ID 1656

Parliament of South Australia, House of Assembly election

Election of 1 March 1865

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General election for the House of Assembly
South Australia
Date of election (or first day of voting at elections held over more than one day)
1 March 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
House of Assembly support for government at election
If coalition, coalition partner(s)

Government in office after election

Premier's party affiliation
Support from parliamentary factions and independents
House of 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 at 21 years, two-member districts, first past the post (plurality) voting

South Australia, House of Assembly votes and seats won

Display Chart

Election held on 1 March 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)  13,339  100.00  0.00  36  12  100.00 
Votes for other than listed parties 0 0.00 0.00       
Totals 13,339  100.00    36  12  100.00 

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Election dates: Elections were held on 1, 9 and 13 March 1865.

Premier in office at election: There had been three changes of Premier and four changes of government since the previous Assembly election in November 1862. The Waterhouse government had continued after the 1862 election but collapsed in July 1863 '... in the face of accusations of financial irregularities and alleged misappropriation of funds', Parliament of South Australia, 'Premiers of South Australia', online here; for details note Combe 2009, pp 96-97, in 'Sources', below, and the entry for Waterhouse in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, online, here [accessed 5 November 2018].

Dutton, who had initiated the motion in the House of Assembly that had led to the resignation of the Waterhouse government, was commissioned to form a government on 4 July 1863. The SA Constitution Act required one of the ministerial positions in a government to be held by a member of the upper house, the Legislative Council, but Dutton was unable to find any member of the Council who was willing to serve. After the defeat of government motions in both Houses over this issue, and attempts to find another member of the Assembly who could form a government, Ayers, a member of the Legislative Council, was able to form a government 11 days later on 15 July 1863; for more details of this sequence of events, see Combe 2009, p.97, in 'Sources', below.

A year later, the Ayers government was defeated in the Assembly on a vote of confidence but, after the failure of attempts to fashion a new government with broader support, Ayers was recommissioned as Premier on 22 July 1864 with a ministry that included both the mover (Randolf Stow) and the seconder (William Milne) of the motion of no confidence. The controversy over the probity of these appointments led the new ministers to resign, promptly followed by the rest of the Ayers government on 4 August 1864; see Combe 2009, p.98, in 'Sources', below.

Blyth was successful in forming a government on 4 August 1864 which included both Milne and Stow (as Attorney-General) and led the government into the Assembly election in March 1865 (this election). But Attorney-General Stow was defeated at the Assembly election '... held to obtain the judgment of the country upon the government ...,' Combe 2009, p.98, (in 'Sources', below) and, unable to fill the office of Attorney-General, the Blyth government resigned with effect from 22 March before Parliament had been recalled.

Premier in office after election: The resignation of the Blyth government prompted by the defeat of a key member of the government at the 1865 Assembly election (this election) was the first occasion since the adoption of responsible government in South Australia in 1857 that a government had fallen as the result of a general election for the Assembly; all previous changes of government had occurred as a consequence of defeat on a matter of confidence on the floor of the Assembly, or the resignation of the Premier.

After the election, Dutton was commissioned to form a government. Although leader of the government, Dutton held the portfolio of Commissioner of Public Works; Ayers, a member of the Legislative Council, held the office of Chief Secretary.

Electoral system and voting: For discussion of the franchise and the qualification of members, see the note to the 1860 Assembly election.

This House of Assembly election in 1865 was governed by the Electoral Act of 1861 which, while keeping the bulk of the electoral administration set out in the previous Electoral Act of 1857-8 (including provision for the secret ballot in section 49), changed the way in which the 36 members of the House of Assembly were to be elected. Instead of a mix of single and multimember electoral districts, all members were elected from two-member districts. This required changing some electoral boundaries and a redistribution to accommodate the 18 two-member seats; note Combe 2009, pp 95-96 in 'Sources', below.

Voters in these two-member districts could choose to 'plump' by voting for only one candidate. Jaensch (see 'Sources', below) provides details for the number of plumped ballots at South Australian Assembly elections where figures are available.

Election results and sources: The election figures in the tables above were calculated from the individual electoral district results for the 1865 Assembly election compiled by Jaensch from results published in newspapers (see Jaensch in ‘Sources’ below).

In this Assembly election (1865), 57 candidates sought election to the Assembly's 36 seats. Six of the 18 electoral districts (12 seats) were uncontested, resulting in 12 candidates being elected unopposed.

There were no disciplined political parties at this election. Once elected, '... each member of parliament was free to offer his support and make alliances in the ways best suited to serve his constituents, the welfare of the whole colony, or his own interest and ambition. Members did not divide on clear grounds of policy or principle.' Hirst, p.67 in 'References', below. The resulting pattern of shifting individual and factional alliance in the Assembly characterised South Australian politics until the 1880s. For a discussion of the nature and consequences of the absence of parties during this period, see Howell, pp 122-123, and Jaensch, 'South Australia', pp 249-251, both in 'References', below.

References: The nature of politics in South Australia during the period up to 1890 is covered by P A Howell, 'Constitutional and Political Development, 1857-1890', in Dean Jaensch (editor), The Flinders History of South Australia: Political History, ch. 5, (Netley, SA: Wakefield Press, 1986, ISBN 0949268518), and note Dean Jaensch, 'South Australia', in P Loveday, A W Martin, & R S Parker, (editors), The Emergence of the Australian Party System, ch. 5, (Sydney: Hale & Iremonger, 1977, ISBN 0908094035). While focused on a later period, useful background can also be found in the section on 'Representation' (pp 65-75) in J B Hirst, Adelaide and the Country 1870-1917: Their Social and Political Relationship, (Carlton, Vic.: Melbourne University Press, 1973, ISBN 0522840450).

A survey of government in South Australia from 1836 to 1957 is provided in Combe 2009 (see, 'Sources', below).


Dean Jaensch, History of South Australian Elections 1857-2006, Volume 1: House of Assembly, (Rose Park, South Australia: State Electoral Office, 2007, ISBN 9780975048634). Note that some of the figures calculated by adding the results from individual electoral districts listed for each Assembly election (those used in the tables above) may differ from the summary figures provided in Jaensch's table, 'House of Assembly: Enrolment and Turnout', in Appendix 1, p.358.

Gordon D Combe, Responsible Government in South Australia, (Adelaide: Government Printer, 1957); reprinted [with changed pagination] as Gordon D Combe, Responsible Government in South Australia, Volume 1, From Foundations to Playford, (Kent Town, South Australia: Wakefield Press, 2009, ISBN 9781862548435); also available online through Google Books, here. Page references in the text above are to the 2009 edition.

SA Electoral Act 1861, No.20, online here [accessed 1 November 2018].