1961 Australian federal election

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1961 Australian federal election
Flag of Australia (converted).svg
  1958 9 December 1961 1963  

All 122 seats of the House of Representatives
62 seats were needed for a majority in the House
31 (of the 60) seats of the Senate
 First partySecond party
  RobertMenzies.jpg Arthur Calwell 1966.jpg
Leader Robert Menzies Arthur Calwell
Party Liberal/Country coalition Labor
Leader since 23 September 1943 7 March 1960
Leader's seat Kooyong (Vic.) Melbourne (Vic.)
Last election77 seats45 seats
Seats won62 seats60 seats
Seat changeDecrease2.svg15Increase2.svg15
Popular vote2,208,2132,512,929
Percentage49.50%50.50%
SwingDecrease2.svg4.60%Increase2.svg4.60%

Australia 1961 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

Robert Menzies
Liberal/Country coalition

Subsequent Prime Minister

Robert Menzies
Liberal/Country coalition

The 1961 Australian federal election was held in Australia on 9 December 1961. All 122 seats in the House of Representatives and 31 of the 60 seats in the Senate were up for election. The incumbent Liberal–Country coalition led by Prime Minister Robert Menzies defeated the opposition Labor Party under Arthur Calwell, despite losing the two-party-preferred popular vote. In his first election as Labor leader, Calwell significantly reduced the Coalition's margin, gaining 15 seats to leave the government with only a one-seat majority. This was the first and only time that a Federal Government won a sixth consecutive term in office.

Contents

Future opposition leader and Governor General Bill Hayden entered parliament at this election.

Issues

Due to a credit squeeze, the economy had gone into a brief recession in 1961 and unemployment had risen to high levels. This saw an increase in popularity for Labor; Menzies' case was not helped by an approach seen by the press, notably The Sydney Morning Herald , as inappropriately paternalistic.[ citation needed ] The Herald, which had long supported Menzies, switched sides to support Calwell and Labor, which gave Calwell the confidence to mount a spirited campaign. These factors were enough to see a swing against the Menzies Government.

Results

House of Representatives

House of Reps (IRV) — 1961–63—Turnout 95.27% (CV) — Informal 2.57%
1961 Australian House.svg
PartyVotes %SwingSeatsChange
  Labor 2,512,92947.90+5.0960+15
  Liberal–Country coalition 2,208,21342.09–4.4662–15
  Liberal  1,761,73833.58–3.6545–13
  Country  446,4758.51–0.8117–2
  Democratic Labor 399,4757.61–0.1900
  Queensland Labor 57,4871.10–0.5000
  Communist 25,4290.48–0.0500
  Commonwealth Centre 6,7430.13+0.1300
  Independents 35,7570.68+0.0500
 Total5,246,033  122
Two-party-preferred (estimated)
  Liberal–Country coalition WIN49.50–4.6062–15
  Labor 50.50+4.6060+15
Popular Vote
Labor
47.90%
Liberal
33.58%
DLP/QLP
8.71%
Country
8.51%
Other
1.29%
Two Party Preferred Vote
Labor
50.50%
Coalition
49.50%
Parliament Seats
Coalition
50.82%
Labor
49.18%

Senate

Senate (STV) — 1961–64—Turnout 95.27% (CV) — Informal 10.62%
1961 Australian Senate.svg
PartyVotes %SwingSeats WonSeats HeldChange
  Labor 2,151,33944.71+1.931428+2
  Liberal–Country coalition 2,025,07842.08–3.121630–2
 Liberal–Country joint ticket1,595,69633.16+9.798**
  Liberal (separate ticket)398,2928.28–12.41724–1
  Country (separate ticket)31,0900.65–0.5016–1
  Democratic Labor 388,4668.07+2.2501–1
  Queensland Labor 84,1121.75+0.09000
  Communist 78,1881.62–1.29000
  Social Credit 17,9630.37+0.37000
  Republican 10,5890.22+0.14000
 Other10,0290.21+0.21000
  Independent 46,4990.97+0.5411+1
 Total4,812,263  3160
Notes

Seats changing hands

SeatPre-1961SwingPost-1961
PartyMemberMarginMarginMemberParty
Bowman, Qld  Liberal Malcolm McColm 6.18.01.9 Jack Comber Labor 
Canning, WA  Country Len Hamilton N/A65.715.7 Neil McNeill Liberal 
Capricornia, Qld  Liberal Henry Pearce 7.710.75.0 George Gray Labor 
Cowper, NSW  Country Earle Page 11.112.91.8 Frank McGuren Labor 
Evans, NSW  Liberal Frederick Osborne 7.07.10.1 James Monaghan Labor 
Griffith, Qld  Liberal Arthur Chresby 0.17.47.3 Wilfred Coutts Labor 
Herbert, Qld  Liberal John Murray 1.53.82.3 Ted Harding Labor 
Hume, NSW  Country Charles Anderson 2.13.00.9 Arthur Fuller Labor 
Kalgoorlie, WA  Liberal Peter Browne 0.30.90.6 Fred Collard Labor 
Lilley, Qld  Liberal Bruce Wight 11.913.21.3 Don Cameron Labor 
Mitchell, NSW  Liberal Roy Wheeler 8.011.43.4 John Armitage Labor 
Moore, WA  Liberal Hugh Halbert 2.94.21.3 Hugh Leslie Country 
Oxley, Qld  Liberal Donald Cameron 5.99.43.5 Bill Hayden Labor 
Petrie, Qld  Liberal Alan Hulme 10.511.20.7 Reginald O'Brien Labor 
Phillip, NSW  Liberal William Aston 1.93.31.4 Syd Einfeld Labor 
Stirling, WA  Liberal Doug Cash 0.20.50.3 Harry Webb Labor 
Wide Bay, Qld  Country Henry Bandidt 4.39.55.2 Brendan Hansen Labor 

Significance

For a long time, the 1961 election remained the closest Federal election in Australian history, with the Coalition being reduced to a one-seat majority. Despite not having a majority of seats in New South Wales and Queensland the Coalition retained all of their seats in Victoria and could retain power. [1] The election was decided in the seats of Bruce near Melbourne and Moreton near Brisbane.

In Bruce, Labor's Keith Ewert led Liberal Billy Snedden on the first count, but on the second count more than two-thirds of the DLP's preferences flowed to Snedden, enough to give him the victory. [2]

However, the Coalition was not ensured of a sixth term in government until Jim Killen won Moreton by only 130 votes. [3] Labor actually won 62 seats, the same as the Coalition. However, without Bruce, the best Labor could hope for was a hung parliament, since two of its seats were in ACT and Northern Territory. At the time, territorial MPs had limited voting rights and were not counted for the purpose of determining who was to form government. The record for the closest election in Australia's history was eventually beaten by the 2010 election, which was a 72-72 seat draw.

The most notable casualty was Earle Page, the third-longest serving MP in Australia's history, and briefly Prime Minister. He had been the member for Cowper since 1919. Although he was 81 years old and gravely ill with lung cancer, he decided to fight his 17th general election. His Labor opponent, Frank McGuren, needed a seemingly daunting 11-point swing to win the seat, but won by a slim three-point margin on the second count. Page, who had been too sick to actively campaign, died 11 days after the election without ever knowing he had been defeated.

See also

Notes

  1. Megalogenis, George (25 June 2021). "Hard lessons: On unis, Coalition has embraced Howard's way". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 27 June 2021.
  2. 1961 election results in Victoria from Adam Carr's election archive
  3. Bartlett, Andrew (17 January 2007). "Sir James Killen: Moreton, Menzies and Mythology". The Bartlett Diaries. Archived from the original on 5 May 2007. Retrieved 15 May 2007.

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References