
6 January 1932 — 7 April 1939 7 years, 93 days

Joseph Lyons became Australia's 10th prime minister when the United Australia Party and Country Party Coalition won office, replacing the Labor government led by James Scullin. 


15 September 1879
Tasmania, Australia


7 April 1939
Sydney, New South Wales


Enid Lyons


United Australia

Photo: Fairfax

United Australia
6 January 1932 — 7 April 1939 7 years, 93 days


Joseph Lyons was one of Australia’s longest serving and most popular prime ministers. His commitment to Australians living within their means, even during the extreme conditions of the Great Depression, led him to abandon the Labor Party for the conservative side of politics. This did not impact on his electoral success, as he won three elections in a row in the 1930s, but it did leave him open to periodic criticism.

Lyons Reading

Photo: News Ltd/Newspix

Lyons worked as a teacher before winning the State seat of Wilmot for Labor in 1929. A pacifist, Lyons campaigned for a ‘No’ vote in the conscription referenda of 1916-17. Lyons became Premier of Tasmania in 1923 and worked closely with the conservative government in Canberra. In 1929 Lyons successfully stood for the Federal seat of Wilmot. During the Depression years Lyons advocated orthodox finance, opposing the policies of Treasurer Ted Theodore.

Prime Minister Scullin took over the Treasury portfolio in 1930. Lyons was acting Treasurer from August 1930 to January 1931 while Scullin was in Europe. Lyons' cautious economic approach won him public support, but infuriated the Labor Caucus. When Theodore was reinstated as treasurer, Lyons defected.

Supported by businessmen, citizens and Robert Menzies, Lyons joined with the Nationalist and the Australian Party to become leader of the new United Australia Party. In 1931, Lyons became prime minister and the Coalition maintained power in the 1934 and 1937 elections. On 7 April 1939, Lyons died unexpectedly of a heart attack while in office.  


360° VIEW


In 1931, Joseph Lyons and the United Australia Party contested the federal election in coalition with Earle Page's Country Party. Though newly formed, the UAP achieved a landslide victory, winning 34 seats in the House of Representatives compared with 16 for the Country Party, 14 for the Labor Party and 4 for Lang Labor.

The UAP secured 15 seats in the Senate, while Labor returned just three. Lyons’ position was such that when he was sworn in on 6 January 1932, as head of a minority government, he was still able to work with an entirely UAP cabinet. In 1934, Lyons’ position was not as strong and, owing to an eight seat swing, he was compelled to include the Country Party in a genuine  coalition government, as was again the case in 1937.

Lyons was able to deliver on his promises of economic stability. His government too, was generally stable, until the last few months before his death.     

Joseph Lyons standing in front of a car holding a cane

Photo: News Ltd/Newspix