ID 0765

Commonwealth Parliament, Senate election

Election of 22 November 1958


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General election for the Senate
Commonwealth of Australia
Date of election
22 November 1958
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
Liberal Party
Government majority in Senate at date of election
No
Change of government
No
Government majority in new Senate
Yes
If coalition, coalition partner(s)
Country Party

Senate enrolment and voting

Total number of voters on the roll
5,384,624
Total ballots cast (may differ from number of votes in multiple voting systems)
5,141,109
Turnout (rate of voting in contested seats)
95.48%
Total valid votes
4,612,059
Rate of informal (invalid) voting
10.29%

Electoral composition of the Senate for this election

Total number of seats in the Senate
60
Total number of seats for each state
10
Number of seats for each territory
Seats to be filled at this Senate election
32
Casual vacancies/additional seats included in seats to be filled
2
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 22 November 1958
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   1,973,027  42.78  +2.17  15  46.88  15  46.88  26  43.33 
Liberal Party - Country Party (joint ticket)  1,077,586  23.36  -16.02  28.13         
Liberal Party  953,856  20.68  +12.02  18.75  13  40.63  25  41.67 
Democratic Labor Party  388,417  8.42  3.13  3.13  3.33 
Communist Party   134,263  2.91  -0.73           
Country Party  52,751  1.14  +0.52  3.13  9.38  11.67 
Independents  19,648  0.43  -0.45           
Votes for other than listed parties 12,511 0.27 +0.17             
Totals 4,612,059  100.00    32  100.00  32  100.00  60  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

This election in 1958 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 1958 House of Representatives results can be seen here.

At this Senate election in 1958, two additional senators had to be elected to fill casual vacancies in New South Wales and Victoria; 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: 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 1958 -- 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, more than 10 percent of ballots cast at this election in 1958.

Senate composition 1 July 1956 to 30 June 1959: After the Senate election in 1955, the newly elected senators took their seats on 1 July 1956 (see terms of senators). The addition of the new senators deprived the Menzies Liberal Party and Country Party coalition government of their majority in the Senate, giving the collective votes of the 28 Australian Labor Party senators and the 2 Democratic Labor Party senators (see note on DLP, below) a blocking vote of 30 in the chamber of 60 senators.

But the opposition parties appeared reluctant to use their ability to produce deadlocked Senate votes. On only one significant measure -- legislation to separate the trading activities of the Commonwealth Bank from its role as the central banking authority -- did the two opposition parties persist in defeating a bill in the Senate, once in November 1957 and again in April 1958 (for context and details, see Rawson, The 1958 Federal Election, pp 64-71, in 'References', below). Even so, the opposition parties had demonstrated the potential, where there was shared tactical or ideological advantage, for using blocking votes in the Senate to achieve partisan objectives.

Senate majority: At this election in 1958, The Menzies Liberal Party and Country Party coalition government was returned with a slightly increased majority in the House of Representatives. In the Senate, the small increase in the seat shares of the Liberal Party and the Country Party was just enough to enable the government to regain a majority of seats in the Senate. For discussion of voting at the Senate election, see Rawson, The 1958 Federal Election, pp 226-230, in 'References', below).

Liberal Party, Country Party and joint tickets: Only two states, New South Wales and Queensland, combined Liberal Party and Country Party candidates on joint tickets, with the Liberal Party gaining four seats from these tickets and the Country Party two. In the remaining two states with significant Country Party support, the Western Australian Country Party ran its own ticket electing one senator, and the Victorian Country Party did not contest the 1958 Senate election on the apparent understanding that it would gain a seat from a joint ticked with the Liberals in Victoria at the next Senate election due by June 1962.

In the two states without branches of the Country Party, the South Australian Liberal Party gained only two seats, ceding the fifth seat to Australian Labor Party's increased electoral support, and in Tasmania the fifth seat was won by the Democratic Labor Party (see note, below).

Democratic Labor Party and Queensland Labor Party: In 1957, the Anti-Communist Labor Party became the Democratic Labor Party. In the same year, a split in the state branch of the Australian Labor Party in Queensland led to the creation of the Queensland Labor Party which contested this Senate election in 1958 as a party affiliated with the Democratic Labor Party in other states. In the table above, votes for the Queensland Labor Party are included in the national total for the Democratic Labor Party; the Queensland Labor Party changed its name to the Democratic Labor Party for Senate elections in Queensland from 1961 and in 1969 for Queensland state elections (for information on the emergence of the Queensland Labor Party, see Murray, ch. 19, in 'References', below).

At this Senate election in 1958, George Cole was successful in being re-elected as a Democratic Labor Party senator from Tasmania, joining Frank McManus who had been elected to the Senate from Victoria at the previous Senate election in 1955. The Party's representation in the Senate remained at two.

References: A comprehensive study of the 1958 federal election can be found in D W Rawson, Australia Votes: The 1958 Federal Election, (Parkville, Victoria: Melbourne University Press, 1961). Rawson also provides a brief summary of the election in, 'Commonwealth', Australian Political Chronicle, July-December 1958, Australian Journal of Politics and History, 5(1) May 1959: 87-94 (this publication can be viewed online through Wiley-Blackwell Journals at subscribing libraries).

An account of this election in 1958 and its context from the perspective of developments in Labor movement is provided by Robert Murray, The Split: Australian Labor in the Fifties, ch.20, (Melbourne: Cheshire, 1970, ISBN 0701516755); note also P L Reynolds, The Democratic Labor Party, (Milton, Queensland: Jacaranda Press, 1974).

General information on the Liberal Party during this period can be found in Graeme Starr, The Liberal Party of Australia: A Documentary History, ch.4 (Richmond, Victoria: Drummond/Heinemann, 1980 ISBN 0858592231), and 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 Stanley Bach, Platypus and Parliament: The Australian Senate in Theory and Practice (Canberra: Department of the Senate, 2003), online here [accessed 21 May 2020].

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); 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).



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