Australia in the 1920s

Jim Scullin and the labour movement

The Commonwealth Electoral Act 1924 (Cth) was passed in July 1924, and the first election in which compulsory voting was used on a national level was in 1925.

In 1927, the Australasian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) was formed.

In 1929, the Australian Labor Party (ALP) led by James Scullin defeated the Bruce–Page coalition government. Scullin became the first Irish-Catholic prime minister. During the First World War years, he had opposed conscription and supported Ireland's nationalist struggle against Britain. Later he helped the ALP to commit to the aim of a complete 'socialisation' of Australian industry. Throughout the 1920s, he became more moderate, helping to make the ALP more attractive to conservative elements of the Australian population.

In late October 1929, two days after Scullin was sworn in as prime minister, the Wall Street crash in New York triggered the Great Depression. It took nearly two decades for Australia's economic reconstruction to be completed.

James Scullin, prime minister between 1929 and 1932

A snapshot of 1928

  • February
    • Bert Hinkler landed in Darwin after taking about 15 days for the first solo flight from Britain to Australia.

  • May
    • Charles Kingsford Smith flew across the Pacific Ocean from Oakland, California to Brisbane in 10 days.
    • Reverend John Flynn started flying doctors and nurses to the outback as a precursor to the first Royal Flying Doctor Service, which would be established in 1942.

  • June
    • The Commonwealth Savings Bank of Australia was established as a separate entity.

  • August
    • Australian Iron and Steel began production with a blast furnace in Port Kembla.

  • December
    • Speedo produced its first swimsuit and Aeroplane Jelly was launched.


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