1974 Australian federal election

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1974 Australian federal election
Flag of Australia (converted).svg
  1972 18 May 1974 1975  

All 127 seats of the House of Representatives
64 seats were needed for a majority in the House
All 60 seats of the Senate
 First partySecond party
  Gough Whitlam - ACF - crop.jpg Billy Snedden 1972.jpg
Leader Gough Whitlam Billy Snedden
Party Labor Liberal/Country coalition
Leader since 8 February 1967 5 December 1972
Leader's seat Werriwa (NSW) Bruce (Vic.)
Last election67 seats58 seats
Seats won66 seats61 seats
Seat changeDecrease2.svg1Increase2.svg3

Australia 1974 federal election.png
Popular vote by state and territory with graphs indicating the number of seats won. As this is an IRV election, seat totals are not determined by popular vote by state or territory but instead via results in each electorate.

Prime Minister before election

Gough Whitlam

Subsequent Prime Minister

Gough Whitlam

The 1974 Australian federal election was held in Australia on 18 May 1974. All 127 seats in the House of Representatives and all 60 seats in the Senate were up for election, due to a double dissolution. The incumbent Labor Party led by Prime Minister Gough Whitlam defeated the opposition Liberal–Country coalition led by Billy Snedden.


Prior to the election the voting age had been reduced from 21 to 18 years. The election was held in conjunction with four referendum questions, none of which were carried.

Future Prime Minister John Howard entered parliament at this election. Snedden became the first Liberal Leader not to serve as prime minister.

Background and issues

Gough Whitlam had been an active prime minister since his party's victory in the 1972 election, and his government had pursued many socially progressive reforms and policies over its first term. However, it suffered through the 1973 oil crisis and the 1973–75 recession and received a hostile reception from the coalition/DLP-controlled Senate, with the last Senate election held in 1970.

Following an attempt by Whitlam to create an extra Senate vacancy in Queensland by appointing former Democratic Labor Party (DLP) Leader, Senator Vince Gair, as Ambassador to the Republic of Ireland, Snedden announced that the opposition would block the Government's supply bills in the Senate. After a great deal of legalistic argumentation in both houses about the Gair Affair, and justified by the failure of six (non-supply) bills to pass the Senate, Whitlam requested and was granted by Governor-General Sir Paul Hasluck a double dissolution under section 57 of the Constitution. The already-announced election date of 18 May was kept. The election focused on Whitlam's first one-and-a-half years in office and whether the Australian public was willing to continue with his reform agenda.


House of Representatives results

Government (66)
Labor (66)

Opposition (61)
Liberal (40)
Country (21) Australian House of Representatives elected members, 1974.svg
Government (66)
     Labor (66)

Opposition (61)
     Liberal (40)
     Country (21)
House of Reps (IRV) — 1974–75 – Turnout 95.42% (CV) — Informal 1.92%
  Labor 3,644,11049.30−0.2966−1
  Liberal–Country coalition 3,379,54545.73+4.2561+3
  Liberal 2,582,96834.95+2.9140+2
  Country 736,2529.96+0.5221+1
  National Alliance  60,3250.82+0.820-2
  Australia 172,1762.33−0.0900
  Democratic Labor 104,9741.42−3.8300
  Liberal Movement 57,8170.78+0.7800
  Socialist 1,1320.02+0.0000
  Republican 9340.01+0.0100
  Communist 5390.01–0.1100
  Independents 29,7790.40–0.5600
 Total7,391,006  127+2
Two-party-preferred (estimated)
  Labor WIN51.70−1.0066−1
  Liberal–Country coalition  48.30+1.0061+3

Popular Vote
Two Party Preferred Vote
Parliament Seats

Senate results

Government (29)
Labor (29)

Opposition (29)
Liberal (23)
Country (6)

Crossbench (2)
Liberal Movement (1)
Independent (1) Australian Senate elected members, 1974.svg
Government (29)
     Labor (29)

Opposition (29)
     Liberal (23)
     Country (6)

Crossbench (2)
     Liberal Movement (1)
     Independent (1)
    Senate (STV) — 1974–75 – Turnout 95.50% (CV) — Informal 10.77%
    PartyVotes%SwingSeats WonSeats HeldChange
      Labor 3,127,19747.29+5.082929+3
      Liberal–Country coalition 2,901,45443.88+5.702929+3
     Liberal–Country joint ticket2,298,81634.77+15.2616**
      Liberal 516,9197.82−9.791223+2
      National Alliance 55,3010.84+0.841**
      Country 30,4180.46–0.6006+1
      Democratic Labor 235,3433.56−7.5500–5
      Australia 92,1071.39−1.51000
      Liberal Movement 63,0320.95+0.9511+1
      National Liberal 23,9650.36+0.36000
      Communist 20,5830.31+0.31000
      United Christian 3,9770.06+0.06000
      United Tasmania 2,0510.03+0.03000
      National Socialist 1,8100.03–0.40000
      Republican 4840.01+0.01000
      Social Credit 3790.01+0.01000
      Independents 140,0032.12+0.4111–2
     Total6,612,385  6060

    Seats changing hands

    Canning, WA  National Alliance John Hallett N/A26.114.3 Mel Bungey Liberal 
    Henty, Vic  Liberal Max Fox Joan Child Labor 
    Hume, NSW  Labor Frank Olley Stephen Lusher Country 
    Isaacs, Vic  Liberal David Hamer Gareth Clayton Labor 
    Lilley, Qld  Labor Frank Doyle Kevin Cairns Liberal 
    Mitchell, NSW  Labor Alfred Ashley-Brown Alan Cadman Liberal 
    Moore, WA  National Alliance Don Maisey N/A1.410.5 John Hyde Liberal 
    Riverina, NSW  Labor Al Grassby John Sullivan Country 
    Wide Bay, Qld  Labor Brendan Hansen Clarrie Millar Country 


    Election result

    The Whitlam Government had been re-elected with their majority in the House of Representatives reduced from 9 to 5 seats, while they gained 5 seats in the Senate. The ALP and the coalition each won 29 seats in the 60 member Senate, with the balance of power held by Steele Hall of the Liberal Movement, and Michael Townley, a conservative independent. The Democratic Labor Party, which had been rendered obselete by the election of the Whitlam government in 1972, lost all five of its Senate seats. [1]

    Al Grassby who served as Minister for Immigration in the Labor Whitlam Government lost his seat. Grassby's actions as immigration minister attracted criticism from anti-immigration groups, led by the Immigration Control Association, which targeted his electorate in a campaign at the May 1974 election. Partly as a result, Grassby was defeated by the National Party candidate, John Sullivan, by just 792 votes. Grassby and his supporters accused these groups of mounting a smear campaign against him. [2]

    Joint sitting

    The re-elected Whitlam government's failure again to gain a majority in the Senate led to the 1974 joint sitting, Australia's only joint sitting, pursuant to section 57 of the Constitution. It was approved by the new governor-general Sir John Kerr after the bills were presented to the new parliament and were rejected a third time. It was held three months after the election, on 6–7 August, and it enabled the six bills that had been thrice rejected by the Senate to be passed. The Health Insurance bills were both passed on party lines, 95–92, the Petroleum and Minerals Authority legislation also passed on party lines, though with one Liberal Party member absent. Liberal Movement Senator Steele Hall supported the three Electoral bills, citing his experience as Liberal Premier of South Australia, where he had fought his own party in an effort to improve unequal electoral arrangements dubbed the Playmander. Northern Territory Country Party MP Sam Calder supported the Territory Senators legislation, though he opposed the ACT being given added representation. [3]

    Subsequent changes

    In February 1975, the independent senator Michael Townley joined the Liberal party. This gave the Coalition 30 out of 60 Senators, with 29 Labor and 1 Liberal Movement (Steele Hall).

    Later in 1975, two Coalition premiers would break longstanding convention in the replacement of two ALP senators. Lionel Murphy, who had resigned to take up an appointment to the High Court, was replaced by independent Cleaver Bunton; and Bertie Milliner, who had died, was replaced by Albert Field, an ALP member who was opposed to Whitlam. Bunton (along with Hall) refused to vote against supply, but Field was prepared to. Field took his seat in the Senate as an Independent on 9 September. Due to a High Court challenge to his appointment, he was on leave from the Senate, unable to exercise a vote, from 1 October 1975, which reduced the number of sitting senators to 59. This gave the Coalition an effective majority, holding 30 of the 59, allowing them to block supply in the Senate to pave the way for the 1975 Australian constitutional crisis.

    See also

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    1. Fred Daly, From Curtin to Kerr, 1977, Sun Books, Sydney.
    2. "Whitlam government minister Al Grassby dies". The Sydney Morning Herald . Fairfax Media. 23 April 2005. Retrieved 6 August 2010.
    3. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 17 October 2007.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)