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Are the good burghers of Griffith poised to make history? - House of Representatives by-elections 1901-2014

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January 22, 2014

Are the good burghers of Griffith poised to make history? - House of Representatives by-elections 1901-2014 By Toby Bellwood

The Australian Electoral Commission has announced the candidates who have nominated to fill the vacancy caused by Kevin Rudd's resignation. Early voting has begun so it’s a good time to review some of the history of by-elections for the House of Representatives.

The Griffith by-election is due to be held on 8 February 2014, 1526 days since the previous by-election, a period exceeded only by Balaclava (Vic) and Macquarie (NSW) in 1951 (1946 days) and Fremantle (WA) in 1945 (1547 days).

Here we draw on Stephen Barber, Christopher Lawley, Scott Bennett and Gerard Newman's paper from 2009 (House of Representatives by-elections 1901-2009), which is still current as there have been no by-elections held since Bradfield and Higgins on 5 December 2009. Once the result from the Griffith by-election is known, we will update this paper to reflect the current situation.

In their paper, Barber et al. make the following observations:

• there have been 146 by-elections, an average of 3.5 per parliament • the number of nominations has grown over time from 2.2 per by-election in the 24 occurrences to 1918 to 11.5 per by-election since 2000 • in four cases a by-election was contested by a single candidate • there has been an increasing tendency for governments to avoid contesting by-

elections in their opponents’ safe seats • in only seven cases has the opposition party failed to contest a by-election • 67 of the by-elections followed the death of the member, 73 members resigned,

there have been five voided elections, and one MP was expelled from the House • since 1949 most by-elections have been caused by resignation of the sitting member and have occurred in safe seats • on 35 occasions the party complexion of a seat has altered at a by-election • five of the losses have been by the opposition of the day • the average two-party preferred swing against the government of the day has been

4.0 per cent and • since 1949 the largest two-party swing against a government occurred in Canberra in 1995. The largest swing to a government occurred in McPherson in 1981.

Of particular interest here is that, of the 146 by-elections, only 35 (24%) have resulted in a seat changing hands, of which only five have been lost by the Opposition of the day (3.4%), and only one has been won from the Opposition by the Government, being Kalgoorlie in 1920. The four other opposition party losses were Riverina 1904 (to the Protectionist Party), Maranoa 1921 (to the Country Party), Cunningham 2002 (to the Green Party), Lyne 2008 (to an independent candidate).

On the 1920 Kalgoorlie by-election

On 7 November 1920 Hugh Mahon chaired a public meeting in Melbourne sponsored by the Irish Ireland League and, in a speech attacking the British presence in Ireland, spoke of ‘this bloody and accursed Empire’. He was expelled from the House of Representatives four days later for his ‘seditious and disloyal utterances’ after the House found him ‘guilty of conduct unfitting him to remain a member of this House’. Mahon's is the only expulsion to have occurred from the Parliament, and it forced a by-election (Kalgoorlie 1920) which he contested but ultimately lost. The House of Representatives lost the power to expel members with the passage of the Parliamentary Privileges Act 1987.

Other sources of information:

The 43rd Parliamentary Handbook The Australian Electoral Commission Antony Green’s blog Adam Carr's (Psephos) website

Complete list of House of Representative by-elections

By-election date Division/State Member elected Party Previous



Cause of by-election

Days vacant

14/09/1901 Darling Downs, Qld Groom, LE PROT Groom, WH PROT Died 37

26/03/1902 Tasmania Hartnoll, W FT Piesse, FW FT Died 20

4/09/1903 East Sydney, NSW Reid, GH FT Reid, GH FT Resigned 17

26/02/1904 Wilmot, Tas. Cameron, DN FT Braddon, ENC FT Died 24

30/03/1904 Melbourne, Vic. Maloney, WRN ALP McEacharn, MD PROT Election void 20

18/05/1904 Riverina, NSW Chanter, JM PROT Blackwood, RO FT Election void 35

10/07/1907 Echuca, Vic. Palmer, AC PROT Palmer, AC PROT Election void 30

13/06/1908 Adelaide, SA Roberts, EA ALP Kingston, CC PROT Died 33

28/08/1909 Wakefield, SA Foster, RW Holder, FW Died 36

24/08/1910 Kooyong, Vic. Best, RW LIB Knox, W LIB Resigned 29

8/02/1911 Batman, Vic. Brennan, F ALP Beard, HE ALP Died 52

11/03/1911 North Sydney, NSW Ryrie, G de L LIB Edwards, GB LIB Died 35

11/11/1911 Boothby, SA Gordon, DJ LIB Batchelor, EL ALP Died 34

1/06/1912 Werriwa, NSW Bennett, BH ALP Hall, DR ALP Resigned 61

22/12/1913 Kalgoorlie, WA Mahon, H ALP Frazer, CE ALP Died 27

10/01/1914 Adelaide, SA Yates, GE ALP Roberts, EA ALP Died 39

6/02/1915 Bendigo, Vic. Hampson, AJ ALP Arthur, JA ALP Died 59

By-election date Division/State Member elected Party Previous



Cause of by-election

Days vacant

20/02/1915 Grampians, Vic. Salmon, CC LIB Jolley, EFG ALP Died 50

6/05/1915 Dalley, NSW Mahony, WG ALP Howe, R ALP Died 34

11/12/1915 Wide Bay, Qld Corser, EBC LIB Fisher, A ALP Resigned 46

30/06/1917 Darwin, Tas. Spence, WG NAT Howroyd, CR NAT Died 51

27/10/1917 Grampians, Vic. Jowett, E NAT Salmon, CC LIB Died 42

11/05/1918 Flinders, Vic. Bruce, SM NAT Irvine, WH NAT Resigned 36

26/10/1918 Swan, WA Corboy, EW ALP Forrest, J NAT Died 54

14/12/1918 Corangamite, Vic. Gibson, WG FU Manifold, JC NAT Died 52

20/09/1919 Echuca, Vic. Hill, WC VFU Palmer, AC NAT Died 37

10/07/1920 Ballaarat, Vic. McGrath, DC ALP Kerby, ETJ NAT Election void 38

18/12/1920 Kalgoorlie, WA Foley, GJ NAT Mahon, H ALP Expelled 36

30/07/1921 Maranoa, Qld Hunter, JAJ CP Page, J ALP Died 57

3/09/1921 West Sydney, NSW Lambert, WH ALP Ryan, TJ ALP Died 33

10/12/1921 Parramatta, NSW Pratten, HE NAT Cook, J NAT Resigned 29

18/02/1922 Yarra, Vic. Scullin, JH ALP Tudor, FG ALP Died 39

6/03/1926 Eden-Monaro, NSW Perkins, JA NAT Chapman, A NAT Died 53

26/02/1927 Dalley, NSW Theodore, EG ALP Mahony, WG ALP Resigned 39

By-election date Division/State Member elected Party Previous



Cause of by-election

Days vacant

21/05/1927 Warringah, NSW Parkhill, RA NAT Ryrie, G de L NAT Resigned 38

16/06/1928 Martin, NSW Pratten, FG NAT Pratten, HE NAT Died 40

3/09/1928 Wide Bay, Qld Corser, BH CP Corser, EBC NAT Died 34

3/08/1929 Balaclava, Vic. White, TW NAT Watt, WA NAT Resigned 29

14/12/1929 Franklin, Tas. Frost, CW ALP McWilliam, WJ IND Died 53

31/01/1931 Parkes, NSW Marr, CWC NAT McTiernan, EA ALP Resigned 43

7/03/1931 East Sydney, NSW Ward, EJ ALP West, JE ALP Died 30

6/02/1932 East Sydney, NSW Ward, EJ LANG


Clasby, JJ UAP Died 22

11/11/1933 Flinders, Vic. Fairbairn, JV UAP Bruce, SM UAP Resigned 36

1/06/1935 Newcastle, NSW Watkins, DO FLP Watkins, D FLP Died 54

17/08/1935 Fawkner, Vic. Holt, HE UAP Maxwell, GA UAP Died 53

12/12/1936 Kennedy, Qld Riordan, WJF FLP Riordan, D FLP Died 58

19/12/1936 Darling Downs, Qld Fadden, AW CP Groom, LE UAP Died 43

8/05/1937 Gwydir, NSW Scully, WJ ALP Abbott, CLA CP Resigned 41

10/12/1938 Wakefield, SA McHugh, S ALP Hawker, CAS UAP Died 46

20/05/1939 Griffith, Qld Conelan, WP ALP Baker, FMJ FLP Died 53

27/05/1939 Wilmot, Tas. Spurr, LT ALP Lyons, JA UAP Died 50

By-election date Division/State Member elected Party Previous



Cause of by-election

Days vacant

2/03/1940 Corio, Vic. Dedman, JJ ALP Casey, RG UAP Resigned 32

16/11/1940 Kalgoorlie, WA Johnson, HV ALP Green, AE ALP Died 45

21/12/1940 Swan, WA Marwick, TW CP Gregory, H CP Died 36

24/05/1941 Boothby, SA Price, AG UAP Price, JL UAP Died 31

18/08/1945 Fremantle, WA Beazley, KE ALP Curtin, J ALP Died 44

9/02/1946 Wimmera, Vic. Turnbull, WG CP Wilson, A CP Resigned 40

30/03/1946 Henty, Vic. Gullett, HB LIB Coles, AW IND Resigned 47

28/07/1951 Balaclava, Vic. Joske, PE LIB White, TW LIB Resigned 38

28/07/1951 Macquarie, NSW Luchetti, AS ALP Chifley, JB ALP Died 45

22/03/1952 Lyne, NSW Lucock, PE CP Eggins, EJ CP Died 54

18/10/1952 Flinders, Vic. Ewert, KWW ALP Ryan, RS LIB Died 53

29/11/1952 Werriwa, NSW Whitlam, EG ALP Lazzarini, HP ALP Died 59

20/12/1952 Bradfield, NSW Turner, HB LIB Hughes, WM LIB Died 53

9/05/1953 Dalley, NSW Greenup, AE ALP Rosevear, JS ALP Died 49

29/08/1953 Corangamite, Vic. MacKinnon, ED LIB McDonald, AM LIB Died 80

29/08/1953 Lang, NSW Stewart, FE ALP Mulcahy, D ALP Died 47

19/12/1953 Gwydir, NSW Allan, AI CP Treloar, TJ CP Died 34

21/05/1955 Cook, NSW Cope, JF ALP Sheehan, T ALP Died 56

By-election date Division/State Member elected Party Previous



Cause of by-election

Days vacant

11/04/1956 Cunningham, NSW Kearney, VD ALP Davies, W ALP Died 54

13/10/1956 Barker, SA Forbes, AJ LIB Cameron, AG LIB Died 65

8/12/1956 Wentworth, NSW Bury, LHE LIB Harrison, EJ LIB Resigned 52

14/09/1957 Richmond, NSW Anthony, JD CP Anthony, HL CP Died 64

8/03/1958 Parramatta, NSW Barwick, GEJ LIB Beale, OH LIB Resigned 26

9/04/1960 Hunter, NSW James, AW ALP Evatt, HV ALP Resigned 59

9/04/1960 La Trobe, Vic. Jess, JD LIB Casey, RG LIB Resigned 59

16/07/1960 Balaclava, Vic. Whittorn, RH LIB Joske, PE LIB Resigned 44

16/07/1960 Bendigo, Vic. Beaton, NL ALP Clarey, PJ ALP Died 60

5/11/1960 Calare, NSW England, JA CP Howse, JB LIB Resigned 38

10/12/1960 Higinbotham, Vic. Chipp, DL LIB Timson, TF LIB Died 55

1/09/1962 Batman, Vic. Benson, SJ ALP Bird, AC ALP Died 42

1/06/1963 Grey, SA Mortimer, J ALP Russell, EHD ALP Died 62

28/09/1963 East Sydney, NSW Devine, LT ALP Ward, EJ ALP Died 59

15/02/1964 Denison, Tas. Gibson, A LIB Townley, AG LIB Died 53

20/06/1964 Angas, SA Giles, GO LIB Downer, ARJ LIB Resigned 58

20/06/1964 Parramatta, NSW Bowen, NH LIB Barwick, GE LIB Resigned 57

5/12/1964 Robertson, NSW Bridges-Maxwell, CW LIB Dean, RL LIB Resigned 66

By-election date Division/State Member elected Party Previous



Cause of by-election

Days vacant

27/02/1965 Riverina, NSW Armstrong, AA CP Roberton, HS CP Resigned 37

26/02/1966 Dawson, Qld Patterson, RA ALP Shaw, GW CP Died 48

2/04/1966 Kooyong, Vic. Peacock, AS LIB Menzies, RG LIB Resigned 44

22/07/1967 Corio, Vic. Scholes, GGD ALP Opperman, HF LIB Resigned 42

30/09/1967 Capricornia, Qld Everingham, DN ALP Gray, GH ALP Died 59

24/02/1968 Higgins, Vic. Gorton, JG LIB Holt, HE LIB Died 67

19/04/1969 Curtin, WA Garland, RV LIB Hasluck, PMC LIB Resigned 68

7/06/1969 Bendigo, Vic. Kennedy, AD ALP Beaton, NL ALP Resigned 59

7/06/1969 Gwydir, NSW Hunt, RJD CP Allan, AI CP Resigned 38

30/05/1970 ACT Enderby, KE ALP Fraser, JR ALP Died 59

19/09/1970 Chisholm, Vic. Staley, AA LIB Kent Hughes, WS LIB Died 50

20/03/1971 Murray, Vic. Lloyd, B CP McEwen, J CP Resigned 47

22/09/1973 Parramatta, NSW Ruddock, PM LIB Bowen, NH LIB Resigned 73

28/06/1975 Bass, Tas. Newman, KE LIB Barnard, LH ALP Resigned 26

15/10/1977 Cunningham, NSW West, SJ ALP Connor, RFX ALP Died 54

23/09/1978 Werriwa, NSW Kerin, JC ALP Whitlam, EG ALP Resigned 54

23/06/1979 Grayndler, NSW McLeay, LB ALP Stewart, FE ALP Died 68

21/02/1981 Boothby, SA Hall, RS LIB McLeay, JE LIB Resigned 30

By-election date Division/State Member elected Party Previous



Cause of by-election

Days vacant

21/02/1981 Curtin, WA Rocher, AC LIB Garland, RV LIB Resigned 30

21/02/1981 McPherson, Qld White, PND LIB Robinson, EL LIB Died 45

11/04/1981 Wentworth, NSW Coleman, WP LIB Ellicott, RJ LIB Resigned 53

13/03/1982 Lowe, NSW Maher, MJ ALP McMahon, W LIB Resigned 68

4/12/1982 Flinders, Vic. Reith, PK LIB Lynch, PR LIB Resigned 43

7/05/1983 Wannon, Vic. Hawker, DPM LIB Fraser, JM LIB Resigned 37

28/05/1983 Bruce, Vic. Aldred, KJ LIB Snedden, BM LIB Resigned 37

5/11/1983 Moreton, Qld Cameron, DM LIB Killen, DJ LIB Resigned 82

18/02/1984 Corangamite, Vic. McArthur, FS LIB Street, AA LIB Resigned 31

18/02/1984 Hughes, NSW Tickner, RE ALP Johnson, LR ALP Resigned 61

18/02/1984 Richmond, NSW Blunt, CW NPA Anthony, JD NPA Resigned 31

8/02/1986 Scullin, Vic. Jenkins, HA ALP Jenkins, Dr HA ALP Resigned 50

6/02/1988 Adelaide, SA Pratt, MP LIB Hurford, CJ ALP Resigned 37

26/03/1988 Port Adelaide, SA Sawford, RW ALP Young, MJ ALP Resigned 47

9/04/1988 Groom, Qld Taylor, WL LIB McVeigh, DT NPA Resigned 40

8/10/1988 Oxley, Qld Scott, LJ ALP Hayden, WG ALP Resigned 52

15/04/1989 Gwydir, NSW Anderson, JD NPA Hunt, RJD NPA Resigned 50

11/05/1991 Menzies, Vic. Andrews, KJ LIB Brown, NA LIB Resigned 75

By-election date Division/State Member elected Party Previous



Cause of by-election

Days vacant

11/04/1992 Wills, Vic. Cleary, PR IND Hawke, RJL ALP Resigned 51

29/01/1994 Werriwa, NSW Latham, MW ALP Kerin, JC ALP Resigned 38

12/03/1994 Fremantle, WA Lawrence, CM ALP Dawkins, JS ALP Resigned 36

19/03/1994 Bonython, SA Evans, MJ ALP Blewett, N ALP Resigned 36

26/03/1994 Mackellar, NSW Bishop, BK LIB Carlton, JJ LIB Resigned 71

26/03/1994 Warringah, NSW Abbott, AJ LIB MacKellar, MJR LIB Resigned 36

19/11/1994 Kooyong, Vic. Georgiou, P LIB Peacock, AS LIB Resigned 63

25/03/1995 Canberra, ACT Smyth, BM LIB Kelly, RJ ALP Resigned 54

8/04/1995 Wentworth, NSW Thomson, AP LIB Hewson, JR LIB Resigned 39

15/06/1996 Blaxland, NSW Hatton, MJ ALP Keating, PJ ALP Resigned 53

19/10/1996 Lindsay, NSW Kelly, JM LIB Kelly, JM LIB Election void 38

1/02/1997 Fraser, ACT Dargavel, SJ ALP Langmore, JV ALP Resigned 57

6/11/1999 Holt, Vic. Byrne, AM ALP Evans, GJ ALP Resigned 37

12/08/2000 Isaacs, Vic. Corcoran, AK ALP Wilton, GS ALP Died 59

17/03/2001 Ryan, Qld Short, LM ALP Moore, JC LIB Resigned 40

14/07/2001 Aston, Vic. Pearce, CJ LIB Nugent, PE LIB Died 81

19/10/2002 Cunningham, NSW Organ, MK GRN Martin, SP ALP Resigned 64

19/03/2005 Werriwa, NSW Hayes, CP ALP Latham, MW ALP Resigned 57

By-election date Division/State Member elected Party Previous



Cause of by-election

Days vacant

28/06/2008 Gippsland, Vic. Chester, DJ NP McGauran, PJ NP Resigned 80

6/09/2008 Lyne, NSW Oakeshott, RJM IND Vaile, MAJ NP Resigned 38

6/09/2008 Mayo, SA Briggs, JE LIB Downer, AJG LIB Resigned 54

5/12/2009 Bradfield, NSW Fletcher, PW LIB Nelson, BJ LIB Resigned 47

5/12/2009 Higgins, Vic. O'Dwyer, KM LIB Costello, PH LIB Resigned 47

8/02/2014 Griffith, Qld TBA Rudd, KM ALP Resigned 78