ID 0472

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) 28 May 1955

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

Government in office after election

Premier in office after election. Henry Edward Bolte
Premier's party affiliation Liberal and Country Party
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 1,422,588 
Number of Assembly seats 66 
Number of uncontested seats
If uncontested seats, number of voters on the roll in uncontested seats 19,782 
Number of voters on the roll in contested seats 1,402,806 
Total ballots cast (may differ from number of votes in multiple voting systems) 1,318,934 
Turnout (rate of voting in contested seats) 94.02% 
Total valid votes 1,289,979 
Rate of informal (invalid) voting 2.2%
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 

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Victoria, Assembly votes and seats won

Election held on 28 May 1955
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 %
Liberal and Country Party 487,408  37.78  +12.92     34  51.52 
Australian Labor Party 420,197  32.57  -16.51     20  30.30 
Anti-Communist Labor Party (Democratic Labor Party from 1958) 162,660  12.61  *     1.52 
Country Party 122,999  9.53  +1.19     10  15.15 
Victorian Liberal Party 44,692  3.46  *        
Independents 13,123  1.02  -3.54        
Progressive Labor 11,809  0.92  -1.15     1.52 
Independent Labor 8,159  0.63  *        
Independent Liberal 6,655  0.52  *        
Independent Country Party 5,824  0.45  *        
Communist Party 4,589  0.36  -0.88        
Henry George Party 1,864  0.14  -0.12        
Votes for other than listed parties 0.00  0.00          
Totals 1,289,979  100.00    66  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

Government in office at election: Although there had been no change of Premier since the previous Assembly election in December 1952 there had been a major change to the extent of parliamentary support for Premier Cain after a split in the Australian Labor Party. During 1954, tensions within and between the parliamentary and trade union wings of the Australian Labor Party became especially serious in Victoria (see Strangio, pp 263-266, and Murray, pp 91-103 in 'References' below). 'A dispute within the Labor Party led to the suspension and subsequent expulsion of four Ministers from the party -- Barry, Coleman, Hayes and Scully.' Hughes and Graham 1968, p.136 (see 'Sources', below). ' When the four ministers ... refused Cain [senior]'s request they resign, the Premier resigned and advised the Governor to grant him a new commission so as to be able to re-form his ministry without them. The Governor's action implied that the third Cain (senior) ministry ended, and the fourth commenced on 31 March 1955.' Strangio, footnote 147, p.273 (see 'References', below). This website regards the change as one that alters the extent of partisan support in the Assembly rather than its composition; only the latter triggers a new period in office.

The expulsion of the ministers from the Labor caucus meant that the party no longer had the support of a majority on the floor of the Assembly, and Cain (senior) became Premier of a minority government.

On 19 April 1955, the first meeting of the Assembly after the changes to the Cain (senior) ministry, the government was defeated on an appropriation bill 24 to 37. Bolte, the leader of the opposition, immediately moved a motion of no confidence in the ministry which, was carried 34 to 23, with three of the expelled former ministers voting against the government (for a brief background to these events, see Wright, pp 192-195 in 'Sources', below). Premier Cain (senior) was granted a dissolution.

Government in office after election: 'At the election on 28 May 1955 [this election] the Liberal and Country Party won a bare majority of seats [34 of 66]; an offer to the Country Party for a coalition was rejected, and Bolte formed a cabinet, having been authorised to choose the members himself.' Hughes and Graham, p.137 (see 'Sources', below). Bolte became Premier of a Liberal and Country Party majority government on 7 June 1955.

Electoral system and voting The Electoral Districts Act 1953 '... provided that the State should be redivided into electoral divisions on the bases that each Commonwealth electoral division should be divided into two approximately equal electoral districts, varying between 45 and 55 percent of the number of electors.' Hughes and Graham 1965, pp 465-466 in 'Sources' below. This had the effect of increasing the number of seats in the Assembly by one to 66 members for this election.

Australian Labor Party and the Anti-Communist Labor Party: Ideological and factional divisions within the Labor Party and the union movement over the role of communist sympathizers and their opponents in the Party had come to a head in 1954, leading to a destructive split in the Party in March 1955 and the creation of the Anti-Communist Labor Party and its successor, the Democratic Labor Party. These divisions were particularly far-reaching in Victoria and had the effect of keeping the Australian Labor Party out of office in the state for twenty-seven years.

At this Assembly election, the Anti-Communist Labor Party fielded 44 candidates gaining 12.6 percent of the first preference vote but only Francis Scully was successful in gaining election (seat of Richmond). This was the only seat the party ever won in the Victorian Assembly.

For a detailed study of the split and its background in Victoria, see Strangio, chs 9 and 10 (see 'References', below), and more generally, Robert Murray, The Split: Australian Labor in the Fifties, (Melbourne: Cheshire, 1972, ISBN 0701516755), and Paul Ormonde, The Movement, (Melbourne: Nelson, 1972, SBN 170019683.

Liberal and Country Party: 'At the elections in May 1955, the condition of the Liberal and Labor parties was simply a reversal of that in 1952. So too was the outcome of the poll. Thus, a reunified Liberal Party, having expelled the last of its Electoral Reform rebels two years before, overwhelmingly defeated a divided Labor Party. With the help of the preferences of the Anti-Communist Labor candidates, the Liberal Party's share of seats jumped from eleven to thirty-four.' Aimer, p.28 (in 'References', below).

Victorian Liberal Party: This group of dissidents Liberals led by Thomas Hollway, the former Premier and leader of the Liberal Party, was the successor to the Electoral Reform League. After previous attempts by the State Executive of the Liberal and Country Party, the Hollway group was expelled from the Party in 1953 (see Aimer, pp 122-123, in 'References', below). The Victorian Liberals fielded 10 candidates at this Assembly election but none was elected; the party gained only 3.5 percent of the first preference vote, only a third of support for the Electoral Reform League at the 1952 Assembly election.

Country Party: Changes to the distribution of seats under the Australian Labor Party government and the reunification of the Liberal and Country Party had the effect of denying the Country Party the ability to hold the balance of power in the Assembly even though its support in the Legislative Council could be important. The Liberal and Country Party, and its successor, the Liberal Party, did not rely on the support of the Country Party and its successors to form a governing coalition in Victoria until 1992.

Independents: The resurgence of the Liberal and Country Party is likely to have been a factor in the reduction in the number of candidates contesting this election (1955) without any party affiliation. Six of these candidates ran but none was elected.

Progressive Labor and Independent Labor: Four disaffected former Labor Party members ran as candidates at this election (1955), three as Independent Labor candidates and one, Charles Mutton, as a Progressive Labor candidate. Only one, Mutton, was successful, being 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.

Independent Liberal and Independents Country Party: Four former members of the Liberal Party and one former Country Party member contested this election (1955) as Independent Liberal and Independent Country Party candidates; none was elected.

Communist Party: The Communist Party endorsed six candidates for this Assembly election (1955) but its electoral support continued to decline to a meager 0.4 percent of the first preference vote. With the split in the Australian Labor Party, the Communist Party had shown that its divisive influence in the labour movement had been much more significant than any electoral support it had gained. For information on the role of the Communist Party in Labor Party politics before 1955, 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. The party endorsed 4 candidates for this Victorian Assembly election in 1955; none was elected. 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 Australian Journal of Politics and History was first published in 1955 has given brief summaries of state politics and government since then in the 'political chronicle' section of the journal in issues of each annual volume. For this Victorian Assembly election, see Creighton Burns, 'Victoria', Australian Journal of Politics and History, Political Chronicle, 1 (1) November 1955: 107-112.

The 1952 Cain government is surveyed in Paul Strangio, 'John Cain snr: The Star-Crossed Premier' in Brian Costar and Paul Strangio (editors), The Victorian Premiers 1856-2006, ch. 20 (Sydney: Federation Press, 2006, ISBN 9781862876019) and Kate White, John Cain & Victorian Labor 1917-1957, (Sydney: Hale & Iremonger, 1982, ISBN 0868060275). 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, chs 9 and 10, (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2012, ISBN 9780522861822). The organization and 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).

Sources

For this Assembly election (1955), there is agreement between the three sources below (Hughes and Graham 1968, Hughes and Graham 1975, and Carr) on the first preference votes for the larger parties. 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, 'Fortieth Parliament Elected 28 May 1955', 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)

Victoria, Office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel, 'Victorian Historical Acts', online here [accessed 13 October 2017].



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