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40th Anniversary Of The 1974 Joint Sitting Of Parliament

Today is the 40th anniversary of the Joint Sitting of the House of Representatives and the Senate, held during the term of the Whitlam Labor government.

The Joint Sitting, the first and only ever held, took place over two days, August 6 and 7, 1974.

Gough Whitlam described the sitting as “a last resort to enable the democratic will of the Australian people to prevail over blind obstruction”.

Joint Sitting

The proceedings took place in what is now Old Parliament House. They were chaired by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Jim Cope. The Liberal Opposition Leader (and future Speaker) was Bill Snedden. The Governor-General was the just-appointed Sir John Kerr.

The only member of either house who attended the Joint Sitting and is still serving is Philip Ruddock. Now the member for Berowra, in 1974 he was the 31-year-old Liberal member for Parramatta and still in his first year as a member of the House.

*

The Six Bills

Six bills were submitted to the Joint Sitting, all of which had been first passed by the House of Representatives in 1973, following the election of the Whitlam government. [Read more…]


Gough Whitlam At 98; John Faulkner On A Life Of Endurance, Longevity, Resilience And Extraordinary Contribution

Gough Whitlam celebrates his 98th birthday today.

Whitlam

Whitlam served as Labor Prime Minister from December 5, 1972 until his dismissal by the Governor-General on November 11, 1975. He was the nation’s 21st Prime Minister and is the longest-lived of all of them.

The ALP’s honorary historian and keeper of the party’s institutional memory, Senator John Faulkner, did not forget Whitlam’s birthday when he rose to speak in the Adjournment Debate last night. The speech followed a day of excitement in the Senate, although the drama seems pale by comparison for those of us who remember the Whitlam years. [Read more…]


Noel Pearson’s Whitlam Oration: In Honour Of The Old Man

Noel Pearson has tonight delivered a stunning Whitlam Oration, honouring “the old man” who led the reforming government of 1972-75.

Pearson

Pearson called not just for Indigenous recognition in the Australian Constitution but elimination of the race power in Section 25 and the insertion of a provision outlawing racial discrimination. [Read more…]


Gough Whitlam Votes In ALP Leadership Ballot

Gough Whitlam has voted in the ALP’s rank-and-file leadership ballot.

The ABC’s Melissa Clarke has published on Twitter a picture of Whitlam’s voter declaration.

Declaration

The ballot to elect the ALP’s next federal leader closes tomorrow. It pits the former Deputy Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, against the Minister for Workplace Relations and Education, Bill Shorten.

The ALP Caucus voted this afternoon. The Caucus result will be weighted at 50%, as will the rank-and-file ballot.

The result will be announced on Sunday.

Whitlam is 97. He was Prime Minister between 1972 and 1975.


Woof Woof!

I can’t resist it. Whenever I hear someone say “woof woof”, I always think of a famous exchange between Gough Whitlam and Billy Snedden in 1975.

Today’s email from Crikey alerted me to this tweet from Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Saturday:

Gillard

At least Gillard was only expressing her delight at the 9-point victory by the Western Bulldogs over Port Adelaide.

In the House of Representatives on February 19, 1975, however, the same words were uttered by the Liberal Opposition Leader, Billy Snedden. They came during a discussion of one of the most contentious constitutional issues of the Whitlam years. Snedden was ridiculed by Whitlam and the incident contributed to Liberal unease over Snedden’s leadership. He was replaced by Malcolm Fraser a couple of weeks later. [Read more…]


The Power And The Passion – A Personal View

The ABC has screened the first of a two-part documentary on Gough Whitlam, The Power and the Passion.

The Power and the Passion – A Personal View

by Malcolm Farnsworth

It’s flawed. The incorrect details and dates irritate. The interviews are marred by minor-celebrity bilge. The re-enactments are execrable. It’s hagiography, not documentary.

But last night’s first episode of The Power and the Passion is not that bad. Unreconstructed Whitlamites can rest easy. I lapped it up.

One line stands out: Whitlam had to beat his own side before he could win.

Party structures had to change. Individuals had to be surpassed and sidelined. New policies had to be born. The electorate had to be carried along. There was an inescapable logic to Whitlam’s famous sequence: the party, the program, the people.

For me, the program was a reminder of the inversion that’s taken place forty years since It’s Time. For people like me, the ALP has reverted to its pre-Whitlam shape.

It’s an ugly look the ALP has in 2013. It’s anachronistic and electorally poisonous. In New South Wales, it doesn’t even look like a party anymore, just a criminal enterprise. Nationally, it’s a party controlled by narrow cliques at odds with the electorate. [Read more…]


A.L.P. Federal Election Results Since 1910

An updated version of the data on this page was published in 2016.

“The ALP is heading for its biggest defeat ever under Gillard,” I was told recently.

The confident assertion promptly fell to pieces when I asked for a definition of “biggest defeat ever”. A garbled account of seats, votes and swings followed. Such are casual political conversations. Few people know the figures.

But the question is a good one. How do you measure the extent of an election defeat? If the Gillard government is annihilated this year, what measures of comparison should we use?

Here’s a table showing ALP statistics for three different measures: the proportion of seats won in the House of Representatives, the two-party-preferred vote, and the primary vote. The ALP’s winning election years are shaded yellow.

The table includes every election since Federation, except for the first three: 1901, 1903 and 1906. These have been excluded since they took place before the formation of the two-party system as we know it. Since 1910, elections have been fought between the ALP and the non-Labor parties under a variety of names.

The ALP has won 14 of the 40 elections held since 1910. I have categorised the 26 elections it has lost into four groups:

  1. Seven major defeats where the ALP won no more than a third of the seats in the House: 1917, 1925, 1931, 1966, 1975, 1977 and 1996.
  2. Seven significant defeats where the ALP won between 33% and 40% of the seats: 1919, 1922, 1934, 1937, 1949, 1955 and 1958.
  3. Nine moderate defeats where the ALP won between 40% and 50% of the seats: 1928, 1951, 1954, 1963, 1969, 1980, 1998, 2001 and 2004.
  4. Three near misses where the ALP just fell short: 1913, 1940 and 1961.
A.L.P. Performance In Federal Elections
Election Leader Election Won or Lost Seats Won In House of Representatives Two-Party-Preferred Vote % Primary Vote %
1910
Fisher
WIN
42 / 75 = 56.00%
49.97
1913
Fisher
LOSS
37 /75 = 49.33%
48.47
1914
Fisher
WIN
42 / 75 = 56.00%
50.89
1917
Tudor
LOSS
22/ 75 = 29.33%
43.94
1919
Tudor
LOSS
26 / 75 = 34.66%
42.49
1922
Charlton
LOSS
29 / 45 = 38.66%
42.30
1925
Charlton
LOSS
23 / 75 = 30.66%
45.04
1928
Scullin
LOSS
31 / 75 = 41.33%
44.64
1929
Scullin
WIN
46 / 75 = 61.33%
48.84
1931
Scullin
LOSS
14+4=18 / 75 = 24.00%
27.10+10.57 = 37.67
1934
Scullin
LOSS
18+9 = 27 / 74 = 36.48%
26.81+14.37 = 41.18
1937
Curtin
LOSS
29 / 74 = 39.19%
40.40
43.17
1940
Curtin
LOSS
32+4=36 / 74 = 48.64%
50.30
40.16+5.23 = 45.39
1943
Curtin
WIN
49 / 74 = 66.21%
58.20
49.94
1946
Chifley
WIN
43 / 74 = 58.10%
54.10
49.71
1949
Chifley
LOSS
47 / 121 = 38.84%
49.00
45.98
1951
Chifley
LOSS
52 / 121 = 42.97%
49.30
47.63
1954
Evatt
LOSS
57 / 121 = 47.10%
50.70
50.03
1955
Evatt
LOSS
47 / 122 = 38.52%
45.80
44.63
1958
Evatt
LOSS
45 / 122 = 36.88%
45.90
42.81
1961
Calwell
LOSS
60 / 122 = 49.18%
50.50
47.90
1963
Calwell
LOSS
50 / 122 = 40.98%
47.40
45.47
1966
Calwell
LOSS
41 / 124 = 33.06%
43.10
39.98
1969
Whitlam
LOSS
59 / 125 = 47.20%
50.20
46.95
1972
Whitlam
WIN
67 / 125 = 53.6%
52.70
49.59
1974
Whitlam
WIN
66 / 127 = 51.96%
51.70
49.30
1975
Whitlam
LOSS
36 / 127 = 28.34%
44.30
42.84
1977
Whitlam
LOSS
38 / 124 = 30.64%
45.40
39.65
1980
Hayden
LOSS
51 / 125 = 40.80%
49.60
45.15
1983
Hawke
WIN
75 / 125 = 60.00%
53.23
49.48
1984
Hawke
WIN
82 / 148 = 55.40%
51.77
47.55
1987
Hawke
WIN
86 / 148 = 58.10%
50.83
45.76
1990
Hawke
WIN
78 / 148 = 52.70%
49.90
39.44
1993
Keating
WIN
80 / 147 = 54.42%
51.44
44.92
1996
Keating
LOSS
49 / 148 = 33.10%
46.37
38.75
1998
Beazley
LOSS
67 / 148 = 45.27%
50.98
40.10
2001
Beazley
LOSS
65 / 150 = 43.33%
49.05
37.84
2004
Latham
LOSS
60 / 150 = 40.00%
47.26
37.63
2007
Rudd
WIN
83 / 150 = 55.33%
52.70
43.48
2010
Gillard
WIN
72 / 150 = 48.00%
50.12
37.99

By any measure, the ALP’s most successful election was John Curtin’s victory in 1943. Curtin won 66.21% of seats in the House. James Scullin won 61.33% in 1929 and Bob Hawke won 60% in 1983.

Curtin’s victory is also the only election in which the ALP polled in excess of 55% of the national two-party-preferred vote. [Note: Early figures for the two-party vote are not shown either because there are no precise figures available or because the election took place before preferential voting was introduced in 1918. Up until 1955, two-party figures contain a small element of estimation because some seats returned a member unopposed.] [Read more…]