William Morris Hughes – Fact sheet 73

William Morris Hughes and Dame Mary Hughes at the Imperial Press Conference delegation, Hotel Canberra 1927
(NAA: A13848, 29)

Prime Minister of Australia 1915–23

A Labor member of the House of Representatives from 1901, William Morris 'Billy' Hughes served as Attorney-General in the Watson government (1904) and the three Fisher governments (1908–09, 1910–13, 1914–15).

Australia was at war when WM Hughes became Prime Minister, replacing Andrew Fisher, in October 1915. Hughes favoured conscription for overseas service as a means of maintaining Australia's supply of troops to the war zone. This stance led to his expulsion from the Labor Party in late 1916. Commissioned to form a new ministry, he carried on for three months as head of the National Labor Party (with support of the Liberal opposition). His 'splinter' Labor Party combined with the Liberals in 1917 to form the Nationalist Party, which was confirmed in office by the general election held later that year.

A popular wartime leader who was affectionately tagged 'the Little Digger', Hughes visited Australian troops on the western front and, after the war, represented Australia at the Versailles Peace Conference.

The 1922 general election was won by the Nationalist Party, with the support of the recently formed Country Party. When Country Party members refused to accept Hughes as leader, he resigned. In 1923 he was replaced as Prime Minister by Stanley Melbourne Bruce.

Hughes remained in parliament and was a senior member of non-Labor governments until his death in 1952.

Record relating to Hughes held by the National Archives

The National Archives holds many records relating to WM Hughes' long period in parliament, and especially his years as Prime Minister and minister. Hughes' personal records, as well as a selection of records about Hughes and the issues he was involved in, appear below.

In the tables below, reference numbers are linked to the item or series in RecordSearch, the Archives database. There you can find more information. In many cases you can view entire digitised records. The information will appear in a new browser window.

Personal records of William Morris Hughes

Other records relating to William Morris Hughes – in Canberra

Other records relating to William Morris Hughes – in Sydney

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2019