ID 0457

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) 15 November 1917

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) Alexander James Peacock
Premier's party affiliation Liberal Party 
Assembly support for government at election Majority 
If coalition, coalition partner(s)  

Government in office after election

Premier in office after election. John Bowser
Premier's party affiliation National Party (Nationalists)
Assembly support for government after election Majority 
If coalition, coalition partner(s)  
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Enrolment and voting

Total number of voters on the roll 828,230 
Number of Assembly seats 65 
Number of uncontested seats 14 
If uncontested seats, number of voters on the roll in uncontested seats 169,742 
Number of voters on the roll in contested seats 658,488 
Total ballots cast (may differ from number of votes in multiple voting systems) 356,999 
Turnout (rate of voting in contested seats) 54.21% 
Total valid votes 345,754 
Rate of informal (invalid) voting 3.15%
Informal (invalid) ballots in multiple voting system Not applicable
Electoral system Adult franchise at 21 years, single member districts, preferential voting (AV), compulsory preferences 

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Victoria, Assembly votes and seats won

Election held on 15 November 1917
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 %
National Party (Nationalists) 197,036  56.99  *     40  61.54 
Australian Labor Party 111,637  32.29  -7.29     18  27.69 
Victorian Farmers Union 21,183  6.13  *     6.15 
National Labor Party 7,747  2.24  *     4.62 
Independent Labor 3,100  0.90  *        
Temperance 2,097  0.61  *        
Progressive Farmers 1,972  0.57  *        
Independent Nationalists 908  0.26  *        
Progressive Labor 74  0.02  *        
Votes for other than listed parties 0.00  0.00          
Totals 345,754  100.00    65  14  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: Although Premier Peacock had led the Liberal Party to victory at the Assembly election in November 1914, there were serious factional divisions within the parliamentary party. In September 1915, Peacock was obliged to seek support from Labor Party members after some members of the Liberal Party expressed dissatisfaction with the direction of the government. 'Another faction, formed in December 1916 under the leadership of John Bowser, later attacked the ministry for its failure to economise in public expenditure. The 'Economy Party', as it was known, contested the election of 15 November 1917 as a separate group and succeeded in winning widespread support.' Hughes and Graham 1968, p.117 (see 'Sources', below). On Peacock's factional problems with the Liberal Party during this period in office, see Chesterman, pp 156-157 (in 'References', below).

Premier in office after election: 'The Liberal Party become known as the Nationalist Party following the formation of the federal Nationalist Party. At least twenty-seven of the thirty-nine Nationalists returned to the new Assembly were "Economy" members [see note, above]. Peacock interpreted this result as a defeat for his government and resigned his commission, advising the Governor to send for Bowser. Having obtained the [Nationalist] Party's approval to proceed with the formation of a cabinet, Bowser chose his ministers from the ranks of the former 'Economy' faction.' Hughes and Graham 1968, p.117 (see 'Sources', below).

Changing party alignments: The effects of the First World War on social and economic relations, and differing attitudes to military conscription and the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland, all affected partisan loyalties; further strains were to be generated by the October Revolution in Russia and the seizure of power by the Bolsheviks. For survey of the period, see Ian Turner, '1914-19', in Frank Crowley (editor), A New History of Australia, ch. 8. (Adelaide: Griffin Press, 1974, ISBN 0855610352).

The emergence of the National Party (Nationalists): 'The "Economy" faction of the Liberal Party ... contested the election as an independent group.... The Victorian Farmers' Union, formed in 1916, also contested the election as a separate group. The Liberal Party, which gradually become known as the National Party [Nationalists] followed the formation of the federal National Party [Nationalists] early in 1917 (although it did not absorb any dissident Labor members), was supported by its three organizations, together with the National Federation with which three breakaway Labor members were associated. The campaigns of theses groups were co-ordinated by a State Campaign Council.' Hughes and Graham 1968, p.479 (see 'Sources', below).

This Database refers to the National Party that emerged in 1917 and its members and supporters who called themselves 'Nationalists', as the National Party (Nationalists) to distinguish it from the former Country Party, now called the National Party; for the problems of changes of party name and the way they are dealt with in this Database, see party names.

Note that Adam Carr's website (see 'Sources', below), using information from newspapers in 1917, aims to distinguish between 'Nationalists' and 'Ministerial Nationalists' at this Assembly election to show which candidates supported or opposed Peacock as Premier. The table above follows Hughes and Graham 1968 in regarding all such candidates as Nationalists (see 'Sources', below).

Australian Labor Party: The Labor organization in Victoria had officially adopted the name Australian Labor Party in 1916. As with Labor parties in other states, the Victorian Party suffered internal turmoil with defections and expulsions over attitudes to the War, sectarianism and the issue of military conscription.

Three Labor members of the Assembly defected from the Party and successfully contested the election as members of the National Labor Party supporting the National Party (Nationalists) government. For a detailed study of this period in the Victorian Labor Party see Strangio, ch. 4 in 'References', below.

Victorian Farmers Union: Although working to support the National Party (Nationalists) at this election (1917), the election of members of the Victorian Farmers Union marked the beginning of what was to become the Country Party as a separate political party. On the emergence of the Country Party in Victoria and elsewhere in Australia, see B D Graham, The Formation of the Australian Country Parties, ch. 4 (Canberra: Australian National University Press, 1966).

References: For a review of politics at the time of this election, see John Chesterman, 'Alexander Peacock: The Laughing Pragmatist', ch. 11, in Paul Strangio and Brian Costar, (editors), The Victorian Premiers 1856-2006, (Sydney: Federation Press, 2006, ISBN 9781862876019), and for information on Bowser's brief period in office, see Margaret Fitzherbert, 'Harry Lawson, Sure and Steady', ch. 12, p.164, also in Strangio and Costar (editors). For a study of the Victorian parliament during this period, see Wright, ch. 7 (in 'Sources', below).

The history of the Labor Party in Victoria is dealt with in 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-Fifth Parliament Elected 15 November 1917', in 'Legislative Assembly Elections', Victorian Elections Since 1843, Psephos: Adam Carr's Election Archive, online here [accessed 12 January 2017].

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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