Preferential Voting In Federal Elections Is One Hundred Years Old Today

Today is the one-hundredth anniversary of the Corangamite by-election, the first time preferential voting was used in the House of Representatives.

Coincidentally, yesterday was the 99th anniversary of the eighth federal election in 1919, and the first to use preferential voting in place of first-past-the-post.

As with many by-elections, including the seven that have been held in 2018, the by-election following the declaration of peace is an interesting study of politics and personality. The three main candidates went on to experience varied political careers.

Based around Colac, Camperdown, Ararat and Warrnambool, the Victorian electorate of Corangamite had been mostly conservative since 1901. The by-election was occasioned by the death of its inaugural member, Chester Manifold (shown below), who twice held the seat, from 1901-03 as a Protectionist and from 1913-18 as a Liberal and Nationalist.

Manifold
Chester Manifold

Having retired due to ill health in 1903, Manifold was persuaded to run again in 1913. He defeated the 36-year-old Labor incumbent, future prime minister James Scullin (shown below), who had held the seat since 1910. As the Great War drew to a close, Manifold died at sea from pneumonia on October 30, 1918. The Commonwealth Electoral Act was before the Parliament at the time, with preferential voting a major reform.

Scullin
James Scullin

The by-election was held a month after the Armistice. Five candidates nominated, including Scullin, who contested for the ALP again, topping the primary vote with 42.5% (10,630 votes). Scullin’s political ambitions were long-held. He contested his first election in Ballaarat in 1906, against the sitting member and prime minister Alfred Deakin.

The Nationalist candidate for the by-election was 32-year-old George Knox. A Gallipoli veteran, he polled 22.9% (5,737 votes).

However, Knox was outpolled by 49-year-old William Gibson (shown below), the Victorian Farmers Union candidate, who polled 26.4% (6,604 votes). Whilst Scullin was well ahead, he could not win, provided the Nationalists and VFU exchanged preferences. From the non-Labor perspective, the need for preferential voting to apply a tourniquet to the bleeding of the anti-Labor vote was never more clearly illustrated.

Gibson
William Gibson

In addition to Gibson, Knox and Scullin, two independent Nationalist candidates nominated. It is reasonable to suspect that their aim was tactical, to funnel votes to Knox. The tactic had mixed success. We can never know, but Knox may have won if they had not run.

Thomas Leaper, a Nationalist representing the Returned Services, polled 3.6% (895 votes). Eliminated first, 52.8% of his preferences went to Knox and 23.5% to Gibson. Gibson remained ahead but the gap had narrowed. Scullin remained in first place, having scored just 11.4% (102 votes) of Leaper’s preferences.

The other independent Nationalist, Francis Coldham, polled 4.7% (1,174) of the primary vote. 50% of Coldham’s preferences went directly to Knox, whilst Gibson garnered 47%. Scullin scored just 35 of Coldham’s preferences but remained in the lead with 43.0%.

The majority of Leaper’s and Coldham’s preferences had gone to Knox, but the leakage of preferences to the VFU maintained Gibson in second place. Gibson now had 29.6% of the vote to Scullin’s 43.0%. Knox had 27.4% and 6,855 preferences to distribute.

Knox’s preferences flowed 97.4% (6,678 votes) to Gibson, with Scullin getting just 2.6% (177 votes). From second place on the primaries, 3,349 votes behind Scullin, Gibson leap-frogged into the lead with the final distribution of preferences. With a lead of 3,152 votes and 56.3% of the two-party vote, he became the first federal member elected under preferential voting.

The full distribution of preferences in Corangamite. Source: Psephos.

Corangamite

Gibson is generally regarded as the first Country Party member of the House, even though the party had not yet officially formed. Within four years, the Country Party would win the balance of power in the House and take down prime minister Billy Hughes in February 1923.

Gibson went on to become Postmaster-General and Minister for Works and Railways in the Bruce government (1923-29). He held Corangamite until defeated in 1929, but returned for one more term in 1931. In 1934, he ran for the Senate and spent 12 years in the upper house before retiring in 1947, aged 78. He died in 1955, aged 86.

George Knox (shown below) went on to represent Upper Yarra and Scoresby in the Victorian Legislative Assembly from 1927 until his death at the age of 74 in 1960. He was knighted and was Speaker for five years in the 1940s. A resident and local government councillor in the eastern Melbourne suburb of Ferntree Gully, the municipality of Knox is named after him. I happen to be in Knox as I write this.

Knox
Sir George Knox

In 1922, four years after the Corangamite by-election, Scullin returned to the House of Representatives, winning the Yarra by-election that followed the death of ALP leader Frank Tudor.

Scullin would become prime minister for two chaotic and tumultuous years in 1929. His was a tragic prime ministership, culminating in a three-way split in the ALP that led to his defeat in 1931 at the hands of six defectors led by Joseph Lyons, and five NSW Lang Labor members informally led by Jack Beasley. Catastrophically defeated at the 1931 election, Scullin contested one more election as ALP leader in 1934. He remained in parliament until 1949, often mentoring new members. He died in 1953.

With Australia’s federation still in its infancy, the lives of Gibson, Knox and Scullin intersected in Corangamite in 1918. The party system was still fluid and evolving. Could these men have realised that the voting system they were pioneering at the federal level would ensure the dominance of their respective political parties for another century?

Acknowledgement: The photographs on this page were taken from Psephos.


Julia Banks (Lib-Chisholm) Turns Independent

The member for the Victorian electorate of Chisholm, Julia Banks, has announced that she is resigning from the Liberal Party to sit as an independent in the House of Representatives, plunging the Morrison government further into minority status.

Banks had previously announced that she would not contest Chisholm again as a Liberal. She has suggested she might run in Chisholm, or elsewhere, as an independent.

Banks won Chisholm at the 2016 federal election. It was the only seat the Liberal Party captured from the Labor Party. The ALP’s Anna Burke had held the seat since 1998.

A redistribution means the redrawn Chisholm will be based around the suburbs of Box Hill, Blackburn, Mount Waverley and Glen Waverley. It has a notional Liberal majority of 3.4%. Last Saturday’s Victorian state election saw the seats of Box Hill and Mount Waverley lost by the Liberal Party to the ALP with swings of 7.5% and 6.0% respectively. The Blackburn-based electorate of Forest Hill, whilst retained by the Liberal Party, registered a 3.0% swing to the ALP.

Bank’s announcement in the House came at the beginning of the day’s proceedings. It coincided with a press conference by Prime Minister Scott Morrison. The coalition government now holds just 74 of the 150 seats in the House, having already lost former PM Malcolm Turnbull’s seat of Wentworth to Dr Kerryn Phelps, also an independent. There are now seven crossbenchers in the House. The ALP has 69 seats.

  • Listen to Banks’ statement (5m)
  • Watch Bank’s statement (5m)

Hansard transcript of statement by Julia Banks, former Liberal member for Chisholm.

Ms BANKS (Chisholm) (12:01): Mr Speaker, on indulgence, may I make a personal statement?

The SPEAKER: Yes, the member for Chisholm may proceed.

Ms BANKS: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Following the leadership coup in August, I announced my decision that I will not recontest the seat of Chisholm at the next election as a member of the Liberal Party. I’ve always put the people before the party. After being a Labor held seat for 18 years, the people of Chisholm elected me as I promised them that I would be their representative under the leadership of the former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and former deputy leader and foreign minister Julie Bishop—both visionary, inspiring leaders of sensible, centrist, liberal values with integrity and intellect, and with significant support from my local community, and across Australia, as leaders of our nation. [Read more…]


Dr Kerryn Phelps (Ind-Wentworth) – First Speech To The House Of Representatives

Dr Kerryn Phelps has given her first speech to the House of Representatives, after being sworn in this morning.

Phelps

Dr Phelps, 60, is the independent member for Wentworth. She replaces the former prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, who resigned on August 31 after he was overthrown by the Liberal Party. Phelps won the October 20 by-election, securing a two-candidate vote of 51.22%, off a primary vote of 29.19%. The Liberal Party primary vote declined by 19.18% to 43.08%. The two-party-preferred vote was 60.75% to the Liberals and 39.25% to the ALP, a swing of 7.0%.

Phelps is the first woman to represent Wentworth since Federation in 1901. For its entire history, the seat had been represented by the non-Labor parties in their various incarnations.

The first woman to be elected President of the Australian Medical Association, Phelps has operated a medical practice in the Wentworth electorate for the last twenty years. Elected to the Sydney City Council, on the Clover Moore ticket, in 2017, she served for a year as Deputy Lord Mayor.

Phelps has been a prominent campaigner for the cause of same-sex marriage and gender equality. She supported the Yes case in the 2017 plebiscite.

  • Listen to Phelps’ speech (27m)
  • Watch Phelps’ speech (30m)
  • Watch Phelps’ swearing-in (6m)
  • ?

    Hansard transcript of the first speech by Dr Kerryn Phelps, independent member for Wentworth.

    Mr CHESTER (Gippsland—Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Minister for Defence Personnel, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC and Deputy Leader of the House) (15:12): by leave—I move:

    That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent the Member for Wentworth making a statement immediately and that the Member speak without limitation of time.

    Question agreed to.

    The SPEAKER: Before I call the honourable member for Wentworth, I remind the House that this is the honourable member’s first speech. I ask the House to extend to her the usual courtesies. [Read more…]


Until The Bell Rings – Speech By Prime Minister Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has made his first major speech to a gathering of Liberals in Albury, the birthplace of the modern Liberal Party.

Morrison

Morrison spoke at a function organised by the Menzies Institute. He was introduced by newly-reinstated parliamentary secretary, Assistant Minister for Regional Development and Territories, Sussan Ley.

Billed as a “headland” speech, Morrison delivered the speech without notes. He outlined no new policies. The speech touched briefly upon Liberal ideas such as community, home ownership and freedom.

  • Listen to Morrison’s speech (29m)

Official transcript of Scott Morrison’s speech in Albury.

Thank you very much Sussan for the very warm welcome to Jenny and I, and to my senior colleagues here particularly my Deputy Leader here, Josh Frydenberg and I, the ‘ScoJo’ team, as we’ve been dubbed amongst other things. I don’t know if that one will stick Josh, but let’s see how we go. Can I also acknowledge the Indigenous people and the land on which we stand and where we meet today, and acknowledge elders past and present and pay my respects to them, our first Australians.

I like rituals. I’m a keen fan of rituals. I try and create rituals in my family, Jen and I, we have a number of rituals with our kids. We had them when I was growing up as a kid. They’re important because they help you connect and remind you about the things that matter most. They connect you to your past, and they help you connect your past to your future. Just as Indigenous peoples have been doing for centuries, thousands of years. I like rituals. [Read more…]


Which Former Prime Minister Made The Quickest Departure From Parliament?

On September 1, The Weekend Australian published this list of prime ministers ordered by the time they remained in parliament after leaving the prime ministership.

Unfortunately, the newspaper has made a number of mistakes in the table.

The Australian

 

The most important error in ordering this list is the misunderstanding about the correct dates for the terms of members of parliament. A member’s term begins on their date of election. A member’s term ends on the day they resign or die. The term of a retiring member, or one who has lost pre-selection, ends when the parliament is dissolved ahead of an election. Only members re-elected at general elections are deemed to have continuous service. Election day is the final day for members who recontest and are defeated.

The lesson here, which I also learned the hard way, is not to rely on Wikipedia when checking dates. It is mostly correct for Australian MPs but there are crucial errors. The most reliable source is the current 45th edition of the Parliamentary Handbook.

*

1. Andrew Fisher Should Be First

Andrew Fisher resigned from parliament on October 26, 1915. He resigned his third, and final, term as prime minister the following day, October 27. He is the only prime minister to have resigned his seat before resigning the prime ministership, and should be listed first on the table.

Note: Under Section 64 of the Constitution, an individual can spend three months as a minister before they need to become a member of parliament. Fisher’s position on October 27, 1915, was completely constitutional.

Fisher left to become Australia’s second High Commissioner to London, succeeding former PM George Reid. The table says Fisher departed parliament on December 11, but this was the date of the by-election for his Queensland seat of Wide Bay. Fisher’s three listings on the table should each be reduced by 46 days.

*

2. Edmund Barton Beat Malcolm Turnbull

The table places Turnbull in first position, since he resigned from parliament seven days after losing the prime ministership.

Australia’s first prime minister, Edmund Barton, is listed in eighth position, having resigned from parliament on December 16, 1903, ninety-three days after he left the prime ministership. However, December 16 was the date of the general election that year, not the day Barton resigned. Barton had stood down from the prime ministership on September 24. He resigned his NSW seat of Hunter six days later, on September 30. Barton, therefore, should be listed second on the table, ahead of Turnbull.

Barton’s resignation was necessitated by his appointment as one of the three inaugural justices of the High Court. He was sworn in on October 5, 1903. Richard O’Connor resigned from the Senate on September 27 and was also appointed to the High Court on October 5. The Chief Justice, Sir Samuel Griffith, also took office on October 5, having resigned as Chief Justice of Queensland the day before.

*

3. Fraser Moved Fast

Malcolm Fraser resigned from parliament on March 31, 1983, having lost the March 5 election. The table lists his departure as May 7, but this was the date of the by-election to fill his seat of Wannon.

Fraser left parliament twenty days after relinquishing the prime ministership on March 11. Accordingly, he belongs in fourth place on the table, behind Barton and Turnbull.

Thanks to @theredandblue for alerting me to this one, which led me to examine all the dates.

*

4. Sir Robert Menzies Had A Second Term And Departed Quite Quickly

The table shows Menzies’ first term – notating it as (1) – and points out that he remained in parliament for another 8,938 days.

However, the table omits his long second term of 16 years, 1 month, 7 days. Menzies relinquished the prime ministership on January 26, 1966 and resigned his Victorian seat of Kooyong on February 17, twenty-two days later.

Menzies, therefore, should be listed in fifth position on the table, after Fraser.

*

5. George Reid Was Already In London

George Reid resigned from parliament on December 24, 1909. This was to enable him to become Australia’s first High Commissioner to London on January 22, 1910. The table says he left parliament on April 13, 1910, but this was the date of the general election. Reid’s 1,773 days should be reduced by 110 days, moving him up one place on the list, ahead of Gorton.

*

6. What Have They Done With Bruce?

Stanley Melbourne Bruce poses a singular problem for placement on this list. Having lost the 1929 election and his Victorian seat of Flinders, Bruce was returned as the member for Flinders at the 1931 election. Given that he did not serve a second term as prime minister, should he even be on the list? Like John Howard, who lost the 2007 election and his seat of Bennelong, the decision about when to leave was made for him.

Bruce retired from his second term in parliament on October 6, 1933. The table says he left parliament on November 11, 1933, but this was the date of the Flinders by-election. The 693 days shown on the table is the [incorrect] totality of his second term as a member of parliament. His prime ministership ended two years previously. It really makes no sense at all.

*

7. Deakin Should Be Moved Up

Alfred Deakin retired from parliament on April 23, 1913. In three places, the table lists his departure as May 31, 1913, but this was the date of the general election. Deakin should have 38 days deducted from each of his entries on the table. His first term should be moved up one place to just ahead of McMahon.

*

8. Five Dating Errors That Don’t Affect Anyone’s Position

James Scullin retired from parliament on October 31, 1949. The table lists his departure as December 10 but this was the election date and a retiring member ceases to be a member when the parliament is dissolved. Scullin left parliament forty days before the general election of December 10, 1949, so forty days should be shaved off the table’s 6,548 days.

Arthur Fadden retired from parliament on October 14, 1958, the day the parliament was dissolved ahead of the November 22 election. The table lists his departure as March 26, 1958, but this was the date he relinquished the leadership of the Country Party. His 6014 days should have another 202 added. Fadden continued as Treasurer until December 10, 1958, as permitted under Section 64 of the Constitution.

Joseph Cook retired from parliament on November 11, 1921. The table says it was December 10, but this was the date of the Parramatta by-election. Cook’s 2,641 days should be reduced by 29.

Chris Watson ceased to be a member of parliament when the Third Parliament expired on February 19, 1910. It is the only parliament to have expired by effluxion of time. The table says Watson served until April 13, 1910, but this was the date of the general election. Watson’s 2,064 days should be reduced by 53 days.

John McEwen retired from parliament on February 1, 1971. The table says it was March 20, 1971, but this was the date of the Murray by-election. McEwen’s 1,165 days should be reduced by 47 days.

*

My Revised List

The list shows prime ministers as I have reordered them. The number in brackets shows the days each PM remained in parliament after ceasing to be PM.

  1. Andrew Fisher (third term – 0)
  2. Edmund Barton (6)
  3. Malcolm Turnbull (7)
  4. Malcolm Fraser (20)
  5. Robert Menzies (second term – 22)
  6. Julia Gillard (39)
  7. Paul Keating (43)
  8. Bob Hawke (62)
  9. Kevin Rudd (second term – 65)
  10. Frank Forde (443)
  11. Ben Chifley (551)
  12. Stanley Bruce (657 ??)
  13. Andrew Fisher (second term – 854)
  14. Gough Whitlam (992)
  15. Tony Abbott (1082)
  16. Alfred Deakin (third term – 1090)
  17. John McEwen (1118)
  18. Kevin Rudd (first term – 1247)
  19. Alfred Deakin (second term – 1662)
  20. George Reid (1663)
  21. John Gorton (1707)
  22. Chris Watson (2011)
  23. Joseph Cook (2612)
  24. Alfred Deakin (first term – 3283)
  25. William McMahon (3317)
  26. Arthur Fadden (6216)
  27. James Scullin (6508)
  28. Earle Page (8263)
  29. Robert Menzies (first term – 8938)
  30. Billy Hughes (10,854)

*

A Quibble on Methodology

There is undoubtedly an internal logic to the table’s listing of prime ministers by their separate terms. They are clearly noted.

However, the contest between Fisher and Deakin was between two men in the prime of their political lives. The combat that led to their six separate terms is instructive of the emerging two-party system post-Federation. Neither man was going to leave parliament after his short first term. For each, their second term was their most significant, and their third was a coda to their main body of work. Which to list?

Similarly, in 1941 Menzies was young enough – 46 – to believe he could return to the prime minister’s office at a future date. Retirement wasn’t under consideration. Placing him second behind the aged Hughes as a prime minister who hung around for a quarter of a century after losing office presents a somewhat misleading picture.

Likewise with Rudd. He was just 52 when he was deposed in June 2010. He correctly believed he could in time return to the leadership of his party. Even when he finally left in 2013, he was only 56.

And is there any point in even listing Page, Forde and McEwen, let alone describing them as “defeated” PMs? All three were stop-gap leaders who temporarily filled the position following the death of their predecessor. As deputy leader of the ALP, Forde faced the possibility of becoming leader after Curtin died but he was defeated by Chifley. The two Country Party leaders had no realistic prospect of becoming prime minister, even though attempts were apparently made to conscript McEwen.

As always, tables, lists and dates need to be accompanied by some contextual and historical knowledge, and even psychological insight. It’s not that difficult to get the numbers right, but they never tell you everything.


The First Morrison Ministry – Statistical Analysis

This page provides statistical data on the first Morrison Ministry, as announced on August 26, 2018, by the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison.

The 42-member executive includes 23 Cabinet ministers, 7 members of the Outer Ministry, and 12 Assistant Ministers/Parliamentary Secretaries. These numbers have not changed from the final Turnbull ministry. The Liberal Party has 33 members (79%) of the executive, whilst the Nationals have 9 members (21%).

There is movement in state representation. Whereas NSW had 13 members under Turnbull, it will now have 9, whilst Victoria has 10.

Many members of the Turnbull ministry retain their positions under Morrison. Just one cabinet minister, Michael Keenan, has been demoted from cabinet to the outer ministry.

Following the retirement of Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, Morrison has promoted two women straight into Cabinet from parliamentary secretary positions. Melissa Price takes the Environment portfolio, which has been split from Energy, whilst Karen Andrews becomes Minister for Industry, Science and Technology. The total number of women in the ministry has increased from ten to eleven and the Cabinet from five to six. Women comprise 26% of the executive, up from 24%.

Angus Taylor is also promoted from the outer ministry to take up the Cabinet post of Energy. Paul Fletcher moves into Cabinet as the Minister for Families and Social Services.

The Foreign Minister will be Senator Marise Payne, who moves from Defence. Christopher Pyne moves up to Defence, whilst retaining his post as Leader of the House. [Read more…]


Sen. David Smith (ALP-ACT) – Maiden Speech

Senator David Smith has delivered his maiden speech to the Senate.

Smith

Smith, 48, is a Labor senator, representing the Australian Capital Territory. He was elected in a special recount of votes from the 2016 election, following the disqualification of Katy Gallagher for dual citizenship under Section 44 of the Constitution. He was declared elected by the High Court on May 23, 2018 and sworn in on June 18.

Prior to his election, Smith was the ACT Director of Professionals Australia. He previously worked as an advisor in the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations, an industrial relations manager for the Australian Federal Police Association and a policy advisor in the ACT Chief Minister’s Department.

Smith’s term expires with the next dissolution of the House of Representatives. Katy Gallagher was this week endorsed by the Left faction to contest an August preselection against Smith, a former convenor of the Right faction.

  • Listen to Smith’s speech (22m)
  • Watch Smith’s speech (25m)

Hansard transcript of maiden speech by Senator David Smith.

The PRESIDENT (17:03): Order! Before I call Senator Smith, I remind honourable senators that this is his first speech and, therefore, I ask that the usual courtesies be extended to him. [Read more…]