Election held on 10 December 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 by ticket n||Seats won by ticket %||Seats won by party n||Seats won by party %||Seats held by party n||Seats held by party %|
|Australian Labor Party||176,323||43.53||-9.23||2||40.00||2||40.00||5||50.00|
|Anti-Communist Labor Party (Democratic Labor Party from 1958)||35,098||8.67||*||0|
|Votes for other than listed parties||0||0.00||-1.81|
* Party did not contest previous election or did not meet criteria for listing, or contested previous election under a different party name.
This election in 1964 was a regular election for half the members of the Senate but, unlike most Senate elections, it was not held at the same time as a general election for the House of Representatives.
The previous election for the Senate in December 1961 had been held at the same time as an election for the House of Representatives. The Menzies Liberal Party and Country Party coalition government had been returned but with a working majority in the House of Representatives of only one seat. The fixed six year term of senators (see terms of senators) and the Constitutional requirement (section 13) that a regular Senate election cannot be held more that a year before the expiry of Senate terms, meant that the next Senate election could not be held before 1 July 1964.
As the economy improved, the Menzies government decided to call an early election for the House of Representatives alone in November 1963 (see House of Representatives election without the Senate). This stratagem rewarded the government with a House majority of 22 seats (the result can bee seen here) but left the requirement for a Senate election to be held in the 12 months preceding 1 July 1965. Accordingly, the Menzies government called this Senate election without the House of Representatives in December 1964 (see Senate elections without House of Representatives).
This Senate election in 1964 was to be the first of three consecutive Senate elections held without a simultaneous general election for the House of Representatives.
In the table above, see the Glossary distinctions between Seats won by ticket and Seats won by party, and between Seats won by party and Seats held by party.
Electoral System: The Commonwealth Electoral Act 1948 (No.17 of 1948) changed the electoral system for the Senate from preferential block voting to proportional representation by the single transferable vote (STV) method for Senate elections from 1949 (for the details and context of this change, see the notes for the 1949 Senate election).
Ballot design: The move to proportional representation for Senate elections from 1949 did not require any change in the design of ballot papers. Both the previous preferential block voting and the proportional representation by the single transferable vote method (STV) required a voter to rank the individual candidates on the ballot in the order of the voter's choice. The electoral systems differed only in the way the ranked order of candidates on each ballot was counted.
This meant that changes made to Senate ballot papers in the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1940 (No.19 of 1940) continued to apply. Section 7 of the 1940 Electoral Act enabled candidates who ran in a party grouping on the ballot paper to agree on the order in which their names would be ranked in the group rather than an alphabetical listing (although no party labels were attached to the groups). Those candidates who ran as Independents were listed in an unmarked group at the end of the ballot paper.
Under section 17(b) of the 1940 Act, the placing of the groups was decided by lot organized by the Commonwealth Electoral Officer in each state. Section 17(c) applied the same process to decide the order of any Independent candidates within their unmarked group. In addition, the groups of candidates were arranged horizontally on the ballot paper rather than vertically so that the ballot followed the model set out in Form E in the Act.
Voting continued to be compulsory and voters were required to rank all candidates on the ballot paper for their votes to be valid. The membership of the Senate had been increased from 36 to 60 for the 1949 and subsequent elections, with 5 seats to be elected from each state at half Senate elections (for details and context, see the notes to the 1949 Senate election).
The number of candidates on the ballot paper in each state -- an average of 15 at this Senate election in 1964 -- coupled with the absence of party labels for the party groupings on the ballot, presented voters with a challenging task. Political parties aimed to remedy this by issuing how-to-vote cards to aid their supporters to vote for their chosen party and to encourage them to rank party candidates in the party preferred order. Notwithstanding these cards, the task of ranking all the candidates was too much for many voters and contributed to a high rate of informal (invalid) voting, 7 percent of ballots cast at this election in 1964.
Senate election campaign: The Menzies Liberal Party and Country Party coalition government had been returned to office with an increased majority in the House of Representatives election in November 1963 (see note, above); at this Senate election in December 1964, the governing parties ran on their record and the satisfactory state of the economy. Among other issues, the Australian Labor Party challenged the equity and effectiveness of the government's new lottery scheme for compulsory military conscription (see 'Australian Political Chronicle' in 'References', below). The theme of stronger defense preparedness against communist aggression was a major feature of the Democratic Labor Party's campaign (note Reynolds, p.36, in 'References', below).
Australian Labor Party: The national first preference vote for the Labor Party was unchanged from the previous Senate election but, in only two states, South Australia and Tasmania, did the Labor Party managed to win 3 of the 5 seats. When the new senators took their seats on 1 July 1965 (see terms of senators), the Labor Party's Senate contingent dropped by one to 27.
Liberal Party, Country Party and joint tickets: Three states -- New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria -- combined Liberal Party and Country Party candidates on joint tickets, with the Liberal Party gaining five seats from these tickets, and the Country Party two. In Western Australia, the Country Party continued to run its own ticket, electing one senator.
In the two states without branches of the Country Party -- South Australia and Tasmania -- the Liberal Party won only 2 of the 5 seats in each state. When the new Senate met, the coalition parties' share of seats in the Senate was unchanged at 30, although the composition had changed with the Liberal Party having one fewer senators and the Country Party one more.
Democratic Labor Party and Independent: The Democratic Labor Party national first preference vote declined by 1.4 percent to 8.4 percent at this Senate election in 1964 but the Party's candidate in Victoria, Frank McManus, won back the seat he had lost at the previous Senate election in 1961. In addition, Vincent Gair, the former Labor Party premier of Queensland and former leader of the Queensland Labor Party, was elected to the Senate at this election. These gains for the Democratic Labor Party were offset by the defeat of senator Cole in Tasmania. Even so, when the new senators took their seats on 1 July 1965 (see terms of senators), the two Democratic Labor Party senators, when voting with Australian Labor Party senators and R J (Reg) Turnbull, (the Independent senator from Tasmania who had been elected in 1961), could block government legislation (see voting in the Senate).
This election (1964) marked the first of three Senate elections (1964, 1967 and 1970) after which the Democratic Labor Party shared (1964) or held (1967 and 1970) the balance of power in the Senate and participated in changes to Senate procedures that enhanced the influence of the chamber (note Bach, chapter 3, pp 79-81, in 'References', below). For a study of the Democratic Labor Party's performance at Senate elections from 1955 to 1970, see Reynolds, pp 52-56 in 'References', below.
References: A short account of the 1964 federal election can be found in 'Commonwealth', Australian Political Chronicle, July-December 196, Australian Journal of Politics and History, 11 (1) April 1965: 91-92 [no author listed] (this publication can be viewed online through Wiley-Blackwell Journals at subscribing libraries).
Useful references on the Democratic Labor Party are P L Reynolds, The Democratic Labor Party, (Milton, Queensland: Jacaranda Press, 1974 ISBN 0701607033), and Keith Richmond, 'Minor Parties in Australia', in Graeme Starr, Keith Richmond and Graham Maddox (editors), Political Parties in Australia, pp 317-374, especially pp 335-344, (Richmond, Victoria: Heinemann, 1978 ISBN 0858591782).
General information on the Liberal Party during this period can be found in Scott Prasser, J R Nethercote and John Warhurst (editors), The Menzies Era, (Sydney: Hale & Iremonger, 1995 ISBN 0868066541). The views of Prime Minister Menzies on the Senate at this election in 1964 (the last election he contested as prime minister) can be found in Graeme Starr, The Liberal Party of Australia: A Documentary History, pp 218-219, (Richmond, Victoria: Drummond/Heinemann, 1980 ISBN 0858592231).
For general Senate reference, see: J R Odgers, Australian Senate Practice, 5th edition (Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service, 1976); a more recent version is online here [accessed 20 May 2020]; and Stanley Bach, Platypus and Parliament: The Australian Senate in Theory and Practice (Canberra: Department of the Senate, 2003), online here [accessed 21 May 2020].
Colin A Hughes and B D Graham, A Handbook of Australian Government and Politics 1890-1964, Canberra; Australian National University Press, 1968 (SBN 708102700); Gerard Newman, Federal Election Results 1949-2001, Canberra: Commonwealth Parliament, Department of the Parliamentary Library, Information and Research Services, Research Paper 9 2001-02, 2002 (ISSN 1328 7478), online here.