ID 0454

Parliament of Victoria, Assembly election

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General election for the Assembly Victoria 
Date of election (or first day of voting at elections held over more than one day) 29 December 1908

Government in office and parliamentary support before and after the election

Government in office at election

Premier in office at date of election. (check notes to see if change of Premier since previous election) Thomas Bent
Premier's party affiliation Reform 
Assembly support for government at election Majority 
If coalition, coalition partner(s)  

Government in office after election

Premier in office after election. John (Jack) Murray
Premier's party affiliation Liberal
Assembly support for government after election Coalition  
If coalition, coalition partner(s) Ministerialists  
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Enrolment and voting

Total number of voters on the roll 263,876 
Number of Assembly seats 65 
Number of uncontested seats 25 
If uncontested seats, number of voters on the roll in uncontested seats 98,957 
Number of voters on the roll in contested seats 164,919 
Total ballots cast (may differ from number of votes in multiple voting systems) 88,460 
Turnout (rate of voting in contested seats) 53.64% 
Total valid votes 87,995 
Rate of informal (invalid) voting 0.53%
Informal (invalid) ballots in multiple voting system Not applicable
Electoral system Manhood suffrage, single member districts, first past the post (plurality) voting (see notes) 

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Victoria, Assembly votes and seats won

Election held on 29 December 1908
Criteria for the inclusion of parties in this table are set out in the Glossary under 'listed party'

Party Name First preference vote n First preference vote share % Change from previous election % Seats won n Uncontested seats held n Seat share %
Australian Labor Party 30,605  34.78  +0.38     21  32.31 
Liberal 29,866  33.94  *     19  29.23 
Ministerialists 17,578  19.98  -31.38     22  13  33.85 
Independent Liberal 5,455  6.20  *     4.62 
Independents 3,785  4.30  +1.94        
Independent Ministerialists 539  0.61  -8.86        
Victorian Socialist Party 167  0.19  *        
Votes for other than listed parties 0.00  0.00          
Totals 87,995  100.00    65  25  100.00 


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* Party did not contest previous election or did not meet criteria for listing, or contested previous election under a different party name.

Notes

Premier in office at election: Premier Bent and his ministry had been returned with a large majority of seats at the previous election for the Legislative Assembly in 1907. But factional divisions led to a split within the ministry and the passing of a motion of no confidence in the government on 3 December 1908 (see Rawson, pp 103-106 in 'References', below). Premier Bent obtained a dissolution of the Assembly, and was defeated at the election held on 29 December 1908 (this election).

Premier in office after election: After the election, '... a conference of Bent's s supporters and those of John Murray met together on 6 January 1909 and chose Murray as leader ... ... half the cabinet to be chosen from each faction (i.e. Liberal and Ministerial). Murray conferred with Graham in choosing the new ministry which, at the time of its formation, was regarded as a coalition.' Hughes and Graham 1968, p.112 (see Sources', below). Murray was commissioned to form a government on 8 January 1909.

Electoral system and voting: The Constitution Acts of 1903 and 1906 had reduced the size of the Legislative Assembly to 65 seats chosen from single-member districts. In other aspects of electoral law remained largely unchanged (for details, see Hughes and Graham 1968, p.462-463 in 'Sources', below). Voters continued to cast their ballots by crossing off the names of candidates they did not wish to elect, and the most chosen candidate was elected (plurality voting). Only men who were British subjects, filled the age and residence requirements and were not otherwise disqualified were authorized to vote. But this election (1908) was the last Victorian Legislative Assembly election with manhood suffrage.

Franchise and votes for women: Legislation enfranchising women on the same basis as men was finally passed in October 1908 but the Adult Suffrage Act 1908 was not proclaimed until 31 March 1909 and did not affect voting at this election (1908). The first general election for the Legislative Assembly with adult franchise was not until the next Assembly election in 1911.

On the parliamentary and political response to the issue of votes for women in Victoria, see Wright, pp 135-138 in 'Sources', below, and Bongiorno, pp 115-134, in 'References', below. See also Audrey Oldfield, Woman Suffrage in Australia: A Gift or A Struggle?, pp 131-168, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992, ISBN 0521403804), and Diane Sainsbury, 'Rights Without Seats: The Puzzle of Women's Legislative Recruitment in Australia', in Marian Sawer (editor), Elections: Full, Free and Fair, pp 63-77, (Sydney: Federation Press, 2001, ISBN 186287395X). Victoria was the last state to enfranchise women for Assembly elections.

Election results and sources: The principal source for election results in this Database for the Victorian Legislative Assembly up to the 1889 election has been Carr's Psephos online election archive 'Victorian Elections Since 1843' (and see 'Sources', below). This invaluable source provides electoral district results collected from contemporary newspapers and other authoritative sources. From the Assembly election in 1892 and subsequent elections until 2000, summary election results are taken from Hughes and Graham 1968 (see 'Sources' below) and its supplements, unless otherwise indicated. Carr's archive remains useful as an online source of electoral district results and supplementary information about candidates.

Note that this election (1908) was held only 26 days after the defeat of the government in the Assembly, and the short notice limited the ability of some political groupings to find suitable candidates. The result was that 25 of the 65 Assembly seats (38 percent) were uncontested.

Factions and political parties: During this period, factional alignments began to evolve into political parties with party discipline and organizations designed to support candidates (see generally, Rawson, in ‘References’, below). But the evolution was not complete and support from a party organization at election time was not always a guide to how members would vote in the Assembly.

The result is that candidates at Victorian Assembly elections until 1911 can be broadly categorized in two ways; whether being Conservative, Labor or Liberal in their partisan preferences, or whether they supported or opposed the government at the time of the election as Ministerialists or Opposition, respectively. At this election (1908), Hughes and Graham 1968 use the both categorizations (see the table above), and give a useful summary of how candidates were selected:

'The revived parliamentary Liberal Party combined with the Country faction within Ministerialist ranks for bring the Bent government down .... Most of the rebels appointed an election committee to manage their campaign, issued a manifesto and recognised Murray, who delivered a major speech at Warrnambool on 12 December, as their spokesman. Other rebels, Bayles and McCutcheon, stood as Independents, as did several supporters of the Government.... Ministerial candidates were selected by a committee consisting of cabinet members plus Cameron.' Hughes and Graham 1968, p476, in 'Sources', below.

Carr (see 'Sources below) categorizes the Ministerialists as being part of a 'United Liberal Party' but, at this stage, it was more an agglomeration of factions rather than a united party (see Rawson, pp 95-103 in 'References', below).

Australian Labor Party: Although not officially called by this name until 1916 (see Strangio, p.122, in 'References', below), the principal organizational features of the Australian Labor Party had been in place since the 1902 Assembly election. The establishment of the Political Labor Council (PLC) in 1901 '... as the party's supreme body, enforcing for the first time an effective pledge on on the Labor members of parliament.' Rawson, p.91. The label 'Australian Labor Party' is used for all Victorian Legislative Assembly elections in this Database since 1902.

Victorian Socialist Party: There had been increasing divisions between the Labor Party and the Victorian Socialist Party. At this election (1908), two VSP candidates stood for office but neither was successful; for a survey of the tense relations between Labor and the VSP, see Strangio, pp 74-79 (in 'References', below).

References: For a review of politics at the time of this election, see Weston Bate, 'Tommy Bent, "A Man"', ch. 9, and David Dunstan, 'John Murray and William Watt: The Odd Couple', ch. 10, both chapters in Paul Strangio and Brian Costar, (editors), The Victorian Premiers 1856-2006, (Sydney: Federation Press, 2006, ISBN 9781862876019). The works by Bongiorno and Rawson referred to in the next paragraph also provide broad coverage of the politics in this period. For a study of the Victorian parliament during this period, see, Wright, ch. 7 (see 'Sources', below).

The emergence of political parties in Victoria is analyzed in D W Rawson, ‘Victoria’, in P Loveday, A W Martin and R S Parker (editors), The Emergence of the Australian Party System, pp 44-116, (Sydney: Hale & Iremonger, 1977, ISBN 0908094035) and the evolution of the Labor Party is dealt with in Frank Bongiorno, The People's Party: Victorian Labor and the Radical Tradition 1875-1914 (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1996, ISBN 0522847382), and Paul Strangio, Neither Power Nor Glory: 100 years of Political Labor in Victoria, 1856-1956, (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2012, ISBN 9780522861822).

Sources

Colin A Hughes and B D Graham, A Handbook of Australian Government and Politics 1890-1964, (Canberra: Australian National University Press, 1968, SBN 708102700); Colin A Hughes and B D Graham,Voting for the Victoria[n] Legislative Assembly 1890-1964, (Canberra: Department of Political Science, Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University, 1975, ISBN 070811332X).

Adam Carr, 'The Tweny-Second Parliament Elected 29 December 1908', in 'Legislative Assembly Elections', Victorian Elections Since 1843, Psephos: Adam Carr's Election Archive, online here [accessed 22 September 2016].

Raymond Wright, A People's Counsel: A History of the Parliament of Victoria 1856-1990, (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1992, ISBN 0195533593)



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