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Quiz about Early Australian Prime Ministers
Quiz about Early Australian Prime Ministers

Early Australian Prime Ministers Quiz


At the end of the 20th century, Australia had had 25 different Prime Ministers, some of whom had won re-election more than once. Here is a quiz on the more personal side of the first ten of them.

A multiple-choice quiz by Creedy. Estimated time: 5 mins.
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Author
Creedy
Time
5 mins
Type
Multiple Choice
Quiz #
333,187
Updated
Dec 03 21
# Qns
10
Difficulty
Average
Avg Score
8 / 10
Plays
721
Awards
Top 35% Quiz
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Question 1 of 10
1. The first Prime Minister of the new nation of Australia, from January 1901 to September 1903, was Edmund Barton. His sterling career, which saw achievements in many different areas of the newly formed Commonwealth of Australia, also saw Barton involved in which international cricket scandal? Hint


Question 2 of 10
2. Alfred Deakin was Prime Minister of Australia on three separate occasions, from September 1903 to April 1904, from July 1905 to November 1908, and again from June 1909 until April 1910. Under his leadership, protection of work rights was enacted in Victoria, irrigation was established in Australia, the High Court of Australia was established ... and which Australian Defence Force was set up? Hint


Question 3 of 10
3. Australia's third leader was the youngest Prime Minister to take this position in Australia. He was in that position for an equally brief time - from April to August 1904. Who was he? Hint


Question 4 of 10
4. George Reid (1845-1918) was Australia's chubby 4th Prime Minister. What unusual feat did he manage to achieve during his time in the House of Representatives? Hint


Question 5 of 10
5. One of the very few politicians I admire is Andrew Fisher, who was Prime Minister of Australia on three separate occasions. How did his last Prime Ministership end? Hint


Question 6 of 10
6. Australia's sixth Prime Minister was one Joseph Cook, who used to be Joseph Cooke, but dropped the "E" when he converted to Primitive Methodism. What was unusual about his early education? Hint


Question 7 of 10
7. Billy Hughes was Australia's seventh Prime Minister from 1915, and most of WWI, to 1923. Nobody could ever accuse this feisty little fellow of being boring. In fact he's been described as one of the "most colourful and controversial figures in Australian political history." What nickname did the Australian populace give him? Hint


Question 8 of 10
8. The eighth Prime Minister, from 1923 to 1929, Stanley Bruce was the first PM to lose his seat during an election. What British honour was bestowed on him after his term as Prime Minister? Hint


Question 9 of 10
9. What world shattering event happened after the election of our ninth Prime Minister, James Scullin, in 1929? Hint


Question 10 of 10
10. Joseph Lyons was Prime Minister from 1932 to 1939. The son of Irish immigrants, with a father who lost his business through ill health, and with a mother who fought hard to keep the family of eight children together, Joseph still had to leave school at nine to work to help feed the struggling family. He was lucky to have four strong women behind him all his life - his mother, two aunts and his wife. What dubious distinction did this fine leader of the country hold? Hint



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Quiz Answer Key and Fun Facts
1. The first Prime Minister of the new nation of Australia, from January 1901 to September 1903, was Edmund Barton. His sterling career, which saw achievements in many different areas of the newly formed Commonwealth of Australia, also saw Barton involved in which international cricket scandal?

Answer: International cricket's first riot

Born in 1849 of affluent parents, Barton, who died in 1920, was tall, good-looking and intelligent. This intelligence saw him twice Dux of Sydney Grammar School and School Captain as a matter of course, and his later graduation from the University of Sydney with First Class Honours and the University Medal in Classics. He was also a fine sportsman, particularly in the field of cricket, both as batsman and later as an umpire. It was said during the above mentioned riot where Barton was one of the umpires, that it was his presence of mind that helped diffuse the situation and demonstrated the leadership skills that would see him becoming the first Prime Minister of Australia. Oh blah, blah, blah, they always say things like that, whether it's true or not.

He was a fine leader, but one dark mark against his name was his push for the introduction of the White Australia Policy which limited/restricted immigration into Australia from Asia. He stated that "the doctrine of the equality of man was never intended to apply to the equality of the Englishman and the Chinaman". In another first, in September 1903, Barton left Parliament and became one of the founding justices of the High Court of Australia, where he was always considered a scrupulously impartial judge.

This tall and handsome man had an easy-going nature for the most part, and he was almost always jovial and good-tempered. However, his fondness for long dinners where many glasses of fine wine were consumed over lively conversations, earned him the nickname from the newspapers of the time of - "Toby Tosspot".
2. Alfred Deakin was Prime Minister of Australia on three separate occasions, from September 1903 to April 1904, from July 1905 to November 1908, and again from June 1909 until April 1910. Under his leadership, protection of work rights was enacted in Victoria, irrigation was established in Australia, the High Court of Australia was established ... and which Australian Defence Force was set up?

Answer: Navy

Deakin was born in 1856 and died at the relatively young age of 63 in 1919. He argued for the reduction in payments that Britain was charging the newly formed country for naval protection, working hard to set up an Australian Navy instead. He also set up bills to create Australia's own currency; established the Copyright Act in 1905, the Bureau of Census and Statistics in 1906, the Bureau of Meteorology in 1908, the Quarantine Act in 1908 as well, and set up the transfer of control of the Northern Territory from South Australia to the Commonwealth.

He also set in motion the very beginnings of an alliance with the USA with the invitation to President Theodore Roosevelt to bring his Great White Fleet to this country. This was a direct result of British failure to support Australia in the purchase of its own destroyers. The symbolism of this act of defiance was more than obvious, as was his pushing through of the Surplus Revenue Act of 1908 which established 250,000 pounds (a huge amount of money in those times) for naval expenditure. In short, he was one very hard-working and exceptional Prime Minister.

By merging his Protectionist Party with the anti-socialist party of Joseph Cook, he formed the Commonwealth Liberal Party which was known initially as the Fusion, and which eventually became today's modern Liberal Party - effectively making Alfred Deakin its daddy.

Sadly this quiet, very spiritual, hard-working man, who was known as "Affable Alfred" by all who knew him, succumbed to a form of early dementia. By 1913 he found he was having problems with his memory and withdrew from parliament and public life altogether. He died in October 1919, with his death officially listed as being caused from meningoencephalitis. A prolific writer in every form all his life, in addition to all his other work, Deakin wondered sadly in his very private journal whether "the emptiness of man within corresponded with the emptiness of society at large where Mammon had found a new demesne to infest."
3. Australia's third leader was the youngest Prime Minister to take this position in Australia. He was in that position for an equally brief time - from April to August 1904. Who was he?

Answer: John Christian Watson

Born in 1867, and usually known by his contemporaries as Chris Watson, this man was not only the first Labour Prime Minister of Australia, but the first Labour Prime Minister in the world. That was before the party changed the spelling of "Labour" to "Labor" in 1912. This was because of the influence of the US Labour Movement, but truly it's no wonder Australian kids can't spell today. Watson was only 37 when he became Prime Minister. He rose up through the Labor ranks by becoming a founding member of the NSW Labor Party in 1891, and then as an active trade unionist. From there he became President of the Sydney Trades and Labour Council. This saw him elected to the NSW Parliament and then the Labor Party's inaugural parliamentary leader - and eventually to the top position in the land.

His youth and dandified way of dressing didn't go down too well with some of his Labor supporters however, and Billy Hughes, who would go to become Australia's seventh Prime Minister, described the first meeting of the Labor Cabinet in the following hilarious fashion:

"Mr Watson, the new Prime Minister entered the room, and seated himself at the head of the table. All eyes were riveted on him; he was worth going miles to see. He had dressed for the part; his Vandyke beard was exquisitely groomed, his abundant brown hair smoothly brushed. His morning coat and vest, set off by dark striped trousers, beautifully creased and shyly revealing the kind of socks that young men dream about; and shoes to match. He was the perfect picture of the statesman, the leader."

Because he was unable to command a majority in the House of Representatives, Watson resigned less than four months into his leadership, and then from parliament altogether by 1910, citing the illness of his first wife Ada (who was a seamstress when they met in 1889) as the reason. He then pursued a long career managing various businesses, and when Ada died in 1921, Watson, at the age of 58, married a 23 year old waitress whom he had met in a pub. Wait, let's be kind. It was called The Commercial Travellers Club to be precise. They had one daughter, and - this is astonishing - the girl, by then aged 77, attended the centenary of the Watson Labor Party Government held in 2004 and which was also attended by three former Labor Party Prime Ministers. How amazing is that?

On Watson's death in 1941, it was revealed that not only wasn't his father (a British sailor called John Watson) his father at all, but that Watson wasn't even born in Australia himself. He was born in Chile to a Chilean man of German descent - and his mother was a New Zealander. She took off to sea with his father, but somewhere along the line they divorced (well, hopefully they divorced) and she took up with the British sailor and married him instead. Oh well, why not? Could explain the taste in socks though.
4. George Reid (1845-1918) was Australia's chubby 4th Prime Minister. What unusual feat did he manage to achieve during his time in the House of Representatives?

Answer: Resigned - then won back his seat in the by-election he caused

Born in Scotland, Reid migrated with his family to Australia when he was seven. He was a mediocre student at school, but eventually left that brain-exhausting place and obtained work as a clerk. On joining a debating society, the gift of the gab he perfected there enabled him to rise through the ranks of the Colonial Treasury, and by 1878, while he was also studying law, he became head of the Attorney-General's Department. He graduated as a barrister in 1879. His quick wit made him an entertaining speaker and people flocked to his public talks as though he were the latest popular entertainment. Well, I've always thought politicians were clowns and now it's been confirmed. You had to admire him though. When a heckler once pointed to his large stomach and asked what he was going to call the baby, Reid replied without missing a beat, "If it's a boy, I'll call it after myself. If it's a girl, I'll call it Victoria. But if, as I strongly suspect, it's nothing but piss and wind, I'll name it after you."

He eventually was elected to Parliament and was an effective Premier of New South Wales from 1894 to 1899, but this would not prove to be the case during his time as Prime Minister of the country from 1904 to 1905. In fact, because he could never make up his mind on the issue of Federation (hedging his bets in other words), the press nicknamed him "Yes-No Reid."

In 1891, he married a girl 23 years his junior. By then he was extremely overweight, had sprouted a huge walrus moustache, and wore a monocle. Now how could she resist that? When he once resigned in protest from the House of Representatives as a member of that worthy free-for-all establishment, he challenged the opposition government to try and win his seat. He then re-contested that seat - and won it back - making him the only person in the history of the federal parliament to win back his seat at a by-election caused by his own resignation. He went on to become Prime Minister when the Watson government resigned, but knew it would only be for a short time because he didn't have a majority in either house, so when voted out as Leader by parliament, he left the position cheerfully. He resigned from parliament altogether in 1910 - making him the first member to have resigned twice - and became Australia's High Commissioner in London where he died in 1918 at the age of 73.
5. One of the very few politicians I admire is Andrew Fisher, who was Prime Minister of Australia on three separate occasions. How did his last Prime Ministership end?

Answer: A sudden resignation without any explanation

Oh wow, I love a mystery - and this one smells of Agatha Christie whichever way you look at it. Fisher basically disappeared for three days, failing to turn up for parliament, and refused to make any comment or explanation - just simply resigned. It seems such a dreadful end to what was one of the finest Australian political careers ever lived.

Prime Minister from 1908-1909, again from 1910-1913, and once more from 1914-15, Fisher's career was remarkable, including the passing of 113 Acts in his second term alone. It's far too lengthy to give full credit to here, but just SOME of the achievements he instigated in his role as leader of the country were:

o The provision of a new federal capital to be set up in Canberra
o The Manufacturer's Encouragement Act
o The further development of the Australian Navy
o Compulsory military training for youths
o Establishment of pensions for the aged and disabled
o Construction of a trans-continental railway
o Setting up of Australia's own currency and tarriffs
o Maternity allowance and Worker's Compensation
o Establishment of a government owned Commonwealth Bank
o Expanding the High Court of Australia
o Uniform postal charges
o Breaking up of land monopolies
o Regulations for working hours, wages and employment conditions
o Free medical treatment for children in all state schools

A truly remarkable leader, and one who refused all honours, including France's Legion d'honneur for his war efforts, this Scottish born Australian (rather yummy looking) statesman sadly succumbed to dementia in his last few years, and eventually died of influenze in 1928 at the age of 66.
6. Australia's sixth Prime Minister was one Joseph Cook, who used to be Joseph Cooke, but dropped the "E" when he converted to Primitive Methodism. What was unusual about his early education?

Answer: He didn't have one

Joseph was born in England in 1860 of a poor family and by the time the poor little thing was only nine years old, he was working in the coal mines. How terrible is that? The same age as my little grandson - and he can barely work out how to put his socks on correctly. Yet from that completely inauspicious beginning, the little thing went on to become Prime Minister of a nation. Remarkable indeed.

By the time he was a teenager, he was drawn to Primitive Methodism where, caught up in the spirit of religious fervour, he dropped that excess, though harmless, "E." To be honest, I'd never heard of Primitive Methodism, but looked it up to read that they were a group of charismatic evangelists prone to bouts of public praying, preaching and Love Feasts. You can bet your miner's pick that I couldn't wait to look that up.

I'm sorry to report that his career as an Australian politician was also boring; and he only lasted a year in the top job. He eventually resigned from Parliament in 1921, was appointed Australian High Commissioner in London for a few years, then returned to Australia and died at the ripe old age of 86 in 1947.
7. Billy Hughes was Australia's seventh Prime Minister from 1915, and most of WWI, to 1923. Nobody could ever accuse this feisty little fellow of being boring. In fact he's been described as one of the "most colourful and controversial figures in Australian political history." What nickname did the Australian populace give him?

Answer: Little Digger

Born an only child in London in 1862 of Welsh parents, Hughes migrated to Australia when he was 22, finding work as a labourer, bush worker and cook. Along the way, the naughty man established a common law marriage with the daughter of his landlady, and then he worked in a pharmacy, opened a shop which sold political pamphletts (people actually paid for that stuff?), continued doing odd jobs - and mended umbrellas. By 1892 he was a member of the Socialist League. Oh dear. I strongly suspect that's where he developed his verbal (and probably pugilistic) skills as a great fighter.

This eventually saw him becoming the first national president of the Waterside Workers Union - oh dear again, they were something else believe me - and it was during this period that he studied law and became a barrister. You have to admire him for his sheer tenacity I guess. Eventually he ended up in parliament as the Labor MP for West Sydney, and before he became Prime Minister, was known as the real political brain behind the Labor Party government.

He fought hard to enact conscription to include not just defence of the nation (which was already in place) but also for Australians troops to fight overseas during WWI. This was bitterly, bitterly, contested by all sections of Australian society, and within his own party, and was only just narrowly defeated. Such was the rancour in his party over the issue that Hughes and 24 of the most talented Labor politicians walked out, leaving behind a party of industrialists and unionists. He was subsequently expelled and would always say of this time that "I didn't leave the Labor Party - the party left me."

He set up a new political party and was forced to rely on the opposition to stay in power. This new combination became known as the Nationalist Party of Australia and, such was his concern over the war, he promptly put a second vote to the public on conscription - but again it was defeated. Hughes resigned as leader of the country over this, but because of the critical times in 1917, the Governor-General immediately re-commissioned him as leader. His entire leadership of the country during the troubled times of the war and his frequent clashes with President Wilson at the Treaty of Versailles conference for the rights of the Australian war dead and reparation (which saw Wilson referring to him as that "pestiferous varmint") earned Hughes the title of "Little Digger" from an admiring Australian population.

He served as PM until 1923 and stayed in parliament for a staggering 51 years in all. He changed parties five times during this time, was expelled from three of those, represented four different electorates during his career, and would become the longest serving member of the Australian parliament. Astonishingly, when he was 79, he was once again re-elected party leader of his then current party, the UAP, leading them into, but being defeated, in the 1943 federal election. He died in 1952, still serving his country. His state funeral in Sydney was one of the largest Australia had ever seem, with almost half a million people lining the streets.
8. The eighth Prime Minister, from 1923 to 1929, Stanley Bruce was the first PM to lose his seat during an election. What British honour was bestowed on him after his term as Prime Minister?

Answer: Viscount Bruce of Melbourne

Born in a mansion in Australia in 1883 to a prominent businessman, Bruce (who always looked as though he had a bad smell under his nose) was educated at non-government private schools, and then at Cambridge University, graduating in law. Make no mistake though, the man was no marshmellow. He joined the British army during WWI when war broke out, fighting bravely until he was severely wounded in France in 1917. This earned him the Military Cross and the Croix de guerre. Invalided home to Australia he commenced recruiting campaigns for the army, and his fine public speaking skills in this area eventually led him to parliament as a member of the House of Representatives, and Australian Treasurer.

He became PM in 1923 at the age of 39 and was the first PM to lead a cabinet of all Australian born politicians, even though he himself always retained his rather aristocratic British personality, driving around in a Rolls Royce and always impeccably dressed in top of the range suits and white spats. Whilst in office, he always supported the British Empire, the League of Nations and the White Australia Policy, stating that "We intend to keep this country white and not allow it to be faced with the problems that at present are practically insoluble in many parts of the world."

His term in office was noted for its strikes by waterside workers, mill workers, transport workers, timber industry workers and coal miners - provoking riots and lockouts everywhere. How uncouth. Bruce responded to this by introducing a bill designed to do away with the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration and return powers to the states. It was defeated by only one vote, bringing his government down in 1929 and forcing an election - where he lost his own seat. After his defeat he went to England and contested the 1931 election from there as a member of the new UAP. He won his seat back, making him the first PM to lose his seat at an election and to then win it back under another leader. In 1933, he resigned this post to work in London as the Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom. By 1947 he became the first Australian to be created a hereditary peer by the British government and was made Viscount Bruce of Melbourne - becoming the first Australian to take his seat in the House of Lords. Such was the man's work ethos that at one stage he was on the short list of being considered as United Nations Secretary-General.

He was a brave and honourable man and a fine leader of Australia (in the times he chose to actually live here) but he died in London (surprise, surprise) in 1967 at the age of 84 and, because his marriage had produced no children, his magnificent title promptly became as extinct as the man himself now was. "Golden lads and girls all must, as chimney sweepers come to dust" indeed.
9. What world shattering event happened after the election of our ninth Prime Minister, James Scullin, in 1929?

Answer: Wall Street Crash

Born in 1876 of a poor family, Scullin worked hard at a state school, and then while working as a grocer, studied at night school and in public libraries to increase his knowledge base. He also joined local debating clubs to practise his public speaking skills. You really have to admire people like that who do it all off their own bat without the benefit of being born into wealthy families. He then joined the Labor Party in 1903 and, after becoming an organiser of the Australian Workers Union, also ran a newspaper. By 1922 he had won a Labor seat and from there became leader of the Labor Party. The general election held on 12th Ocotber 1929 was a landslide win for Labor, Scullin became the first Roman Catholic Labor Prime Minister of Australia. He was quite possibly its first non-drinking, non-smoking PM as well!

It was a tough time for Australia during the depression, however, and Scullin had to fight hard to keep his country's head above water. As PM he managed to obtain low interest loans for Australia and pressured Britain (in the face of enormous opposition from the King, the British establishment and the conservative movement at home), into appointing the country's first Australian born Governor General, Sir Isaac Isaacs. This was seen as tantamount to Republicanism, shock, horror! And while he was overseas working on Australia's behalf for six months, his party back in Australia basically made a schemozzle of just about everything.

This would lead to a split within the party from the left - and this saw the government go into the next election at the worst possible time for Labor, which resulted in a resounding defeat in 1931. Scullin stayed on as Labor leader until 1934 and then stepped down from the leadership. He stayed on in parliament until 1949, and died in 1953 at the age of 76. He has gone down in Australian history as an upright, hard-working and conscientious leader who was simply overwhelmed by the world-shattering events of the time.
10. Joseph Lyons was Prime Minister from 1932 to 1939. The son of Irish immigrants, with a father who lost his business through ill health, and with a mother who fought hard to keep the family of eight children together, Joseph still had to leave school at nine to work to help feed the struggling family. He was lucky to have four strong women behind him all his life - his mother, two aunts and his wife. What dubious distinction did this fine leader of the country hold?

Answer: The first Australian Prime Minister to die in office

Joseph's mother was an extraordinary female. Brave and with great endurance, she kept the family together and brought them up to have strong moral values. His two aunts subsequently came to his rescue after he had left school, paid for his education and put him through a training college where he graduated as a teacher. He met his wife when she was only a 15 year old trainee teacher and married her two years later. She was a strong-minded and upright girl who exercised enormous influence over Lyons all his life and together they had a large brood of 11 children.

Lyons, who was born in 1879, became an active trade unionist and member of the Australian Labor Party. From there he was elected to the Tasmanian House of Assembly, eventually becoming Tasmania's leader. He entered Federal Parliament in 1929, but following disagreements with the party, resigned and formed his own political party, the All for Australia League; and then, by merging with others, the United Australia Party. As leader of the new party, with his well known family values, his Irish Catholic and working class background, he won over many traditional Labor voters. In December 1931 his party gained an overwhelming vote in an election and he was sworn in as tenth Prime Minister in 1932; and the first Prime Minister from Tasmania. The United Australia Party won again in 1934 and once more in 1937 while he was leader. However in April, 1939, at the age of only 59, Lyons suddenly died of a heart attack whilst still in office. Because of his popularity, his death caused wide-spread grief in the country.

His wife, Dame Enid Lyons, later entered politics in 1943 in her own right, becoming the first woman in the House of Represenatatives and the first woman to hold a cabinet position. Two of his sons also entered politics in later life (both of them at the state level in Tasmania, Kevin Lyons 1948-1972 and Brendam Lyons 1982-1986). Comically, as a final note, Lyons, who had a very genial nature and possessed a rather relaxed and easy going look to his features, was usually portrayed in the popular press by cartoonists as a sleepy looking koala.
Source: Author Creedy

This quiz was reviewed by FunTrivia editor gtho4 before going online.
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