ID 1451

Parliament of Victoria, Legislative Assembly election

Election of 28 March 1889

Show only vote and seat summary details

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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)
28 March 1889

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
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
Ministerialists (Conservative)
Legislative Assembly support for government after election
If coalition, coalition partner(s)
Ministerialists (Liberal)

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 28 March 1889
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 n Uncontested seats held n Seat share %
Ministerialists (Liberal)  40,875  24.11  33  34.74 
Ministerialists  32,281  19.04  6.32 
Opposition (Liberal)  30,602  18.05  +1.97  19  20.00 
Ministerialists (Conservative)  23,601  13.92  -15.48  21  22.11 
Opposition  22,548  13.30  4.21 
Opposition (Conservative)  6,664  3.93  +1.23  7.37 
Liberal  4,566  2.69  2.11 
Labour  3,295  1.94  2.11 
Conservative  3,282  1.94     
Independents  1,837  1.08  -10.73  1.05 
Votes for other than listed parties 0 0.00 0.00       
Totals 169,551  100.00    95  11  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.


Premier in office at election: After the previous election in March 1886, there had been some pressure from supporters to break up the coalition between Service's Constitutionalists (Conservatives) and Berry's Liberals, but Gillies as leader of the the more conservative members together with Deakin as the new leader of the more radical members agreed to continue the coalition.

Premier in office after election: The coalition of Conservatives and Liberals that had won enough seats for a comfortable Assembly majority at the 5 March 1886 election were returned at this election in March 1889. As shown in the table above, the Ministerialist supporters of the Gillies-Deakin ministry gained a majority of the vote and almost two thirds of the seats at this election (see the note 'Factions and political parties', below). But the 1889 election was held near the end of the boom period of the 1880s which preceded the financial and economic collapse in late 1889 (see generally, Serle in 'References', below).

Electoral system and voting: The Electoral Act Amendment Act of 1888 increased the number Legislative Assembly seats from 86 to 95 and the number of electoral districts from 55 to 84, 73 of which were single member districts and 11 two member districts. As in previous elections, 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 (for modifications to the administrative machinery to achieve this, see The Electoral (Amending) Act of 1888).

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 differ from Carr’s figures; where they differ from those in the tables above, they are listed in ‘Sources’, below. Jaensch and Hughes is the only source for the enrolment in uncontested seats and total ballots cast at this election and, for the first time in this series, a figure for the number of informal (invalid) ballots cast. Note that Carr records 11 uncontested seats rather than the 10 given by Jaensch and Hughes.

Factions and political parties: Carr's online Election Archive provides labels indicating the political orientation of candidates for each electoral district at the time of the election as reported in contemporary newspapers (see ‘Sources’ below). For the 1889 election, Carr reports that his newspaper sources for this election only listed candidates as Ministerialists or Opposition. Carr looked at the labels attached to candidates at the 1889 election who had also run at the previous or subsequent general election and, where a partisan leaning had been reported, has added the label to the 1889 candidates. This produces eight groups for the orientation of candidates. A few candidates were listed without a label and they have been assigned to an additional ‘Independent’ group.

As the table above shows ('Victoria, Assembly votes and seats won'), the result can be confusing but it demonstrates that candidates can be broadly categorized in two ways; whether being Liberal or Conservative in their partisan preference, and whether they supported or opposed the government at the time of the election. In the first category, the 'Liberal', 'Ministerialists (Liberal)' and 'Opposition (Liberal)' candidates gained a total of 46.8 percent of the votes, and 59.0 percent of the seats for Liberal inclined supporters, as against the 'Conservative', 'Ministerialists (Conservative)' and Opposition (Conservative)' candidates who gained a total of 19.8 percent of the votes and 29.5 percent of the seats (the balance of votes and seats going to 'Ministerialists', 'Opposition' and Independent candidates without any indication of partisan leaning).

In terms of support for, or opposition to, the government in 1889, the 'Ministerialists', 'Ministerialists (Conservative)' and 'Ministerialists (Liberal)' candidates gained 57.1 percent of the vote and 63.2 percent of the seats, with the 'Opposition', 'Opposition (Conservative)' and 'Opposition (Liberal)' candidates gaining 37.2 percent of the vote and 33.7 percent of the seats (the balance of votes and seats going 'Conservative, Liberal and Independent candidates without any indication of their support for the government).

These categories, in spite of their listing in the tables above as party groupings, were only loose associations of like-minded candidates and did not imply the kind of party organization and discipline now associated with political parties. But Wright had noted that, with Premier Berry's gaining office after the May 1877 Legislative Assembly election, partisan activities with some of the characteristics of parliamentary parties had begun to appear. 'Berry not only held this disparate [ministry] together, but did so with such skill that for the first time in the colony's history, a close approximation of party discipline was evident in the chambers. Whips organized attendance in the houses, tactics were discussed in caucus, questions and answers planned in advance -- in short an early form of party discipline was maintained, with a brief interruption, until mid-1881.' Wright, p. 84 (see 'Sources', below), The Assembly elections in February and July 1880 also marked the first time that successive governments had been established after winning majority support at an election and had lost office after defeat at a general election.

The factional politics and influence peddling that had characterized parliamentary politics (see Wright pp 34-38, and 63-72, in 'Sources', below), was beginning to give way to more organized party politics; for the evolution of political parties in Victoria, see Rawson, in 'References', below.

Labour: Two of the elected members, Dr William R N Maloney (Melbourne West) and William A Trenwith (one of the two members from Richmond) were the first members to be elected who had links with the labour movement, even though no formal party organization had yet been formed; see Paul Strangio, Neither Power Nor Glory: 100 years of Political Labor in Victoria, 1856-1956, pp 12-14 (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2012, ISBN 9780522861822), and Frank Bongiorno, The People's Party: Victorian Labor and the Radical Tradition 1875-1914, ch. 1 (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1996, ISBN 0522847382).

These two members and the unsuccessful candidate for Melbourne North (William E Murphy) were listed as Opposition (Liberals) by the contemporary press but, as Carr notes, these candidates had links with the labour movement. The figures listed for Labour in the table above are the votes and seats won by these three candidates. By the next Assembly election in 1892, candidates ran under the umbrella of the Progressive Political League.

References: The authoritative study of the political life of Victoria during this period is Geoffrey Serle, The Rush to be Rich: A History of the Colony of Victoria, 1883-1889, (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1971), and for a study of the Victorian parliament, see, Wright, ch. 5 (see 'Sources', below). For a review of politics at the time of this election, see D W Rawson, ‘Victoria’, in P Loveday, A W Martin and R S Parker (editors), The Emergence of the Australian Party System, pp 44-116, especially pp 50-55, (Sydney: Hale & Iremonger, 1977, ISBN 0908094035), and John Lack, 'Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde? Service and Gillies: The Grand Coalition Premiers, 1883-1890', ch. 5, and 'David Syme and the Three Stooges? The Bust Premiers: James Munro, William Shiels and J B Patterson, 1890-1894', ch. 6, both chapters in Paul Strangio and Brian Costar, (editors), The Victorian Premiers 1856-2006, (Sydney: Federation Press, 2006, ISBN 9781862876019).



Adam Carr, '5 March 1889', in 'Legislative Assembly Elections', Victorian Elections Since 1843, Psephos: Adam Carr's Election Archive, online here [accessed 1 March 2016].

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;

Total number of voters on the roll: 243,730
Number of uncontested seats: 10
Number of voters on roll in contested seats: 220,973
Turnout: 66.58%
Total valid votes: 172,028

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)