ID 0471

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) 6 December 1952

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) John Gladstone Black McDonald
Premier's party affiliation Country Party 
Assembly support for government at election Minority 
If coalition, coalition partner(s)  

Government in office after election

Premier in office after election. John Cain [snr]
Premier's party affiliation Australian Labor Party
Assembly support for government after election Majority 
If coalition, coalition partner(s)  

Enrolment and voting

Total number of voters on the roll 1,402,705 
Number of Assembly seats 65 
Number of uncontested seats 13 
If uncontested seats, number of voters on the roll in uncontested seats 283,219 
Number of voters on the roll in contested seats 1,119,486 
Total ballots cast (may differ from number of votes in multiple voting systems) 1,047,671 
Turnout (rate of voting in contested seats) 93.59% 
Total valid votes 1,028,480 
Rate of informal (invalid) voting 1.83%
Informal (invalid) ballots in multiple voting system Not applicable
Electoral system Adult franchise at 21 years, single member districts, preferential voting (AV), compulsory preferences, compulsory voting 


Victoria, Assembly votes and seats won

Election held on 6 December 1952
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 504,773  49.08  +3.79     37  10  56.92 
Liberal and Country Party 255,685  24.86  -15.83     11  16.92 
Electoral Reform League 98,641  9.59  *     6.15 
Country Party 85,843  8.35  -2.30     12  18.46 
Independents 46,841  4.55  +3.84        
Progressive Labor 21,262  2.07  *     1.54 
Communist Party 12,670  1.23  +0.71        
Henry George Party 2,765  0.27  *        
Votes for other than listed parties 0.00  0.00          
Totals 1,028,480  100.00    65  13  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.


Government in office at election: There had been three changes of Premier and a series of unstable minority governments since the previous Assembly general election in May 1950. At that election, the Hollway Liberal and Country Party minority government had maintained its 27 seats, while the Australian Labor Party gained 7 to hold 24 at the expense of the Country Party that declined from 20 to 13 seats. Hollway continued in office as Premier of a Liberal and Country Party minority government and reconstructed his ministry on 19 June (see Hughes and Graham 1968, p.133 in 'Sources', below); the Victorian Parliament convened on 20 June 1950.

Soon after the election, negotiations began between the Country Party and the Australian Labor Party to defeat the government. This was achieved in a vote on a no-confidence motion taken on 22 June 1950 which the government lost 38 to 24. Premier Hollway sought another dissolution but was refused by the Governor; Hollway then resigned. McDonald, the leader of the Country Party, was commissioned to form a government and became Premier of a Country Party minority government on 27 June 1950, with conditional support from the Australian Labor Party. The circumstances under which the Labor Party agreed to support a Country Party minority government are described in Costar, pp 243-247 (see 'References', below). Once the minority government had been formed, the '... Liberal and Country Party then sought to defeat the new government by offering to support a Labor Government for a limited period during which a redistribution of electorates could be made, but the Labor Party rejected the suggestion.' Hughes and Graham, p.133 in 'Sources', below, and note West, pp 14-16 in 'References, below.).

In October 1950, universal franchise had been adopted for the Legislative Council (Wright, p.187, see 'Sources', below) and, on 21 June 1952, '... the first Legislative Council election since the the expansion of the franchise saw the ALP win an additional eight provinces -- seven from the [Liberal and Country Party] and one from the Country Party.' Costar, p.248 (see 'References', below). Electoral redistribution for the Assembly had been one of the conditions for Labor's support of the McDonald ministry, and the Labor Party used its increased support in the Legislative Council, together with two of Hollway's supporters to deny supply. The motion read: 'That this House is of the opinion that, in view of the inequitable electoral system at present operating in this State and of the Government being not fairly representative of the people, the Supply sought by this Bill should not be consented to at present', Victoria Parliamentary Debates,1950-51 Session, vol. 232, 21 October 1952, pp 2630-2684, at p.2683; the motion passed 17 to 16.

'McDonald sought a dissolution, and when this was refused, resigned. Hollway, then leader of a group of dissident Liberals known as the Electoral Reform [League], was commissioned [on 28 October 1952] to form a government which he did by employing all the members of his group.' Hughes and Graham, p.134 (see 'Sources', below). But Premier Hollway's Electoral Reform League minority government lasted only four days from 28-31 October 1952 before it was defeated on a motion of no-confidence moved by the leader of the opposition, McDonald. The government was defeated 33 to 31 by Country Party party members and those of the Liberal and Country Party, with the Australian Labor Party members supporting Hollway. '[Hollway] then sought, but did not obtain a dissolution. The Governor, Sir Dallas Brooks, obtained Hollway's resignation, commissioned McDonald to form a government, and then granted a dissolution [for this election in December 1952].' Hughes and Graham, p.135 (see 'Sources', below).

Government in office after election: McDonald had become Premier of what was, essentially, a caretaker Country Party minority government on 31 October 1952 until the general election for the Assembly held on 6 December 1952 (this election). The Australian Labor Party won an additional 13 Assembly seats at the election; McDonald resigned as Premier on 8 December 1952 and John Cain (senior) was commissioned as Premier of an Australian Labor Party majority government, the first in Victoria.

Liberal and Country Party, and Electoral Reform League: The Liberal and Country Party saw its vote cut by more than 15 percent at this election (1952) and its representation slashed from 27 to 11 seats. This was a response to the continuing disagreements within the party over its relationship with the Country Party and the defection of a group of dissident Liberals under the leadership of former party leader Hollway. This dissident group became the Electoral Reform League who ran their own slate of 15 candidates, winning almost 10 percent of the vote and securing four seats including the seat of Glen Iris won by Hollway.

The details and context of the turmoil within the Liberal and Country Party during this period are examined at length in West, pp 3-38, and more briefly in Aimer, pp 25-28, both in 'References', below.

Independents: The divisions within the Liberal and Country Party prompted an increase in the number of candidates contesting this election (1952) without any party affiliation. Sixteen of these candidates ran, gaining 4.5 percent of the first preference vote but none of these candidates was elected.

Progressive Labor: Disaffected Labor Party candidates had previously contested Victorian Assembly elections as Independent Labor candidates but, at this election in 1952, three such candidates ran under the label of Independent Labor; one, Charles Mutton, was re-elected to the seat of Coburg (for the circumstances leading to Mutton's running as an Independent/Progressive Labor candidate, see Strangio, p.231 in 'References', below).

Communist Party: The onset of the Cold War undermined the electoral support for the Communist Party with little change to the party's 1.2 percent share of the first preference vote at this election (1952) in spite of the party's endorsing eight candidates. For information on the increasingly divisive role of the Communist Party in Labor Party politics, see the references to the Communist Party in the index of Strangio (see 'References'. below).

Henry George Party: Henry George was a nineteenth century American economist and journalist who was concerned with increasing inequality in industrialized societies. He proposed a range of policies to remedy social and economic inequality, one of the most influential being the adoption of a single tax on the value of land to fund government services. Lancelot Hutchinson ran as a candidate of the Henry George Party at this Assembly election. The party had endorsed 3 candidates for the 1949 Senate election and was to contest the 1955 Victorian Assembly election . The party shared similar goals to the Single Tax Party in South Australia between 1931 and 1944 (see Dean Jaensch and David Mathieson, A Plague On Both Your Houses: Minor Parties in Australia, pp 56, 140 (St Leonards, NSW:1998, ISBN1864484217).

References: The Hollway governments are surveyed in Brian Costar, 'Tom Hollway: The Bohemian', and the premiership of McDonald is reviewed in Brian Costar, 'John McDonald: A Remorseful Premier', both essays published in Brian Costar and Paul Strangio (editors), The Victorian Premiers 1856-2006, chs 18 and 19 (Sydney: Federation Press, 2006, ISBN 9781862876019); and note Kate White, 'Hollway: An Atypical Liberal Leader?', Politics, 8 (2) November 1978: 320-323. For a general study of Victorian parliamentary politics during this period, see Wright, ch. 9 (in 'Sources', below).

The operation of the Australian Labor Party in Victoria during this period is extensively reviewed in Paul Strangio, Neither Power Nor Glory: 100 years of Political Labor in Victoria, 1856-1956, ch. 8, (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2012, ISBN 9780522861822).

The history of the Liberal Party in Victoria is surveyed in Peter Aimer, Politics, Power and Persuasion: The Liberals in Victoria, (East Hawthorn, Vic.: James Bennett, 1974, ISBN 0909595011) and Katherine West, Power in the Liberal Party: A Study in Australian Politics, ch. 1 (Melbourne: Cheshire, 1965). A national perspective of the early years of the Liberal Party is provided in Ian Hancock, National and Permanent? The Federal Organisation of the Liberal Party of Australia 1944-1965 (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2000, ISBN 0522848737) and note Graeme Starr, The Liberal Party of Australia: A Documentary History (Richmond, Vic.: Heinemann, 1980, ISBN 0858592231).


For this Assembly election (1952), there is agreement between the three sources below (Hughes and Graham 1968, Hughes and Graham 1975, and Carr) on the first preference votes of the three largest parties, but Hughes and Graham 1968 show a difference of 200 votes more in the total valid votes cast; the figure listed in the other two sources is the one used in the tables above . The votes and partisan affiliation of minor party and Independent candidates are all calculated from Hughes and Graham 1975, supplemented by Carr's online Election Archive (for more information, see the notes, above).

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, 'Thirty-ninth Parliament Elected 6 December 1952', in 'Legislative Assembly Elections', Victorian Elections Since 1843, Psephos: Adam Carr's Election Archive, online here [accessed 22 August 2017].

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