ID 0760

Commonwealth Parliament, Senate election

Election of 28 September 1946

Show only vote and seat summary details

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General election for the Senate
Commonwealth of Australia
Date of election
28 September 1946
Type of Senate election
Half Senate with House of Representatives

Government in office at Senate election

Prime Minister in office at date of Senate election. (check notes to Senate national summary table to see if change of Prime Minister since previous election)
Prime Minister's party affiliation
Australian Labor Party
Government majority in Senate at date of election
Change of government
Government majority in new Senate
If coalition, coalition partner(s)

Senate enrolment and voting

Total number of voters on the roll
Total ballots cast (may differ from number of votes in multiple voting systems)
Turnout (rate of voting in contested seats)
Total valid votes
Rate of informal (invalid) voting

Electoral composition of the Senate for this election

Total number of seats in the Senate
Total number of seats for each state
Number of seats for each territory
Seats to be filled at this Senate election
Casual vacancies/additional seats included in seats to be filled
Electoral System
Adult franchise at 21 years; multimember districts; preferential voting (AV); compulsory preferences; compulsory voting

Senate votes and seats won, and seats held, national summary

Display Chart

Election held on 28 September 1946
Criteria for the inclusion of parties in this table are set out in the Glossary under 'listed party'

* to view table drag left or right.
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   2,133,272  52.06  -3.02  16  84.21  16  84.21  33  91.67 
Liberal Party - Country Party (joint ticket)  1,561,718  38.12  15.79         
Liberal Party  213,304  5.21      10.53  5.56 
Independents  27,767  0.68           
Country Party      -0.96      5.26  2.78 
Votes for other than listed parties 161,265 3.94 -0.57             
Totals 4,097,326  100.00    19  100.00  19  100.00  36  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.


This election in 1946 was a regular election for half the members of the Senate held at the same time as a general election for the House of Representatives; see terms of senators. The 1946 House of Representatives results can be seen here.

At this Senate election in 1946, an additional senator had to be elected for Victoria to fill a casual vacancy; note Narelle Miragliotta & Campbell Sharman, 'Managing Midterm Vacancies: Institutional Design and Partisan Strategy in the Australian Parliament 1901–2013', Australian Journal of Political Science, 52(3) 2017: 351-366.

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: A preferental voting system had been adopted for Senate elections since 1919 under the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1919 (No.31 of 1919) with each state being a multimember district. From the 1934 Senate election, section 8 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1934 (No.9 of 1934) required voters to rank all candidates on the ballot paper for their votes to be valid (compulsory preferences). The 1946 Senate election was the last to be held with preferential block voting before the introduction of proportional representation for the 1949 Senate election.

Ballot design: Two important changes were made to Senate ballot papers in the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1940 (No.19 of 1940). 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.

The second change dealt with the placing of the party groups on the Senate 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.

United Australia Party to Liberal Party: In January 1945, the United Australia Party was restructured and renamed as the Liberal Party, the name that had first been used for the major anti-Labor party in national politics in 1910. The new Liberal Party under the leadership of Menzies had a strongly federal organization based on six state divisions with a stress on a wide membership and a vigorous branch structure. While the Country Party had not been willing to join with the Liberal Party, its factional divisions had largely disappeared and the Party could operate as an effective coalition partner for the Liberals, and run joint tickets for Senate contests in most states.

Australian Labor Party: At this federal election in 1946, the Australian Labor Party government was returned with a comfortable majority in the House of Representatives but the new Liberal Party could claim that it doubled the vote share that had been won by the United Australia Party in 1943 and the combined opposition parties had reduced the Labor Party majority in the House from 11 to 5.

The 1946 Senate election was the last to be held with preferential block voting with the disproportionate effects that this electoral system often produced. The Australian Labor Party won 52 percent of the first preference votes at the Senate election but gained 84 percent of the Senate seats and held over 90 percent of the Senate seats when the new senators took their seats on 1 July 1947 (see terms of senators).

Joint tickets: In all four states with established Country Parties (New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia), the Liberal Party ran joint tickets with the Country Party but only in Queensland were the parties successful in electing candidates -- one Country Party and two Liberal senators. New South Wales was the only state where the first preference Senate vote for the anti-Labor parties fell below 43 percent.

References: For a survey of events leading up to this election, see Geoffrey Sawer, Australian Federal Politics and Law 1929-1949, pp 158-185, (Canberra: Australian National University Press, 1963, ISBN 522837328). On the dissolution of the United Australia Party and the creation of the Liberal Party, see Clem Lloyd, 'The Rise and Fall of the United Australia Party', in J R Nethercote (editor), Liberalism and the Australian Federation, pp 134-162, (Sydney: Federation Press, 2001, ISBN 1862874026) and Graeme Starr, The Liberal Party of Australia: A Documentary History, especially chs 2 and 3 (Richmond, Victoria: Drummond/Heinemann, 1980 ISBN 0858592231); for a briefer coverage, note Ian Hancock. 'The Liberal Party Organisation 1944-66', pp 80-92 in Scott Prasser, J R Nethercote and John Warhurst (editors), The Menzies Era, (Sydney: Hale & Iremonger, 1995 ISBN 0868066541).

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 note 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 708112700); Commonwealth Parliament, Department of the Senate.