ID 0435

Parliament of Tasmania, House of Assembly election

Election of 2 May 1959

Show only vote and seat summary details

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General election for the House of Assembly
Date of election (or first day of voting at elections held over more than one day)
2 May 1959

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 (see notes)
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
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
Informal (invalid) ballots in multiple voting system
Not applicable
Electoral system
Adult franchise 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 2 May 1959
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  71,535  44.50  -5.77  17  48.57 
Liberal Party  66,005  41.06  -2.54  16  45.71 
Independents  16,760  10.43  +7.83  5.71 
Democratic Labor Party  6,299  3.92     
Communist Party  144  0.09  +0.03     
Votes for other than listed parties 0 0.00 0.00       
Totals 160,743  100.00    35  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: There had been a change of Premier since the previous general election for the House of Assembly in October 1956. Premier Cosgrove had resigned in August 1958 on the grounds of ill health after a period of turmoil within the Australian Labor Party government (for more information and references, see the entry for Cosgrove in the 'Periods in office' component of this website). Reece was chosen as leader of the Labor Party by caucus and was commissioned on 25 August 1958 as Premier of an Australian Labor Party minority government which, as a consequence of deadlock procedures requiring the opposition to provide the Speaker of the Assembly, had a secure majority on the floor of the Assembly (for details, see the notes to the 1956 House of Assembly elections).

The election was precipitated by the dismissal of R J D Turnbull as Treasurer and Minister of Health Services on 7 April 1959 after disagreements with the Premier, cabinet and caucus. On the same day, Premier Reece sought a dissolution of the Assembly on the grounds that '... it was necessary in order properly to transact public business that discipline be restored and that the government should be "in the firm confidence of the House of Assembly as soon as possible".', Townsley, Microcosm, p.133 (see 'References', below). The Governor granted the dissolution for an election on 2 May 1959 (this election).

Government in office after election: The Australian Labor Party won 17 of the 35 members in the enlarged House of Assembly (see note below), the Liberal Party 16, with two Independents, R J D Turnbull and W G Wedd, holding the balance of power. Reece was commissioned as Premier of an Australian Labor Party minority government supported by the Independent W G Wedd.

Enlargement of the House of Assembly: After a decade of debate (see 'Deadlock' note to the 1955 House of Assembly elections) and the advocacy of George Howatt on the advantages of a 35 member Assembly, the Constitution Act of 1958 enlarged the House of Assembly to 35 members with each electoral district returning 7 members, and repealed the previous deadlock provisions; see George Howatt, Fixing Responsibility for Governing: When No Party Has An Absolute Majority in Parliament, (Hobart: Government Printer, 1960; [note in publication] In content and in the numbering of pages this report is identical to Parliamentary Paper No. 17 of 1960, the manuscript of which was tabled in the House of Assembly May 31 1960, and ordered to be printed.).

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', Bennett and Bennett, p.12, (see 'Sources', below). The 1906 Act specified six members in each electoral district, but this was increased to seven from 1959, creating an Assembly of 35 members. 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).

Democratic Labor Party and Anti-Communist Labor Party: The Democratic Labor Party was the successor to the Anti-Communist Labor Party which had contested the previous Assembly election in 1956. The Australian Labor Party and the trade union movement suffered major internal divisions in the 1950s which came to a head in 1955 with a split in some state branches of the Party and the creation of what was to become the Democratic Labor Party; for an extensive study of this period, see Robert Murray, The Split: Australian Labor in the Fifties, (Melbourne: Cheshire, 1972, ISBN 0701516755). For the experience of Tasmania, note Townsley, Microcosm, chs 6 and 7 (see 'References', below).

Communist Party: Two candidates contested this Assembly election as candidates for the Communist Party. One of the candidates, M A Bound had been the sole Communist Party candidate at the 1956 Assembly election, and would run again as the only Communist Party candidate at the 1964 Assembly election.

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 the combination of both sets of Independent candidates. Two candidates ran as members of a group of Independents and gained 9,270 first preference votes, with one, R J D Turnbull, being elected. In addition, eight 'ungrouped' Independent candidates gained 7,490 first preference votes, one of whom, W G Wedd, was elected.

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 1959, 5 (2) November 1959: 241-243; 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 132-133 (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).


Information for this election was taken from 'House of Assembly Election Results, 1909-2006', Tasmanian Parliamentary Library, Tasmanian Parliament website: ; 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, 1959), online at: