ID 0496

Parliament of Western Australia, Assembly election

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General election for the Assembly Western Australia 
Date of election (or first day of voting at elections held over more than one day) 29 September 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) Henry Bruce Lefroy
Premier's party affiliation Nationalist Coalition (see notes) 
Assembly support for government at election Coalition  
If coalition, coalition partner(s)  

Government in office after election

Premier in office after election. Henry Bruce Lefroy
Premier's party affiliation Nationalist Coalition (see notes)
Assembly support for government after election Coalition  
If coalition, coalition partner(s)  
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Enrolment and voting

Total number of voters on the roll 166,951 
Number of Assembly seats 50 
Number of uncontested seats 10 
If uncontested seats, number of voters on the roll in uncontested seats 29,196 
Number of voters on the roll in contested seats 137,755 
Total ballots cast (may differ from number of votes in multiple voting systems) 85,620 
Turnout (rate of voting in contested seats) 62.15% 
Total valid votes 84,173 
Rate of informal (invalid) voting 1.69%
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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Western Australia, Assembly votes and seats won

Election held on 29 September 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 %
Australian Labor Party 20,889  24.82  -17.29     15  30.00 
Nationalist Party (Nationalists) 17,719  21.05  *     16.00 
Country Party (Nationalist Coalition) 16,048  19.07  *     12  24.00 
National Labor Party (Nationalist Coalition) 14,185  16.85  *     12.00 
Liberal Party (Nationalist Coalition) 10,133  12.04  *     16.00 
Independent Labor 2,490  2.96  *     2.00 
Country Party 1,270  1.51  -12.47        
Independents 1,069  1.27  *        
Democrat Party 370  0.44  *        
Votes for other than listed parties 0.00  0.00          
Totals 84,173  100.00    50  10  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

Election dates: Elections were held over the period from 29 September to 9 November 1917; for details of polling dates, see Black, Election Statistics, pp. xv-xvii, (see 'Sources', below).

Premier in office at election: There had been two changes of Premier since the previous Legislative Assembly election in 1914. Premier Scaddan had been defeated in the Assembly when Opposition Leader Wilson moved a motion of adjournment -- a lack of confidence in the government -- which was carried on 25 July 1916. 'Scaddan sought a dissolution but it was refused; Wilson was sent for on 26 July and formed a Liberal government. There was no question of a Liberal-Country coalition at this stage, the subject being left for the Farmers and Settlers' Association conference in August', Hughes and Graham, Handbook, p. 228 (see 'Sources', below). Wilson became Premier of a Liberal Party minority government.

Disagreements within the Wilson Liberal government and between the government and Country Party members of the Assembly were compounded by the split in the Australian Labor Party in 1916 over the introduction conscription to send Australian soldiers to Europe during the First World War. By 1917 this volatile situation had led to a major regrouping of parties and the formation of a Parliamentary Nationalist Coalition consisting of members of the Liberal Party, the Country Party and 11 defecting Labor Assembly members (see notes below). Wilson was replaced by H B Lefroy as the compromise choice as leader of the Parliamentary Nationalist Coalition which had majority support in the Assembly.

For more detail of these events, see Black, pp 101-103 (see 'References', below), and for the context and summary details of these changes of Premier and references on their careers, see the entries for each Premier in the 'Periods in office' component of this website.

Premier in office after election: The Lefroy Nationalist Coalition and its constituent parties were returned at this election (1917) with a large majority in the Assembly.

Nationalist Coalition The realignment of parties in 1916-1917 led to the creation of a Nationalist Coalition comprising all non-Labor groupings (see notes below). The Nationalist Coalition had features of both a coalition and a political party and is treated as a single partisan affiliation for the governments of Western Australia between 1917 and 1924. The component groupings maintained their separate identities and became increasingly autonomous after 1917.

Australian Labor Party and National Labor Party: The split in the Australian Labor Party over the issue of conscription led to a number of its Assembly members defecting to form a National Labor as part of the Nationalist Coalition government which supported conscription; see H J Gibney, 'Western Australia', in D J Murphy (editor), Labor in Politics: The State Labor Parties in Australia 1880-1920, pp 343-385, at pp. 369-373, (St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 1975, ISBN 0702209392). For a detailed study of the conscription issue, see J R Robertson, 'The Conscription Issue and the National Movement, Western Australia: June 1916 to December 1917', University Studies in Western Australian History, [University of Western Australia], 3(3), October 1959: 7-57.

Liberal Party, Nationalists, and Liberal Party (Nationalist Coalition): The Liberal Party was also affected by the issue of conscription and the First World War; some of its Assembly members saw themselves as being affiliated with such newly formed Nationalist organizations as the National League, while others campaigned as Liberals who were part of the Nationalist Coalition government; see David Black, 'The Liberal Party and its Predecessors', in Ralph Pervan and Campbell Sharman (editors), Essays on Western Australian Politics, pp 191-232, at pp 197-198 (Perth: University of Western Australia Press, 1979, ISBN 0855641495).

In this database, former Liberal candidates who campaigned with the support of the National League are referred to as affiliated with the Nationalist Party even though some references -- and contemporary commentary -- referred to the party in Western Australia as the National Party; the use of the label 'Nationalist' is used to distinguish the party from the National Party which emerged in the 1970s.

Country Party (Nationalist Coalition): 'In May 1917, the Country Party joined with the Liberal Party and the National Labor Party to form the National [Nationalist] Party, with each party maintaining its separate identity but joining to form a coalition government', Lenore Layman, 'The Country Party: Rise and Decline', in Ralph Pervan and Campbell Sharman (editors), Essays on Western Australian Politics, pp 159-190, at p. 164 (Perth: University of Western Australia Press, 1979, ISBN 0855641495). Some candidates affiliated with the Country Party chose to run without any commitment to the National Coalition government.

Votes for Independents, Independent Labor Party, Country Party and Democrat Party: Voting figures at this election (1917) for these party groupings in the table above have been calculated from Hughes and Graham, Voting, (see 'Sources', below).

References: David Black provides an indication of the confusion created by the conscription issue at this election in his essay 'Party Politics in Turmoil, 1911-1924', in C T Stannage (editor), A New History of Western Australia, pp 381-405, at pp 393-396, (Perth: University of Western Australia Press, 1981, ISBN 0855641819).

For a study of the context of Western Australian parliamentary and electoral politics in this period, see David Black, 'Factionalism and Stability, 1911-1947', in David Black (editor), The House on the Hill: A History of the Parliament of Western Australia 1832-1990, pp 97-151, (Perth: Western Australian Parliamentary History Project, Parliament of Western Australia, 1991, ISBN 0730939839).

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 South Australian, Western Australian and Tasmanian Lower Houses 1890-1964, (Canberra: Department of Political Science, Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University, 1976, ISBN 0708113346); David Black, Election Statistics Legislative Assembly of Western Australia 1890-1996, Listed Alphabetically by Constituency, (Perth: Parliament of Western Australia and Western Australian Electoral Commission, 1997); and David Black. An Index to Parliamentary Candidates in Western Australian Elections State and Federal 1890-2006, 2nd edition, (Perth: Parliament of Western Australia, 2006, ISBN 1920830774).



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