Remember When A Labor Government Could Win Re-Election?

8.00pm – Thirty-eight years ago tonight, the Whitlam Labor government won re-election to its second term.

Gough WhitlamThe early election took place just 18 months after the ALP’s historic 1972 victory. It occurred after Whitlam’s abortive attempt to secure an additional Senate vacancy by appointing DLP Senator Vince Gair as Ambassador to Ireland. The coalition threatened to block Supply, so Whitlam opted for a double dissolution.

The ALP polled 49.3% of the primary vote. It was returned to government with a net loss of one seat and a floor majority of 4 seats.

Despite eliminating the DLP from the Senate, Whitlam failed to gain control of the upper house. Eighteen months later, the government was dismissed by the Governor-General after the coalition refused to pass the Supply bills.

The close result in 1974 led to the Liberal leader Bill Snedden claiming that he hadn’t really lost the election. He variously said that the opposition didn’t win enough seats and that it hadn’t “lost all”.

  • Listen to audio of ABC TV’s 1974 election night coverage (90m)

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  • Listen to Snedden’s “concession” on May 29.

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  • More information on the 1974 election
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