ID 0433

Parliament of Tasmania, House of Assembly election

Election of 19 February 1955


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General election for the House of Assembly
Tasmania
Date of election (or first day of voting at elections held over more than one day)
19 February 1955

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
Australian Labor Party
House of Assembly support for government at election
Minority
If coalition, coalition partner(s)

Government in office after election

Premier in office after election.
Premier's party affiliation
Australian Labor Party
House of Assembly support for government after election
Minority (see notes)
If coalition, coalition partner(s)

Enrolment and voting

Total number of voters on the roll
174,632
Number of Assembly seats
30
Number of uncontested seats
0
If uncontested seats, number of voters on the roll in uncontested seats
Number of voters on the roll in contested seats
174,632
Total ballots cast (may differ from number of votes in multiple voting systems)
162,637
Turnout (rate of voting in contested seats)
93.13%
Total valid votes
156,479
Rate of informal (invalid) voting
3.79%
Informal (invalid) ballots in multiple voting system
Not applicable
Electoral system
Universal suffrage at 21 years; multimember districts; proportional representation by the single transferable vote method (STV); compulsory voting


Tasmania, House of Assembly votes and seats won

Display Chart

Election held on 19 February 1955
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 %
Australian Labor Party  82,362  52.63  +4.00  15  50.00 
Liberal Party  70,959  45.35  -2.23  15  50.00 
Independents  3,158  2.02  -1.78     
Votes for other than listed parties 0 0.00 0.00       
Totals 156,479  100.00    30  100.00 


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Notes

Government in office at election: The Australian Labor Party had won 15 of the 30 seats at the previous general election for the Assembly in May 1950, and Cosgrove was recommissioned as Premier of an Australian Labor Party minority government, relying on the support of W G Wedd who had been returned as an Independent member. When Wedd resigned from the Assembly in October 1953, his place was taken by Independent L V McPartlan who continues to support the government; for the rules for filling casual vacancies, see 'Electoral system and voting', below.

Government in office after election: The Australian Labor Party won 15 of the 30 seats at the general election for the House of Assembly in February 1955 (this election), the same number as Liberal Party. New rules designed to solve such deadlocks were invoked (see note, below); as Labor Party candidates had won more first preference votes (52.6 percent) than the Liberal Party (45.4 percent), the Liberal Party was required to provide the Speaker of the Assembly. Cosgrove was recommissioned as Premier of an Australian Labor Party minority government which, under the operation of the Constitution Act (no. 2) of 1954, had acquired a secure majority on the floor of the Assembly.

Deadlock in the formation of government: The combination of the small and even numbered membership of the House of Assembly (30), coupled with proportional representation and the rules for the selection of the Speaker, ensured that deadlocks could occur where no party or coalition could secure a majority in the Assembly to support the formation of a government. The last party to govern with a majority of seats in the Assembly was the the Australian Labor Party after the election of November 1946. Subsequent elections had forced the Labor Party to govern as minority governments relying on the support of one or more independents or minor party members.

Since 1950, a variety of solutions had been proposed. These had included: a permanent Speaker for the Assembly; an increase in the membership of the Assembly to 35; an additional ballot indicating voter preference for a party in government if no party secured a majority of seats; and the requirement that, in the case of a 15-15 division between two parties, the one with the fewer primary votes was required to provide the Speaker in the Assembly or, if the minority party refused, an additional temporary member would be assigned to the majority party, bring the membership of the Assembly to 31. The machinery for establishing this last option was set up under the Constitution Act (No. 2) of 1954, and the Electoral Act (No. 2) of 1954 and was invoked for this election in 1955. For details, see Bennett and Bennett, pp 16-17, Hughes and Graham, pp 590-591 (see 'Sources', below), and Townsley, p. 98 (see 'References', below).

Electoral system and voting: The Constitution Amendment Act 1906 '...reduced the number of Assembly districts to five, the boundaries of which were to be identical with the five Commonwealth electoral districts. The Assembly was to number 30 members, with 6 elected from each district', Bennett and Bennett, p.12, (see 'Sources', below). The Electoral Act 1907 introduced proportional representation by the single transferable vote (STV) method to elect all members of the Assembly, a method which became known as the Hare-Clark system. For details of the adoption of STV and references on the operation of the electoral system, see the notes to the 1909 House of Assembly elections.

The Electoral Amendment Act of 1917 provided that '...casual vacancies be filled, not by a fresh poll of the electorate [by-election] but by a re-count [countback] of the ballot papers which elected the vacating member. Candidates at the preceding general election were required to apply to be considered candidates....', Hughes and Graham, 1890-1964, p. 590 (see 'Sources', below). For a brief summary of changes to the electoral system from 1909 to 1994, see Terry Newman, Representation of the Tasmanian People, Expanded edition 1803-1994, Appendix 2 (Hobart: Tasmanian Parliamentary Library, 1994, ISBN 0724642475).

Independents: Changes to the Electoral Act in 1941 meant that candidates who ran for election without any stated party affiliation (Independents) could run with one or more other like-minded Independents as a 'group' on the ballot paper, or be listed with all other Independent candidates in that electoral district in an 'ungrouped' list; for details, see the note to the 1941 House of Assembly elections.

The vote shown for Independents in the table above is the vote gained by, three 'ungrouped' Independent candidates who gained 3,158 first preference votes, none of whom was elected. There were no 'grouped' Independents.

References: For a brief survey of this election and its context, see W A Townsley, 'Tasmania', Australian Journal of Politics and History, Australian Political Chronicle, January-June 1955, 1 (1) November 1955: 115-118; for a survey of Tasmanian politics in this period, see W A Townsley, Tasmania: Microcosm of the Federation or Vassal State, 1945-1983, particularly pp 97-98 (Hobart: St David's Park Publishing, 1994, ISBN 0724623450), and Richard Davis, Eighty Years' Labor: The ALP in Tasmania, 1903-1983, (Hobart: Sassafras Books and the History Department, University of Tasmania, 1983, ISBN 0859012212).

Sources

Information for this election was taken from 'House of Assembly Election Results, 1909-2006', Tasmanian Parliamentary Library, Tasmanian Parliament website: https://bit.ly/2uvczZ8 ; Scott Bennett and Barbara Bennett, Tasmanian Electoral Handbook, 1851-1982, (Kensington, NSW: Reference Section of History Project Incorporated, University of New South Wales, 1983); Colin A Hughes and B D Graham, A Handbook of Australian Government and Politics 1890-1964, (Canberra: Australian National University Press, 1968, SBN 708102700); and note Report on Parliamentary Elections, (Hobart: Tasmanian Parliamentary Papers, 1955), online at: https://bit.ly/2uNcNOG



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