ID 0439

Parliament of Tasmania, House of Assembly election

Election of 11 December 1976

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Tasmania, House of Assembly votes and seats won

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Election held on 11 December 1976
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 %
Australian Labor Party  123,386  52.48  -2.45  18  51.43 
Liberal Party  104,613  44.49  +6.12  17  48.57 
United Tasmania Group  5,183  2.20  -1.70     
Independents  1,178  0.50  -2.30     
Workers Party  647  0.28     
Socialist Workers Party  123  0.05     
Votes for other than listed parties 0 0.00 0.00       
Totals 235,130  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 House of Assembly election in April 1976. In March 1975, Reece resigned as Premier, and the Labor caucus elected Neilson as Party leader. Neilson was then commissioned as Premier of an Australian Labor Party majority government; for more information and references, see the entry for Neilson in the 'Periods in office' component of this website.

Government in office after election: At the election of the House of Assembly in December 1976 (this election), the Australian Labor Party won 18 of the 35 Assembly seats, and Neilson was recommissioned as Premier of an Australian Labor Party majority government.

Length of House of Assembly Term: The Constitution Act of 1936 had increased the maximum term of the House of Assembly from three to five years. This was reversed by the the Bethune Liberal Party government and the Constitution Act of 1969 restored the life of the Assembly to a maximum of three years, except for the Assembly elected in 1969. 'In 1972 Premier Reece (ALP) claimed an electoral mandate to return to five-year terms, but the [Legislative] Council amended this to four years. The final compromise was for one five-year term, with all subsequent terms to be four years. A two-thirds majority is required to alter the section of the Constitution Act 1934 that sets the maximum four-year term of the House of Assembly', Tasmanian Parliamentary Library website: [accessed 20 September 2009].

Enfranchisement of eighteen year olds: The Age of Majority Act of 1973 extended the vote to 18 year olds and made them subject to the rules requiring compulsory registration and voting. This election was the first with the extended franchise.

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).

Ballot format and party names: Changes to the Electoral Act in 1973 and 1974 made several changes to ballot format and voting. Candidates' names were to be ranked by lot within party groups (previously ranked by alphabetical order) and party names would be used to head each group (previously the letters, A, B, C, ... had been used). To effect this change, procedures were put in place for the registration of parties. Voters were now required to indicate a minimum of seven ranked candidate preferences (previously a minimum of three); see Bennett and Bennett, p.19, Hughes, 1965-1974, p.125 (see 'Sources', below).

United Tasmania Group: The failure of the environmental movement to change state and federal government policy over the flooding of Lake Pedder in 1972 prompted a number of Tasmanian environmental activists to form the United Tasmania Group (UTG) as a party to contest state Assembly and Legislative Council elections between 1972 and 1979.

The UTG is claimed to have been the world's first Green party; see Peter Christoff, 'Environmental Politics', in Judith Brett, James Gillespie and Murray Good (editors), Developments in Australian Politics, pp. 348-367, at p.353, (Melbourne: Macmillan, 1994, ISBN 0732920094); and Richard Flanagan, 'Return the People's Pedder!', in Cassandra Pybus and Richard Flanagan (editors), The Rest of the World is Watching: The Tasmanian Greens, pp. 194-210, at pp. 196-204, (Sydney: Pan Macmillan, 1990, ISBN 0725106514); and note, Christine Milne, 'Green Politics', in Alison Alexander (editor), The Companion to Tasmanian History, p. 167 (Hobart: Centre for Tasmanian Historical Studies, University of Tasmania, 2005, ISBN 186295223X), online at:

Workers Party: In spite of its name, this party was against big government and had an ideology well to the right of the Liberal Party; see Dean Jaensch and David Mathieson, A Plague on Both Your Houses: Minor Parties in Australia, p.147 (St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin, 1998, ISBN 1864484217). The Party nominated four candidates in two groups for this election and gained 647 votes (see 'Independents' note below); see Bennett and Bennett, pp 232, 234 (see 'Sources'. below).

Socialist Workers Party: This was a derivative of the Communist Party; see Dean Jaensch and David Mathieson, A Plague on Both Your Houses: Minor Parties in Australia, p.138 (St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin, 1998, ISBN 1864484217). The Party nominated two candidates who ran as a group in one electoral district for this election and won 123 votes (see 'Independents' note below); see Bennett and Bennett, pp 232, 234 (see 'Sources'. below).

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. The votes for the candidates who are listed as 'grouped' Independents in the Tasmanian Parliamentary Library vote summary for this election, are shown as votes for the Workers Party or the Socialist Workers Party in the table above (see notes, above). Seven 'ungrouped' Independent candidates gained 1,178 first preference votes, none of whom was elected. The result of listing votes for the Workers Party and the Socialist Workers Party separately means that the figures for the number of Independent candidates and the number of first preference votes for Independents shown in the table above differs from those shown on the Tasmanian Parliamentary website for this election.

References: For a review and analysis of this election, see Campbell Sharman, ‘The Tasmanian House of Assembly Elections of 1976', Politics, 12 (1) May 1977: 151-158, G Campbell Sharman and R J K Chapman, 'Tasmania', Australian Journal of Politics and History, Australian Political Chronicle, July-December 1976, 23 (1) April 1977: 104-111; 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.374 (Hobart: St David's Park Publishing, 1994, ISBN 0724623450), Richard Davis, Eighty Years' Labor: The ALP in Tasmania, 1903-1983, (Hobart: Sassafras Books and the History Department, University of Tasmania, 1983, ISBN 0859012212), and note Campbell Sharman, ‘Tasmania: The Politics of Brokerage’, Current Affairs Bulletin, 53 (9) 1 February 1977: 15-23.


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), Colin A Hughes, A Handbook of Australian Government and Politics 1965-1974, (Canberra: Australian National University Press, 1977, ISBN 0708113400); 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, 1977), online at: