ID 0440

Parliament of Tasmania, House of Assembly election

Election of 28 July 1979


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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)
28 July 1979

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
Majority
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
Majority
If coalition, coalition partner(s)

Enrolment and voting

Total number of voters on the roll
265,428
Number of Assembly seats
35
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
265,428
Total ballots cast (may differ from number of votes in multiple voting systems)
248,866
Turnout (rate of voting in contested seats)
93.76%
Total valid votes
239,284
Rate of informal (invalid) voting
3.85%
Informal (invalid) ballots in multiple voting system
Not applicable
Electoral system
Universal suffrage at 18 years (from 1976); 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 28 July 1979
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  129,973  54.32  +1.84  20  57.14 
Liberal Party  98,845  41.31  -3.18  15  42.86 
Australian Democrats  6,858  2.87     
Independents  3,608  1.51  +1.01     
Votes for other than listed parties 0 0.00 0.00       
Totals 239,284  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.

Notes

Premier in office at election: There had been a change of Premier since the previous House of Assembly election in April 1976. Neilson resigned as Premier on 1 December 1977 to become Tasmania's Agent General in London. Lowe was elected unopposed by the Labor caucus to be leader of the Party, and was commissioned as Premier of an Australian Labor Party majority government; for more information and references, see the entry for Lowe in the 'Periods in office' component of this website).

Government in office after election: At the election of the House of Assembly in July 1979 (this election), the Australian Labor Party won 20 of the 35 Assembly seats, and Lowe was recommissioned as Premier of an Australian Labor Party majority government.

Challenge to the validity of the election over election expenses: A defeated Australian Labor Party candidate instigated a legal challenge to the election of one of his Labor colleagues, alleging breaches of the Electoral Act by overspending on his election campaign. Spending beyond the statutory limit of $1,500 was common, and failure to lodge the required returns showing election expenditure was widespread. The legal action prompted widespread challenges to elected candidates from all parties, and escalated into a crisis which had the potential to void the whole House of Assembly election. A solution was eventually found through an agreement to limit the extent of legal action, temporary legislation which permitted the voiding of the election in only one electoral district (Denison), and the holding of an exceptional by-election (see note below). A succinct summary of these events can be found in Smith, pp 119-120 (see 'References', below).

Exceptional by-election: Vacancies in the House of Assembly are filled by recounting the ballot papers of the previous election to determine which of the previously unsuccessful candidates is eligible to fill the vacancy (see notes, below). The extraordinary events prompted by the election expenses scandal (see note, above) led to the passage of the Electoral Act (No. 2) of 1979 which required the holding of a new election for all seats in an electoral district, if the election of more than one member in an electoral district was declared void (this Act was set to expire at the end of 1980). This requirement led to a by-election for all five seats in the electoral district of Denison on 16 February 1980. The result reduced the Australian Labor Party majority from 20 to 19 with the election of an Australian Democrat candidate, N K Sanders; for a brief survey, see R J K Chapman, 'Tasmania', Australian Journal of Politics and History, Australian Political Chronicle, January-June 1980, 26 (3) December 1980: 433-437 at 433; and note Bennett and Bennett, p.238, and Report on Parliamentary Elections, p.3 (see 'Sources', 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', 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).

Rotation of candidates names within party groups on ballots: The Electoral Act Amendment Act of 1979 provided for the rotation of candidates' names within party lists on ballot papers, often called Robson rotation; see David M Farrell and Ian McAllister, The Australian Electoral System: Origins, Variations and Consequences, pp 61-62 (Sydney: University of New South Wales Press, 2006, ISBN 0868408581), Terry Newman, Hare-Clark in Tasmania: Representation of All Opinions, pp 94-96 (Hobart: Joint Library Committee of the Parliament of Tasmania, 1992, ISBN 0724638768); and note Andrew Hawkey, A Discussion Paper on Robson Rotation in Tasmania, (Hobart: Tasmanian Electoral Commission, April 2008) available online at: https://bit.ly/2spGeEB [accessed 10 June 2009]. Robson rotation was first used in 1980 for the 'Exceptional by-election' (see note, above).

Australian Democrats: The Australian Democrats emerged as a centre party immediately preceding the 1977 federal election to capture the support of voters who were dissatisfied with both the Labor and Liberal parties; see John Warhurst (editor), Keeping the Bastards Honest: The Australian Democrats' First Twenty Years, (St. Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin, 1997, ISBN 1864484209). The Australian Democrats fielded candidates for House of Representatives and Senate seats in Tasmania from 1977, and contested seats at Tasmanian House of Assembly elections from 1979.

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 446 first preference votes, with neither candidate being elected. In addition, six 'ungrouped' Independent candidates gained 3,162 first preference votes, none of whom was elected.

References: For a survey of this election and its context, see Graham A Smith, 'Tasmania', Australian Journal of Politics and History, Australian Political Chronicle, July-December 1979, 26 (1) April 1980: 116-122, and Graham A Smith, Richard A Herr and Bruce W Davis, 'Tasmanian Politics 1979: Elections, Factionalism and the Electoral Crisis', Politics, 15 (1) May 1980: 81-88; for a survey of Tasmanian politics in this period, see W A Townsley, Tasmania: Microcosm of the Federation or Vassal State, 1945-1983, particularly p.393 (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), Colin A Hughes, A Handbook of Australian Government and Politics 1975-1984, (Sydney: Australian National University Press, 1986, ISBN 008033038X); and note Report on Parliamentary Elections, (Hobart: Tasmanian Parliamentary Papers, 1980), online at: https://bit.ly/2EMJufs



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