The 1949 Australian federal election was held in Australia on 10 December 1949. All 121 seats in the House of Representatives and 42 of the 60 seats in the Senate were up for election. The incumbent Labor Party, led by Prime Minister Ben Chifley, was defeated by the opposition Liberal–Country coalition under Robert Menzies. Menzies became prime minister for a second time, his first period having ended in 1941. This election marked the end of the 8-year Curtin-Chifley Labor Government that had been in power since 1941 and started the 23-year Liberal/Country Coalition Government. This was the first time the Liberal party won government at the federal level.
All 121 seats of the House of Representatives
61 seats were needed for a majority in the House
42 (of the 60) seats of the Senate
Popular vote by state with graphs indicating the number of seats won. Seat totals are not determined by popular vote by state but instead via results in each electorate.
The number of MPs in both houses had been increased at the election, and single transferable vote under a proportional voting system had been introduced in the Senate. Though Labor lost government, Labor retained a Senate majority at the election. However, this ended at the 1951 election. With the Senate changes in place, Labor has not held a Senate majority since.
The election hinged on the policies of the Federal Labor Government, especially bank nationalisation. Prime Minister Chifley intended to bring all of the banks under Government control, a socialist policy which the Coalition argued was not in the country's interest. The Coalition promised to end unpopular wartime rationing. The election took place against the background of the 1949 Australian coal strike, the developing Cold War and growing fears of communism.
Robert Menzies broke new ground in using the radio as his primary method of reaching voters.
As of this election, single transferable vote with proportional representation became the method for electing the Senate. This was to try to prevent the Senate from being dominated by one party, which had often occurred previously. For example, coming into this election the ALP held 33 of the 36 Senate seats, whilst the conservatives at the 1919 election held 35 of the 36 Senate seats. In addition, the House of Representatives was enlarged from 74 to 121 seats and the Senate from 36 to 60 members. All 121 lower house seats, and 42 of the 60 upper house seats, were up for election.
House of RepresentativesEdit
|Party||Votes||%||Swing||Seats won||Seats held||Change|
|Liberal–Country joint ticket||1,871,849||44.65||+6.53||16||N/A||N/A|
|Independents / ungrouped||71,723||1.71||+1.03||0||0||0|
Seats changing handsEdit
|Australian Capital Territory, ACT||new division||3.8||Lewis Nott||Independent|
|Ballaarat, Vic||Labor||Reg Pollard||3.1||3.1||0.4||Alan Pittard||Liberal|
|Bass, Tas||Labor||Claude Barnard||7.0||6.8||0.6||Bruce Kekwick||Liberal|
|Blaxland, NSW||Lang Labor||notional - new seat||N/A||53.4||3.4||Jim Harrison||Labor|
|Bowman, Qld||Labor||notional - new seat||N/A||1.4||3.8||Malcolm McColm||Liberal|
|Corio, Vic||Labor||John Dedman||7.2||6.7||0.3||Hubert Opperman||Liberal|
|Curtin, WA||Labor||notional - new seat||N/A||13.8||11.2||Paul Hasluck||Liberal|
|Darling Downs, Qld||Country||Arthur Fadden||N/A||1.9||12.5||Reginald Swartz||Liberal|
|Dawson, Qld||Labor||notional - new seat||N/A||9.8||8.6||Charles Davidson||Country|
|Denison, Tas||Labor||Frank Gaha||7.0||10.9||5.1||Athol Townley||Liberal|
|Farrer, NSW||Country||notional - new seat||N/A||58.8||8.8||David Fairbairn||Liberal|
|Forrest, WA||Labor||Nelson Lemmon||2.3||4.4||2.8||Gordon Freeth||Liberal|
|Gwydir, NSW||Labor||William Scully||1.2||9.2||5.1||Thomas Treloar||Country|
|Hume, NSW||Labor||Arthur Fuller||4.2||5.9||1.0||Charles Anderson||Country|
|Indi, Vic||Country||John McEwen||N/A||59.7||9.7||William Bostock||Liberal|
|Kingston, SA||Labor||notional - new seat||N/A||8.4||1.6||Jim Handby||Liberal|
|Lawson, NSW||Labor||notional - new seat||N/A||7.6||5.8||Laurie Failes||Country|
|Leichhardt, Qld||Labor||notional - new seat||N/A||9.2||1.7||Tom Gilmore||Country|
|Lowe, NSW||Labor||notional - new seat||N/A||9.0||8.5||William McMahon||Liberal|
|McMillan, Vic||Country||notional - new seat||N/A||6.1||6.9||Geoffrey Brown||Liberal|
|McPherson, Qld||Liberal||notional - new seat||N/A||5.1||24.2||Arthur Fadden||Country|
|Mitchell, NSW||Labor||notional - new seat||N/A||12.8||6.9||Roy Wheeler||Liberal|
|Northern Territory, NT||Independent||Adair Blain||N/A||8.6||2.7||Jock Nelson||Labor|
|Paterson, NSW||Labor||notional - new seat||N/A||8.6||8.5||Allen Fairhall||Liberal|
|Riverina, NSW||Labor||Joe Langtry||0.6||3.8||3.5||Hugh Roberton||Country|
|Robertson, NSW||Labor||Thomas Williams||3.8||11.5||4.2||Roger Dean||Liberal|
|St George, NSW||Labor||notional - new seat||N/A||16.2||2.0||Bill Graham||Liberal|
|Sturt, SA||Labor||notional - new seat||N/A||8.9||2.8||Keith Wilson||Liberal|
|Swan, WA||Labor||notional||N/A||10.2||2.4||Bill Grayden||Liberal|
|Wannon, Vic||Labor||Don McLeod||1.2||3.8||0.8||Dan Mackinnon||Liberal|
|Wimmera, Vic||Country||Winton Turnbull||N/A||5.6||14.9||William Lawrence||Liberal|
- Members listed in italics did not contest their seat at this election.
The Chifley Government was defeated, ending the longest period of Labor Federal Government in Australian history up to that date (1941–49). Labor would not return to office until 1972. Robert Menzies became Prime Minister for the second time, and the Liberal Party of Australia won government federally for the first time.
- Ian Ward, "The early use of radio for political communication in Australia and Canada: John Henry Austral, Mr Sage and the Man from Mars," Australian Journal of Politics & History (1999) 45#3 pp 311–30. online
- "Commonwealth Parliament, House of Representatives election 1949". University of Western Australia Australian Politics and Elections Database. Retrieved 13 October 2010.
- University of WA Archived 18 January 2015 at the Wayback Machine 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.
- Two-party-preferred vote since 1940