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1961 Australian federal election

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

1961 Australian federal election

← 1958 9 December 1961 1963 →

All 122 seats of the House of Representatives
62 seats were needed for a majority in the House
31 (of the 60) seats of the Senate
  First party Second party
Arthur Calwell 1966.jpg
Leader Robert Menzies Arthur Calwell
Party Liberal/Country coalition Labor
Leader since 23 September 1943 7 March 1960
Leader's seat Kooyong (Vic.) Melbourne (Vic.)
Last election 77 seats 45 seats
Seats won 62 seats 60 seats
Seat change Decrease15 Increase15
Popular vote 2,208,213 2,512,929
Percentage 49.50% 50.50%
Swing Decrease4.60% Increase4.60%

Australia 1961 federal election.png
Popular vote by state with graphs indicating the number of seats won. As this is an IRV election, seat totals are not determined by popular vote by state but instead via results in each electorate.

Prime Minister before election

Robert Menzies
Liberal/Country coalition

Subsequent Prime Minister

Robert Menzies
Liberal/Country coalition

The 1961 Australian federal election was held in Australia on 9 December 1961. All 122 seats in the House of Representatives and 31 of the 60 seats in the Senate were up for election. The incumbent Liberal–Country coalition led by Prime Minister Robert Menzies defeated the opposition Labor Party under Arthur Calwell, despite losing the two-party-preferred popular vote. In his first election as Labor leader, Calwell significantly reduced the Coalition's margin, gaining 15 seats to leave the government with only a one-seat majority. This was the first and only time that a Federal Government won a sixth consecutive term in office.

Future opposition leader and Governor General Bill Hayden entered parliament at this election.


Due to a credit squeeze, the economy had gone into a brief recession in 1961 and unemployment had risen to high levels. This saw an increase in popularity for Labor; Menzies' case was not helped by an approach seen by the press, notably The Sydney Morning Herald, as inappropriately paternalistic.[citation needed] The Herald, which had long supported Menzies, switched sides to support Calwell and Labor, which gave Calwell the confidence to mount a spirited campaign. These factors were enough to see a swing against the Menzies Government.


House of Representatives

House of Reps (IRV) — 1961–63—Turnout 95.27% (CV) — Informal 2.57%
Party Votes % Swing Seats Change
  Labor 2,512,929 47.90 +5.09 60 +15
  Liberal–Country coalition 2,208,213 42.09 –4.46 62 –15
  Liberal  1,761,738 33.58 –3.65 45 –13
  Country  446,475 8.51 –0.81 17 –2
  Democratic Labor 399,475 7.61 –0.19 0 0
  Queensland Labor 57,487 1.10 –0.50 0 0
  Communist 25,429 0.48 –0.05 0 0
  Commonwealth Centre 6,743 0.13 +0.13 0 0
  Independents 35,757 0.68 +0.05 0 0
  Total 5,246,033     122
Two-party-preferred (estimated)
  Liberal–Country coalition WIN 49.50 –4.60 62 –15
  Labor 50.50 +4.60 60 +15
Popular Vote
Two Party Preferred Vote
Parliament Seats


Senate (STV) — 1961–64—Turnout 95.27% (CV) — Informal 10.62%
Party Votes % Swing Seats Won Seats Held Change
  Labor 2,151,339 44.71 +1.93 14 28 +2
  Liberal–Country coalition 2,025,078 42.08 –3.12 16 30 –2
  Liberal–Country joint ticket 1,595,696 33.16 +9.79 8 * *
  Liberal (separate ticket) 398,292 8.28 –12.41 7 24 –1
  Country (separate ticket) 31,090 0.65 –0.50 1 6 –1
  Democratic Labor 388,466 8.07 +2.25 0 1 –1
  Queensland Labor 84,112 1.75 +0.09 0 0 0
  Communist 78,188 1.62 –1.29 0 0 0
  Social Credit 17,963 0.37 +0.37 0 0 0
  Republican 10,589 0.22 +0.14 0 0 0
  Other 10,029 0.21 +0.21 0 0 0
  Independent 46,499 0.97 +0.54 1 1 +1
  Total 4,812,263     31 60

Seats changing hands

Seat Pre-1961 Swing Post-1961
Party Member Margin Margin Member Party
Bowman, Qld   Liberal Malcolm McColm 6.1 8.0 1.9 Jack Comber Labor  
Canning, WA   Country Len Hamilton N/A 65.7 15.7 Neil McNeill Liberal  
Capricornia, Qld   Liberal Henry Pearce 7.7 10.7 5.0 George Gray Labor  
Cowper, NSW   Country Earle Page 11.1 12.9 1.8 Frank McGuren Labor  
Evans, NSW   Liberal Frederick Osborne 7.0 7.1 0.1 James Monaghan Labor  
Griffith, Qld   Liberal Arthur Chresby 0.1 7.4 7.3 Wilfred Coutts Labor  
Herbert, Qld   Liberal John Murray 1.5 3.8 2.3 Ted Harding Labor  
Hume, NSW   Country Charles Anderson 2.1 3.0 0.9 Arthur Fuller Labor  
Kalgoorlie, WA   Liberal Peter Browne 0.3 0.9 0.6 Fred Collard Labor  
Lilley, Qld   Liberal Bruce Wight 11.9 13.2 1.3 Don Cameron Labor  
Mitchell, NSW   Liberal Roy Wheeler 8.0 11.4 3.4 John Armitage Labor  
Moore, WA   Liberal Hugh Halbert 2.9 4.2 1.3 Hugh Leslie Country  
Oxley, Qld   Liberal Donald Cameron 5.9 9.4 3.5 Bill Hayden Labor  
Petrie, Qld   Liberal Alan Hulme 10.5 11.2 0.7 Reginald O'Brien Labor  
Phillip, NSW   Liberal William Aston 1.9 3.3 1.4 Syd Einfeld Labor  
Stirling, WA   Liberal Doug Cash 0.2 0.5 0.3 Harry Webb Labor  
Wide Bay, Qld   Country Henry Bandidt 4.3 9.5 5.2 Brendan Hansen Labor  
  • Members in italics did not contest their seat at this election.


For a long time, the 1961 election remained the closest Federal election in Australian history, with the Coalition being reduced to a one-seat majority. Despite not having a majority of seats in New South Wales and Queensland the Coalition retained all of their seats in Victoria and could retain power. [1] The election was decided in the seats of Bruce near Melbourne and Moreton near Brisbane.

In Bruce, Labor's Keith Ewert led Liberal Billy Snedden on the first count, but on the second count more than two-thirds of the DLP's preferences flowed to Snedden, enough to give him the victory.[2]

However, the Coalition was not ensured of a sixth term in government until Jim Killen won Moreton by only 130 votes.[3] Labor actually won 62 seats, the same as the Coalition. However, without Bruce, the best Labor could hope for was a hung parliament, since two of its seats were in ACT and Northern Territory. At the time, territorial MPs had limited voting rights and were not counted for the purpose of determining who was to form government. The record for the closest election in Australia's history was eventually beaten by the 2010 election, which was a 72-72 seat draw.

The most notable casualty was Earle Page, the third-longest serving MP in Australia's history, and briefly Prime Minister. He had been the member for Cowper since 1919. Although he was 81 years old and gravely ill with lung cancer, he decided to fight his 17th general election. His Labor opponent, Frank McGuren, needed a seemingly daunting 11-point swing to win the seat, but won by a slim three-point margin on the second count. Page, who had been too sick to actively campaign, died 11 days after the election without ever knowing he had been defeated.

See also


  1. ^ Megalogenis, George (25 June 2021). "Hard lessons: On unis, Coalition has embraced Howard's way". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 27 June 2021.
  2. ^ 1961 election results in Victoria from Adam Carr's election archive
  3. ^ Bartlett, Andrew (17 January 2007). "Sir James Killen: Moreton, Menzies and Mythology". The Bartlett Diaries. Archived from the original on 5 May 2007. Retrieved 15 May 2007.


  • University of WA election results in Australia since 1890
  • AEC 2PP vote
  • Prior to 1984 the AEC did not undertake a full distribution of preferences for statistical purposes. The stored ballot papers for the 1983 election were put through this process prior to their destruction. Therefore, the figures from 1983 onwards show the actual result based on full distribution of preferences.
This page was last edited on 28 September 2021, at 14:55
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