1949 Australian federal election

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1949 Australian federal election
Flag of Australia (converted).svg
  1946 10 December 1949 1951  

All 121 seats of the House of Representatives
61 seats were needed for a majority in the House
42 (of the 60) seats of the Senate
 First partySecond party
  Portrait Menzies 1950s.jpg Benchifley.jpg
Leader Robert Menzies Ben Chifley
Party Liberal/Country coalition Labor
Leader since 23 September 1943 13 July 1945
Leader's seat Kooyong (Vic.) Macquarie (NSW)
Last election26 seats43 seats
Seats won74 seats47 seats
Seat changeIncrease2.svg48Increase2.svg4
Percentage51.00%49.00%
SwingIncrease2.svg5.10%Decrease2.svg5.10%

Australia 1949 federal election.png
Popular vote by state with graphs indicating the number of seats won. As this is an IRV election, seat totals are not determined by popular vote by state but instead via results in each electorate.

Prime Minister before election

Ben Chifley
Labor

Subsequent Prime Minister

Robert Menzies
Liberal/Country coalition

The 1949 Australian federal election was held in Australia on 10 December 1949. All 121 seats in the House of Representatives and 42 of the 60 seats in the Senate were up for election. The incumbent Labor Party, led by Prime Minister Ben Chifley, was defeated by the opposition Liberal–Country coalition under Robert Menzies. Menzies became prime minister for a second time, his first term having ended in 1941. This election marked the end of the 8 year Curtin-Chifley Labor Government that had been in power since 1941 and started the 23 year Liberal/Country Coalition Government. This was the first time the Liberal party won government at the federal level.

Contents

The number of MPs in both houses had been increased at the election, and single transferable vote under a proportional voting system had been introduced in the Senate. Though Labor lost government, Labor retained a Senate majority at the election. However, this ended at the 1951 election. With the Senate changes in place, Labor has not held a Senate majority since.

Future Prime Ministers William McMahon and John Gorton both entered parliament at this election.

Issues

The election hinged on the policies of the Federal Labor Government, especially bank nationalisation. Prime Minister Chifley intended to bring all of the banks under Government control, a socialist policy which the Coalition argued was not in the country's interest. The Coalition promised to end unpopular wartime rationing. The election took place against the background of the 1949 Australian coal strike, the developing Cold War and growing fears of communism.

Robert Menzies broke new ground in using the radio as his primary method of reaching voters. [1]

Results

House of Representatives

Labor: 47 seats
Liberal Party: 55 seats
Country: 19 seats Australian Federal Election, 1949.svg
  Labor: 47 seats
  Liberal Party: 55 seats
  Country: 19 seats
House of Reps (IRV) — 1949–51—Turnout 95.97% (CV) — Informal 1.99%
PartyVotes%SwingSeatsChange
  Liberal–Country coalition 2,314,14350.26+6.6174+45
  Liberal  1,813,79439.39+6.4455+37
  Country  500,34910.87+0.1719+8
  Labor 2,117,08845.98–3.7347+4
  Communist 40,9410.89–0.6000
  Lang Labor 32,8700.71–0.880–1
  Independents 99,3682.16+0.340–1
 Total4,604,410  121+47
Two-party-preferred (estimated)
  Liberal–Country coalition WIN51.00+5.1074+45
  Labor 49.00−5.1047+4
Popular Vote
Labor
45.98%
Liberal
39.39%
Country
10.87%
Independent/Other
3.76%
Two Party Preferred Vote
Coalition
51.00%
Labor
49.00%
Parliament Seats
Coalition
61.16%
Labor
38.84%

Senate

Senate (STV) — 1949–51—Turnout 95.97% (CV) — Informal 10.76%
PartyVotes%SwingSeats WonSeats HeldChange
  Liberal–Country coalition 2,113,44750.41+7.082326+23
 Liberal–Country joint ticket1,871,84944.65+6.5316N/AN/A
  Liberal 241,5985.76+0.55721+19
  Country N/AN/AN/A05+4
  Labor 1,881,95644.89–7.171934+1
  Communist 87,9582.10+2.10000
  Protestant People's 37,4410.89–2.13000
  Independents / Ungrouped 71,7231.71+1.03000
 Total4,192,525  4260+24

Seats changing hands

SeatPre-1949SwingPost-1949
PartyMemberMarginMarginMemberParty
Australian Capital Territory, ACT new division3.8 Lewis Nott Independent 
Ballaarat, Vic  Labor Reg Pollard 3.13.10.4 Alan Pittard Liberal 
Bass, Tas  Labor Claude Barnard 7.06.80.6 Bruce Kekwick Liberal 
Blaxland, NSW  Lang Labornotional - new seatN/A53.43.4 Jim Harrison Labor 
Bowman, Qld  Labornotional - new seatN/A1.43.8 Malcolm McColm Liberal 
Corio, Vic  Labor John Dedman 7.26.70.3 Hubert Opperman Liberal 
Curtin, WA  Labornotional - new seatN/A13.811.2 Paul Hasluck Liberal 
Darling Downs, Qld  Country Arthur Fadden N/A1.912.5 Reginald Swartz Liberal 
Dawson, Qld  Labornotional - new seatN/A9.88.6 Charles Davidson Country 
Denison, Tas  Labor Frank Gaha 7.010.95.1 Athol Townley Liberal 
Farrer, NSW  Countrynotional - new seatN/A58.88.8 David Fairbairn Liberal 
Forrest, WA  Labor Nelson Lemmon 2.34.42.8 Gordon Freeth Liberal 
Gwydir, NSW  Labor William Scully 1.29.25.1 Thomas Treloar Country 
Hume, NSW  Labor Arthur Fuller 4.25.91.0 Charles Anderson Country 
Indi, Vic  Country John McEwen N/A59.79.7 William Bostock Liberal 
Kingston, SA  Labornotional - new seatN/A8.41.6 Jim Handby Liberal 
Lawson, NSW  Labornotional - new seatN/A7.65.8 Laurie Failes Country 
Leichhardt, Qld  Labornotional - new seatN/A9.21.7 Tom Gilmore Country 
Lowe, NSW  Labornotional - new seatN/A9.08.5 William McMahon Liberal 
McMillan, Vic  Countrynotional - new seatN/A6.16.9 Geoffrey Brown Liberal 
McPherson, Qld  Liberalnotional - new seatN/A5.124.2 Arthur Fadden Country 
Mitchell, NSW  Labornotional - new seatN/A12.86.9 Roy Wheeler Liberal 
Northern Territory, NT  Independent Adair Blain N/A8.62.7 Jock Nelson Labor 
Paterson, NSW  Labornotional - new seatN/A8.68.5 Allen Fairhall Liberal 
Riverina, NSW  Labor Joe Langtry 0.63.83.5 Hugh Roberton Country 
Robertson, NSW  Labor Thomas Williams 3.811.54.2 Roger Dean Liberal 
St George, NSW  Labornotional - new seatN/A16.22.0 Bill Graham Liberal 
Sturt, SA  Labornotional - new seatN/A8.92.8 Keith Wilson Liberal 
Swan, WA  LabornotionalN/A10.22.4 Bill Grayden Liberal 
Wannon, Vic  Labor Don McLeod 1.23.80.8 Dan Mackinnon Liberal 
Wimmera, Vic  Country Winton Turnbull N/A5.614.9 William Lawrence Liberal 

Electoral reform

As of this election, single transferable vote with proportional representation became the method for electing the Senate. This was to try to prevent the Senate from being dominated by one party, which had often occurred previously. For example, coming into this election the ALP held 33 of the 36 Senate seats, whilst the conservatives at the 1919 election held 35 of the 36 Senate seats. In addition, the House of Representatives was enlarged from 74 to 121 seats and the Senate from 36 members to 60 members. All 121 lower house seats, and 42 of the 60 upper house seats, were up for election.

Significance

The Chifley Government was defeated, ending the longest period of Labor Federal Government in Australian history up to that date (1941–49). Labor would not return to office until 1972. Robert Menzies became Prime Minister for the second time, and the Liberal Party of Australia won government federally for the first time.

See also

Notes

  1. Ian Ward, "The early use of radio for political communication in Australia and Canada: John Henry Austral, Mr Sage and the Man from Mars," Australian Journal of Politics & History (1999) 45#3 pp 311–30. online

Sources

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