Federal election results 1901–2014

17 July 2014

PDF version [2.82MB]

Stephen Barber and Sue Johnson
Statistics and Mapping Section


Executive summary

During the period 1901 to 2014, there have been 44 general elections for the House of Representatives and 42 Senate elections. This paper contains a brief commentary on each election along with statistical summary information and results in each state and territory for each election.



Executive summary
Election dates
Statistical highlights of the elections
Comments on individual elections

Party abbreviations and symbols

Detailed results: House of Representatives 1901–1919, 1922–1940, 1943–1963, 1966–19871990–2013
Detailed results: Senate 1901–1925, 1928–1953, 1955–1980, 1983–2013
State summaries: House of Representatives 1901–2013
State summaries: Senate 1901–2013
Senate compositions 1901–2013
Two-party preferred votes: House of Representatives 1949–2013
Informal votes: House of Representatives 1901–2013
Informal votes: Senate 1901–2013
Turnout: House of Representatives 1901–2013
Turnout: Senate 1901–2013



Election dates

Unless otherwise specified, elections were held for the House of Representatives and half of the Senate on the following dates:

March House of Representatives and Senate
September Double dissolution
October House of Representatives
April Double dissolution
May Half-Senate
May House of Representatives
November House of Representatives
December Half-Senate
November House of Representatives
November Half-Senate
October House of Representatives
November Half-Senate
December House of Representatives
May Double dissolution
December Double dissolution
March Double dissolution
July Double dissolution
April Half-Senate, Western Australia



This Research paper updates the Parliamentary Library’s Federal Election Results 1901–2010 paper published in 2011.[1] It contains a summary of the federal elections—House of Representatives and Senate—held from 1901 to the latest half-Senate election in Western Australia in 2014.[2] Brief comments on each election are provided in this paper, along with a series of statistical tables.

Tables showing detailed state and territory results for each House of Representatives and Senate election contain:

  • figures for the number of electors enrolled
  • the number and percentage of votes received by party and
  • seats won by party.

Votes received by party are expressed as a percentage of formal votes, while formal and informal votes are expressed as a percentage of total votes. Total votes are expressed as a percentage of electors enrolled in contested divisions. Enrolled figures represent the total number of electors enrolled in each state, while enrolled division figures represent the number of electors enrolled in contested divisions only.

Other individual state and territory tables summarise the results for that state and territory at every House of Representatives and Senate election. These show, by party, the percentage of formal votes and seats won.

Further tables showing Senate compositions, two-party preferred votes, informal votes and turnout at each Senate and House of Representatives election in the period are also included.[3]

This paper does not show by-election results. Information on by-elections since 1901 can be found in S Barber, House of Representatives By-elections 1901–2014.[4]

Statistical highlights of the elections

Federal Election Highlights

Since 1901 there have been 44 House of Representatives elections and 42 Senate elections. The average length of time between House of Representatives elections has been 2 years and 7 months.

Of the House of Representatives elections, non-Labor parties or coalitions have won 30 and the Australian Labor Party (ALP) has won 14. Australian politics has been characterised by relatively long periods in government. Since 1930 there have been only nine changes of government: 1932, 1941, 1949, 1972, 1975, 1983, 1996, 2007 and 2013.

Double dissolutions of both houses have occurred six times, resulting in full Senate elections being held in 1914, 1951, 1974, 1975, 1983 and 1987. Half-Senate only elections were held in 1953, 1964, 1967 and 1970. House of Representatives only elections were held in 1929, 1954, 1963, 1966, 1969 and 1972.

Since the introduction of proportional representation (PR) for Senate elections in 1949, the government of the day has only had control (a majority) in the Senate during 1951–1956, 1959–1962, 1975–1981 and 2005–2007. On each occasion the Liberal/National (Country) Party Coalition was in government. An ALP government has not controlled the Senate since 1944–1949, though the party did control the Senate during the period 1949–1951 while in opposition.

Comments on individual elections

(Simultaneous House of Representatives and half-Senate unless specified)

1901, 29 and 30 March

Australia’s first Commonwealth election was essentially six separate elections held over two days, as each state conducted an election in accordance with its own electoral laws and practices. Three loosely-affiliated political groups contested the election: the Protectionists led by Edmund Barton, the Free Traders led by George Reid and a collection of Labor candidates. No one group attained the majority required to form government outright, with the Protectionists taking 31 seats in the House of Representatives, the Free Traders 28 seats, Labor candidates 14 seats and independents two seats. The Barton Protectionists formed government reliant upon the support of the Labor members. Reid and the Free Traders formed the official opposition.

Labor candidates similarly held the balance of power in the Senate claiming eight seats to the Free Traders’ 17 seats and the Protectionists’ 11 seats. Labor’s general preference for Protectionist policy ensured a Senate that was generally supportive of the government.

1903, 16 December

This was the first election held under Commonwealth electoral legislation. ‘First past the post’ was the electoral system. Once again no one political group gained a majority of Representative seats, with the Protectionists winning 26 seats, the Free Traders 25 seats and Labor 23 seats. One independent candidate also claimed a seat. The relative equality of the three parties made the task of governing difficult, with the possibility of coalitions explored. Despite this uncertainty, the Deakin Protectionists continued in office with the support of the Labor members.

The Labor Party (also referred to throughout as the Australian Labor Party or ALP) gained a pronounced swing in the Senate contest, winning 10 out of the 19 vacancies. Party representation in the upper house was now 14 Labor, 12 Free Trade, eight Protectionists and two independents.

1906, 12 December

The multi-party contest for control of the House of Representatives continued at the 1906 election with the distribution of seats being: 26 Labor, 27 Anti-Socialists, 16 Protectionists, four Independent Protectionists and two Western Australian Party members.

A tentative understanding reached between Deakin and the Labor Party during the election campaign ensured that the Deakin Protectionists continued in government, dependent upon the support of the Labor members.

In the Senate election the Anti-Socialists had the most success, winning 11 out of the 19 vacancies. Labor won five seats and the Protectionists claimed two seats. The makeup of the Senate was now 15 Anti-Socialists, 15 Labor, four Protectionists and two independents.

The third Senate seat in South Australia, won by the Anti-Socialists, was declared void in 1907 because ballot papers could not be found when a recount was ordered. The appointment of a replacement senator, from the Labor Party, was subsequently declared void later in 1907 and the ensuing election for that third Senate seat in early 1908 saw the Anti-Socialists regain the seat.

1910, 13 April

The 1910 election has been the only Commonwealth election to have taken place due to the effluxion of time. The amalgamation of the non-Labor groups during the third parliament ensured that only two major political parties contested the election: the Labor Party led by Andrew Fisher and the Liberal Party led by Alfred Deakin.

Labor won a substantial victory to become the first party to win a clear majority in both houses of parliament. Labor received a swing of 13.4 per cent across the country which was translated into a net gain of 17 seats. In the House of Representatives Labor held 43 seats to the Liberals’ 31 seats, with one independent.

The Labor Party’s nation-wide support was affirmed in the Senate election, with Labor candidates winning all of the 18 vacancies. Labor held 23 Senate seats and the Liberals held 13 seats.

1913, 31 May

The Liberal Party was led by Joseph Cook, who had taken over the leadership after the retirement of Deakin in January 1913. The Liberals received a small swing in the lower house, with their share of the national vote increasing to 48.9 per cent (+3.8 per cent). This increase in voter support was translated into a net gain of seven seats, but the Cook team narrowly won office, 38 seats to Labor’s 37 with Fisher as opposition leader.

In the Senate, the Liberal Party won only seven of the 18 seats being contested; Labor still controlled the upper house.

1914, 5 September (Double dissolution)

The 1914 election was the first Commonwealth election to have been instigated by dissolution of both houses. The Liberal Party’s single seat majority in the House of Representatives, and the absence of government control in the Senate, had encouraged Prime Minister Cook to trigger a double dissolution election under section 57 of the Constitution. All of the 75 House of Representative seats and 36 Senate seats were contested after the Labor-controlled Senate twice rejected the Government Preference Prohibition Bill 1914.

Cook’s move backfired, for the Labor Party gained a comfortable victory, winning 42 of the 75 House of Representatives seats. The Labor Party, led by Fisher, achieved over half of the national vote with 50.9 per cent. This remains Labor’s highest return in a House of Representatives election. Cook became leader of the opposition.

The Senate results also showed that the swing to Labor was nation-wide with Labor winning 31 vacancies to the Liberal’s five.

1917, 5 May

WM Hughes replaced Andrew Fisher as Labor Prime Minister in October 1915. The Labor Party, split over conscription during 1916, saw Hughes cling onto office: first as head of a National Labor Government (1916-17) and then as head of a Nationalist Government from February 1917. The Nationalist Party had assumed the position of Australia’s major conservative party after the merging of the Liberal Party with the breakaway National Labor Party in 1917.

Led by Hughes, the Nationalist Party easily won the 1917 election. The 53 seats won by the Nationalists was the highest number of seats achieved by a political party in the 75/76-member lower house between 1901 and 1946.The Labor opposition was led by Frank Tudor.

The Nationalists’ strong performance in the Senate gave them an overall majority of 24 seats in the upper house compared with Labor who held 12 seats. The Hughes Nationalist Government therefore became the first non-Labor government to control both Houses of Parliament.

1919, 13 December

The 1919 election saw the emergence of the Country Party as a force in Australian politics. Its emergence was aided by the introduction of preferential voting in 1918. With electoral law now stipulating that preferences be distributed amongst candidates during the tallying of votes, both conservative parties could nominate a candidate in the same electorate without seriously splitting the non-Labor vote. Preferential voting helped the conservatives to retain power in this election, with Hughes’ Nationalists winning 37 seats and the country parties (including Independent Nationalists, Nationalist and Farmers, Farmers and Settlers, Victorian Farmers’ Union and the Country Party) holding the balance of power with 12 seats. Labor improved marginally upon their previous election result, winning 26 seats. Tudor continued to lead the opposition.

In the Senate contest the Nationalists won 18 out of the 19 vacancies, giving them 35 of 36 Senate seats.

1922, 16 December

Neither the incumbent Nationalist Party nor the Labor Party achieved the majority required to form government in its own right at the 1922 election. The Nationalists won 26 seats in the lower house, Labor 30, the Country Party 14 and the Liberals five. There was one independent.

Due to the Nationalist Party’s loss of seats, the Country Party occupied a pivotal position in the House of Representatives. The party used this in negotiations over the forming of an anti-Labor coalition, with the result that Prime Minister Hughes was pushed aside in favour of Treasurer Stanley Bruce. On 9 February 1923 the Bruce-Page Nationalist-Country Coalition Government was sworn in. The Labor opposition was led by Matthew Charlton.

The 1922 election also saw the Northern Territory granted a single non-voting member in the House of Representatives.

In the Senate election the Labor Party was able to reverse its previous electoral performance, securing 11 out of the 19 available seats with 45.7 per cent of the national vote. Despite this, the Coalition retained control of the Senate, occupying 24 seats compared with the Labor Party’s 12 seats.

1925, 14 November

The 1925 election was the first Commonwealth election in which voting was compulsory. Voter turnout was 91.4 per cent of enrolled voters, an increase of 32 per cent over the 1922 figure.

The election resulted in a sweeping victory for the two non-Labor parties. The Bruce-Page Government was returned to power with an increased majority in the House of Representatives, winning 51 seats to Labor’s 24 seats, with Charlton as leader. There was a single independent.

A 1924 agreement struck between the Nationalist and Country parties to exchange preferences, greatly aided the conservative parties. It was also agreed that in lower house divisions that might be lost to Labor, the conservative member would not be opposed by the other political party. This co-operation enabled the Nationalists to retain all of their 26 seats won at the previous election, as well as gain an additional 11 seats. The Country Party repeated its 14-seat success of 1922, with the loss of one seat in Tasmania offset by a gain in New South Wales.

The Nationalist-Country Coalition also had success in the Senate election, securing all 22 seats on offer. The Coalition therefore controlled the Senate, 28–8.

1928, 17 November

In early 1928 the leadership of the Labor Party was transferred to James Scullin, following the retirement of Matthew Charlton due to ill health.

The 1928 election resulted in another defeat for Labor, with the Bruce Coalition Government returned to office, albeit with a reduced majority. In the House of Representatives the Nationalist-Country parties held 43 seats, Labor 32 seats, and one independent was returned.

On this occasion Labor managed to win seven Senate seats, a marked improvement on its nil return in 1925.

1929, 12 October (House of Representatives)

The 1929 election was the first to be conducted for the House of Representatives only. Prime Minister Bruce secured the dissolution of the house after several members of the Bruce-Page Government had crossed the floor to vote with the Opposition on the proposed Maritime Industries Bill.

The election result was a landslide victory to the Labor Party, led by Scullin, which saw its vote increase by 4.1 per cent, lifting it to office for the first time since 1916. Labor candidates won in 47 divisions, Nationalists in 14 and Country Party candidates in 10. Five independents also won seats, three of whom were former Nationalists. Labor therefore held 15 more seats than after the 1928 election (14 of these came from the Nationalists). In losing Flinders, Prime Minister Bruce was the first Prime Minister to lose his seat. John Latham became leader of the opposition.

1931, 19 December

The Labor Government suffered a crushing defeat, matching the record of Joseph Cook (1914) in losing office after a single term. In the lead-up to the 1931 election the Labor Party had experienced much dissent in its ranks over its policies to cope with the Depression. In New South Wales, Premier Jack Lang and his federal supporters were expelled from the Labor Party. In addition, Postmaster-General Joseph Lyons and several other Labor MPs defected from the Labor Party. These defectors, in alliance with the Nationalist Party and a number of independents, formed the United Australia Party (UAP). The defection of such a large number of Labor MPs forced Prime Minister Scullin to request an early dissolution of Parliament.

The split in the Labor Party resulted in Labor losing 32 seats. The traditional support that Labor had received from New South Wales was not forthcoming, with the party winning only three seats in the state—a loss of 17; the New South Wales (Lang) Labor Party won four seats. The UAP performed well as Australia’s newest conservative party, winning 34 seats and, under Lyons’ leadership, forming the first minority government since 1917. The new government enjoyed the informal support of the Country Party. Scullin remained leader of the opposition.

In the Senate election there was a swing against the Labor Party, which only managed to secure three Senate vacancies with 29.3 per cent of the national vote. The UAP and the Country Party won 15 seats with 55.4 per cent of the nation-wide vote. The conservatives therefore took control of the Senate, occupying 26 seats to Labor’s ten seats.

1934, 15 September

Although the UAP and Country Party (CP) both lost seats, the party strength of the UAP, CP and ALP altered only marginally in this election. Labor was still weak in NSW, where they secured a single seat to Lang Labor’s nine seats. The party’s national vote was 26.8 per cent, its lowest ever.

On 9 November 1934 Prime Minister Lyons and the UAP entered into a coalition with the Country Party, and Scullin retained leadership of the Labor opposition until November 1935 when John Curtin became Labor leader.

The continued disunity in Labor ranks helped the conservatives to secure all available seats in the Senate election. The UAP/Country Party Coalition therefore held 33 out of the 36 Senate seats.

1937, 23 October

The 1937 election resulted in a return to power for the Lyons Government. The UAP marginally increased their percentage of the vote (+2.5 per cent) and made a net gain of one seat. The Country Party gained 11.5 per cent of the vote and continued to hold 12 seats. The Labor Party, reunited under the leadership of Curtin, saw its vote rise 16.3 per cent to 43.1 per cent with its tally of 29 seats being the party’s best performance since 1929. Labor was able to reclaim many of the seats that it had lost in New South Wales in 1931 and 1934.

Having won no Senate seats at the 1934 election, the Labor Party made a solid gain in 1937, winning 16 of 19 seats. The Coalition still held control of the Senate with 20 seats.

1940, 21 September

The death of Prime Minister Lyons in April 1939 produced unrest in the conservative parties. Country Party leader, Earle Page, became Prime Minister for 19 days, followed by Robert Menzies as head of a UAP Government for 11 months, and then as leader of a Coalition Government until the 1940 election. In the election, the Coalition parties won only 33 seats, and Menzies remained Prime Minister with the support of two independents.

The Coalition Government managed to retain control of the Senate at the election with a two seat majority over the Labor Party.

Menzies remained Prime Minister of a government with many internal tensions until he stepped down on 29 August 1941. Country Party leader Arthur Fadden became Prime Minister. However, the Fadden UAP-Country Coalition soon lost control of the House of Representatives when the two independents withdrew their support, and Labor’s John Curtin became Prime Minister on 7 October 1941.

1943, 21 August

The continuing instability of the conservative parties, and the popularity of Labor under Curtin, pushed the Government to a 49 seat majority in the lower house. Labor won 49.9 per cent of the national vote—a swing of 9.8 per cent. The UAP received its smallest share of lower house seats (12) since the Party’s founding in 1931, and Menzies regained leadership of the party in opposition.

Labor’s strong electoral support was also exhibited in the Senate election with the Party winning all 19 seats on offer. Labor therefore regained control of the Senate for the first time in 22 years.

Women were elected to the Parliament for the first time at the 1943 election. Labor’s Dorothy Tangney was elected to the Senate for Western Australia, and Lyons’ widow, Enid Lyons, was elected to the House of Representatives for the Tasmanian division of Darwin.

1946, 28 September

John Curtin died in office in July 1945, and was replaced by Frank Forde. Joseph (Ben) Chifley took over as leader one week later.

Labor comfortably retained office in 1946, though with the loss of six seats. Labor was opposed by the newly-formed Liberal Party, which emerged from the disintegration of the UAP. Led by Robert Menzies, the Liberals performed creditably, securing 12.6 per cent more of the vote than its predecessor had achieved three years before.

In the Senate election the Labor Government won 16 of the 19 seats.

1949, 10 December

The 1949 election saw Menzies lead the Liberal Party, in close cooperation with the Country Party, to victory. The House of Representatives had been enlarged from 74 to 121 members (123 including non-voting members from the Northern Territory and, for the first time, the Australian Capital Territory) and the Senate from 36 to 60. Chifley remained Labor leader.

Proportional representation was introduced for the 1949 Senate election, which resulted in a more equitable distribution of seats. The previous method had tended to produce a ‘winner-take-all’ result. The number of senators elected in 1949 (seven from each state) included two supernumerary senators from each state to bring the Senate up to its full complement of 60 members. The ALP retained control of the Senate.

1951, 28 April (Double dissolution)

The 1951 election occurred after Menzies secured a double dissolution resulting from the ALP-controlled Senate refusing to pass the Government’s banking legislation. The Government was comfortably returned, and the ALP lost control of the Senate. Herbert (Doc) Evatt became the new Labor opposition leader.

1953, 9 May (Senate)

The 1953 separate half-Senate election was held as a consequence of the 1951 simultaneous dissolution and the constitutional provision (the Constitution section 13) backdating the terms of senators elected at a simultaneous dissolution election, to the preceding 1 July. Prime Minister Menzies opted to have a Senate-only election.

1954, 29 May (House of Representatives)

Although the Menzies Liberal/Country Party Coalition Government was returned at the 1954 election, there was a 1.4 per cent swing to the ALP, giving the ALP a majority of the estimated two-party preferred vote (50.7 per cent). The ALP, with Evatt as leader, received 50.1 per cent of the first preference vote, the only election in the post-war period where any party has achieved more than 50 per cent of the first preference vote.

1955, 10 December

The 1955 election saw the first electoral consequences of the split in the ALP. Anti-communist Labor (ACL) candidates stood against ALP candidates in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. The effects of the strength of the ACL were most notably felt in Victoria where the ALP vote in the House of Representatives fell 13.2 per cent to 37.1 per cent. In the Senate, one ACL candidate was elected from Victoria where the ALP vote fell by 15.9 per cent to 35.0 per cent. Menzies and Evatt remained in their leadership roles.

1958, 22 November

The full effects of the split in the ALP were felt in the 1958 election with the Democratic Labor Party (DLP) standing candidates in all states. The DLP polled more House of Representatives votes than the Country Party and its preferences helped Menzies’ Liberal/Country Party Coalition achieve a then post-war record majority in the House of Representatives (32 seats). Evatt retained leadership of the opposition.

A DLP senator was elected from Tasmania giving the DLP two senators. The Coalition Government regained control of the Senate.

1961, 9 December

Menzies’ Liberal/Country Party Coalition Government came close to defeat in the 1961 election held after the 1960–61 ‘credit squeeze’. The ALP, now led by Arthur Calwell, and the Coalition had equal numbers on the floor of the House of Representatives after the election, but two of the ALP number were members from the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory who had restricted voting rights in the chamber at the time.

The Coalition Government lost effective control of the Senate, requiring support of either the DLP or independent senators for a majority.

The 1961 election was one of only five occasions in the post-war period where the party winning government has received less than 50 per cent of the two-party preferred vote. The Liberal/Country Party Coalition received an estimated 49.5 per cent of the two-party preferred vote.

1963, 30 November (House of Representatives)

The 1963 House of Representatives election was held following an early dissolution which was called before a Senate election was constitutionally permissible. Menzies’ Liberal/Country Party Coalition Government was returned with an increased majority. The Country Party vote was higher than the DLP vote for the first time since 1955. Calwell remained as opposition leader.

1964, 5 December (Senate)

The 1964 separate half-Senate election was held when it fell due. Prime Minister Menzies chose not to make the houses’ elections simultaneous. The major parties equally shared 28 seats and the DLP won the remaining two seats.

1966, 26 November (House of Representatives)

The 1966 election resulted in a landslide victory for Harold Holt’s Liberal/Country Party Coalition Government with a majority of 40 in a House of Representatives of 124 members. The number of Liberal Party members elected (61) was a then post-war record high while the number of ALP members elected (41) was a then post-war record low. The estimated two-party preferred vote received by the Liberal/Country Party, 56.9 per cent, is the highest in the post-war period. The election of Sam Benson, Batman, Victoria, was the first success by an independent candidate since 1946.

This was the first election where the voters of the Australian Capital Territory elected a member who had full voting rights in the lower house.

1967, 25 November (Senate)

The continuing success of the DLP and independent candidates at the 1967 separate half-Senate election increased their number to five, at that time a post-war record number. The ALP maintained 27 senators with the Liberal/Country Party Coalition losing three places to have 28 senators.

1969, 25 October (House of Representatives)

The ALP, with Gough Whitlam as leader, made substantial gains in the 1969 election to recover much of the ground lost in the 1966 election. The Liberal/Country Party Coalition Government majority in the House of Representatives was reduced from 40 to 7. The estimated two-party preferred swing to the ALP (7.1 per cent) is the highest recorded swing to the ALP in the post-war period. The Coalition Government, now led by John Gorton, was returned with less than 50 per cent of the estimated two-party preferred vote (49.8 per cent).

This was the first election where voters of the Northern Territory elected a member who held full voting rights in the lower house.

1970, 21 November (Senate)

The election of five minor party and independent senators at the 1970 separate half-Senate election raised their number to eight, continuing the ‘by-election atmosphere’ of separate half-Senate elections. The 1970 election remains the last separate half-Senate election to be held.

1972, 2 December (House of Representatives)

Australia experienced its first change of a Commonwealth government in 23 years with the defeat of the Liberal/Country Party Coalition Government by the ALP. The estimated ALP two-party preferred vote, 52.7 per cent, was the second highest recorded since the war. However, the incoming Whitlam ALP Government faced a hostile Senate, reflecting Senate election results in 1967 and 1970. Billy Sneddon became opposition leader.

1974, 18 May (Double dissolution)

The 1974 double dissolution election synchronised elections for the House of Representatives and the Senate for the first time since 1961. The 1974 election saw the demise of the DLP as a political power in the Senate, with the loss of all five Senate positions it held going into the election. Even with the lower quota requirements of a full Senate election, minor parties and independents could only manage to win two seats.

1975, 13 December (Double dissolution)

Following the dismissal of the Whitlam ALP Government, a double dissolution was granted to the Fraser Government. The election saw the worst result for the ALP in the post-war period. The party received only 44.3 per cent of the estimated two-party preferred vote, a swing of 7.4 per cent, and Labor won just 36 of 127 seats in the House of Representatives. The Liberal Party won 68 seats, its third best result, while the National Country Party won 22 seats, its best post-war result. The ALP, with Whitlam as leader, returned only one member from each of Queensland and Western Australia in the House of Representatives.

In the Senate, the incoming Liberal/National Country Party Coalition Government became the first government since 1962 to hold a majority. Senators were elected from the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory for the first time. Long-term (1975–2005) Tasmanian independent Brian Harradine entered the Senate.

1977, 10 December

The Fraser Government retained power. The ALP, led by Whitlam, failed to recover substantial ground with its House of Representatives seats increasing from 36 to 38 in a slightly reduced chamber (127 to 124 members). The ALP share of the estimated two-party preferred vote increased slightly to 45.4 per cent. The Australian Democrats fielded candidates for the first time and achieved immediate success in the Senate with the election of two senators.

1980, 18 October

Under the leadership of Bill Hayden, the ALP made substantial gains at the 1980 election but the Fraser Liberal/National Country Party Coalition remained firmly in control of the House of Representatives with a majority of 23 seats. For the first time since the Second World War, the ALP won a majority of House of Representatives seats from Victoria.

In the Senate, further increases in the strength of the Australian Democrats meant that the Government lost control of the Senate from 1 July 1981. National Country Party strength in the Senate fell to three, the lowest since the war.

1983, 5 March (Double dissolution)

The 1983 election was a triumph for the ALP, with the defeat of the Fraser Government and a record result. The ALP, with Bob Hawke as leader, achieved its best result in the House of Representatives with 75 members elected and a two-party preferred vote of 53.2 per cent, the highest recorded by the party since 1949. Tasmania was the only state to hold out against the ALP tide: all five seats were won by the Liberal Party.

In the Senate, Australian Democrat candidates were elected from all states, except Tasmania where the independent Senator, Brian Harradine, was re-elected.

1984, 1 December

The 1984 elections were held for an enlarged House of Representatives, increased from 125 to 148, and Senate, increased from 64 to 76. A supernumerary senator was elected from each state to bring the size of the Senate up to its full complement of members.

In terms of members elected, all major parties gained in the enlarged House of Representatives, with the Liberal Party, led by Andrew Peacock, recording the largest gain of 12 members from 33 to 45.

The 1984 Senate election was the first conducted under the group ticket or ‘above-the-line’ system. The effect of this change was to reduce greatly the incidence of informal votes in the Senate from 9.9 per cent in 1983 to 4.7 per cent in 1984. However, the resultant confusion in voting methodologies had the perverse consequence of increasing the informal vote in the House of Representatives from 2.1 per cent in 1983 to 6.8 per cent in 1984. Jo Vallentine (WA) was elected to the Senate as a Nuclear Disarmament candidate.

1987, 11 July (Double dissolution)

The 1987 election saw the two-party preferred vote for the ALP decline by 1.0 per cent to 50.8 per cent, though the number of House of Representatives seats won by the ALP increased by four to 86, the highest representation for the ALP to date. John Howard was leader of the opposition.

In the Senate, the lower quotas occasioned by the double dissolution resulted in a new record of ten minor party and independent senators being elected. The 1987 Senate election saw the first candidates standing on a green or environmental platform.

1990, 24 March

This election was only one of five occasions in the period 1949–2004 when a party was elected to government with less than 50 per cent of the two-party preferred vote. The ALP received 49.9 per cent of the two-party preferred vote yet won 78 of 148 of the seats in the House of Representatives (52.7 per cent). The National Party were the big losers in this election, with a net loss of five seats, giving them what was to that time their lowest number of seats (14) in the House of Representatives since 1919. For the first time since 1966, an independent member (Ted Mack, North Sydney, NSW) was elected to the House of Representatives. Peacock had regained leadership of the opposition in May 1989, but lost it to John Hewson following the 1990 defeat.

In the Senate, minor parties and independents maintained their position. Senator Vallentine was re-elected as the first Green senator.

1993, 13 March

The re-election of the ALP Government under the leadership of Paul Keating, with an increased majority from 8 to 13, at the 1993 election was the first occasion since 1966 that an incumbent government achieved a positive two-party preferred swing (1.5 per cent to ALP). The election was notable for the election of two independents to the House of Representatives (Ted Mack, North Sydney, NSW; Phil Cleary, Wills, Victoria), the lowest National Party vote recorded to that time (7.2 per cent), and the decline in the vote for the Australian Democrats. In the House of Representatives, the Democrat vote declined from 11.3 per cent at the 1990 election to 3.8 per cent, while in the Senate the Democrat vote went from 12.6 per cent to 5.3 per cent. Hewson remained opposition leader until May 1994, before being replaced by Alexander Downer (May 1994 to January 1995). John Howard succeeded Downer as leader from 30 January 1995.

The decline in votes for the Australian Democrats meant that only two Democrat senators were elected, the smallest number since the party’s first election in 1977. However, the strength of the minor parties and independents in the Senate was maintained with the success of a second Green senator (Dee Margetts, WA) and the re-election of Senator Harradine from Tasmania.

1996, 2 March

The Liberal/National Party Coalition led by John Howard was returned to government after 13 years in opposition. The Liberal Party won 75 seats in the House of Representatives, their largest ever level of representation, while the National Party won 18 seats. The ALP performed poorly in Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia, retaining only seven of the 52 seats in those states, winning a total overall of 49 seats. Recent successes of independents continued with five independents being elected, the largest number in the post-war period. The Coalition received 53.6 per cent of the two-party preferred vote (a swing of 5.0 per cent), the highest vote since 1977 and the largest swing since 1975. Kim Beazley became leader of the ALP.

In the Senate, minor parties continued to hold the balance of power, despite a strong result by the Coalition. The Coalition won 20 of the 40 Senate places up for election. The Democrats improved on their 1993 result and returned five senators while one Green senator (Bob Brown) was elected in Tasmania.

1998, 3 October

Despite its vote falling, the Howard Liberal/National Party Coalition was returned at the 1998 election with a comfortable majority. The success of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party in appealing to conservative voters helped push down Coalition votes. The Liberal vote of 33.9 per cent was the party’s lowest vote since 1972, and the National vote of 5.3 per cent remains that party’s lowest post-war tally. In two-party preferred vote terms, support for the Coalition fell by 4.6 per cent to 49.0 per cent, only the fifth time in the post-war period that a government was elected with less than 50 per cent of the vote. The combined first preference vote for the three major parties (79.6 per cent) was the lowest since 1943. Of the five independent members elected at the 1996 election, only one (Peter Andren, Calare, NSW) retained his seat. Beazley remained opposition leader.

In the Senate, minor parties continued to hold the balance of power. The Australian Democrats won four seats to bring their number to nine senators, their highest-ever level of representation. In Queensland, One Nation candidate, Heather Hill, was elected (but was subsequently found to be ineligible and was replaced by Len Harris), while in Tasmania, Senator Harradine was re-elected.

2001, 10 November

Howard’s Liberal/National Party Coalition Government was returned with an increased majority. The swing to the Government of 2.0 per cent in two-party preferred vote terms was the largest swing to an incumbent government since 1966 and only one of five times that a positive swing to a government has occurred since 1949. Swings to the Government were recorded in all states except Tasmania and the Northern Territory. However, the election was one of contrasting results for the Coalition partners: 69 Liberal Party members were elected to the House of Representatives, the third-largest number ever elected, while 13 National Party members were elected, the second-smallest number in the post-war period. Part of the National Party’s problem lay in the success of independent candidates, with three being elected from rural areas, the second largest number of independents elected in the period. The ALP performed poorly, recording its lowest post-1945 first preference vote in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Simon Crean became leader of the opposition before he was replaced by Mark Latham in December 2003.

In the Senate, minor parties continued to hold the balance of power, although the Australian Democrats now had to share the balance of power with the other parties and the two independents. In New South Wales, one Green senator (Kerry Nettle) was elected.

2004, 9 October

For the second successive election, the Liberal/National Party Coalition Government was returned with an increased majority. The Liberal Party won 74 seats in the House of Representatives, their second-highest result, while the National Party won 12 seats, their lowest number in the post-war period. For only the sixth time since 1949, a positive two-party preferred swing was recorded to the incumbent government. Two-party preferred swings to the Government occurred in all states except the Northern Territory. In terms of first preference votes the Liberal Party recorded over 40 per cent for the first time since 1975, while the Labor Party’s vote, with Latham as leader, was the lowest recorded in the post-war period. The three sitting independent members were returned.

In the Senate, the Coalition won 38 seats and won control of the chamber for the first time since 1980. The Coalition parties won four of the six Queensland seats, the first time this had been achieved in any state. The election was one of contrasting results for the minor parties: the Australian Democrats’ vote collapsed and they failed to win a seat, but on the other hand the Greens won two seats to give them four in the new Senate, the same as the Democrats. A Family First senator was elected from Victoria.

In a worrying trend for electoral administrators, the informal vote in the House of Representatives continued to increase and, at 5.2 per cent, was the second highest on record since 1949.

2007, 24 November

Under the leadership of Kevin Rudd, the Labor Party was returned to office for the first time since 1996, with its second-lowest winning first preference tally (43.4 per cent). Labor won 83 seats, the Liberal Party won 55 and the Nationals secured ten. In losing Bennelong, Prime Minister Howard became only the second Prime Minister (after Stanley Bruce in 1929) to lose his seat. Brendan Nelson became leader of the opposition. He was later replaced by Malcolm Turnbull (September 2008 to December 2009). Tony Abbott succeeded Turnbull from December 2009.

The Coalition lost control of the Senate, but still held 37 seats—five more than the Government. The Australian Greens increased its seats to five, though it lost a seat in New South Wales. Independent South Australian senator, Nick Xenophon, won a seat. The last four Australian Democrats left the Senate: two had resigned and two were defeated in the election. The Australian Democrats was represented in the upper house from 1977 till 2008.

2010, 21 August

Julia Gillard replaced Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister on 24 June 2010 and on 17 July 2010 called an election seeking a mandate from the electorate for her prime ministership. The election resulted in a ‘hung’ parliament—the first one since the 1940 election. The ALP could only win 72 seats but the Coalition with Abbott as leader could not better that number when the WA National, Tony Crook, chose to sit on the crossbench. The Greens won its first seat at a general election—the only other Greens’ win in the lower house was at the 2002 by-election for Cunningham, NSW—and four independents were also elected. The ALP was returned to government with the support of the Greens and three of the four Independents.

In the Senate, the Greens had its best ever result picking up six seats. This gave the Greens nine seats in the new Senate and the balance of power. The DLP replaced the Family First Party by picking up the last Senate seat in Victoria, the DLP’s first senator since 1970.

2013, 7 September

This election was noteworthy for a number of reasons not least of which was the need for a half-Senate re-election in Western Australia; the first occurrence of needing another Senate election since 1908.

Kevin Rudd became Prime Minister for the second time when he replaced Julia Gillard on 27 June 2013—Menzies (1939–1941, 1949–1966) was the last Prime Minister to have two separate periods in office and Fisher was the only other (than Rudd) ALP member to have multiple (three) stints as Prime Minister (1908–1909, 1910–1913 and 1914–1915)—but was unable to save the ALP from defeat. The ALP lost 17 seats and, with 55 seats, is at its lowest level since 1996 while the Coalition’s 90 seats see it at its highest level since 1996. Following the ALP’s defeat, Bill Shorten became leader of the opposition in October 2013. The newly-formed Palmer United Party (PUP) contested in all 150 seats gaining 5.5 per cent of the vote and one seat in the House of Representatives. Disturbingly for electoral administrators, the informal vote was at 5.9 per cent, the second highest level on record (although the highest result of 6.8 per cent in 1984 was probably an aberration caused by voter confusion with the introduction of ‘above-the-line’ voting in the Senate), while the voter turnout continued to be at historically low levels (since compulsory voting was introduced).

In the Senate election, preference deals among many of the minor and micro parties saw close outcomes for the final seats in Victoria and WA; resulting in a recount in WA. Prior to the recount 1,370 votes were lost and the recount produced a different result for the final two seats. The Court of Disputed Returns voided the WA outcome and a new half-Senate election was held. Voter disaffection with this saw the turnout for the WA re-election fall to 88.5 per cent.

Overall the major parties lost seats to the smaller parties in the Senate. The PUP fielded candidates in every state and territory and won three seats while the much debated preference deals saw Victoria elect an Australian Motorist Enthusiast Party candidate. In SA previous independent Senator Nick Xenophon, now leading his own group, outpolled the ALP gaining almost 25 per cent of the primary vote. The makeup of the new Senate has a record 18 senators on the crossbench with the Greens providing 10 of them—its best ever result.


Party abbreviations and symbols

A-S Anti-Socialist
ACL Australian Labor Party (Anti-Communist)
AFI Australians Against Further Immigration
AG Australian Greens
AP Australia Party
ALP Australian Labor Party
AMEP Australian Motorist Enthusiast Party
ASP Australian Shooters Party
CDL Country and Democratic League
CDP Christian Democratic Party
CLP Country Liberal Party
CP Country Party
CTA Call to Australia
DEM Australian Democrats
DLP Democratic Labor Party
FFP Family First Party
FT Free Trade
GRN Green parties
IND Independent
LCL Liberal and Country League
LCP Liberal and Country Party
LDP Liberal Democratic Party
LNP Liberal National Party of Queensland
LP/NP Liberal/National Party
LM Liberal Movement
LP Liberal Party
NA National Alliance
NAT Nationalist Party
NCP National Country Party
NDP Nuclear Disarmament Party
NP National Party
ON One Nation (Pauline Hanson’s One Nation before 2007 election)
Others Independents and other parties
PROT Protectionist
PUP Palmer United Party
QLP Queensland Labor Party
UAP United Australia Party
XEN Nick Xenophon Group
. . Zero (rounded to one decimal place) or not applicable
n.a. Not available



A number of published sources have been used in the compilation of this paper. These include:

Australasian Political Studies Association (APSA), Australian two-party-preferred votes 1949–1982, APSA, Canberra, 1983.

Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), Election statistics (various issues), Australian Government Publishing Service (AGPS), Canberra.

Australian Electoral Commission, Federal elections, AEC website, updated 9 September 2013.

Australian Electoral Office, A summary of Commonwealth election and referendum statistics, 1901–1975, AGPS, Canberra, 1976.

Carr A, Psephos website.

Parliamentary Library, Parliamentary handbook of the Commonwealth of Australia (various editions), AGPS, Canberra.

Hughes CA and Graham AD, A Handbook of Australian government and politics 1890–1964, Australian National University Press, Canberra, 1968.

Hughes CA, A handbook of Australian government and politics 1965–1974, Australian National University Press, Canberra, 1977.

Mackerras M, Australian general elections, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1972.

Mackerras M, Elections 1980, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1980.

[1].      S Barber, Federal election results 1901–2010, Research paper, 6, 2011–12, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 14 December 2011, accessed 25 June 2014.

[2].      For the purposes of this paper, the 2013 Senate election in all states and territories except WA and the 2014 WA Senate re-election are considered as one Senate election.

[3].      Turnout is the proportion of enrolled electors that voted; calculated by expressing the total number of votes (formal and informal) as a percentage of enrolled electors.

[4].      S Barber, House of Representatives by-elections 1901–2014, Research paper, 2013–14, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 12 June 2014, accessed 25 June 2014.


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