ID 1442

Parliament of Victoria, Legislative Assembly election

Election of 30 December 1865

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General election for the Legislative Assembly
Date of election (or first day of voting at elections held over more than one day)
30 December 1865

Government in office and parliamentary support before and after the election

Government in office at election

Premier in office at date of election. (check notes to see if change of Premier since previous election)
Premier's party affiliation
Support from parliamentary factions and independents
Legislative Assembly support for government at election
If coalition, coalition partner(s)

Government in office after election

Premier in office after election.
Premier's party affiliation
Support from parliamentary factions and independents
Legislative Assembly support for government after election
If coalition, coalition partner(s)

Enrolment and voting

Total number of voters on the roll
Number of Assembly seats
Number of uncontested seats
If uncontested seats, number of voters on the roll in uncontested seats
Number of voters on the roll in contested seats
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
Not applicable
Informal (invalid) ballots in multiple voting system
Electoral system
Male franchise, plural voting, single and multimember districts (multiple voting), first past the post (plurality) voting (see notes)

Victoria, Legislative Assembly votes and seats won

Display Chart

Election held on 30 December 1865
Criteria for the inclusion of parties in this table are set out in the Glossary under 'listed party'

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Party Name First preference vote n First preference vote share % Change from previous election % Seats won n Uncontested seats held n Seat share %
Independents (no disciplined party groupings)  82,752  100.00  0.00  78  10  100.00 
Votes for other than listed parties 0 0.00 0.00       
Totals 82,752  100.00    78  10  100.00 

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Election dates: Elections were held on 30 December 1865 and the 15 and 29 January 1866; a majority of contests were held in January 1866 and some references refer to the election as the 1866 election (for example, Carr, in 'Sources', below, refers the election as the 1866 election).

Premier in office at election: The McCulloch government had been returned to office with the support of a substantial majority of Assembly members at the Legislative Assembly elections in October and November 1864. Early in 1865, the government moved to deal with the controversial issues of land settlement and the rights of pastoralists. A legislative compromise enabled both houses of the Victorian Parliament to pass the Amending Land Act in March 1865 (see 'Victorian Historical Acts', in 'Sources', below). But the issue remained a continuing source of contention between the Assembly and the Legislative Council.

Disagreement between the two chambers was exacerbated in July 1865 when, as part of the budget process, the government tacked a tariff measure to the annual appropriation Bill. ‘The tack raised the stakes and infuriated the government’s opponents. Because the Constitution limited the Council’s powers over appropriation Bills, it was now unable to amend the tariff, and could not block it without rejecting the whole Bill and cutting off authority for almost all the government’s spending. The Council did just that. Tempers rose as the deadlock went on.’ Waugh, p. 32 (see ‘References’, below).

By early December 1865, and after several unsuccessful attempts at compromise on the part of the government, a frustrated Premier McCulloch requested Governor Darling to dissolve the Legislative Assembly for fresh elections to be held in late December 1865 and January 1866; for details of the circumstances that led to this standoff, see Wright, pp 74-77, in 'Sources', below.

Government in office after election: The McCulloch government was returned to office with one of the ‘…largest majorities any premier has enjoyed in the Assembly (some 58 members out of 78, in 1866)’, Waugh, p. 33, (see ‘References, below) . Support for the government was so widespread, that one candidate suggested that ‘[h]e had been told by many of the electors in [his] district that if a gorilla came foreward as a Ministerial candidate he would be [elected]’, (Statement by John Whiteman, candidate for Emerald Hill, reported in The Age, Tuesday 23 January 1866, p. 7; a similar comment is reported in MacIntyre, p. 43, in ‘References’, below).

McCulloch had campaigned ‘… on a platform of curtailment of Upper House powers, land reform, and extension of protection’, (Wright, p. 77, in ‘Sources’, below) all of which were policies strongly objected to by the Legislative Council, and the deadlock over the passing of the appropriate Bill (see above) continued until April. As the dispute was on the verge of a solution, a new confrontation between the government and the Legislative Council over a payment to a former Governor created political and constitutional turmoil that lasted beyond the next Assembly election; see ‘References’, below and the notes to McCulloch’s first period in office.

Electoral system and voting: Electoral legislation was consolidated and amended in July 1865 by a new Electoral Act (see 'Victorian Historical Acts', in 'Sources', below). The Act maintained the number and composition of the existing electoral districts, but set out a new set of electoral boundaries. As in the previous election, 78 members were elected from 49 electoral districts, 24 of which were single member districts, 21 two member districts, and 4 three member districts; for those with property in more than one electoral district, plural voting was permitted. Voters in multimember districts had the option of casting as many votes as there were members to be elected from their district (see multiple voting), or they could plump for a single candidate. Voters cast their ballots by crossing off the names of candidates they did not wish to elect, and the most chosen candidate or candidates were elected (plurality voting).

With manhood suffrage for the Legislative Assembly (but not the Legislative Council), all males over 21 years of age who fulfilled residency requirements were eligible to vote for the Assembly. Ratepayers were automatically registered as voters; non-ratepaters were registered by enumeration or separate application, with lists of voters required to be published. The brief and unintended enfranchisement of women ratepayers for the 1864 election was terminated; see Wright, p. 39 in 'Sources', below.

Election results and sources: The election figures in the tables above were calculated from individual electoral district results listed in Carr’s online Election Archive (see ‘Sources’ below), which are compiled from official records and results published in newspapers (for the range of sources and problems with the data, see Carr’s ‘Introduction to Early Victorian Election Statistics', online here [accessed 28 June 2015]). Jaensch and Hughes (see 'Sources', below) provide summary voting figures, some of which, for this election, differ from Carr’s figures; where they differ from those in the tables above, they are listed in ‘Sources’, below. Jaensch and Hughes are the only source for summary enrolment figures and the number of ballots cast at this election.

Enrolment is shown as declining from the previous election in 1864, with a smaller number in contested seats, but the figure for total valid votes increased. From the Jaensch and Hughes figures, turnout was 55.2 percent of electors in contested seats. But Jaensch and Hughes list 7 uncontested seats at this election in comparison with 10 (in 6 districts) for Carr.

There were no disciplined political parties at this election, candidates being broadly identified as those supporting the government at the election (Ministerialists) or those favouring the Opposition, affiliations that could change after the election; for comments on factionalism and influences on members during this period, see Wright, pp 63-72 (in 'Sources', below). Carr's online Election Archive provides details of the political orientation of candidates for each district at the time of the election as reported in contemporary newspapers (see ‘Sources’ below).

References: This election was dominated by the disagreements between the McCulloch government with a substantial majority in the Assembly, and the Legislative Council. The events are well summarized in John Waugh, ' "The Inevitable McCulloch" and hi Rivals,1863-1877', pp 32-35, in Paul Strangio and Brian Costar (editors), The Victorian Premiers 1856-2006, ch. 3, (Sydney: Federation Press, 2006, ISBN 9781862876019). A more extensive treatment can be found in Wright, pp 74-81, (in 'Sources', below) and note Stuart MacIntyre, A Colonial Liberalism: The Lost World of Three Victorian Visionaries, pp 41-54, (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1991, ISBN 0195547608). A useful summary of the period can also be found in Geoffrey Serle's Prologue, pp 1-13, to his book The Rush to be Rich: A History of the Colony of Victoria 1883-1889, (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1971). A conservative view can be found in Henry Gyles Turner, A History of the Colony of Victoria from its Discovery to its Absorption in the Commonwealth of Australia, volume 2, ch. 5, (London: Longman Greens, 1904)

A survey of the operation of the Victorian Parliament from 1856 to 1890 is provided in Wright, Part 2, (see 'Sources', below), and note that a comparison of the characteristics of members elected from 1856 to 1881 can be found in Joy E Mills, 'The Composition of the Victorian Parliament, 1856-1881', Historical Studies, Australian and New Zealand, 2 (5) April 1942.


Adam Carr, '1866', in 'Legislative Assembly Elections', Victorian Elections Since 1843, Psephos: Adam Carr's Election Archive, online here [accessed 9 July 2015].

Dean Jaensch and Colin A Hughes, 'Politics', p. 399, in Wray Vamplew (editor), Australians: Historical Statistics, (Sydney: Fairfax, Syme and Weldon Associates, 1987, ISBN 0949288292); some of the listed results differ from those in the tables above; see the notes on 'Election results and sources', above;

Number of uncontested seats: 7
Total valid votes: 85,956

Victoria, Office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel, 'Victorian Historical Acts', online here [accessed 9 June 2015].

Raymond Wright, A People's Counsel: A History of the Parliament of Victoria 1856-1990, (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1992, ISBN 0195533593)