ID 0489

Parliament of Western Australia, Legislative Assembly election

Election of 27 April 1897


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Western Australia, Legislative Assembly votes and seats won

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Election held on 27 April 1897
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 %
Ministerialists  4,274  48.92  27  16  61.36 
Opposition  2,576  29.48  18.18 
Independents  1,715  19.63  15.91 
Independent Ministerialists  172  1.97  4.55 
Votes for other than listed parties 0 0.00 0.00       
Totals 8,737  100.00    44  18  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

Election dates: Elections were held over the period from 27 April to 5 May 1897; for details of polling dates, see Black, Election Statistics, pp. xv-xvii, (see 'Sources', below).

Premier in office at election: 'In 1897 Forrest went to the polls a year earlier than necessary, his stated reason being that the goldfields should be given the chance to elect representatives for the eight new seats created the year before. The press had certainly urged this course of action but Stannage may be correct in speculating that the Premier was anxious to hold an election before too many newcomers had time to get on the rolls', de Garis, p. 73 (see 'References', below; the Stannage reference is to C T Stannage, 'Electoral Politics in Western Australia: 1884-1897', MA thesis, University of Western Australia, 1967).

Membership of the Legislative Assembly: The Constitution Act Amendment Act of 1896 increased the number of members in the Legislative Assembly from thirty-three to forty-four members, each elected from a single member district for a maximum parliamentary term of four years. This increase reflected the rapid growth in the population in the goldfields and the colony in general.

Franchise and voting: The franchise for the Legislative Assembly had been considerably broadened in 1893 by reducing the property requirements and extending voting rights to those who had been resident in the electoral district for at least six months; for the context of these changes, see de Garis, p. 69 (see 'References', below). Voters were required to be male, natural born or naturalized subjects of the Crown, and to own or have an interest in property worth between £5 to £10, or be a resident on the electoral roll of a local council authority; for details, see Hughes and Graham, Handbook, p. 561 (see, 'Sources', below). Plural voting was permitted if an elector had the required property qualification in more than one electoral district. Candidates for the Legislative Assembly had longer naturalization and residency requirements.

Voting '... was by striking out names of candidates not voted for on the ballot paper ... ', Hughes and Graham, Handbook, p. 562 (see 'Sources', below). At this election (1897), a large number of electoral districts were uncontested (18 of 44 seats, or 41 percent); note Campbell Sharman, ‘Uncontested Seats and the Evolution of Party Competition: The Australian Case’, Party Politics, 9 (6) November 2003: 679-702.

Ministerialists and the emergence of political parties: During the 1890s, factional politics began to give way to political groupings and electoral organizations which foreshadowed the emergence of modern political parties. But these groupings were still fluid. The term ministerialists is often applied to groupings which, for a variety of reasons, supported a particular government. Hughes and Graham (Handbook, p. 223, see 'Sources', below) label the Forrest ministry as 'Protections or Conservative', but the terms reflect the predisposition of the Premier and his supporting group rather than a party organization.

At this election (1897), groupings of candidates supporting or opposing the Forrest government were more clearly defined, leading to the categorizations of successful candidates as 'Ministerialist', 'Opposition', and 'Independent' in the table above (see de Garis, p. 74 in 'References', below). Campaigning was undertaken by various trade union groups which would form the basis for the Labor Party at future elections; see generally, H J Gibney, 'Western Australia', in D J Murphy (editor), Labor in Politics: The State Labor Parties in Australia 1880-1920, pp 341-387, (St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 1975, ISBN 0702209392).

For the emergence of political parties in Western Australia, see Brian de Garis, 'Western Australia', in P Loveday, A W Martin and R S Parker (editors), The Emergence of the Australian Party System, pp 298-354 (Sydney: Hale & Iremonger, 1977, ISBN 0908094035); pp 318-321 provide commentary on the 1897 election.

References: For a study of the context of parliamentary and electoral politics in Western Australia's first two decades of self-government, see Brian de Garis, 'Self-Government and the Emergence of Political Parties, 1890-1911', in David Black (editor), The House on the Hill: A History of the Parliament of Western Australia 1832-1990, pp 63-95, (Perth: Western Australian Parliamentary History Project, Parliament of Western Australia, 1991, ISBN 0730939839), and note C T Stannage, 'The Composition of the Western Australian Parliament 1890-1911', University Studies in History, 4 (3), 1965: 85-94.

Sources

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 and B D Graham, Voting for the South Australian, Western Australian and Tasmanian Lower Houses 1890-1964, (Canberra: Department of Political Science, Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University, 1976, ISBN 0708113346); David Black, Election Statistics Legislative Assembly of Western Australia 1890-1996, Listed Alphabetically by Constituency, (Perth: Parliament of Western Australia and Western Australian Electoral Commission, 1997); and David Black. An Index to Parliamentary Candidates in Western Australian Elections State and Federal 1890-2006, 2nd edition, (Perth: Parliament of Western Australia, 2006, ISBN 1920830774).