1911 Was The Last Time A Government Won A Seat From The Opposition. Oh, Really?

On numerous occasions last week, I heard journalists and media commentators say that no government has won a by-election from the opposition since 1911.

It was repeated over and over. It was asserted again on Insiders yesterday and on Sky News last night.

The context, of course, is the batch of four by-elections – in Mayo, Longman, Braddon and Fremantle – that are about to take place following the resignations flowing from the High Court’s Section 44 decision on former Senator Katy Gallagher. A fifth by-election will take place due to the resignation for personal reasons of the ALP’s Tim Hammond in Perth.

The Liberal Party has decided not to contest Perth or Fremantle, so these seats should now be easily retained by the ALP.

The Liberals are favoured to retake their traditional stronghold of Mayo, especially given the Xenophon implosion.

So attention centres on Longman, in Queensland, and Braddon, in Tasmania. Can the ALP hang on to these two seats it won back last time? Could the government take one or two seats off the opposition?

A swing of just 0.8% would see Longman return to the government. Braddon needs 1.5%. It’s do-able but it’s tricky. Afterall, it hasn’t happened since 1911…

Well, no… [Read more…]


Today’s Electoral Anniversaries: Hughes And Fraser

Today, December 13, is the anniversary of two federal elections, the first in 1919, the second in 1975.

On December 13, 1919, Prime Minister William Morris Hughes was re-elected, defeating the ALP led by Frank Tudor. Hughes had been prime minister since 1915, first for the Labor Party and then as leader of the Nationalist Party that was formed from the Liberals and Labor defectors after the ALP split over conscription.

The election is historic for a couple of reasons. It was the first general election to use preferential voting, instead of first-past-the-post. And it was the first general election contested by the newly-formed Country Party. Not yet a national party, it consisted of different organisations in the states, but it won 11 seats, eating into Hughes’s majority.

On December 13, 1975, Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser led the Liberal-Country party coalition to the biggest ever win in Australian federal history, before or since. The coalition parties won 91 seats in the 127-seat House of Representatives. The ALP won 36 seats, a loss of 30.

Fraser had been prime minister for one month and two days, having been appointed caretaker prime minister on November 11, following Governor-General Sir John Kerr’s dismissal of Gough Whitlam.