House of Representatives by-elections: 1901–2018

8 May 2019

PDF version [975KB]

Stephen Barber
Statistics and Mapping Section

Executive summary

This paper provides details of House of Representatives by-elections, from that held for Darling Downs on 14 September 1901 to the most recent held on 20 October 2018 for Wentworth. The following observations can be made about those by-elections:

  • there have been 158 by-elections, an average of 3.5 per parliament.
  • the nine by-elections held during the current, 45th, Parliament is the second highest number in an individual parliament—seven of these related to dual citizenship; 10 by-elections—nine caused by the deaths of members—were held during the 20th Parliament (1951–1954)
  • the average number of nominations has grown over the years from 2.2 per by-election to 11.5 per by-election
  • in only four cases was a by-election contested by just a single candidate
  • an increasing tendency has been for governments to avoid contesting by-elections in their opponents’ safe seats
  • in only ten cases have the opposition party failed to contest a by-election
  • eighty-three of the by-elections followed the resignation of the member, 68 members died in office, there have been six voided elections, and one MP was expelled from the House
  • since 1949 resignations account for over two-thirds of by-elections and over half the resignations have occurred in safe seats
  • on 36 occasions the party complexion of a seat has altered at a by-election; five of the losses have been by the opposition of the day
  • the average two-party preferred swing against the government of the day has been 3.8 per cent and
  • since 1949 the largest two-party swing against a government (16.1 per cent) occurred against Labor in Canberra in 1995. The largest swing to a government (16.2 per cent) occurred to the Coalition in McPherson in 1981.

Contents

Executive summary

Party abbreviations

Introduction

The organisation of Commonwealth by-elections
The reasons why by-elections have been held
The timing of by-elections
Vacancies for which no by-election held
By-elections where members recontested
Number of nominations
Voter turnout

Party performance

Seats lost at by-elections
Impact upon party
Impact upon Government/Opposition
Party win/loss performance
By-elections caused by resignation—safeness of seat
Analysing by-election swings since 1949
Average swings against governments

Personal and political matters

The changing of the old guard
Future prime ministers
The exiting of prime ministers
Future leaders of the Opposition
The exiting of leaders of the Opposition
Family matters
Famous entries into the House
Kicked upstairs?
A matter of treason
By-elections that caused ripples
Voided elections

Appendix 1: House of Representatives by-elections, 1901–2018

Appendix 2: By-election results by electoral division, 1901–2018 [PDF338KB]

First past the post electoral system
Preferential voting electoral system

Appendix 3: Notes on Commonwealth by-elections, 1901–2018

Appendix 4: By-election timing, 1901–2018

Appendix 5: Sources on by-elections in Australia

General studies
Case studies
Commonwealth

List of tables

Table 1: vacancies brought about by resignation and death

Table 2: by-elections, 2000–2018

Table 3: vacancies for which no by-election was held, 1901–2018

Table 4: candidates per by-election

Table 5: seats lost at by-elections, 1901–2018

Table 6: party win/loss performance at by-elections, 1901–2018

Table 7: by-elections caused by resignation—safeness of seat, 1949–2018

Table 8: average swings against governments in by-elections, 1949–2018

Table 9: two-party preferred swings, by-elections, 1949–2018

Party abbreviations and symbols

AAP Advance Australia Party
AC Australian Christians
ACons Australian Conservatives
ACP Australian Cyclists Party
ADVP Australian Defence Veterans Party
AFI Australians Against Further Immigration
AHP Affordable Housing Party
AJP Animal Justice Party
ALA Australian Liberty Alliance
ALP Australian Labor Party
AMHP Australian Mental Health Party
ANAG Australian National Action Group
AntiSoc Anti-Socialist
AP Australia Party
APEP Australian People’s Party
APPG Australian Pensioner Pressure Group
AR Australian Republican
ARM Australian Reform Movement
ASP Australian Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party (Australian Shooters Party prior to 2018)
ASxP Australian Sex Party
Atok Atokist
AusConst Australian Constitutionalist
BTA Bullet Train for Australia
CntreAll Centre Alliance (Nick Xenophon Team prior to 2018)
CCC Climate Change Coalition
CDP Christian Democratic Party
CCE Conservatives for Climate and Environment
CEC Citizens Electoral Council
CM CountryMinded
Com Communist Party
Cons Conservative
Const Constitutionalist
CP Country Party
CRep Constitutional Republican
CTA Call to Australia
CYA Australian Country Party
Dem Australian Democrats
DHJP Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party
DLP Democratic Labor Party
DOGS Council for the Defence of Government Schools
DSP Deadly Serious Party
EcRef Economic Reform
EFN Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy
Farmers Farmers’ Party
FFP Family First Party
FishP The Fishing Party
FLP Federal Labor Party
FLR Family Law Reform Party
FP Future Party
FPA Federal Party of Australia
FST Australia First Party
FT Free Trade
FUT Science Party
Grn Greens
Gry Grey Power
GWA The Greens (WA)
HAN Pauline Hanson’s One Nation
HMP Help End Marijuana Prohibition
HPA Hope Party Australia
ICP Independent Country Party
ILab Independent Labor
ILCL Independent Liberal Country League
ILib Independent Liberal
INat Independent Nationalist
Ind Independent
KAP Katter’s Australian Party
LDP Liberal Democratic Party
LFF Liberals for Forests
Lib Liberal Party
LibF Liberal Forum
LLab Lang Labor
LNP Liberal National Party
LP Liberal Party
LRG Liberal Reform Group
NA National Alliance
NAP New Australian Party
Nat Nationalist
NCPP Non-Custodial Parents Party
NGST No GST Party
NHP National Humanitarian Party
NLP Natural Law Party
NP National Party
NSP National Socialist Party
ON One Nation
ONNSW One Nation NSW Division
PCP Progressive Conservative Party
PIR Pirate Party Australia
PLP Progressive Labour Party
PORP Property Owners’ Rights Party
PP Progress Party
Prog Australian Progressives
Prot Protectionist
ProtLab Protestant Labor
PUP Palmer United Party
RARI Reclaim Australia: Reduce Immigration
RPA Republican Party of Australia
RSNP Returned Soldiers National Party
RUA Rise Up Australia Party
SA Socialist Alliance
SC Social Credit
SLib State Liberal
Soc Socialist
SP Socialist Party of Australia
SPA Secular Party of Australia
SPP Sustainable Australia (Sustainable Population Party prior to 2018)
ST Single Tax League
SUN Seniors United Party of Australia
SWP Socialist Workers’ Party
TA Taxpayers’ Association
TAP The Arts Party
UAP United Australia Party
UM Uninflated Movement
Unite Unite Australia Party
UTG United Tasmanian Group
UWU Unemployed Workers Union
VEF Voluntary Euthanasia Party
VFU Victorian Farmers’ Union
VOTE Voice of the Elderly
21CA 21st Century Party
   
Symbols
.. Not available or not applicable

Note 1: Some party abbreviations shown above may not be the official abbreviations registered (some parties do not have an abbreviation) with the AEC. These unofficial abbreviations have been used for convenience in the following tables and graphs.

Note 2: All tables and graphs have been compiled by the Parliamentary Library.

Introduction

This Research Paper updates an earlier Parliamentary Library Research paper and details the 158 by-elections for the House of Representatives held to date, including some of the factors involved in their being held.[1]

It also discusses relevant factors such as the timing of by-elections, the number of nominations, the voter turnout and party performance over the years, and the swings that have occurred.

The paper concludes with a general discussion of some of the personal and political aspects of the by-elections.

The organisation of Commonwealth by-elections

By-elections are held to fill vacancies in the House of Representatives resulting from the death, resignation, absence without leave, expulsion, disqualification or ineligibility of a member.

The first by-election was held in the Queensland electorate of Darling Downs, on 14 September 1901, barely four months after the opening of the new Commonwealth Parliament. The by-election followed the death of the sitting member, William Groom. The most recent by-election was held in the electorate of Wentworth (NSW) on 20 October 2018 following the resignation of the sitting member and deposed Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

The reasons why by-elections have been held

Of the 158 by-elections, 68 (43.0 per cent) have occurred because of the death of the member, 83 (52.5 per cent) as the result of the resignation of the member, six (3.8 per cent) because of voided elections, and one (0.6 per cent) because of the expulsion of the member for Kalgoorlie from the House in 1920.

Over time, the reasons for by-elections have altered quite markedly:

  • from 1901 to 1979, 61.5 per cent of all by-elections were brought about by death and
  • by contrast, since 1980, 88.9 per cent of all by-elections have been brought about by resignation.

Table 1: vacancies brought about by resignation and death

Years Vacancy due to death
(%)
Vacancy due to resignation
(%)
Other
(%)
1901–1979 61.5 33.7 4.8
Since 1980 7.4 88.9 3.7

The following graph further illustrates the changing pattern in the reasons causing by-elections.

Figure 1: reason for by-election, by decade

Reason for by-election, by decade

One factor contributing to this changing pattern is that members today enter the House of Representatives at a generally younger age than used to be the case. Of the 41 parliaments to 2005, the second quarter’s intake (1929–1951) was the oldest, averaging 48.3 years per new member. By contrast, the fourth quarter’s intake (1977–2005) was the youngest at 42.2 years per new member.[2] [3] Another factor is the greater preparedness of members to leave (resign from) Parliament—the cause of 79.6 per cent of by-elections since 1980—often to pursue another career.[4] This has been aided by a third factor, namely the general increase in longevity of Australians brought about by, among other things, better health care.[5]

The timing of by-elections

Section 33 of the Australian Constitution confers on the Speaker of the House of Representatives the power to issue a writ for the election of a new member.[6] The Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918—Part XIII specifies that the election (polling day) must be held between 33 and 58 days from the date the writ is issued.[7]

There is no prescribed time period within which a by-election writ must be issued and, in fact, there is no accepted view as to the period that should elapse between vacancy and polling day.

Perhaps surprisingly, this has not become a matter of any long-term political debate, allowing governments a great deal of freedom in the setting of by-election dates. The length of time from a vacancy until polling day has, therefore, varied considerably, with the maximum number of days being the 82 days for Moreton in 1983, and the minimum being the 17 days for East Sydney in 1903.[8] The total elapsed time from vacancy to election has increased since 1901. Between 1901 and 1949, the average was 40.3 days, whereas during the period 1949 to 2018 the average has been 52.7 days. The average figure for all by-elections has been 48.1 days.

Ideally, by-elections are held as early as possible after a seat becomes vacant, ‘so that the electors are not left without representation any longer than is necessary’.[9] In fact, such a consideration is occasionally pushed aside by short-term political factors. On 22 October 1982 the Member for Flinders, Phillip Lynch, resigned his seat. The Speaker fixed 4 December as the date for a by-election, but also declared that there would be a delay of almost three weeks before the writs for the by-election would be issued. According to Anne Summers, this gave the Fraser Government the option of calling a general election for 4 or 11 December.[10] The by-election could, therefore, have been pushed aside; although a double dissolution election was eventually held on 5 March 1983.

In the cases of the 22 by-elections held during 2000–2018, the delay between the date of the seat becoming vacant[11] and the date of the issuing of the writ varied considerably. The 45 days for Griffith and the 40 days for Gippsland contrasted with the issuing of writs in under a week for by-elections in Ryan, Lyne, North Sydney, New England, Bennelong and Batman.

The variation allowed in regard to by-election dates is thus an anomaly in an electoral system that is generally highly regulated.

Table 2: by-elections, 2000–2018

Division Held by Date of
vacancy
Date of writ Delay in issuing
writ
Elapsed time
from vacancy
to by-election
Isaacs (Vic) ALP 14.06.00 30.06.00 16 days 59 days
Ryan (Qld) LP 05.02.01 09.02.01   4 days 40 days
Aston (Vic) LP 24.04.01 01.06.01 38 days 81 days
Cunningham (NSW) ALP 16.08.02 16.09.02 31 days 64 days
Werriwa (NSW) ALP 21.01.05 14.02.05 24 days 57 days
Gippsland (Vic) LP 09.04.08 19.05.08 40 days 80 days
Lyne (NSW) LP 30.07.08 04.08.09   5 days 38 days
Mayo (SA) LP 14.07.08 04.08.09 21 days 54 days
Bradfield (NSW) LP 19.10.09 30.10.09 11 days 47 days
Higgins (Vic) LP 19.10.09 30.10.09 11 days 47 days
Griffith (Qld) ALP 22.11.13 06.01.14 45 days 78 days
Canning (WA) LP 21.07.15 17.08.15 27 days 60 days
North Sydney (NSW) LP 23.10.15 26.10.15   3 days 43 days
New England (NSW) NP 27.10.17 27.10.17   0 days 36 days
Bennelong (NSW) LP 11.11.17 13.11.17   2 days 35 days
Batman (Vic) ALP 01.02.18 07.02.18   6 days 44 days
Braddon (Tas) ALP 10.05.18 15.06.18 36 days 79 days
Fremantle (WA) ALP 10.05.18 15.06.18 36 days 79 days
Longman (Qld) ALP 10.05.18 15.06.18 36 days 79 days
Perth (WA) ALP 10.05.18 15.06.18 36 days 79 days
Mayo (SA) CntreAll 11.05.18 15.06.18 35 days 78 days
Wentworth (NSW) LP 31.08.18 17.09.18 17 days 50 days

Appendix 4 provides details of the timing of all by-elections held between September 1901 and October 2018. It also shows the number of days elapsed between the seat becoming vacant and the by-election date, the number of days elapsed since the previous general election, and the number of days between the by-election and the next general election.

Vacancies for which no by-election held

There have been 20 occasions when the Speaker has, in fact, declined to issue such a writ for a by-election due to a pending general election. The longest period a seat has been without a member prior to a general election was 128 days in the case of Hindmarsh in 1909–10. The shortest period was the 39 days between 13 August 1940, when three MPs were killed in a plane crash, and the election of 21 September 1940.

The situation regarding the last of these occasions—Wills, 1992–93—was the result of the by-election held in November 1992 subsequently being voided by the Court of Disputed Returns. The successful candidate, Phil Cleary, was found to be in breach of section 44(iv) of the Constitution and the Labor and Liberal candidates were found ineligible under section 44(i).

By-elections where members recontested

There have been 13 occasions where the previous member has recontested in a by-election. Of these, nine members have been successful in retaining their seat.

The successful members were in the seats: East Sydney 1903, Echuca 1907, Lindsay 1996, New England 2017, Bennelong 2017, Braddon 2018, Fremantle 2018, Longman 2018 and Mayo 2018.

In all but the first two of these by-elections the previous member was recontesting after either being found or resigning before being found invalidly elected by the Court of Disputed Returns.

The unsuccessful recontests were in: Melbourne 1904, Riverina 1904, Ballaarat 1920 and Kalgoorlie 1920.

Table 3: vacancies for which no by-election was held, 1901–2018

Division Vacant Next election Days
Hunter (NSW) 30.09.03 16.12.03 77
Indi (Vic) 12.10.06 12.12.06 61
Northern Melbourne (Vic) 13.10.06 12.12.06 60
Hindmarsh (SA) 06.12.09 13.04.10 128
East Sydney (NSW) 24.12.09 13.04.10 110
West Sydney (NSW) 06.09.28 17.11.28 72
Wimmera (Vic) 14.10.31 19.12.31 66
Martin (NSW) 05.06.34 15.09.34 102
Ballaarat (Vic) 31.07.34 15.09.34 46
Werriwa (NSW) 02.08.34 15.09.34 44
Henty (Vic) 13.08.40 21.09.40 39
Flinders (Vic) 13.08.40 21.09.40 39
Corangamite (Vic) 13.08.40 21.09.40 39
West Sydney (NSW) 14.08.46 28.09.46 45
Hindmarsh (SA) 14.08.46 28.09.46 45
McMillan (Vic) 14.10.55 10.12.55 57
Leichhardt (Qld) 11.10.58 22.11.58 42
Warringah (NSW) 03.08.66 26.11.66 110
Bonython (SA) 30.09.77 10.12.77 71
Wills (Vic) 25.11.92 13.03.93 108

Number of nominations

The 158 by-elections have been contested by an average of 5.3 candidates. Over the years, however, there has been a steady increase in the number of nominations.

In the 24 first-past-the-post cases between 1901 and October 1918 the average number of nominations was 2.2 per contest.

In the following 134 preferential voting cases there has been an average of 5.9 nominations per by-election:

  • from the introduction of preferential voting in December 1918 to the end of the 1960s there was an average of 3.7 nominations per by-election
  • the 1970s and 1980s saw the first of two significant increases in candidate numbers, with 6.2 candidates per by-election over these decades
  • this was exceeded during the 1990s, with the average climbing to 8.1 candidates per contest and
  • since 2000 a further climb to 11.5 candidates per by-election has occurred.

The record number of nominations has occurred twice in by-elections: Wills (Vic) in 1992 and Bradfield (NSW) in 2009. In the 1992 Wills by-election 22 nominations were received to fill the seat vacated by former Prime Minister Hawke. The field of 22 candidates that contested the 2009 Bradfield by-election was inflated due to the presence of nine Christian Democratic Party candidates. The 2017 New England by-election had 17 nominations, the third highest on record.

In only four cases, or 2.6 per cent, was a by-election contested by just a single candidate: Kalgoorlie 1913, Dalley 1915, Wide Bay 1928 and Cunningham 1956.

In recent years there has been a tendency for governments to avoid contesting by-elections, especially in their opponents’ safe seats. Since 1990 the incumbent government has failed to contest 18 of the 36 by-elections held. In all cases bar one this has often meant an easy win to the party holding the seat. In the case of Cunningham in 2002, however, the absence of a Liberal candidate helped the Australian Greens candidate win the seat from the ALP.[12]

Table 4: candidates per by-election

Years By-elections Average number of
candidates
Largest number of
candidates
1901–2018 158 5.3 22 (2 cases)
1901–1918 (First-past-the-post) 24 2.2 4 (Tasmania 1902)
1918–2018 (Preferential voting) 134 5.9 22 (2 cases)
Preferential voting      
1918–1929 15 3.1 5 (3 cases)
1930–1939 12 3.7 6 (Wilmot 1939)
1940–1949 7 4.0 7 (Wimmera 1946)
1950–1959 16 3.7 6 (3 cases)
1960–1969 22 3.9 5 (8 cases)
1970–1979 8 6.5 12 (Parramatta 1973)
1980–1989 18 6.1 12 (Lowe 1982)
1990–1999 14 8.1 22 (Wills 1992)
2000–2009 10 11.5 22 (Bradfield 2009)
Since 2010 12 11.6 17 (New England 2017)

By contrast, apart from the 2015 by-election in North Sydney, the official Opposition has contested every by-election from Dalley in 1953. Since 1901 the Opposition has failed to contest ten, or 6.3 per cent, of by-elections: Darling Downs 1901, Melbourne 1904, Echuca 1907, Adelaide 1908, Dalley 1915, Echuca 1919, Wide Bay 1928, Balaclava 1929, Bradfield 1952 and North Sydney 2015.

Voter turnout[13]

During the period of voluntary voting (1901–1924) the average turnout for by-elections was just 56.7 per cent. The lowest figure was 15.1 per cent in East Sydney in 1903. Since the introduction of compulsory voting in 1924 the average by-election turnout figure has been 86.8 per cent. This contrasts with a 94.4 per cent turnout in general elections over that period.

During the compulsory voting years there has been a slight fall in the by-election turnout figure. For the 62 contested by-elections prior to 1970 the turnout was 88.5 per cent; the turnout for the 62 by-elections since 1970 has been 85.2 per cent. The lowest turnout figure over the compulsory voting period has been 64.0 per cent in Perth 2018, just below the 66.0 per cent in Fremantle also in 2018. The previous lowest was 69.5 per cent in Wentworth in 1981.

Party performance

Seats lost at by-elections

In only 36 of the 158 by-elections (22.8 per cent) has a seat altered its party status.

Table 5: seats lost at by-elections, 1901–2018

Division Government Sitting party Winning party
Melbourne (Vic) 1904 Prot Prot ALP
Riverina (NSW) 1904 ALP FT Prot
Adelaide (SA) 1908 Prot Prot ALP
Boothby (SA) 1911 ALP ALP Lib
Grampians (Vic) 1915 ALP ALP Lib
Wide Bay (Qld) 1915 ALP ALP Lib
Swan (WA) 1918 Nat Nat ALP
Corangamite (Vic) 1918 Nat Nat VFU
Echuca (Vic) 1919 Nat Nat VFU
Ballaarat (Vic) 1920 Nat Nat ALP
Kalgoorlie (WA) 1920 Nat ALP Nat
Maranoa (Qld) 1921 Nat ALP CP
Wide Bay (Qld) 1928 Nat Nat CP
Franklin (Tas) 1929 ALP Ind ALP
Parkes (NSW) 1931 ALP ALP Nat
East Sydney (NSW) 1932 UAP UAP LLab
Darling Downs (Qld) 1936 UAP UAP CP
Gwydir (NSW) 1937 UAP/CP CP ALP
Wakefield (SA) 1938 UAP/CP UAP ALP
Wilmot (Tas) 1939 UAP/CP UAP ALP
Corio (Vic) 1940 UAP UAP ALP
Henty (Vic) 1946 ALP Ind LP
Flinders (Vic) 1952 LP/CP LP ALP
Calare (NSW) 1960 LP/CP LP CP
Dawson (Qld) 1966 LP/CP CP ALP
Corio (Vic) 1967 LP/CP LP ALP
Bass (Tas) 1975 ALP ALP LP
Lowe (NSW) 1982 LP/NP LP ALP
Adelaide (SA) 1988 ALP ALP LP
Groom (Qld) 1988 ALP NP LP
Wills (Vic) 1992 ALP ALP Ind
Canberra (ACT) 1995 ALP ALP LP
Ryan (Qld) 2001 LP/NP LP ALP
Cunningham (NSW) 2002 LP/NP ALP Grn
Lyne (NSW) 2008 ALP NP Ind
Wentworth (NSW) 2018 LP/NP LP Ind

Note: By the time of the Grampians by-election of 1917, the Liberal Party had been subsumed by the Nationalist Party. This by-election is, therefore, not included as an occasion when the seat changed party hands

Impact upon party

  • twenty-seven (17.1 per cent) by-elections have been lost by a major party to another major party
  • four (2.5 per cent) have been lost by a major party to a minor party (Corangamite 1918, Echuca 1919, East Sydney 1932 and Cunningham 2002)
  • three (1.9 per cent) have been lost by a major party to an independent (Wills 1992, Lyne 2008 and Wentworth 2018) and
  • two (1.3 per cent) previously held by independents were won by a major party (Franklin 1929 and Henty 1946).

Impact upon Government/Opposition

  • in 25 by-elections (15.8 per cent) the seat has been lost by the government of the day
  • five seats (3.2 per cent) have been lost by the opposition of the day (Riverina 1904, Kalgoorlie 1920, Maranoa 1921, Cunningham 2002 and Lyne 2008)
  • four seats (2.5 per cent) have been lost by one Coalition partner to another (Wide Bay 1928, Darling Downs 1936, Calare 1960 and Groom 1988)[14]
  • two seats (1.3 per cent) were won from Independents, one by the government of the day (Franklin 1929) and one by the opposition (Henty 1946)
  • only one by-election (0.6 per cent) has been won by a government from the opposition (Kalgoorlie 1920) and
  • one by-election (0.6 per cent) lost by a government resulted in the government losing its majority in the House (Wentworth 2018).

Party win/loss performance

The table below shows, over the long haul, the major non-Labor parties of the day have not done quite as well as their rivals in terms of winning seats from other parties.

Table 6: party win/loss performance at by-elections, 1901–2018

Party Seats gained Seats lost
ALP 14 11
Major non-Labor parties* 11 19
CP/NP 4 4
Other 7 2
Total 36 36

* These figures include Riverina 1904, won by the Protectionists from the Free Traders.

On 11 of the 36 occasions where a seat has changed party hands at a by-election the party that won the seat at the by-election lost the seat at the next general election (Boothby 1911, Swan 1918, Kalgoorlie 1920, Franklin 1929, Wakefield 1938, Wilmot 1939, Flinders 1952, Adelaide 1988, Canberra 1995, Ryan 2001 and Cunningham 2002).[15]

By-elections caused by resignation—safeness of seat

The fact that relatively few seats have changed party hands in by-elections is probably due more to the propensity for by-elections to occur in safer seats, rather than any other factor. Political parties and individual members seem to be well aware of the possible political consequences of losing a seat at a by-election, and thus try to ensure that by-elections caused by resignation occur only in relatively safe seats. For example, since 1949, of the 68 by-elections that were caused by the resignation of the sitting member, 15 have been in marginal seats (that is, seats requiring a swing of less than six per cent to change hands). By far the largest number of by-elections, 35, has occurred in safe seats (that is, seats requiring a swing of over ten per cent to change hands).

Table 7: by-elections caused by resignation—safeness of seat, 1949–2018

  Number Percentage
Marginal 15 22.1
Fairly Safe 18 26.5
Safe 35 51.5
Total 68 100.0

Analysing by-election swings since 1949

Apart from a party’s success or defeat in a by-election, the most important aspect of a by-election is the swing that takes place. Conventional wisdom holds that there is usually a swing against the government of the day at a by-election. The success or otherwise of a government, opposition, or party leader at the by-election is often measured by the size of the swing in comparison with the average swing recorded in past by-elections. However, by-elections occur in varied and disparate electoral divisions, with different numbers and mixes of candidates and with a variety of local, state and national issues involved. It could, therefore, be argued that, given the variety of factors involved, there is no 'normal' by-election swing. By-elections are held in such varying circumstances that none can be regarded as typical, and it is generally agreed that any swing that occurs is usually explained by the special factors pertaining to each by-election.[16]

By-election swings can be calculated by comparing the first preference and two-party preferred votes received by the various parties at the by-election with the votes at the previous general election. The two-party preferred swing is more commonly used as it overcomes some of the difficulties inherent in using first preference swings. First preference swings can be affected by the number and nature of candidates and parties contesting the by-election when compared with the previous general election.

Average first preference and two-party preferred vote swings for by-elections held between 1949 and October 2018 are given below.[17] Swings cannot be calculated where one of the major parties (that is, ALP or LP/NP Coalition) did not stand a candidate at the by-election or the preceding general election, or where the division was uncontested at the by-election or the preceding general election.

The average two-party preferred swing against the government of the day in all by-elections held during the period 1949 to 2018 was 3.8 per cent. The swing against ALP governments (5.5 per cent) was somewhat higher than the swing against LP/NP Coalition governments (3.2 per cent) while the swing against the government of the day in government-held seats was 4.8 per cent. The average two-party preferred swing in by-elections caused by the death of the sitting member was just over half the swing in by-elections caused by the resignation of the member.

Average swings against governments

Two-party preferred swings at by-elections during the period have varied from an anti-government swing of 16.1 per cent in Canberra in 1995 to a swing of 16.2 per cent to the government in McPherson in 1981. The largest swing against an ALP Government was the Canberra figure, while the largest swing against a LP/(CP)NP Coalition Government was achieved when Gough Whitlam won Werriwa in 1952 with a 12.4 per cent swing.

Two-party preferred swings to the government of the day are a rare event in by-elections, with only 14 being recorded during the period. The largest swing to an ALP Government was in Wills in 1992 with a 5.9 per cent swing (although the ALP lost the seat to an independent candidate, Phil Cleary[18]) while the largest swing to a LP/NP Coalition Government was in McPherson, referred to above.

As the number of candidates contesting a by-election is generally larger than the number contesting the previous general election, first preference swings against the government tend to be higher than two-party preferred swings.

Table 8: average swings against governments in by-elections, 1949–2018

First preference
per cent
Two-party preferred
per cent
All by-elections 5.6 3.8
Government held seats 6.5 4.8
LP/NP Governments 4.7 3.2
ALP Governments 8.2 5.5
By-elections caused by death 3.6 2.6
By-elections caused by resignation 7.1 4.7

Table 9: two-party preferred swings, by-elections, 1949–2018

ALP Government   LP/NP Government continued  
Division Swing (%)   Division Swing (%)  
Parramatta 1973 -6.6   Calare 1960 +1.0  
Bass 1975 -14.6   Higinbotham 1960 -9.2  
Wannon 1983 -1.5   Batman 1962 n.a.  
Bruce 1983 -3.8   Grey 1963 +4.9  
Moreton 1983 -1.2   East Sydney 1963 n.a.  
Corangamite 1984 -1.3   Denison 1964 -1.9  
Hughes 1984 -5.0   Angas 1964 -2.1  
Richmond 1984 +0.5   Parramatta 1964 -3.0  
Scullin 1986 -4.4   Robertson 1964 -1.4  
Adelaide 1988 -8.4   Riverina 1965 -0.9  
Port Adelaide 1988 -11.1   Dawson 1966 -11.9  
Groom 1988 -5.2   Kooyong 1966 -3.8  
Oxley 1988 -11.8   Corio 1967 -11.1  
Gwydir 1989 n.a.   Capricornia 1967 +1.5  
Menzies 1991 n.a.   Higgins 1968 -0.3  
Wills 1992 +5.9   Curtin 1969 -7.1  
Werriwa 1994 -6.3   Bendigo 1969 +2.1  
Fremantle 1994 +1.0   Gwydir 1969 -7.7  
Bonython 1994 -7.8   Australian Capital Territory 1970 +13.8  
Mackellar 1994 n.a.   Chisholm 1970 -2.8  
Warringah 1994 n.a.   Murray 1971 -0.4  
Kooyong 1994 n.a.   Cunningham 1977 -0.3  
Canberra 1995 -16.1   Werriwa 1978 -11.3  
Wentworth 1995 n.a.   Grayndler 1979 -6.9  
Gippsland 2008 -6.1   Boothby 1981 -1.2  
Lyne 2008 n.a.   Curtin 1981 -7.5  
Mayo 2008 n.a.   McPherson 1981 +16.2  
Bradfield 2009 n.a.   Wentworth 1981 -6.2  
Higgins 2009 n.a.   Lowe 1982 -8.5  
      Flinders 1982 -3.3  
LP/NP Government   Blaxland 1996 n.a.  
Division Swing (%)   Lindsay 1996 +5.0  
Balaclava 1951 -3.4   Fraser 1997 n.a.  
Macquarie 1951 +0.4   Holt 1999 n.a.  
Lyne 1952 -8.8   Isaacs 2000 n.a.  
Flinders 1952 -11.0   Ryan 2001 -9.7  
Werriwa 1952 -12.4   Aston 2001 -3.7  
Bradfield 1952 n.a.   Cunningham 2002 n.a.  
Dalley 1953 n.a.   Werriwa 2005 n.a.  
Corangamite 1953 -6.5   Griffith 2014 +1.3  
Lang 1953 -2.5   Canning 2015 -6.6  
Gwydir 1953 -0.4   North Sydney 2015 n.a.  
Cook 1955 n.a.   New England 2017 +7.2  
Cunningham 1956 n.a.   Bennelong 2017 -4.8  
Barker 1956 -9.9   Batman 2018 n.a.  
Wentworth 1956 n.a.   Braddon 2018 -0.1  
Richmond 1957 n.a.   Fremantle 2018 n.a.  
Parramatta 1958 -6.4   Longman 2018 -3.7  
Hunter 1960 n.a.   Perth 2018 n.a.  
La Trobe 1960 -7.5   Mayo 2018 -0.7  
Balaclava 1960 -4.6   Wentworth 2018 -7.0  
Bendigo +0.1        
n.a. not applicable

Personal and political matters

A stark listing of 158 electoral contests can disguise the fact that many of them involved noteworthy personal and political matters that are part of Australia’s political history.[19] Some of these are referred to below.

The changing of the old guard

A number of members were senior politicians at state level before they entered the federal Parliament, with this latter service being the swan-song for a number of them:

  • the death on 8 August 1901 of William Groom (Darling Downs 1901), the only convict to enter the Parliament, caused the first Commonwealth by-election to be held less than six months after the opening of Parliament and
  • three Constitution-drafters died in the first decade after Federation, prompting by-elections: Edward Braddon (Wilmot 1904), Charles Cameron Kingston (Adelaide 1908) and Frederick Holder (Wakefield 1909). By contrast, John Forrest (Swan 1918), had enjoyed a much longer Commonwealth career, which included several ministries, with four periods as treasurer.

Future prime ministers

Seven future Prime Ministers entered the House of Representatives via by-elections. For Stanley Melbourne Bruce (Flinders 1918), Harold Holt (Fawkner 1935), Arthur Fadden (Darling Downs 1936), Gough Whitlam (Werriwa 1952) and Tony Abbott (Warringah 1994) this saw their entry into Parliament for the first time. James Scullin (Yarra 1922) had already served a term during 1910–1913, while John Gorton (Higgins 1968) had recently retired from the Senate.

The exiting of prime ministers

The exiting from Parliament of 17 of the 30 MPs who have held the office of Prime Minister has been the trigger for a by-election:

  • in two cases (Wilmot 1939 and Fremantle 1945) the by-election followed the death of the Prime Minister while in office—Joe Lyons and John Curtin, respectively
  • the by-election in Higgins in 1968 was caused by the disappearance, while swimming off Cheviot Beach in Victoria, of Prime Minister Harold Holt
  • although Ben Chifley (Macquarie 1951) and William ‘Billy’ Hughes (Bradfield 1952) remained in Parliament after losing office, both died while still MPs causing by-elections
  • some early Prime Ministers resigned from Parliament to assume other positions. Andrew Fisher (Wide Bay 1915) and Joseph Cook (Parramatta 1921) both became Australian High Commissioner in London. Stanley Melbourne Bruce had lost his seat in 1929, returned to the House in 1931, and left Parliament for good when he was appointed as Resident Minister in London (Flinders 1933) and
  • since the departure of Robert Menzies (Kooyong 1966) only three former Prime Ministers have not caused a by-election by their departure from the House of Representatives—John Gorton (who unsuccessfully stood as an independent for the Senate in 1975), John Howard (who lost his seat in 2007) and Julia Gillard (who retired just prior to the 2013 election). The exceptional circumstances surrounding Harold Holt (Higgins 1968) is mentioned above. John McEwen (Murray 1971), William McMahon (Lowe 1982) and Gough Whitlam (Werriwa 1978) all remained in Parliament for a time after ceasing to be Prime Minister before resigning from the House. By contrast, Malcolm Fraser (Wannon 1983), Bob Hawke (Wills 1992), Paul Keating (Blaxland 1996), Kevin Rudd (Griffith 2014) —Kevin Rudd’s resignation came after his loss of office for the second time—and, most recently, Malcolm Turnbull (Wentworth 2018) all resigned their seats very soon after their loss of office.

Future leaders of the Opposition

Seven future leaders of the Opposition have been elected to the House of Representatives at by-elections: Stanley Melbourne Bruce (Flinders 1918), James Scullin (Yarra 1922), Arthur Fadden (Darling Downs 1936), Gough Whitlam (Werriwa 1952) and Tony Abbott (Warringah 1994), who all went on to become Prime Minister, and Andrew Peacock (Kooyong 1966) and Mark Latham (Werriwa 1994).

The exiting of leaders of the Opposition

Of the sixteen leaders of the Opposition who have not become Prime Minister, the passing from Parliament of eight has caused a by-election:

  • Frank Tudor (Yarra 1922) died in office and
  • Herbert Vere Evatt (Hunter 1960), Billy Snedden (Bruce 1983), Bill Hayden (Oxley 1988), Andrew Peacock (Kooyong 1994), John Hewson (Wentworth 1995), Mark Latham (Werriwa 2005) and Brendan Nelson (Bradfield 2009) all left Parliament between general elections.

Family matters

Occasionally retiring MPs have been replaced by family members. In five by-elections such a generational transfer has been from father to son:

  • four were caused by death—Littleton Groom replaced William Groom (Darling Downs 1901), Bernard Corser replaced Edward Corser (Wide Bay 1928), David Oliver Watkins replaced David Watkins (Newcastle 1935) and Doug Anthony replaced Larry Anthony (Richmond 1957) and
  • the fifth father to son replacement was when Harry Jenkins senior became Ambassador to Spain in 1986. He was replaced by Harry Jenkins junior (Scullin 1986).

In two cases the family transfer has been from uncle to nephew:

  • Herbert Pratten to Frederick Pratten (Martin 1928) and David Riordan to William Riordan (Kennedy 1936).

The retirements of both Alexander Downer senior (Angas 1964) and Alexander Downer junior (Mayo 2008) were both the occasion for a by-election to be held. Georgina Downer, the daughter of Alexander Downer junior, contested a by-election in the same seat (Mayo 2018), however, she was unsuccessful.

Famous entries into the House of Representatives

Some MPs have achieved a national prominence prior to their election to the House of Representatives via a by-election:

  • William Spence (Darwin 1917) had been a co-founder and long-time President of the Australian Workers' Union
  • successive Queensland Labor Premiers, Thomas Joseph Ryan (1915–1919) and Edward Theodore (1919–1925) entered the House of Representatives as MPs for New South Wales seats—Ryan in 1921 for West Sydney, and Theodore for Dalley in 1925
  • Archie Grenfell Price (Boothby 1941), Master of St Mark's College, University of Adelaide, was a noted Australian geographer
  • Garfield Barwick KC (Parramatta 1958) was a leading Australian barrister
  • John Gorton (Higgins 1968), former prominent member of the Senate, entered the House following his replacement of Harold Holt as Prime Minister
  • Steele Hall (Boothby 1981) had been Premier of South Australia 1968–1970, as well as a Senator for South Australia
  • Carmen Lawrence (Fremantle 1994) had been Premier of Western Australia 1990–1993. Lawrence's success was the first by-election victory by a woman candidate
  • Ged Kearney (Batman 2018) had been Federal Secretary of the Australian Nursing Federation 2008–2010 and President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions 2010–2018 and
  • Kerryn Phelps (Wentworth 2018) is a Member of the Order of Australia (2011) and has been awarded the Centenary Medal (in 2001 for services to health and medicine). As well as a regular media commentator and author, she had been President of the Australian Medical Association 2000–2003—the first woman to do so—and Deputy Lord Mayor of the Sydney City Council 2016–2017.

Kicked upstairs?

Many MPs have been appointed to prominent positions, thus ending their parliamentary careers. Some have seen this as an ideal way in which to leave the political hurly-burly, while for others there has been a suggestion that this was a means to push a potential leadership contender out of the picture:

  • by-elections were caused when Paul Hasluck (Curtin 1969) and Bill Hayden (Oxley 1988) accepted the office of Governor-General
  • Charles Abbott (Gwydir 1937) and Roger Dean (Robertson 1964) were both appointed Administrator of the Northern Territory, while Alex Wilson (Wimmera 1946) was appointed Administrator of Norfolk Island
  • some sudden departures have been caused by appointment to the judiciary. Edward McTiernan (Parkes 1931) and Garfield Barwick (Parramatta 1964) joined the High Court. Supreme Court appointments have also been made: William Irvine (Flinders 1918) in Victoria, Herbert Vere Evatt (Hunter 1960) in New South Wales, and Percy Joske (Balaclava 1960) in the Australian Capital Territory. Bob Ellicott (Wentworth 1981) was appointed to the Federal Court, while Nigel Bowen (Parramatta 1973) joined the New South Wales Court of Appeal
  • by far the most-used diplomatic position for appointments of former MPs has been the High Commissioner position in London, with the appointment of eight former members forcing by-elections. Former Prime Ministers Fisher (Wide Bay 1915) and Cook (Parramatta 1921) began the list, followed by Granville Ryrie (Warringah 1927), Thomas White (Balaclava 1951), Eli James Harrison (Wentworth 1956), Alexander Downer senior (Angas 1964), Vic Garland (Curtin 1981) and Neal Blewett (Bonython 1994)
  • various other members have accepted ambassadorships and other high commissions: Richard Casey (Corio 1940) and Howard Beale (Parramatta 1958) Ambassadors to the USA, Hugh Roberton (Riverina 1965) Ambassador to Ireland, Hubert Opperman (Corio 1967) High Commissioner to Malta, Lance Barnard (Bass 1975) Ambassador to Norway, Finland and Sweden, Les Johnson (Hughes 1984) High Commissioner to New Zealand, Harry Jenkins senior (Scullin 1986) Ambassador to Spain and Brendan Nelson (Bradfield 2009) Ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg and the European Union and
  • other unusual official appointments include Archibald Ian Allan (Gwydir 1969) to the Secretary-Generalship of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Alexander Downer junior (Mayo 2008) moved to the position of United Nations Special Envoy for Cyprus, and Brendan Nelson (Bradfield 2009) to the positions of Representative to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and Special Representative to the World Health Organisation (in conjunction with his ambassadorship).

A matter of treason

On 7 November 1920 Hugh Mahon chaired a public meeting in Melbourne sponsored by the Irish Ireland League and, in a speech attacking the British presence in Ireland, spoke of ‘this bloody and accursed Empire’. His expulsion from the House of Representatives four days later for his ‘seditious and disloyal utterances’ was due to the House finding that he had been ‘guilty of conduct unfitting him to remain a member of this House’. Mahon's is the only expulsion to have occurred from the Parliament, and it forced a by-election (Kalgoorlie 1920) which he contested but lost.[20] The House of Representatives lost the power to expel members with the passage of the Parliamentary Privileges Act 1987. [21]

By-elections that caused ripples

Occasionally by-elections can be seen as having an importance beyond the immediate contest to fill a vacancy in the House of Representatives.

Some were a sign of things to come electorally:

  • the by-election (Bass 1975) to replace Deputy Prime Minister Lance Barnard gave a very clear indication of the decline in popularity of the Whitlam Government that was confirmed in the December 1975 election[22] and
  • the by-election to replace former Hawke and Keating Minister, Ros Kelly (Canberra 1995), presaged the Keating Government's defeat in the March 1996 election.[23]

Other by-elections have had a different type of political impact:

  • in late 1939, coalition negotiations between the United Australia Party and the Country Party broke down over Prime Minister Menzies’ insistence on his right to choose all ministers. The 1940 Corio by-election to fill the place of Richard Casey unexpectedly produced a Labor victory. According to former Country Party leader Earle Page this was instrumental in Menzies' weakening his stance and offering five Cabinet positions to the Country Party, with the leader of each party to choose his own party's representatives[24]
  • the Dawson by-election of 26 February 1966 was fought largely for Labor by the candidate, Rex Patterson, and the party's deputy leader, Gough Whitlam. The national leader, Arthur Calwell, was convinced that Labor could not win and took little part. To the surprise of many, Patterson was successful. Whitlam was due to come before the Federal Executive of the ALP on 2 March to face possible disciplinary treatment, possibly even expulsion. According to Graham Freudenberg, the last-minute change of stance of the Queensland delegates, grateful to Whitlam for the Dawson result, saved his position—and possibly his political career[25]
  • Labor’s failure to win the seat of Flinders in a by-election of late 1982 was said to have had a double impact. Bill Hayden’s position as Labor leader became increasingly insecure, while Prime Minister Fraser apparently became convinced of the need for an early election before there was any chance of Hayden’s replacement by Bob Hawke. The consequential replacement of Hayden and the announcement of an early election on the same day were thus intimately connected with the by-election's outcome[26]
  • during 1993–1994 much media discussion focussed on the possibility of Senator Bronwyn Bishop eventually assuming the leadership of the Liberal Party. When the seat of Mackellar fell vacant in 1994 Bishop secured Liberal preselection in an apparent move to clear the way for a push to the leadership. Labor did not contest the by-election and Bishop’s main rival was the writer, Bob Ellis, standing as an independent. Although Bishop won the seat comfortably with 52.2 per cent of first preferences, the Liberal first preference vote had fallen by 4.4 per cent. Although this was hardly a major loss of votes, her failure to increase her vote in the absence of a Labor candidate was considered enough to end any chance she may have had for the Liberals' top job. As fellow Liberal, Peter Reith, put it, ‘Most people within the parliamentary party were of the opinion that Bronwyn didn't have any votes within the parliamentary party ... if she didn’t have many before Saturday [that is, the by-election], she hasn’t got any more today and [27]
  • the deposing of Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister by his party in August 2018 saw Turnbull resign from Parliament causing a by-election in the seat of Wentworth. With the Coalition only having a one seat majority in the House of Representatives the outcome was potentially very significant. The resulting defeat of the Liberal Party by high profile independent candidate, Kerryn Phelps, produced a hung parliament for the newly elected Prime Minister, Scott Morrison.

By-elections and section 44 of the Constitution:

  • the Lindsay by-election in late 1996 was the result of Liberal member, Jackie Kelly, being found ineligible by the Court of Disputed Returns under section 44(iv)—at the time of nomination for the 1996 federal election Ms Kelly was a serving officer in the RAAF. She was also alleged to be a dual citizen (New Zealand) but this was not needed to be tested by the Court as she had already been found ineligible. Jackie Kelly recontested and was returned to Parliament
  • the latter half of 2017 appeared predominantly devoted to section 44(i), and the eligibility of many parliamentarians—both senators and members—to sit in their respective chambers because of dual citizenship was brought into question. Two Coalition members failed this eligibility resulting in by-elections which threatened to overturn the Government’s one seat majority. Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce (New England, NP) was found by the Court of Disputed Returns to also be a New Zealand citizen while John Alexander (Bennelong, LP) resigned after having his dual citizenship confirmed by British authorities. A further member, David Feeney (Batman, ALP), was referred by his own party to the High Court for a ruling in early 2018. The Labor party and crossbenchers’ attempt to refer a total of nine members—four Labor, four Liberal and one from the Nick Xenophon Team—was defeated by the casting vote of the Speaker of the House, Tony Smith.[28] With the citizenship declarations by all Parliamentarians in December 2017 not clarifying the dual citizenship ‘crisis’, the distinct possibility of further by-elections before the next election was realised
  • David Feeney (Batman, ALP) resigned before the High Court could rule on his citizenship status. The ALP held Batman by only a 1.0 per cent margin from the Greens. The Liber
  • al Party chose not to field a candidate seemingly giving the Greens a good chance of winning. However, a swing of 3.4 per cent to the ALP saw it retain Batman and
  • in May 2018 the Court of Disputed Returns found that Senator Katy Gallagher had, in effect, not taken reasonable steps to renounce her British citizenship. Therefore, at the time of her nomination for the 2016 election she was a dual citizen and, under section 44(i) of the Constitution, ineligible to be elected.[29] This finding had direct ramifications for four Members of the House—Justine Keay (Braddon, ALP), Susan Lamb (Longman, ALP), Rebekha Sharkie (Mayo, Centre Alliance) and Josh Wilson (Fremantle, ALP)—who all resigned. When Tim Hammond (Perth, ALP) resigned for personal reasons, five by-elections were held on ‘Super Saturday’ 28 July 2018. Although three of the seats (Braddon, Longman and Fremantle) were marginal Labor seats, the Liberals chose not to contest Fremantle or to contest the other seat in Western Australia (Perth). History was against the Liberal government winning seats from Labor but Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the results, inter alia, would be a test of his and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s leaderships.[30] In the end, Labor retained all its seats and increased its margins in Braddon and Longman, while Rebekha Sharkie in Mayo increased her margin by 2.6 per cent over the Liberals’ high profile candidate, Georgina Downer. The poor performance of the Liberals in the seats they contested—especially in Longman which had a 9.4 per cent swing against it on first preferences—was reportedly one factor in prompting the move that eventually deposed Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister on 24 August 2018.

Voided elections

Some by-elections have been caused by the voiding of particular results after a general election: Melbourne and Riverina in 1904, Echuca 1907, Ballaarat 1920, Lindsay 1996 and New England 2017.

Potentially, six other by-elections could have been brought about by voiding general election results under section 44(i) of the Constitution—Bennelong 2017, Batman 2018, Braddon 2018, Fremantle 2018, Longman 2018 and Mayo 2018—but the early resignations of the respective members avoided the need for referral to the High Court.

The Wills by-election of 1992 was itself voided, but another by-election was not held because of the proximity of the next general election.

Appendix 1: House of Representatives by-elections, 1901–2018

No. Date Division Member Elected Previous Member Reason for Vacancy
1 14.09.01 Darling Downs (Qld) Groom LE (Prot) Groom WH (Prot) Died
2 26.03.02 Tasmania Hartnoll W (FT) Piesse FW (FT) Died
3 04.09.03 East Sydney (NSW) Reid GH (FT) Reid GH (FT) Resigned in protest against rejection of proposals for redistribution of NSW.
4 26.02.04 Wilmot (Tas) Cameron DN (FT) Braddon ENC (FT) Died
5 30.03.04 Melbourne (Vic) Maloney WRN (ALP) McEacharn MD (Prot) Election voided
6 18.05.04 Riverina (NSW) Chanter JM (Prot) Blackwood RO (FT) Election voided
7 10.07.07 Echuca (Vic) Palmer AC (Prot) Palmer AC (Prot) Election voided
8 13.06.08 Adelaide (SA) Roberts EA (ALP) Kingston CC (Prot) Died
9 28.08.09 Wakefield (SA) Foster RW (AntiSoc) Holder FW (AntiSoc) Died
10 24.08.10 Kooyong (Vic) Best RW (Lib) Knox W (Lib) Resigned
11 08.02.11 Batman (Vic) Brennan F (ALP) Beard HE (ALP) Died
12 11.03.11 North Sydney (NSW) Ryrie GdeL (Lib) Edwards GB (Lib) Died
13 11.11.11 Boothby (SA) Gordon DJ (Lib) Batchelor EL (ALP) Died
14 01.06.12 Werriwa (NSW) Bennett BH (ALP) Hall DR (ALP) Resigned. Appointed MLC (NSW).
15 22.12.13 Kalgoorlie (WA) Mahon H (ALP) Frazer CE (ALP) Died
16 10.01.14 Adelaide (SA) Yates GE (ALP) Roberts EA (ALP) Died
17 06.02.15 Bendigo (Vic) Hampson AJ (ALP) Arthur JA (ALP) Died
18 20.02.15 Grampians (Vic) Salmon CC (Lib) Jolly EFG (ALP) Died
19 06.05.15 Dalley (NSW) Mahony WG (ALP) Howe R (ALP) Died
20 11.12.15 Wide Bay (Qld) Corser EBC (Lib) Fisher A (ALP) Resigned. Appointed Australian High Commissioner to Great Britain.
21 30.06.17 Darwin (Tas) Spence WG (Nat) Howroyd CR (Nat) Died
22 27.10.17 Grampians (Vic) Jowett E (Nat) Salmon CC (Lib) Died
23 11.05.18 Flinders (Vic) Bruce SM (Nat) Irvine WH (Nat) Resigned. Appointed Victorian Supreme Court.
24 26.10.18 Swan (WA) Corboy EW (ALP) Forrest J (Nat) Died
25 14.12.18 Corangamite (Vic) Gibson WG (VFU) Manifold JC (Nat) Died
26 20.09.19 Echuca (Vic) Hill WC (VFU) Palmer AC (Nat) Died
27 10.07.20 Ballaarat (Vic) McGrath DC (ALP) Kerby ETJ (Nat) Election voided
28 18.12.20 Kalgoorlie (WA) Foley GJ (Nat) Mahon H (ALP) Expelled
29 30.07.21 Maranoa (Qld) Hunter JAJ (CP) Page J (ALP) Died
30 03.09.21 West Sydney (NSW) Lambert WH (ALP) Ryan TJ (ALP) Died
31 10.12.21 Parramatta (NSW) Pratten HE (Nat) Cook J (Nat) Resigned. Appointed Australian High Commissioner to Great Britain.
32 18.02.22 Yarra (Vic) Scullin JH (ALP) Tudor FG (ALP) Died
33 06.03.26 Eden-Monaro (NSW) Perkins JA (Nat) Chapman A (Nat) Died
34 26.02.27 Dalley (NSW) Theodore EG (ALP) Mahony WG (ALP) Resigned
35 21.05.27 Warringah (NSW) Parkhill RA (Nat) Ryrie GdeL (Nat) Resigned. Appointed High Commissioner to Great Britain.
36 16.06.28 Martin (NSW) Pratten FG (Nat) Pratten HE (Nat) Died
37 03.09.28 Wide Bay (Qld) Corser BH (CP) Corser EBC (Nat) Died
38 03.08.29 Balaclava (Vic) White TW (Nat) Watt WA (Nat) Resigned
39 14.12.29 Franklin (Tas) Frost CW (ALP) McWilliams WJ (Ind) Died
40 31.01.31 Parkes (NSW) Marr CWC (Nat) McTiernan EA (ALP) Resigned. Appointed to High Court.
41 07.03.31 East Sydney (NSW) Ward EJ (ALP) West JE (ALP) Died
42 06.02.32 East Sydney (NSW) Ward EJ (LLab) Clasby JJ (UAP) Died
43 11.11.33 Flinders (Vic) Fairbairn JV (UAP) Bruce SM (UAP) Resigned. Appointed Resident Minister in London.
44 01.06.35 Newcastle (NSW) Watkins DO (FLP) Watkins D (FLP) Died
45 17.08.35 Fawkner (Vic) Holt HE (UAP) Maxwell GA (UAP) Died
46 12.12.36 Kennedy (Qld) Riordan WJF (FLP) Riordan D (FLP) Died
47 19.12.36 Darling Downs (Qld) Fadden AW (CP) Groom LE (UAP) Died
48 08.05.37 Gwydir (NSW) Scully WJ (ALP) Abbott CLA (CP) Resigned. Appointed Administrator of Northern Territory.
49 10.12.38 Wakefield (SA) McHugh S (ALP) Hawker CAS (UAP) Died
50 20.05.39 Griffith (Qld) Conelan WP (ALP) Baker FMJ (FLP) Died
51 27.05.39 Wilmot (Tas) Spurr LT (ALP) Lyons JA (UAP) Died
52 02.03.40 Corio (Vic) Dedman JJ (ALP) Casey RG (UAP) Resigned. Appointed Australian Ambassador to United States of America.
53 16.11.40 Kalgoorlie (WA) Johnson HV (ALP) Green AE (ALP) Died
54 21.12.40 Swan (WA) Marwick TW (CP) Gregory H (CP) Died
55 24.05.41 Boothby (SA) Price AG (UAP) Price JL (UAP) Died
56 18.08.45 Fremantle (WA) Beazley KE (ALP) Curtin J (ALP) Died
57 09.02.46 Wimmera (Vic) Turnbull WG (CP) Wilson A (CP) Resigned. Appointed Administrator of Norfolk Island.
58 30.03.46 Henty (Vic) Gullett HBS (Lib) Coles AW (Ind) Resigned
59 28.07.51 Balaclava (Vic) Joske PE (LP) White TW (LP) Resigned. Appointed High Commissioner to Great Britain.
60 28.07.51 Macquarie (NSW) Luchetti AS (ALP) Chifley JB (ALP) Died
61 22.03.52 Lyne (NSW) Lucock PE (CP) Eggins EJ (CP) Died
62 18.10.52 Flinders (Vic) Ewert KWW (ALP) Ryan RS (LP) Died
63 29.11.52 Werriwa (NSW) Whitlam EG (ALP) Lazzarini HP (ALP) Died
64 20.12.52 Bradfield (NSW) Turner HB (LP) Hughes WM (LP) Died
65 09.05.53 Dalley (NSW) Greenup AE (ALP) Rosevear JS (ALP) Died
66 29.08.53 Corangamite (Vic) Mackinnon ED (LP) McDonald AM (LP) Died
67 29.08.53 Lang (NSW) Stewart FE (ALP) Mulcahy D (ALP) Died
68 19.12.53 Gwydir (NSW) Allan AI (CP) Treloar TJ (CP) Died
69 21.05.55 Cook (NSW) Cope JF (ALP) Sheehan T (ALP) Died
70 11.04.56 Cunningham (NSW) Kearney VD (ALP) Davies W (ALP) Died
71 13.10.56 Barker (SA) Forbes AJ (LP) Cameron AG (LP) Died
72 08.12.56 Wentworth (NSW) Bury LHE (LP) Harrison EJ (LP) Resigned. Appointed High Commissioner to Great Britain.
73 14.09.57 Richmond (NSW) Anthony JD (CP) Anthony HL (CP) Died
74 08.03.58 Parramatta (NSW) Barwick GEJ (LP) Beale OH (LP) Resigned. Appointed Ambassador to USA.
75 09.04.60 Hunter (NSW) James AW (ALP) Evatt HV (ALP) Resigned. Appointed NSW Supreme Court.
76 09.04.60 La Trobe (Vic) Jess JD (LP) Casey RG (LP) Resigned
77 16.07.60 Balaclava (Vic) Whittorn RH (LP) Joske PE (LP) Resigned. Appointed Commonwealth Industrial Court.
78 16.07.60 Bendigo (Vic) Beaton NL (ALP) Clarey PJ (ALP) Died
79 05.11.60 Calare (NSW) England JA (CP) Howse JB (LP) Resigned
80 10.12.60 Higinbotham (Vic) Chipp DL (LP) Timson TF (LP) Died
81 01.09.62 Batman (Vic) Benson SJ (ALP) Bird AC (ALP) Died
82 01.06.63 Grey (SA) Mortimer J (ALP) Russell EHD (ALP) Died
83 28.09.63 East Sydney (NSW) Devine LT (ALP) Ward EJ (ALP) Died
84 15.02.64 Denison (Tas) Gibson A (LP) Townley AG (LP) Died
85 20.06.64 Angas (SA) Giles GO (LP) Downer AR (LP) Resigned. Appointed High Commissioner to Great Britain.
86 20.06.64 Parramatta (NSW) Bowen NH (LP) Barwick GEJ (LP) Resigned. Appointed to High Court.
87 05.12.64 Robertson (NSW) Bridges-Maxwell CW (LP) Dean RL (LP) Resigned. Appointed Administrator of NT.
88 27.02.65 Riverina (NSW) Armstrong AA (CP) Roberton HS (CP) Resigned. Appointed Ambassador to Ireland.
89 26.02.66 Dawson (Qld) Patterson RA (ALP) Shaw GW (CP) Died
90 02.04.66 Kooyong (Vic) Peacock AS (LP) Menzies RG (LP) Resigned
91 22.07.67 Corio (Vic) Scholes GGD (ALP) Opperman HF (LP) Resigned. Appointed High Commissioner to Malta.
92 30.09.67 Capricornia (Qld) Everingham DN (ALP) Gray GH (ALP) Died
93 24.02.68 Higgins (Vic) Gorton JG (LP) Holt HE (LP) Presumed dead
94 19.04.69 Curtin (WA) Garland RV (LP) Hasluck PM (LP) Resigned. Appointed Governor-General.
95 07.06.69 Bendigo (Vic) Kennedy AD (ALP) Beaton NL (ALP) Resigned
96 07.06.69 Gwydir (NSW) Hunt RJD (CP) Allan AI (CP) Resigned. Appointed Secretary-General Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
97 30.05.70 Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Enderby KE (ALP) Fraser JR (ALP) Died
98 19.09.70 Chisholm (Vic) Staley AA (LP) Kent Hughes WS (LP) Died
99 20.03.71 Murray (Vic) Lloyd EB (CP) McEwen J (CP) Resigned
100 22.09.73 Parramatta (NSW) Ruddock PM (LP) Bowen NH (LP) Resigned. Appointed to NSW Court of Appeal.
101 28.06.75 Bass (Tas) Newman KE (LP) Barnard LH (ALP) Resigned. Appointed Ambassador to Norway, Finland and Sweden.
102 15.10.77 Cunningham (NSW) West SJ (ALP) Connor RFX (ALP) Died
103 23.09.78 Werriwa (NSW) Kerin JC (ALP) Whitlam EG (ALP) Resigned
104 23.06.79 Grayndler (NSW) McLeay LB (ALP) Stewart FE (ALP) Died
105 21.02.81 Boothby (SA) Hall S (LP) McLeay JE (LP) Resigned. Appointed Consul-General in Los Angeles.
106 21.02.81 Curtin (WA) Rocher AC (LP) Garland RV (LP) Resigned. Appointed High Commissioner to Great Britain.
107 21.02.81 McPherson (Qld) White PND (LP) Robinson EL (LP) Died
108 11.04.81 Wentworth (NSW) Coleman WP (LP) Ellicott RJ (LP) Resigned. Appointed to Federal Court.
109 13.03.82 Lowe (NSW) Maher MJ (ALP) McMahon W (LP) Resigned
110 04.12.82 Flinders (Vic) Reith PK (LP) Lynch PR (LP) Resigned
111 07.05.83 Wannon (Vic) Hawker DPM (LP) Fraser JM (LP) Resigned
112 28.05.83 Bruce (Vic) Aldred KJ (LP) Snedden BM (LP) Resigned
113 05.11.83 Moreton (Qld) Cameron DM (LP) Killen DJ (LP) Resigned
114 18.02.84 Corangamite (Vic) McArthur FS (LP) Street AA (LP) Resigned
115 18.02.84 Hughes (NSW) Tickner RE (ALP) Johnson LR (ALP) Resigned. Appointed High Commissioner to NZ.
116 18.02.84 Richmond (NSW) Blunt CW (NP) Anthony JD (NP) Resigned
117 08.02.86 Scullin (Vic) Jenkins HA (ALP) Jenkins HA (ALP) Resigned. Appointed Ambassador to Spain.
118 06.02.88 Adelaide (SA) Pratt MP (LP) Hurford CJ (ALP) Resigned. Appointed Consul-General in New York.
119 26.03.88 Port Adelaide (SA) Sawford RW (ALP) Young MJ (ALP) Resigned
120 09.04.88 Groom (Qld) Taylor WL (LP) McVeigh DT (NP) Resigned
121 08.10.88 Oxley (Qld) Scott LJ (ALP) Hayden WG (ALP) Resigned. Appointed Governor-General.
122 15.04.89 Gwydir (NSW) Anderson JD (NP) Hunt RJD (NP) Resigned
123 11.05.91 Menzies (Vic) Andrews KJ (LP) Brown NA (LP) Resigned
124 11.04.92 Wills (Vic) Cleary PR (Ind) Hawke RJL (ALP) Resigned
125 29.01.94 Werriwa (NSW) Latham M (ALP) Kerin JC (ALP) Resigned
126 12.03.94 Fremantle (WA) Lawrence C (ALP) Dawkins J (ALP) Resigned
127 19.03.94 Bonython (SA) Evans M (ALP) Blewett N (ALP) Resigned. Appointed High Commissioner to the UK.
128 26.03.94 Mackellar (NSW) Bishop B (LP) Carlton J (LP) Resigned
129 26.03.94 Warringah (NSW) Abbott T (LP) MacKellar  M (LP) Resigned
130 19.11.94 Kooyong (Vic) Georgiou P (LP) Peacock AS (LP) Resigned
131 25.03.95 Canberra (ACT) Smyth B (LP) Kelly R (ALP) Resigned
132 08.04.95 Wentworth (NSW) Thomson A (LP) Hewson J (LP) Resigned
133 15.06.96 Blaxland (NSW) Hatton M (ALP) Keating P (ALP) Resigned
134 19.10.96 Lindsay (NSW) Kelly J (LP) Kelly J (LP) Election voided
135 01.02.97 Fraser (ACT) Dargavel S (ALP) Langmore J (ALP) Resigned
136 06.11.99 Holt (Vic) Byrne A (ALP) Evans G (ALP) Resigned
137 12.08.00 Isaacs (Vic) Corcoran A (ALP) Wilton G (ALP) Died
138 17.03.01 Ryan (Qld) Short L (ALP) Moore J (LP) Resigned
139 14.07.01 Aston (Vic) Pearce C (LP) Nugent P (LP) Died
140 19.10.02 Cunningham (NSW) Organ M (Grn) Martin S (ALP) Resigned
141 19.05.05 Werriwa (NSW) Hayes C (ALP) Latham M (ALP) Resigned
142 28.06.08 Gippsland (Vic) Chester D (NP) McGauran P (NP) Resigned
143 06.09.08 Lyne (NSW) Oakeshott R (Ind) Vaile M (NP) Resigned
144 06.09.08 Mayo (SA) Briggs J (LP) Downer A (LP) Resigned
145 05.12.09 Bradfield (NSW) Fletcher P (LP) Nelson B (LP) Resigned
146 05.12.09 Higgins (Vic) O’Dwyer K (LP) Costello P (LP) Resigned
147 08.02.14 Griffith (Qld) Butler T (ALP) Rudd K (ALP) Resigned
148 19.09.15 Canning (WA) Hastie A (LP) Randall D (LP) Died
149 05.12.15 North Sydney (NSW) Zimmerman T (LP) Hockey J (LP) Resigned
150 02.12.17 New England (NSW) Joyce B (NP) Joyce B (NP) Election voided
151 16.12.17 Bennelong (NSW) Alexander J (LP) Alexander J (LP) Resigned
152 17.03.18 Batman (Vic) Kearney G (ALP) Feeney D (ALP) Resigned
153 28.07.18 Braddon (Tas) Keay J (ALP) Keay J (ALP) Resigned
154 28.07.18 Fremantle (WA) Wilson J (ALP) Wilson J (ALP) Resigned
155 28.07.18 Longman (Qld) Lamb S (ALP) Lamb S (ALP) Resigned
156 28.07.18 Perth (WA) Gorman P (ALP) Hammond T (ALP) Resigned
157 28.07.18 Mayo (SA) Sharkie R (CntreAll) Sharkie R (CntreAll) Resigned
158 20.10.18 Wentworth (NSW) Turnbull M (LP) Phelps K (Ind) Resigned

Note: Seats which changed party at a by-election are highlighted. By the time of the Grampians by-election of 1917, the Liberal Party had effectively been subsumed by the Nationalist Party. Hence, this by-election is not regarded as an occasion when the division changed parties.

For votes received in each contest, see Appendix 2.

Appendix 2: By-election results by electoral division, 1901–2018 [PDF338KB]

Appendix 3: Notes on Commonwealth by-elections, 1901–2018

1. Darling Downs 1901—the first by-election, which followed the death of William Henry Groom, was won by his son, Littleton Ernest Groom for the Protectionist Party from one other candidate, an Independent.

2. Tasmania 1902—this by-election was caused by the death of Frederick Piesse. This has been the only by-election held at-large, due to the first Tasmanian members being elected from the state as a whole rather than from individual electorates.

3. East Sydney 1903—the sitting member, Sir George Reid, resigned in protest against the proposals for the redistribution of New South Wales divisions, forcing the by-election. Reid won the resulting by-election.

4. Wilmot 1904—former Tasmanian Premier and Constitution-writer, Sir Edward Braddon, remains the oldest person elected to the House of Representatives. He was 71 when first elected and 74 when he died, forcing this by-election.

5. Melbourne 1904—by-election caused by the voiding of the general election result on the grounds of irregularities by electoral officials. The opposition Free Trade Party did not stand a candidate.

6. Riverina 1904—by-election caused by the voiding of the general election result on the grounds of irregularities by electoral officials.

7. Echuca 1907—by-election caused by the voiding of the general election result on the grounds of irregularities by electoral officials. The Opposition did not contest the seat.

8. Adelaide 1908—death of former Premier and Constitution-writer, Charles Cameron Kingston. Neither the Protectionist government nor the Anti-Socialist opposition contested the seat won by the Labor Party.

9. Wakefield 1909—death of former Premier and Constitution-writer, Sir Frederick Holder.

10. Kooyong 1910—the winner of this by-election, Sir Robert Best, had been a Senator during the first decade until his defeat in 1910.

11. Batman 1911—well-known lawyer, Frank Brennan, won this seat for the Labor Party.

12. North Sydney 1911—Major-General Sir Granville Ryrie, who had seen military service in South Africa, at Gallipoli and in Egypt, won this seat for the Liberal Party.

13. Boothby 1911—the Fisher Labor Government lost this seat to the Liberal Party, but regained it at the 1913 general election.

14. Werriwa 1912—David Robert Hall resigned to take up an appointment to the New South Wales Legislative Council.

15. Kalgoorlie 1913—the first by-election for which there was just a single nomination. The Liberal government did not contest this seat won by Labor.

16. Adelaide 1914—the winner of this by-election, George Yates, soon left Australia to serve in the World War, though he retained his seat while he did so.

17. Bendigo 1915—this by-election was caused by the death of the Minister for External Affairs, John Arthur.

18. Grampians 1915—Sir Charles Salmon, second Speaker of the House of Representatives (1909-10) returned to the Parliament at this by-election.

19. Dalley 1915—the death of Robert Howe, first secretary of the Labor Federation of Australia caused this by-election. Not contested by the Opposition, and only one candidate nominated.

20. Wide Bay 1915—former Prime Minister, Andrew Fisher, resigned to take up an appointment as Australian High Commissioner to Great Britain. The Labor Party lost the seat, which it did not win back until 1961.

21. Darwin 1917—former Tasmanian MHA, Charles Howroyd, died five days after winning the seat at the 1917 general election.

22. Grampians 1917—Sir Charles Salmon's death caused this by-election. He was replaced by Edmund Jowett, later elected first deputy leader of the Country Party.

23. Flinders 1918—upon the appointment of Sir William Irvine as Chief Justice of the Victorian Supreme Court, the by-election for his seat saw the victory of future Prime Minister Stanley Bruce.

24. Swan 1918—by-election caused by the death of former Premier and Constitution-writer, Sir John Forrest. The Nationalist Party failed to hold the seat after splitting the conservative vote with the emerging Country Party, allowing the Labor Party to win. The Country Party won this seat at the next general election. This was the last election held using ‘first past the post’ voting.

25. Corangamite 1918—this by-election saw the first use of preferential voting for a House election of any type. The Victorian Farmers' Union won the seat from the Nationalists. The defeated Labor candidate was future Prime Minister, James Scullin.

26. Echuca 1919—this seat was also won by the Victorian Farmers' Union from the Nationalists. Not contested by the Opposition.

27. Ballaarat 1920—in the 1919 general election, Edwin Kerby had defeated sitting member David McGrath by a single vote. Upon challenge, the Court of Disputed Returns declared void the general election result on the ground of irregularities by electoral officials. McGrath won the resulting by-election.

28. Kalgoorlie 1920—Labor's Hugh Mahon remains the only member or senator to be expelled. Although Mahon recontested for the Labor Party, the Nationalist government won—the only time a government has taken a seat from the opposition at a by-election. Labor won Kalgoorlie back at the 1922 general election.

29. Maranoa 1921—the Country Party won its first by-election taking the seat from the Labor Party.

30. West Sydney 1921—former Queensland Premier, Thomas Ryan, had been invited by the ALP Conference to contest this New South Wales division at the 1919 general election. Less than two years later he died causing this by-election.

31. Parramatta 1921—former Prime Minister, Sir Joseph Cook, caused the by-election by accepting appointment as Australian High Commissioner to Great Britain.

32. Yarra 1922—by-election caused by the death of the Labor Leader of the Opposition, Frank Tudor. The by-election was won by future Prime Minister, James Scullin.

33. Eden-Monaro 1926—this by-election was caused by the death of Sir Austin Chapman, former Minister for Defence, Postmaster-General and Minister for Trade and Customs.

34. Dalley 1927—by-election won by former Queensland Premier, Edward Theodore.

35. Warringah 1927—by-election caused by the resignation of Sir Granville Ryrie to accept the position of Australian High Commissioner to Great Britain.

36. Martin 1928—Frederick Pratten replaced his uncle, the late Herbert Pratten, in this by-election.

37. Wide Bay 1928—by-election in which Bernard Corser (CP) replaced his father Edward Corser (Nat). Not contested by the Opposition, and only one candidate nominated.

38. Balaclava 1929—by-election to replace William Watt, former Victorian Premier, Commonwealth Treasurer and Speaker. His replacement was (Sir) Thomas White, son-in-law of Alfred Deakin and later a Menzies Government minister. Not contested by the Opposition.

39. Franklin 1929—by-election caused by death of the independent William McWilliams, previously the first parliamentary leader of the Country Party. His replacement, Charles Frost, was later a minister under both Prime Ministers Curtin and Chifley.

40. Parkes 1931—by-election caused by the appointment of Edward McTiernan to the High Court.

41. East Sydney 1931—by-election won by Edward Ward for the ALP. Ward lost the seat to John Clasby (UAP) at the 1932 general election.

42. East Sydney 1932—sitting member John Clasby (UAP) died before taking his seat and former member Edward Ward won the by-election, now as a Lang Labor candidate. Ward is the only person to win two by-elections.

43. Flinders 1933—former Prime Minister, Stanley Bruce, caused the by-election when he was appointed Resident Minister in England.

44. Newcastle 1935—by-election at which David Oliver Watkins replaced his father, David Watkins.

45. Fawkner 1935—by-election won by future Prime Minister, Harold Holt, for the UAP.

46. Kennedy 1936—by-election at which David Riordan replaced his uncle, William Riordan.

47. Darling Downs 1936—by-election won by future Prime Minister and Country Party leader, Arthur Fadden, for the Country Party.

48. Gwydir 1937—by-election following the appointment of Charles Abbott to the position of Administrator of the Northern Territory. Three Country Party candidates nominated.

49. Wakefield 1938—by-election at which the ALP won the seat from the UAP, following the death of Charles Hawker in a plane crash. The UAP retained the seat at the 1940 general election.

50. Griffith 1939—by-election following death of Francis Baker.

51. Wilmot 1939—by-election caused by the death of Prime Minister, Joseph Lyons. The field included three UAP and two ALP candidates. The ALP won the seat from the UAP, but lost it in the 1940 general election.

52. Corio 1940—John Dedman (ALP) won this seat from the UAP after Richard Casey was appointed Australian Ambassador to the United States of America.

53. Kalgoorlie 1940—by-election caused by the death of former Minister for Defence, Albert Green.

54. Swan 1940—by-election won by former Senator Thomas Marwick.

55. Boothby 1941—by-election won by (Sir) Archie (Grenfell) Price, Master of St Mark's College, University of Adelaide, and noted Australian geographer. He was not related to his predecessor, John Price.

56. Fremantle 1945—by-election caused by the death of Prime Minister, John Curtin. The by-election was won by Kim Beazley senior.

57. Wimmera 1946—after a battle between seven contenders, including two from the Country Party and one described as 'Independent Country Party', (Sir) Winton Turnbull narrowly won this by-election.

58. Henty 1946—by-election to replace Arthur Coles, former managing director of GJ Coles & Co., Lord Mayor of Melbourne and independent, who had shared the balance of power after the 1941 election with Alex Wilson. This was the first by-election won by the re-formed Liberal Party. It was won by Henry Gullett, son of Sir Henry who had held the seat between 1925 and 1940.

59. Balaclava 1951—Percy Joske retained this seat for the Liberal Party following the appointment of Thomas White as High Commissioner in London.

60. Macquarie 1951—by-election held following the death of the former Prime Minister, Ben Chifley. The ALP retained the seat despite a small (0.4 per cent) swing to the LP/CP Coalition Government.

61. Lyne 1952—the Country Party, which stood two candidates in this by-election, retained the seat with Phil Lucock the successful candidate despite a large swing to the ALP (8.8 per cent).

62. Flinders 1952—the Liberal Party lost the seat to the ALP as the result of a large (11.0 per cent) swing against the LP/CP Coalition Government. The successful candidate, Keith Ewert, lost the seat at the next general election.

63. Werriwa 1952—the ALP achieved its largest by-election swing in the post-war period (12.4 per cent) at this by-election. The successful ALP candidate was future Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam.

64. Bradfield 1952—no ALP candidate contested this safe Liberal seat, previously held by former Prime Minister and longest serving member of the House of Representatives, William ‘Billy’ Hughes.

65. Dalley 1953—the Liberal Party did not contest this safe ALP seat, retained for the ALP by Arthur Greenup.

66. Corangamite 1953—Ewen Mackinnon retained this seat for the Liberal Party despite a 6.5 per cent swing against the Coalition Government.

67. Lang 1953—Frederick Stewart retained this seat for the ALP following the death of Daniel Mulcahy.

68. Gwydir 1953—two Country Party candidates contested this by-election together with candidates from the ALP and Liberal Party. The seat was won by the Country Party's Archibald Allan.

69. Cook 1955—the Liberal Party did not contest this safe ALP seat, retained for Labor by Jim Cope. Typically of inner-city electorates there was a low voter turnout (76.0 per cent) at this by-election.

70. Cunningham 1956—Victor Kearney retained this safe seat for the ALP, in the only uncontested by-election since the Second World War.

71. Barker 1956—following the death of long-term member and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Archie Cameron, the Liberal Party retained this seat despite a 9.9 per cent swing against the government.

72. Wentworth 1956—despite a record (over the period 1949 to the present day) first preference swing against the Liberal Party of 30.7 per cent, Leslie Bury retained this seat for the Liberals following the appointment of Eric Harrison as High Commissioner in London.

73. Richmond 1957—four Country Party candidates contested this by-election, including the eventual winner, Doug Anthony, the son of the former member, Hubert Lawrence (Larry) Anthony.

74. Parramatta 1958—Garfield Barwick retained this seat for the Liberal Party following the appointment of former member Oliver Beale as Ambassador to the United States of America.

75. Hunter 1960—the Liberal Party did not stand a candidate for this safe ALP seat, formerly held by Opposition Leader Herbert Evatt who died in office.

76. La Trobe 1960—seat retained for the Liberal Party by John Jess following the resignation of the Minister for External Affairs, Richard Casey.

77. Balaclava 1960—Percy Joske resigned to become a judge of the Commonwealth Industrial Court and was also appointed a judge of the ACT Supreme Court. The seat was retained for the Liberal Party by Raymond Whittorn.

78. Bendigo 1960—this marginal seat was retained for the ALP by Noel Beaton following the death of sitting member, Percy Clarey.

79. Calare 1960—seat won by John England for the Country Party from the Liberal Party. This has been the only occasion when the Country Party has won a seat from the Liberal Party at a by-election.

80. Higinbotham 1960—Don Chipp just retained this seat for the Liberal Party following the death of Thomas (Frank) Timson.

81. Batman 1962—Captain Sam Benson retained this safe seat for the Labor Party following the death of sitting member, Alan Bird. Benson subsequently retained Batman as an independent at the 1966 general election.

82. Grey 1963—retained for the ALP by Jack Mortimer following the death of Edgar Russell.

83. East Sydney 1963—this by-election resulted in the second lowest voter turnout (71.9 per cent) since the introduction of compulsory voting. The ALP retained the seat. The Liberal Party did not stand a candidate.

84. Denison 1964—Athol Townley was re-elected at the 1963 general election but died before the opening of the Parliament. The seat was retained for the Liberal Party by Adrian Gibson.

85. Angas 1964—Alexander Downer senior resigned to become High Commissioner in London. The seat was retained for the Liberal Party by Geoffrey Giles.

86. Parramatta 1964—Garfield Barwick resigned to become Chief Justice of the High Court. The seat was retained for the Liberal Party by Nigel Bowen.

87. Robertson 1964—Roger Dean resigned to become Administrator of the Northern Territory. The seat was retained for the Liberal Party by Crawford Bridges-Maxwell.

88. Riverina 1965—Hugh Roberton resigned to become Ambassador to Ireland. The seat was retained for the Country Party by Adam Armstrong.

89. Dawson 1966—the ALP candidate, Rex Patterson, achieved a large swing (11.9 per cent) against the LP/CP Coalition Government to win the seat from the Country Party.

90. Kooyong 1966—the Liberal Party candidate, Andrew Peacock, retained this safe Liberal seat in the by-election following the resignation of Prime Minister, Robert Menzies.

91. Corio 1967—a large swing against the LP/CP Coalition Government (11.1 per cent) resulted in the ALP candidate, Gordon Scholes, winning the seat from the Liberal Party, following the retirement of popular sporting personality, Hubert Opperman.

92. Capricornia 1967—following the death of sitting member George Shaw, this seat was retained by the ALP by Doug Everingham.

93. Higgins 1968—this by-election was held following the presumed death of Prime Minister Harold Holt. The seat was retained for the Liberal Party by new Prime Minister (and ex-Senator) John Gorton.

94. Curtin 1969—the sitting member, Minister for External Affairs, Paul Hasluck, resigned to become Governor-General. The seat was retained for the Liberal Party by Ransley Garland, despite a 7.1 per cent swing against the Coalition Government.

95. Bendigo 1969—Noel Beaton resigned because of ill health. The seat was retained for the ALP by David Kennedy.

96. Gwydir 1969—Allan Armstrong resigned to become Secretary-General of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The seat was retained for the Country Party by Ralph Hunt, despite a 7.7 per cent swing against the Coalition Government.

97. Australian Capital Territory 1970—despite a large swing against it, the ALP retained this seat held for 18 years by popular member, Jim Fraser. The Australia Party candidate, Alan Fitzgerald, received 17.5 per cent of the first preference votes.

98. Chisholm 1970—Tony Staley retained this seat for the Liberal Party. The ALP candidate was Francis (Frank) Costigan, later Royal Commissioner investigating the activities of the Federated Ship Painters' and Dockers' Union, and tax evasion matters.

99. Murray 1971—Bruce Lloyd retained this seat for the Country Party following the resignation of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Industry, John McEwen.

100. Parramatta 1973—Nigel Bowen resigned to become a judge of the NSW Court of Appeal. Philip Ruddock retained the seat for the Liberal Party. Twelve candidates contested the by-election, a record to that time.

101. Bass 1975—the second largest swing recorded against any government to that time (14.6 per cent) occurred at this by-election held following the appointment of former Deputy Prime Minister, Lance Barnard, to be Ambassador to Norway, Finland and Sweden. The Liberal Party candidate, Kevin Newman, won the seat from the ALP.

102. Cunningham 1977—following the death of sitting member, Reginald (Rex) Connor, this seat was retained by the ALP by Stewart West.

103. Werriwa 1978—the ALP candidate, John Kerin, achieved a large swing (11.3 per cent) against the LP/NP Coalition Government in this by-election, held following the resignation of former Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam.

104. Grayndler 1979—retained for the ALP by Leo McLeay following the death of Frank Stewart.

105. Boothby 1981—retained for the Liberal Party by Steele Hall, former Premier of South Australia and Senator, following the resignation of John McLeay, who became Consul-General in Los Angeles.

106. Curtin 1981—Ransley Garland resigned to become High Commissioner in London. The seat was retained for the Liberal Party by Allan Rocher.

107. McPherson 1981—the Liberal Party candidate, Peter White, achieved a two-party preferred swing to the LP/NP Coalition Government of 16.2 per cent, the largest swing to any government since 1949. The National Party candidate (future Senator Glen Sheil) outpolled the ALP candidate.

108. Wentworth 1981—the former leader of the New South Wales Liberal Party, Peter Coleman, comfortably retained the seat despite a 6.2 per cent swing to the ALP candidate, Robert Tickner. The voter turnout (69.5 per cent) was the lowest since the introduction of compulsory voting in 1924.

109. Lowe 1982—this marginal Liberal Party seat became vacant following the resignation of former Prime Minister, Sir William McMahon. The ALP candidate, Michael Maher, won the seat from the Liberal Party with an 8.5 per cent swing.

110. Flinders 1982—the Liberal Party retained this marginal seat despite a 3.3 per cent swing against the LP/NP Coalition Government. However, new member, Peter Reith, was unable to take up his seat in the House of Representatives as the Parliament was dissolved before he could be sworn in and he was defeated at the subsequent general election.

111. Wannon 1983—the seat was retained for the Liberal Party by David Hawker, following the resignation of sitting member, former Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser.

112. Bruce 1983—the seat was retained for the Liberal Party by Kenneth Aldred, following the resignation of sitting member, former Opposition Leader and Speaker Billy Snedden.

113. Moreton 1983¾the Liberal Party retained this marginal Liberal seat with a small swing in its favour. The successful candidate, Don Cameron, had lost the neighbouring seat of Fadden at the previous general election.

114. Corangamite 1984—the seat was retained for the Liberal Party by Fergus Stewart McArthur. Labor candidate Gavan O'Connor subsequently became Member for Corio.

115. Hughes 1984—the seat was retained for ALP by Robert Tickner, following the resignation of Leslie Johnson, who became High Commissioner to New Zealand.

116. Richmond 1984—the seat was retained for the National Party by Charles Blunt, following the resignation of former Deputy Prime Minister, Doug Anthony.

117. Scullin 1986—the seat was retained for ALP by Henry Alfred Jenkins who succeeded his father Dr Henry Alfred Jenkins.

118. Adelaide 1988—the ALP lost this seat with a swing of 8.4 per cent against the ALP Government. The successful Liberal Party candidate, Michael Pratt, lost the seat at the next general election.

119. Port Adelaide 1988—an 11.1 per cent swing against the ALP Government was insufficient for the Liberal Party to win the seat. The ALP's Rod Sawford was the winning candidate.

120. Groom 1988—the Liberal Party candidate, Bill Taylor, won the seat previously held by the National Party.

121. Oxley 1988—the prospective appointment of former Opposition Leader, Bill Hayden, as Governor-General caused the vacancy in this safe ALP seat. The ALP candidate, Les Scott, was successful despite an 11.8 per cent swing against the ALP Government.

122. Gwydir 1989—John Anderson retained this seat for the National Party following the resignation of sitting member Ralph Hunt. Anderson defeated two independent candidates to win the seat.

123. Menzies 1991—Kevin Andrews retained this seat for the Liberal Party following the resignation of sitting member Neil Brown.

124. Wills 1992—at that time a record number of 22 candidates (equalled in 2009 in Bradfield) contested this ALP seat vacated by the former Prime Minister, Bob Hawke. Prominent local identity, Phil Cleary, won the seat to become the only independent candidate to win a Commonwealth by-election. The by-election result was voided by the Court of Disputed Returns. Mr Cleary was in contravention of section 44(iv) of the Constitution and the Liberal and Labor candidates contravened section 44(i). A subsequent by-election was not held because of the impending general election.

125. Werriwa 1994—the ALP retained this safe seat despite a swing against the ALP Government of 6.3 per cent. The successful candidate was Mark Latham.

126. Fremantle 1994—former Western Australian Premier, Carmen Lawrence, retained this seat for the ALP with a swing of 1.0 per cent to the government. Lawrence’s success was the first by-election win by a woman candidate.

127. Bonython 1994—despite a swing of 7.8 per cent against the ALP, Martyn Evans retained this seat for the government.

128. Mackellar 1994—Liberal candidate, ex-Senator Bronwyn Bishop, easily retained this safe Liberal Party seat. Prominent writer, Bob Ellis (Ind), received 23.1 per cent of the first preference vote in the absence of a Labor Party candidate.

129. Warringah 1994¾this seat was retained for the Liberal Party by Tony Abbott. The ALP did not stand a candidate in this safe seat.

130. Kooyong 1994—the seat was retained for the Liberal Party by Petro Georgiou, following the resignation of sitting member and former Leader of the Opposition, Andrew Peacock. In the absence of an ALP candidate the Greens candidate, Peter Singer, received 28.0 per cent of the vote.

131. Canberra 1995—after initially considering not to contest this fairly safe ALP seat, the Liberal Party ultimately decided to enter the race and won the seat from the government with a record swing of 16.1 per cent. The successful candidate, Brendan Smyth, lost the seat at the following general election.

132. Wentworth 1995—despite being classified as a marginal Liberal seat the ALP did not contest this by-election caused by former Leader of the Opposition, John Hewson. The winning Liberal candidate was Andrew Thomson.

133. Blaxland 1996—the seat was retained for the ALP by Michael Hatton, following the resignation of former Prime Minister, Paul Keating. The government did not contest this safe seat.

134. Lindsay 1996—the 1996 general election result for Lindsay was voided by the Court of Disputed Returns under section 44(iv) of the Constitution because Jackie Kelly, the successful Liberal candidate at the 1996 election, was a serving officer in the RAAF at the time of nomination. She was also alleged to be a dual citizen (New Zealand) but this was not required to be tested by the Court. At the by-election Ms Kelly won with a swing of 5.0 per cent to the government.

135. Fraser 1997—the seat was retained for the ALP by Steve Dargavel, following the resignation of sitting member, John Langmore. At the subsequent general election, the ACT's representation in the House of Representatives was reduced to two seats. Dargavel did not contest ALP pre-selection so that Bob McMullan, Member for Canberra, could contest Fraser.

136. Holt 1999—the seat was retained for the ALP by Anthony Byrne, following the resignation of sitting member, Gareth Evans.

137. Isaacs 2000—this was the first by-election since McPherson 1981 which was caused by the suicide of the sitting member, Greg Wilton. The LP did not contest this fairly safe Labor seat. Retained for the ALP by Ann Corcoran.

138. Ryan 2001—the ALP candidate, Leonie Short, won this fairly safe Liberal seat following the retirement of John Moore. The swing of 9.7 per cent against the government was just sufficient for Short to succeed. She lost the seat in the following general election.

139. Aston 2001—a field of fifteen candidates contested the by-election in this marginal government seat. It was retained for the Liberal Party by Chris Pearce, following the death of sitting member, Peter Nugent.

140. Cunningham 2002—Greens candidate, Michael Organ, won this safe Labor seat following the resignation of sitting member, Stephen Martin. For the first time since Maranoa in 1921 an Opposition-held seat was lost in a by-election. The winning candidate received 23.0 per cent of the vote, the lowest winning first preference vote of any Commonwealth by-election. This was the first by-election victory by a minor party candidate since Echuca in 1919. The ALP regained the seat at the 2004 general election.

141. Werriwa 2005—Mark Latham had won Werriwa for the ALP in a by-election in 1994. It was his resignation from the seat soon after his resignation as Leader of the Opposition that caused this by-election. Sixteen candidates contested the by-election, the third-highest total since 1901, with the seat being retained by the ALP.

142. Gippsland 2008—Peter McGauran (NP) had held Gippsland for 25 years, the longest term of the Federation electorate’s eight members to that time. The by-election was contested by National, Liberal, Labor and Green candidates, but Darren Chester continued the Country/National Party hold of the seat that dated back to 1922.

143. Lyne 2008—first contested in 1949, Lyne had been held by four Country/National MPs, including Mark Vaile, the party leader between 2005 and 2007. Former National, and later independent MLA, Rob Oakeshott, (1996–2008), was elected as an independent with a first preference vote of 63.8 per cent. The Labor Party did not contest the by-election.

144. Mayo 2008—former Liberal Party leader and later Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer, had been the first and only Member for Mayo when he retired after serving 23 years. Labor did not contest the by-election which was won for the Liberal Party by Jamie Briggs.

145. Bradfield 2009—former Howard government minister and Liberal Party leader, Brendan Nelson, retired to take up Ambassadorships to the European Communities, Belgium and Luxembourg and posts as Representative to NATO and Special Representative to WHO. Labor did not stand a candidate in the by-election which was contested by an equal record number of 22 candidates. The blue ribbon Liberal seat was easily retained by Paul Fletcher.

146. Higgins 2009—the resignation of former Howard government Treasurer, Peter Costello, triggered only the second by-election to be held in this fairly safe Liberal Party seat (the first being in 1968 after Prime Minister Harold Holt was presumed dead). Labor did not contest this by-election which was won by Costello’s former advisor, Kelly O’Dwyer.

147. Griffith 2014—former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, resigned after leading the ALP government to a loss at the 2013 election in his second stint as Prime Minister. Terri Butler retained the marginal seat for the ALP despite a two-party preferred swing against the ALP of 1.3 per cent.

148. Canning 2015—Don Randall, the member for Canning since 2001 and former member for Swan 1993–1998, died suddenly. The subsequent by-election was being seen as a litmus test of the Abbott led Coalition government; however, Malcolm Turnbull became Prime Minister four days before the poll. Andrew Hastie retained the seat for the Liberals and the 6.6 per cent swing against the government was not as high as the double digit swing predicted by the polls.

149. North Sydney 2015—this safe seat was vacated by former Abbott government Treasurer, Joe Hockey. A controversial pre-selection process saw former Hockey staffer, Trent Zimmerman, represent the Liberal Party. The ALP chose not to contest the poll. A field of 13 candidates stood and Zimmerman needed preferences to win the seat after a 12.5 per cent first preference swing against the Liberals.

150. New England 2017—due to contravention of section 44(i) of the Constitution, the Court of Disputed Returns declared invalid the 2016 election of Barnaby Joyce, National Party leader and Deputy Prime Minister. After renouncing his New Zealand citizenship Joyce successfully re-contested for this seat and, despite the third largest field of candidates in a by-election, gained a substantial 12.6 per cent swing on first preferences.

151. Bennelong 2017—Liberal John Alexander resigned from this fairly safe seat after declaring himself a dual citizen. After renouncing his British citizenship Alexander re-contested but, although successful, the two-party preferred swing of 4.8 per cent against the Coalition turned this into a marginal seat.

152. Batman 2018—Labor member David Feeney resigned before the Court of Disputed Returns could rule on his dual-citizenship status. Ged Kearney, nurse and President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, was preselected by the ALP to run against the Greens’ Alex Bhathal, who had unsuccessfully contested Batman in five of the six Federal elections since 2001. With the Government choosing not to contest the by-election, and the ALP only holding the seat by a one per cent margin over the Greens, this was seen as a possible win for the Greens. However, a 3.4 per cent swing to the ALP (two-candidate basis) saw the ALP retain Batman.

153. Braddon 2018—one of five by-elections—the most by-elections ever held on a single day—on this date. Labor member, Justine Keay, resigned because her dual citizen situation was similar to Senator Katy Gallagher, who had been found ineligible to be elected at the 2016 election by the High Court under section 44(i) of the Constitution. Justine Keay re-contested for the ALP and retained her marginal seat with a slight, 0.1 per cent, swing from the Liberal Party.

154. Fremantle 2018—one of five by-elections—the most by-elections ever held on a single day—on this date. Labor member, Josh Wilson, resigned because his dual citizen situation was similar to Senator Katy Gallagher, who had been found ineligible to be elected at the 2016 election by the High Court under section 44(i) of the Constitution. Mr Wilson re-contested for the ALP but the Liberal Party chose not to field a candidate in this fairly safe seat. In the final contest Josh Wilson defeated the LDP by a 46.7 per cent margin.

155. Longman 2018—one of five by-elections—the most by-elections ever held on a single day—on this date. Labor member, Susan Lamb, resigned because her dual citizen situation was similar to Senator Katy Gallagher, who had been found ineligible to be elected at the 2016 election by the High Court under section 44(i) of the Constitution. Susan Lamb re-contested for the ALP and retained this very marginal seat gaining a 3.7 per cent two-party preferred swing. The 9.4 per cent first preference swing against the LNP candidate was cited amongst the reasons for the Liberal Party to depose Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (see Wentworth 2018, below).

156. Perth 2018—one of five by-elections—the most by-elections ever held on a single day—on this date. Tim Hammond, who had only been the Labor member for Perth since 2016, resigned for personal reasons. The Liberal Party chose not to contest this marginal seat and Patrick Gorman—WA Labor’s state secretary—retained the seat for Labor with a 26.2 per cent margin over the Greens.

157. Mayo 2018—one of five by-elections—the most by-elections ever held on a single day—on this date. Centre Alliance member, Rebekha Sharkie, resigned because her dual citizen situation was similar to Senator Katy Gallagher, who had been found ineligible to be elected at the 2016 election by the High Court under section 44(i) of the Constitution. Rebekha Sharkie re-contested this seat she won from the Liberal Party at the 2016 election. The Liberals fielded high profile candidate and daughter of Alexander Downer, Georgina Downer, but a swing of 2.6 per cent to Rebekha Sharkie saw her retain this seat for the Centre Alliance (formerly known as the Nick Xenophon Team).

158. Wentworth 2018—Malcolm Turnbull resigned from Parliament after being deposed as prime minister. Wentworth, which Turnbull had returned to a safe seat for the Liberal Party, was contested by 16 candidates including high profile Independent, Kerryn Phelps. The substantial, but not record (see Wentworth 1956), first preference vote swing of 19.2 per cent against the Liberals was too much to recover and Phelps won with a 2.4 per cent margin. The loss for the Liberals meant the loss of the Coalition government’s one seat majority in the House of Representatives, producing a hung Parliament.

Appendix 4: By-election timing, 1901–2018

Division Previous
Election
Date
Vacated
By-election
date
Next
Election
Elapsed Time (days) Reason
Vacated to
by-election
After
previous
election
Before next
election
Darling Downs (Qld) 30.03.01 08.08.01 14.09.01 16.12.03 37 168 823 Died
Tasmania 29.03.01 06.02.02 26.03.02 16.12.03 48 362 630 Died
East Sydney (NSW) 29.03.01 18.08.03 04.09.03 16.12.03 17 889 103 Resigned
Wilmot (Tas) 16.12.03 02.02.04 26.02.04 12.12.06 24 72 1020 Died
Melbourne (Vic) 16.12.03 10.03.04 30.03.04 12.12.06 20 105 987 Election voided
Riverina (NSW) 16.12.03 13.04.04 18.05.04 12.12.06 35 154 938 Election voided
Echuca (Vic) 12.12.06 10.06.07 10.07.07 13.04.10 30 210 1008 Election voided
Adelaide (SA) 12.12.06 11.05.08 13.06.08 13.04.10 33 549 669 Died
Wakefield (SA) 12.12.06 23.07.09 28.08.09 13.04.10 36 990 228 Died
Kooyong (Vic) 13.04.10 26.07.10 24.08.10 31.05.13 29 133 1011 Resigned
Batman (Vic) 13.04.10 18.12.10 08.02.11 31.05.13 52 301 843 Died
North Sydney (NSW) 13.04.10 04.02.11 11.03.11 31.05.13 35 332 812 Died
Boothby (SA) 13.04.10 08.10.11 11.11.11 31.05.13 34 577 567 Died
Werriwa (NSW) 13.04.10 01.04.12 01.06.12 31.05.13 61 780 364 Resigned
Kalgoorlie (WA) 31.05.13 25.11.13 22.12.13 05.09.14 27 205 257 Died
Adelaide (SA) 31.05.13 02.12.13 10.01.14 05.09.14 39 224 238 Died
Bendigo (Vic) 05.09.14 09.12.14 06.02.15 05.05.17 59 154 819 Died
Grampians (Vic) 05.09.14 01.01.15 20.02.15 05.05.17 50 168 805 Died
Dalley (NSW) 05.09.14 02.04.15 06.05.15 05.05.17 33 243 880 Died
Wide Bay (Qld) 05.09.14 26.10.15 11.12.15 05.05.17 46 462 511 Resigned
Darwin (Tas) 05.05.17 10.05.17 30.06.17 13.12.19 51 56 896 Died
Grampians (Vic) 05.05.17 15.09.17 27.10.17 13.12.19 42 175 777 Died
Flinders (Vic) 05.05.17 05.04.18 11.05.18 13.12.19 36 371 581 Resigned
Swan (WA) 05.05.17 02.09.18 26.10.18 13.12.19 54 539 413 Died
Corangamite (Vic) 05.05.17 23.10.18 14.12.18 13.12.19 52 588 364 Died
Echuca (Vic) 05.05.17 14.08.19 20.09.19 13.12.19 37 868 84 Died
Ballaarat (Vic) 13.12.19 02.06.20 10.07.20 16.12.22 38 210 889 Election voided
Kalgoorlie (WA) 13.12.19 12.11.20 18.12.20 16.12.22 36 371 728 Expelled
Maranoa (Qld) 13.12.19 03.06.21 30.07.21 16.12.22 57 595 504 Died
West Sydney (NSW) 13.12.19 01.08.21 03.09.21 16.12.22 33 630 469 Died
Parramatta (NSW) 13.12.19 11.11.21 10.12.21 16.12.22 29 728 371 Resigned
Yarra (Vic) 13.12.19 10.01.22 18.02.22 16.12.22 39 798 301 Died
Eden-Monaro (NSW) 14.11.25 12.01.26 06.03.26 17.11.28 53 113 987 Died
Dalley (NSW) 14.11.25 18.01.27 26.02.27 17.11.28 39 469 630 Resigned
Warringah (NSW) 14.11.25 13.04.27 21.05.27 17.11.28 38 553 546 Resigned
Martin (NSW) 14.11.25 07.05.28 16.06.28 17.11.28 40 945 154 Died
Wide Bay (Qld) 14.11.25 31.07.28 03.09.28 17.11.28 34 1024 75 Died
Balaclava (Vic) 17.11.28 05.07.29 03.08.29 12.10.29 29 259 70 Resigned
Franklin (Tas) 12.10.29 22.10.29 14.12.29 19.12.31 53 63 735 Died
Parkes (NSW) 12.10.29 19.12.30 31.01.31 19.12.31 43 476 322 Resigned
East Sydney (NSW) 12.10.29 05.02.31 07.03.31 19.12.31 30 511 287 Died
East Sydney (NSW) 19.12.31 15.01.32 06.02.32 15.09.34 22 49 952 Died
Flinders (Vic) 19.12.31 06.10.33 11.11.33 15.09.34 36 693 308 Resigned
Newcastle (NSW) 15.09.34 08.04.35 01.06.35 23.10.37 54 259 875 Died
Fawkner (Vic) 15.09.34 25.06.35 17.08.35 23.10.37 53 336 798 Died
Kennedy (Qld) 15.09.34 15.10.36 12.12.36 23.10.37 58 819 315 Died
Darling Downs (Qld) 15.09.34 06.11.36 19.12.36 23.10.37 43 826 308 Died
Gwydir (NSW) 15.09.34 28.03.37 08.05.37 23.10.37 41 966 168 Resigned
Wakefield (SA) 23.10.37 25.10.38 10.12.38 21.09.40 46 413 651 Died
Griffith (Qld) 23.10.37 28.03.39 20.05.39 21.09.40 53 574 490 Died
Wilmot (Tas) 23.10.37 07.04.39 27.05.39 21.09.40 50 581 483 Died
Corio (Vic) 23.10.37 30.01.40 02.03.40 21.09.40 32 861 203 Resigned
Kalgoorlie (WA) 21.09.40 02.10.40 16.11.40 21.08.43 45 56 1008 Died
Swan (WA) 21.09.40 15.11.40 21.12.40 21.08.43 36 91 973 Died
Boothby (SA) 21.09.40 23.04.41 24.05.41 21.08.43 31 245 819 Died
Fremantle (WA) 21.08.43 5.07.45 18.08.45 28.09.46 44 728 406 Died
Wimmera (Vic) 21.08.43 31.12.45 09.02.46 28.09.46 40 903 231 Resigned
Henty (Vic) 21.08.43 11.02.46 30.03.46 28.09.46 47 952 182 Resigned
Balaclava (Vic) 28.04.51 20.06.51 28.07.51 29.05.54 38 53 1036 Resigned
Macquarie (NSW) 28.04.51 13.06.51 28.07.51 29.05.54 45 46 1036 Died
Lyne (NSW) 28.04.51 28.01.52 22.03.52 29.05.54 54 275 798 Died
Flinders (Vic) 28.04.51 26.08.52 18.10.52 29.05.54 53 486 588 Died
Werriwa (NSW) 28.04.51 01.10.52 29.11.52 29.05.54 59 522 546 Died
Bradfield (NSW) 28.04.51 28.10.52 20.12.52 29.05.54 53 549 525 Died
Dalley (NSW) 28.04.51 21.03.53 09.05.53 29.05.54 49 693 385 Died
Corangamite (Vic) 28.04.51 10.06.53 29.08.53 29.05.54 80 774 273 Died
Lang (NSW) 28.04.51 13.07.53 29.08.53 29.05.54 47 807 273 Died
Gwydir (NSW) 28.04.51 15.11.53 19.12.53 29.05.54 34 932 161 Died
Cook (NSW) 29.05.54 26.03.55 21.05.55 10.12.55 56 301 203 Died
Cunningham (NSW) 10.12.55 17.02.56 11.04.56 22.11.58 54 69 955 Died
Barker (SA) 10.12.55 09.08.56 13.10.56 22.11.58 65 243 770 Died
Wentworth (NSW) 10.12.55 17.10.56 08.12.56 22.11.58 52 312 714 Resigned
Richmond (NSW) 10.12.55 12.07.57 14.09.57 22.11.58 64 580 434 Died
Parramatta (NSW) 10.12.55 10.02.58 08.03.58 22.11.58 26 793 259 Resigned
Hunter (NSW) 22.11.58 10.02.60 09.04.60 09.12.61 59 445 609 Resigned
La Trobe (Vic) 22.11.58 10.02.60 09.04.60 09.12.61 59 445 609 Resigned
Balaclava (Vic) 22.11.58 02.06.60 16.07.60 09.12.61 44 558 511 Resigned
Bendigo (Vic) 22.11.58 01.05.60 16.07.60 09.12.61 76 526 511 Died
Calare (NSW) 22.11.58 28.09.60 05.11.60 09.12.61 38 676 399 Resigned
Higinbotham (Vic) 22.11.58 16.10.60 10.12.60 09.12.61 55 694 364 Died
Batman (Vic) 09.12.61 21.07.62 01.09.62 30.11.63 42 224 455 Died
Grey (SA) 09.12.61 31.03.63 01.06.63 30.11.63 62 477 182 Died
East Sydney (NSW) 09.12.61 31.07.63 28.09.63 30.11.63 59 599 63 Died
Denison (Tas) 30.11.63 24.12.63 15.02.64 26.11.66 53 24 1015 Died
Angas (SA) 30.11.63 23.04.64 20.06.64 26.11.66 58 145 889 Resigned
Parramatta (NSW) 30.11.63 24.04.64 20.06.64 26.11.66 57 146 889 Resigned
Robertson (NSW) 30.11.63 30.09.64 05.12.64 26.11.66 66 305 721 Resigned
Riverina (NSW) 30.11.63 21.01.65 27.02.65 26.11.66 37 418 637 Resigned
Dawson (Qld) 30.11.63 09.01.66 26.02.66 26.11.66 48 771 273 Died
Kooyong (Vic) 30.11.63 17.02.66 02.04.66 26.11.66 44 810 238 Resigned
Corio (Vic) 26.11.66 10.06.67 22.07.67 25.10.69 42 196 826 Resigned
Capricornia (Qld) 26.11.66 02.08.67 30.09.67 25.10.69 59 249 756 Died
Higgins (Vic) 26.11.66 19.12.67 24.02.68 25.10.69 67 388 609 Presumed dead
Curtin (WA) 26.11.66 10.02.69 19.04.69 25.10.69 68 807 189 Resigned
Bendigo (Vic) 26.11.66 09.04.69 07.06.69 25.10.69 59 865 140 Resigned
Gwydir (NSW) 26.11.66 30.04.69 07.06.69 25.10.69 38 886 140 Resigned
Aust Cap Territory (ACT) 25.10.69 01.04.70 30.05.70 02.12.72 59 158 917 Died
Chisholm (Vic) 25.10.69 31.07.70 19.09.70 02.12.72 50 279 805 Died
Murray (Vic) 25.10.69 01.02.71 20.03.71 02.12.72 47 464 623 Resigned
Parramatta (NSW) 02.12.72 11.07.73 22.09.73 18.05.74 73 221 238 Resigned
Bass (Tas) 18.05.74 02.06.75 28.06.75 13.12.75 26 380 168 Resigned
Cunningham (NSW) 13.12.75 22.08.77 15.10.77 10.12.77 54 618 56 Died
Werriwa (NSW) 10.12.77 31.07.78 23.09.78 18.10.80 54 233 756 Resigned
Grayndler (NSW) 10.12.77 16.04.79 23.06.79 18.10.80 68 492 483 Died
Boothby (SA) 18.10.80 22.01.81 21.02.81 05.03.83 30 96 742 Resigned
Curtin (WA) 18.10.80 22.01.81 21.02.81 05.03.83 30 96 742 Resigned
McPherson (Qld) 18.10.80 07.01.81 21.02.81 05.03.83 45 81 742 Died
Wentworth (NSW) 18.10.80 17.02.81 11.04.81 05.03.83 53 122 693 Resigned
Lowe (NSW) 18.10.80 04.01.82 13.03.82 05.03.83 68 443 357 Resigned
Flinders (Vic) 18.10.80 22.10.82 04.12.82 05.03.83 43 734 91 Resigned
Wannon (Vic) 05.03.83 31.03.83 07.05.83 01.12.84 37 26 574 Resigned
Bruce (Vic) 05.03.83 21.04.83 28.05.83 01.12.84 37 47 553 Resigned
Moreton (Qld) 05.03.83 15.08.83 05.11.83 01.12.84 82 163 392 Resigned
Corangamite (Vic) 05.03.83 18.01.84 18.02.84 01.12.84 31 319 287 Resigned
Hughes (NSW) 05.03.83 19.12.83 18.02.84 01.12.84 61 289 287 Resigned
Richmond (NSW) 05.03.83 18.01.84 18.02.84 01.12.84 31 319 287 Resigned
Scullin (Vic) 01.12.84 20.12.85 08.02.86 11.07.87 50 384 518 Resigned
Adelaide (SA) 11.07.87 31.12.87 06.02.88 24.03.90 37 173 777 Resigned
Port Adelaide (SA) 11.07.87 08.02.88 26.03.88 24.03.90 47 212 728 Resigned
Groom (Qld) 11.07.87 29.02.88 09.04.88 24.03.90 40 233 714 Resigned
Oxley (Qld) 11.07.87 17.08.88 08.10.88 24.03.90 52 403 532 Resigned
Gwydir (NSW) 11.07.87 24.02.89 15.04.89 24.03.90 50 594 343 Resigned
Menzies (Vic) 24.03.90 25.02.91 11.05.91 13.03.93 75 338 672 Resigned
Wills (Vic) 24.03.90 20.02.92 11.04.92 13.03.93 51 698 336 Resigned
Werriwa (NSW) 13.03.93 22.12.93 29.01.94 02.03.96 38 284 763 Resigned
Fremantle (WA) 13.03.93 04.02.94 12.03.94 02.03.96 36 328 721 Resigned
Bonython (SA) 13.03.93 11.02.94 19.03.94 02.03.96 36 335 714 Resigned
Mackellar (NSW) 13.03.93 14.01.94 26.03.94 02.03.96 71 307 707 Resigned
Warringah (NSW) 13.03.93 18.02.94 26.03.94 02.03.96 36 342 707 Resigned
Kooyong (Vic) 13.03.93 17.09.94 19.11.94 02.03.96 63 553 469 Resigned
Canberra (ACT) 13.03.93 30.01.95 25.03.95 02.03.96 54 688 343 Resigned
Wentworth (NSW) 13.03.93 28.02.95 08.04.95 02.03.96 39 717 329 Resigned
Blaxland (NSW) 02.03.96 23.04.96 15.06.96 03.10.98 53 52 840 Resigned
Lindsay (NSW) 02.03.96 11.09.96 19.10.96 03.10.98 38 193 714 Election voided
Fraser (ACT) 02.03.96 06.12.96 01.02.97 03.10.98 57 279 609 Resigned
Holt (Vic) 03.10.98 30.09.99 06.11.99 10.11.01 37 362 735 Resigned
Isaacs (Vic) 03.10.98 14.06.00 12.08.00 10.11.01 59 620 455 Died
Ryan (Qld) 03.10.98 05.02.01 17.03.01 10.11.01 40 856 238 Resigned
Aston (Vic) 03.10.98 24.04.01 14.07.01 10.11.01 81 1015 119 Died
Cunningham (NSW) 10.11.01 16.08.02 19.10.02 09.10.04 64 279 721 Resigned
Werriwa (NSW) 09.10.04 21.01.05 19.03.05 24.11.07 57 161 980 Resigned
Gippsland (Vic) 24.11.07 09.04.08 28.06.08 21.08.10 80 217 784 Resigned
Lyne (NSW) 24.11.07 30.07.08 06.09.08 21.08.10 38 287 714 Resigned
Mayo (SA) 24.11.07 14.07.08 06.09.08 21.08.10 54 287 714 Resigned
Bradfield (NSW) 24.11.07 19.10.09 05.12.09 21.08.10 47 742 259 Resigned
Higgins (Vic) 24.11.07 19.10.09 05.12.09 21.08.10 47 742 259 Resigned
Griffith (Qld) 07.09.13 22.11.13 08.02.14 02.07.16 78 154 875 Resigned
Canning (WA) 07.09.13 21.07.15 19.09.15 02.07.16 60 742 287 Died
North Sydney (NSW) 07.09.13 23.10.15 05.12.15 02.07.16 43 819 210 Resigned
New England (NSW) 02.07.16 27.10.17 02.12.17 .. 36 518 .. Election voided
Bennelong (NSW) 02.07.16 11.11.17 16.12.17 .. 35 532 .. Resigned
Batman (Vic) 02.07.16 01.02.18 17.03.18 .. 44 623 .. Resigned
Braddon (Tas) 02.07.16 10.05.18 28.07.18 .. 79 756 .. Resigned
Fremantle (WA) 02.07.16 10.05.18 28.07.18 .. 79 756 .. Resigned
Longman (Qld) 02.07.16 10.05.18 28.07.18 .. 79 756 .. Resigned
Perth (WA) 02.07.16 10.05.18 28.07.18 .. 79 756 .. Resigned
Mayo (SA) 02.07.16 11.05.18 28.07.18 .. 78 756 .. Resigned
Wentworth (NSW) 02.07.16 31.08.18 20.10.18 .. 50 840 .. Resigned

Appendix 5: Sources on by-elections in Australia

General studies

Australian Electoral Office, Commonwealth by-elections 1901–82, Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, 1983.

Bennett S, House of Representatives by-elections 1901–2002, Current issues brief, 15, 2002–03, Department of the Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2003.

Bennett S, Winning and losing: Australian national elections, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1996.

Economou N, A new constituency or a glitch in the system? A note on recent AAFI federal by-election results, People and Place, 2(2), 1994, pp. 30–35.

Economou N, The trouble-maker’s ballot box? A note on the evolving role of the Australian federal by-election, Australian Journal of Political Science, 34(2), July 1999, pp. 239–247.

Electoral Commission of South Australia, South Australian by-elections, 1851–2013 (Legislative Council and House of Assembly), Research series, Adelaide, 2014.

Feigert F and Norris P, Do by-elections constitute referenda? A four-country comparison, Legislative Studies Quarterly, 15(2), May 1990, pp. 183–200.

Feigert F and Norris P, Government and third-party performance in mid-term by-elections: the Canadian, British and Australian experience, Electoral Studies, 8(2), August 1989, pp. 117–130.

Goot M, Swings and roundabouts: New South Wales by-elections 1941 to 1986, Background paper, 1, 1987, New South Wales Parliamentary Library, Sydney, 1987.

Green A, NSW by-elections, 1965–2005, Background paper, 3, 2005, NSW Parliamentary Library, Sydney, September 2005.

Green A, Causes and timing of federal by-elections 1992–2015, Antony Green’s Election Blog, July 2015.

Hull C, By-elections: maybe it’s time to get by without, The Canberra Times, 17 January 2002.

Isaacs, V, The case of the missing premier–A strange parliamentary practice, Australian Parliamentary Review, 20(1), Autumn 2005, pp. 34–53.

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Case studies

Commonwealth

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[1].     S Barber, House of Representatives by-elections: 1901-2017,Research paper series, 2017-18, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2018, accessed 15 November 2018.

[2].     Figures from Chamber Research Office, Department of the House of Representatives.

[3].     The average age of new members was 45.4 years over the last four Parliaments (42nd to 45th); however, this only increases the average age of new members since 1977 to just over 43 years.

[4].     This number reflects the 43 by-elections where members resigned and did not recontest their seat. There have been 48 by-elections caused by resignation since 1980 (88.9 per cent) but five of these resignations were the result of members being dual citizens and, therefore, in contravention of section 44(i) of the Constitution. These five members all recontested their seats and were successful in returning to Parliament.

[5].     For example, in the period 1901­–1910, a 45 year old male (female) could expect to live another 24.8 (27.6) years while, in 2014–16, the additional life expectancy is 37.1 (40.6) years. Sources: ABS, Australian historical population statistics, 2014, 3105.0.65.001, tables 6.2 and 6.6; and ABS, Life tables, States, Territories and Australia, 2014–16, 3302.0.55.001, table 1.9, accessed 15 November 2018.

[6].     Australian Constitution, section 33, accessed 15 November 2018.

[7].     Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (Cth), accessed 15 November 2018.

[8].     Such a short period is no longer possible under the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918.

[9].     ‘Elections and the electoral system’, in IE Harris, ed, House of Representatives practice, 6th edn, Department of the House of Representatives, Canberra, 2012, pp. 92-94, accessed 15 November 2018.

[10].    A Summers, Gamble for power: how Bob Hawke beat Malcolm Fraser, the 1983 Federal election, Nelson, Melbourne, 1983, p. 63.

[11].    ‘Members’ in IE Harris, ed, House of Representatives practice, op. cit., pp. 154-157, accessed 15 November 2018.

[12].    ‘Elections and the electoral system’, in IE Harris, ed, House of Representatives practice, 6th edn, Department of the House of Representatives, Canberra, 2012, pp. 92-94, accessed 15 November 2018.

13..    Note: The enrolment figure for the first by-election in Darling Downs in 1901 is not available, therefore, turnout cannot be calculated. Also the four by-elections contested by a single candidate are excluded from the calculations in this section.

[14]   Note that the losses of Corangamite in 1918 and Echuca in 1919 by the Nationalist Party were both to the Victorian Farmers Union which shortly thereafter formed the Country Party. However, as there was no formal anti-Labor coalition at this time, these are not included here.

[15].    The most recently lost seat at a by-election, Wentworth (NSW), is yet to be contested at a general election.

[16].    Perhaps, surprisingly, the academic literature on by-elections in Australia is quite sparse, see Appendix 5.

[17].    No effort is made to look at two-party preferred figures between the introduction of preferential voting in 1918 and 1949, due to the difficulty in establishing such figures for the earlier period. All swing figures used in the paper are calculated on two-party preferred votes unless where otherwise indicated.

[18].    There were 22 candidates at the Wills by-election and the first preference swing against the ALP candidate was 19.3 per cent.

[19].    For general notes on by-elections, see Appendix 3.

[20].    IE Harris, ed., House of Representatives practice, op. cit., p. 157.

[21].    Parliamentary Privileges Act 1987, accessed 16 August 2018.

[22].    P Kelly, The unmaking of Gough, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 1994, pp. 234–5.

[23].    M Gordon, A true believer: Paul Keating, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia, 1996, pp. 297–301.

[24].    E Page, Truant surgeon: the inside story of forty years of Australian political life, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1963, pp. 284–6.

[25].    G Freudenberg, A certain grandeur: Gough Whitlam in politics, Rev. and updated ed, Penguin, Melbourne, 2009, pp. 35–9.

[26].    Summers, Gamble for power, op. cit., pp. 13, 63.

[27].    L Taylor, ‘Poll result a blow to Bishop Libs’, The Australian, 29 March 1994.

[28]. Citizenship saga: Labor bid to send nine more MPs to High Court fails but ALP backbencher David Feeney referred, ABC News, 6 December 2017, accessed 15 November 2018.

[29].    In the matter of Questions referred to the Court of Disputed Returns pursuant to Section 376 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (Cth) concerning Senator Katy Gallagher [2018] HCA 17, accessed 15 November 2018.

[30].    M Denholm, 'By-elections a leadership test, says Turnbull, but not Shorten', accessed 15 November 2018.

 

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