ID 1044

Parliament of New South Wales Legislative Council election

Election of 19 September 1981

Show only vote and seat summary details

Previous election in this series | Next election in this series
Election for the Legislative Council
New South Wales
Date of election
19 September 1981
Type of Legislative Council election
Transition to elected Council (see note)
Related or previous Assembly election

Government support in Legislative Council at and after election

Government majority in Legislative Council at date of election
Government majority in new Legislative Council

Composition of the Legislative Council and seats to be filled at this election

Total number of seats in the Legislative Council
If the Legislative Council has staggered terms, the number of seats to be filled at this election
Casual vacancies (by-elections) and additional seats to be filled at this election (see notes)
Not applicable
Total seats to be filled at this election

Enrolment and voting

Total number of voters on the roll
Number of uncontested seats
If uncontested seats, number of voters on the roll in uncontested seats
Not applicable
Number of voters on the roll in contested seats
Total number of candidates
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
Informal (invalid) ballots in multiple voting system
Not applicable
Electoral system
Adult franchise (at 18 years), statewide (at large) voting with a third of the seats to be elected at each election, proportional representation by STV, optional preferences (but a minimum of 10 preferences to be indicated), compulsory voting (see notes)

New South Wales, Legislative Council votes and seats won, and seats held

Display Chart

Elections held in 19 September 1981
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 Candidates n First preference vote n First preference vote share % Change from previous election % Seats won by party n Seats won by party % Seats held by party n Seats held by party %
Australian Labor Party  10  1,412,426  51.78  -3.12  53.33  24  54.55 
Liberal Party - National Country Party (joint ticket)  10  921,081  33.77  -2.51  33.33     
Call to Australia  248,425  9.11  6.67  2.27 
Australian Democrats  10  109,939  4.03  +1.25  6.67  2.27 
Environmental Action  18,056  0.66       
Republican Party  10,184  0.37       
Progress Party  3,121  0.11       
Social Democrats  2,512  0.09       
Independents  1,860  0.07  -0.83         
Liberal Party              12  27.27 
National Country Party              13.64 
Totals 48  2,727,604  100.00    15  100.00  44  100.00 

Previous election in this series | Next election in this series | Display Chart

* Party did not contest previous election or did not meet criteria for listing, or contested previous election under a different party name.


History of the Legislative Council: For information and references on the evolution of the Legislative Council, see the note for the 1978 Legislative Council election.

Electoral system: The reform proposals agreed to in 1978 stipulated that the Legislative Council was to be reduced from 60 indirectly elected members to 45 directly elected members over three elections. Under transitional arrangements, 32 of the indirectly elected members retired at the 1978 election to be replaced by 15 new elected members, making a total membership of 43 after the 1978 election; of the remaining 28 indirectly elected members, 14 retired at the 1981 election and 14 would retire at the 1984 election. After the 1981 election there were 44 members of the Legislative Council; the Council would reach its full membership of 45 after the 1984 election. Members were elected for three Legislative Assembly terms (a maximum of 9 years), a third of membership retiring every Legislative Council election which was held at the same time as general elections for the Assembly. The state was one electoral district (see at large election) and members were elected using proportional representation by the single transferable vote method (STV) with optional preferences above a minimum of 10 ranked candidates; see Clune and Griffith, pp. 503-515, and Twomey, pp. 346-350, (see 'References', below), and Green (in 'Sources', below)

Liberal and National Country parties: As with Senate contests in New South Wales, the Liberal Party and the National Country Party ran a joint ticket combining candidates from both parties; see seats won by ticket, seats won by party, and seats held by party.

Call to Australia and Family Action Movement: The Call to Australia party was the successor to the Family Action Movement which had contested the 1978 Legislative Council election. Under the guidance of Fred Nile, Call to Australia ran an effective campaign stressing Christian family values; see Turner, pp. 205-206, (see 'References', below).

Environmental Action: This was the first green party grouping to contest a New South Wales Legislative Council Election; it was the precursor to the Environment Group which contested the 1988 Legislative Council election and the emergence of the Greens at the 1991 election.

Independents: The votes for Independents at this election shown in the table above are the votes for two candidates who ran without party or group affiliation in the ungrouped category on the ballot paper.

Referendums: Two referendums were held on the same day as the 1981 general election. The first was a proposal to extend the maximum period between elections for the Legislative Assembly from three to four years (from 1984), a change which would give elected members of the Legislative Council terms of twelve years (see information on the electoral system, above). The other referendum proposal was to establish a register of the pecuniary interests of parliamentarians; see Turner, p.193 (see 'References', below). The referendum on the extension of parliamentary terms passed by 1,951,455 votes to 874,944; the referendum on registering the pecuniary interests of parliamentarians passed by 2,391,036 votes to 388,791: see Anne Twomey, The Constitution of New South Wales, p. 319 (Sydney: Federation Press, 2004, ISBN 1862875162).

References: A comprehensive study of the Legislative Council's history and operation can be found in David Clune and Gareth Griffith, Decision and Deliberation: The Parliament of New South Wales 1856-2003, (Sydney: Federation Press, 2006, ISBN 186287591X), and Anne Twomey, The Constitution of New South Wales, (Sydney: Federation Press, 2004, ISBN 1862875162).

For a survey of this election and the preceding period, see Ken Turner, '1981', in Michael Hogan and David Clune (editors), The People's Choice: Electoral Politics in 20th Century New South Wales, vol. 3 (1968-1999), pp. 181-214, (Sydney: Parliament of New South Wales and University of Sydney, 2001, ISBN 0909907412); pp. 192, 205-206, and 208-209 deal with issues directly relating to the Legislative Council election.


Antony Green, Electing the New South Wales Legislative Council 1978 to 1995: Past Results and Future Prospects, (Sydney: New South Wales Parliamentary Library, Background Paper No. 1995/2, ISSN 8017-3796; ISBN 724095686); Colin A Hughes, A Handbook of Australian Government and Politics 1975-1984, p.194, (Rushcutters Bay, NSW: Australian National University Press, 1986, ISBN 008033038X).