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Australian federal election, 1961

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Title: Australian federal election, 1961  
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Subject: Robert Menzies, Menzies Government (1949–66), Liberal Party of Australia, Australia/Anniversaries/December/December 9, Australian elections
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Australian federal election, 1961

Australian federal election, 1961

9 December 1961

All 122 seats of the Australian House of Representatives
62 seats were needed for a majority in the House
31 (of the 60) seats of the Australian Senate
  First party Second party
Leader Robert Menzies Arthur Calwell
Party Liberal/Country coalition Labor
Leader since 23 September 1943 7 March 1960
Leader's seat Kooyong Melbourne
Last election 77 seats 45 seats
Seats won 62 seats 60 seats
Seat change Decrease15 Increase15
Percentage 49.50% 50.50%
Swing Decrease4.60 Increase4.60

Prime Minister before election

Robert Menzies
Liberal/Country coalition

Elected Prime Minister

Robert Menzies
Liberal/Country coalition

Federal elections were held in Australia on 9 December 1961. All 122 seats in the House of Representatives, and 31 of the 60 seats in the Senate were up for election. The incumbent Liberal Party of Australia led by Prime Minister of Australia Robert Menzies with coalition partner the Country Party led by John McEwen defeated the Australian Labor Party led by Arthur Calwell.

House of Reps (IRV) — 1961–63—Turnout 95.27% (CV) — Informal 2.57%
  Party Votes % Swing Seats Change
  Australian Labor Party 2,512,929 47.90 +5.09 60 +15
  Liberal Party of Australia 1,761,738 33.58 −3.65 45 −13
  Democratic Labor Party 456,962 8.71 −0.70 0 0
  Country Party 446,475 8.51 −0.81 17 −2
  Other 67,929 1.29 0 0
  Total 5,246,033     122
  Liberal/Country coalition WIN 49.50 −4.60 62 −15
  Australian Labor Party 50.50 +4.60 60 +15
Senate (STV) — 1961–64—Turnout 95.27% (CV) — Informal 10.62%
  Party Votes % Swing Seats Won Seats Held Change
  Australian Labor Party 2,151,339 44.71 +1.93 14 28 +2
  Liberal/Country (Joint Ticket) 1,595,696 33.16 +9.79 8 *
  Democratic Labor Party 472,578 9.82 +1.40 0 1 −1
  Liberal Party of Australia 398,292 8.28 −12.41 7 24 −1
  Communist Party of Australia 78,188 1.62 −1.29 0 0 0
  Country Party 31,090 0.65 −0.50 1 6 −1
  Independents 46,499 0.97 +0.54 1 1 +1
  Other 38,581 0.80 0 0 0
  Total 4,812,263     31 60

Independent: Reg Turnbull


  • Seats changing hands 1
  • Issues 2
  • Significance 3
  • See also 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6

Seats changing hands

Seat Pre-1961 Swing Post-1961
Party Member Margin Margin Member Party
Bowman, Qld   Liberal Malcolm McColm 6.1 8.0 1.9 Jack Comber Labor  
Canning, WA   Country Leonard Hamilton N/A 65.7 15.7 Neil McNeill Liberal  
Capricornia, Qld   Liberal Henry Pearce 7.7 10.7 5.0 George Gray Labor  
Cowper, NSW   Country Earle Page 11.1 12.9 1.8 Frank McGuren Labor  
Evans, NSW   Liberal Frederick Osborne 7.0 7.1 0.1 James Monaghan Labor  
Griffith, Qld   Liberal Arthur Chresby 0.1 7.4 7.3 Wilfred Coutts Labor  
Herbert, Qld   Liberal John Murray 1.5 3.8 2.3 Ted Harding Labor  
Hume, NSW   Country Charles Anderson 2.1 3.0 0.9 Arthur Fuller Labor  
Kalgoorlie, WA   Liberal Peter Browne 0.3 0.9 0.6 Fred Collard Labor  
Lilley, Qld   Liberal Bruce Wight 11.9 13.2 1.3 Don Cameron Labor  
Mitchell, NSW   Liberal Roy Wheeler 8.0 11.4 3.4 John Armitage Labor  
Moore, WA   Liberal Hugh Halbert 2.9 4.2 1.3 Hugh Leslie Country  
Oxley, Qld   Liberal Donald Alastair Cameron 5.9 9.4 3.5 Bill Hayden Labor  
Petrie, Qld   Liberal Alan Hulme 10.5 11.2 0.7 Reginald O'Brien Labor  
Phillip, NSW   Liberal William Aston 1.9 3.3 1.4 Syd Einfeld Labor  
Stirling, WA   Liberal Doug Cash 0.2 0.5 0.3 Harry Webb Labor  
Wide Bay, Qld   Country Henry Bandidt 4.3 9.5 5.2 Brendan Hansen Labor  
  • Members in italics did not contest their seat at this election.


Due to a credit squeeze, the economy had gone into a brief recession in 1961. This combined with initial enthusiasm for the new Opposition Leader, Arthur Calwell, was enough to see a swing against the Menzies Government.


For a long time, the 1961 election remained the closest Federal election in Australian history, with the Coalition being reduced to a one-seat majority. The election was decided in the seats of Bruce near Melbourne and Moreton near Brisbane.

In Bruce, Labor's Keith Ewert led Liberal Billy Snedden on the first count, but on the second count more than two-thirds of the DLP's preferences flowed to Snedden, enough to give him the victory.[1]

However, the Coalition was not ensured of a sixth term in government until Jim Killen won Moreton by only 130 votes after receiving 93 vital Communist preferences. [2] Labor actually won 62 seats, the same as the Coalition. However, without Bruce, the best Labor could hope for was a hung parliament, since two of its seats were in ACT and Northern Territory. At the time, territorial MPs had limited voting rights and were not counted for the purpose of determining who was to form government. The record for the closest election in Australia's history was eventually beaten by the 2010 election, which was a 72-72 seat draw.

The most notable casualty was Earle Page, the second-longest serving MP in Australia's history. He had been the member for Cowper since 1919. Although he was 81 years old and gravely ill with lung cancer, he decided to fight his 17th general election. His Labor opponent, Frank McGuren, needed a seemingly daunting 11-point swing to win the seat, but managed to win by a slim three-point margin on the second count. Page, who had been too sick to actively campaign, died 11 days after the election without ever knowing he had been defeated.

See also


  1. ^ 1961 election results in Victoria from Adam Carr's election archive
  2. ^  


  • University of WA election results in Australia since 1890
  • AEC 2PP vote
  • Prior to 1984 the AEC did not undertake a full distribution of preferences for statistical purposes. The stored ballot papers for the 1983 election were put through this process prior to their destruction. Therefore the figures from 1983 onwards show the actual result based on full distribution of preferences.
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