ID 0762

Commonwealth Parliament, Senate election

Election of 28 April 1951

Show only vote and seat summary details

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General election for the Senate
Commonwealth of Australia
Date of election
28 April 1951
Type of Senate election
Double Dissolution of Senate and 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
Liberal Party
Government majority in Senate at date of election
Change of government
Government majority in new Senate
If coalition, coalition partner(s)
Country Party

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; proportional representation by the single transferable vote method (STV); compulsory preferences; compulsory voting

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

Display Chart

Election held on 28 April 1951
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   2,029,751  45.88  +0.99  28  46.67  28  46.67  28  46.67 
Liberal Party - Country Party (joint ticket)  1,925,631  43.52  -1.12  22  36.67         
Liberal Party  273,056  6.17  +0.41  10  16.67  26  43.33  26  43.33 
Communist Party   93,561  2.11  +0.02           
Independents  20,435  0.46  -0.66           
Country Party            10.00  10.00 
Votes for other than listed parties 81,803 1.85 +0.36             
Totals 4,424,237  100.00    60  100.00  60  100.00  60  100.00 

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This election in 1951 was a so called double dissolution election for all the members of the Senate held at the same time as a general election for the House of Representatives; see terms of senators. The 1951 House of Representatives results can be seen here.

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) had 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 newly adopted proportional representation by the single transferable vote (STV) method 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.

Similarly, 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 (for details and context, see the notes to the 1949 Senate election). The likely increase in the number of candidates on the ballot paper in each state, 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 the all the candidates was too much for many voters and contributed to a high rate of informal (invalid) voting.

Parties and the double dissolution: This Senate election in 1951 was the first double dissolution election to be held for the enlarged Senate with all 60 senate seats being contested. An average of 18 candidates contested Senate elections for the ten Senate seats available in each of the six states.

Since the Liberal Party and Country Party coalition had won office at the 1949 Commonwealth elections, the Menzies government had faced a Senate controlled by the Labor Party. (This was the last time for the remaining 70 years covered by this Database that the Labor Party held a majority of seats in the Senate).

The previous Chifley Labor government had made the Commonwealth Bank a key component of its legislation to nationalize banking in Australia. Even though that scheme had been struck down by the High Court in 1947, the changes to the structure of the Commonwealth Bank and the repeal of nationalization provisions proposed by the Menzies government generated fierce opposition from the Labor Party. When the Senate refused to pass the Commonwealth Bank Act 1951 (No. 16 of 1951), Menzies requested a double dissolution election.

At this ensuing election in 1951, the Liberal Party and Country Party coalition government was returned with a comfortable majority in the House of Representatives and a majority of four in the Senate. When the new senators took their seats in July 1951 (see terms of senators), Menzies's aim to control both houses of the Commonwealth Parliament had been achieved.

Joint tickets: Proportional representation produced a close result in the Senate, reflecting the partisan balance in the electorate. As with previous Senate elections since 1946, 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 and elected 22 of the 40 Senate seats available in these four states. In dividing the seats won on joint tickets, the Country Party gained one of the five seats won in New South Wales and Victoria, and two of the six seats won in Queensland and Western Australia; by wining six Senate seats, these latter two states provided the additional two seats to give the coalition parties their majority in the Senate.

In South Australia and Tasmania there was an even split between the Australian Labor Party and the Liberal Party with each party wining five seats; (in South Australia the state branch of the federal Liberal Party preserved the name Liberal and Country League that it had used for state and some federal elections since 1933).

References: Brief accounts of this double dissolution election in 1951 can be found in Graeme Starr, The Liberal Party of Australia: A Documentary History, pp 164-166, 188-189, (Richmond, Victoria: Drummond/Heinemann, 1980 ISBN 0858592231), and Robert Murray, The Split: Australian Labor in the Fifties, pp 76-77, (Melbourne: Cheshire, 1970, ISBN 0701516755); both these books also provide the wider context to party politics in the 1950s, together with Scott Prasser, J R Nethercote and John Warhurst (editors), The Menzies Era, (Sydney: Hale & Iremonger, 1995 ISBN 0868066541). A study of the effect of the Cold War on Australian politics in this period can be found in David Lowe, Menzies and the Great World Struggle: Australia's Cold War 1948-1954, (Sydney: University of New South Wales Press, 1999 ISBN 0868405531).

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.