ID 0497

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) 12 March 1921

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) James Mitchell
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. James Mitchell
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 164,688 
Number of Assembly seats 50 
Number of uncontested seats
If uncontested seats, number of voters on the roll in uncontested seats 17,740 
Number of voters on the roll in contested seats 146,948 
Total ballots cast (may differ from number of votes in multiple voting systems) 98,958 
Turnout (rate of voting in contested seats) 67.34% 
Total valid votes 97,338 
Rate of informal (invalid) voting 1.64%
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 12 March 1921
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 35,829  36.81  +11.99     17  34.00 
Nationalist Party (Nationalists) 26,995  27.73  +6.68     10  20.00 
Country Party (Nationalist Coalition) 17,311  17.78  -1.28     16  32.00 
National Labor Party (Nationalist Coalition) 9,809  10.08  -6.77     8.00 
Independents 4,473  4.60  +3.33     2.00 
Independent Country Party 1,460  1.50  *     2.00 
Independent Nationalists 1,268  1.30  *     2.00 
Independent Labor 193  0.20  -2.76        
Votes for other than listed parties 0.00  0.00          
Totals 97,338  100.00    50  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 12 March to 9 April 1921; 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. Over the period 1918-1919, the Lefroy government appeared incompetent and to lack cohesion; by April 1919, Lefroy had only limited support among his party colleagues and he resigned. A Nationalist caucus meeting in April elected Colebatch as leader even though he was a member of the Legislative Council (the state's upper house). Colebatch became Premier of a Nationalist Coalition government on 17 April 1919.

'Colebatch, as a member of the Legislative Council, tried to persuade a Country Party member to resign his [Legislative] Assembly seat in his favour. Neither the Farmers and Settlers' Association executive nor the parliamentary Country Party were prepared to sanction this arrangement. Colebatch then resigned and the National[ist] caucus elected Mitchell as leader', Hughes and Graham, Handbook, p. 230 (see 'Sources', below); Mitchell was commissioned as Premier of a Nationalist Coalition government on 17 May 1919.

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.

First woman elected to an Australian parliament: At this election, Edith Cowan was elected to the Legislative Assembly seat of West Perth as a candidate affiliated with the Nationalist Party. She was the first woman to be elected to an Australian Parliament. For information on the feminist movement in Western Australia, see P Biskup, 'The Westralian Feminist Movement', University Studies in Western Australian History, [University of Western Australia], 3 (3), October 1959: 71-84, and David Black and Harry Phillips, Making a difference: Women in the Western Australian Parliament 1921-1999 , (Perth : Parliament of Western Australia, 2000, ISBN 0730744647).

For information on Edith Cowan's life and career, see Margaret Brown, 'Cowan, Edith Dircksey (1861 - 1932)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, pp 123-124, (Melbourne University Press, 1981). online at:
http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A080137b.htm?hilite=edith%3Bcowan

Australian Labor Party and National Labor Party: The split in the Australian Labor Party over the issue of conscription in 1916 had 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).

At this election (1921), the Australian Labor Party regained some of its electoral support, much of this being at the expense of National Labor Party members who continued to support the Nationalist Coalition government.

Nationalist Party and Nationalist Coalition; The Nationalist Party and the Nationalist Coalition government had been formed as part of the realignment political support that had been prompted by the conscription crisis and the First World War; see the notes to the 1917 Legislative Assembly elections. The Nationalist Party had absorbed most of the support of the Liberal Party but had only a fragmented organization and its relationship with the Liberal League was unclear. Members elected as Nationalists were dominant in the Nationalist Coalition government of Mitchell; 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 p. 98 (Perth: University of Western Australia Press, 1979, ISBN 0855641495), and see 'References', below .

In this database, candidates 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). Under Premier Mitchell, the Country Party members became increasingly dissatisfied with the conduct of the Nationalist Coalition government but '... the party had not yet found a formula enabling it to combine its independent identity with its membership of coalition government', Layman, p. 164.

Votes for Independents, Independent Country Party Independent Labor Party, and Independent Nationalists: Voting figures at this election (1921) for these party groupings in the table above have been calculated from Hughes and Graham, Voting, (see 'Sources', below).

References: David Black describes the political context to this election (1921) 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 395-405, (Perth: University of Western Australia Press, 1981, ISBN 0855641819).

For an overview 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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