1963 Australian federal election

The 1963 Australian federal election was held in Australia on 30 November 1963. All 122 seats in the House of Representatives were up for election. The incumbent Liberal–Country coalition government, led by Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies, won an increased majority over the opposition Labor Party, led by Arthur Calwell. This was the only time that a Federal Government won a seventh consecutive term in office.

1963 Australian federal election

← 1961 30 November 1963 1966 →

All 122 seats of the Australian House of Representatives
62 seats were needed for a majority
  First party Second party
  RobertMenzies.jpg Arthur Calwell 1966.jpg
Leader Sir Robert Menzies Arthur Calwell
Party Liberal/Country coalition Labor
Leader since 23 September 1943 7 March 1960
Leader's seat Kooyong (Vic.) Melbourne (Vic.)
Last election 62 seats 60 seats
Seats won 72 seats 50 seats
Seat change Increase10 Decrease10
Percentage 52.60% 47.40%
Swing Increase3.10% Decrease3.10%

Australia 1963 federal election.png
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.

Prime Minister before election

Sir Robert Menzies
Liberal/Country coalition

Subsequent Prime Minister

Sir Robert Menzies
Liberal/Country coalition


The election was held following the early dissolution of the House of Representatives. The Prime Minister of Australia, Sir Robert Menzies, gave as his reason for calling an election within two years that there was an insufficient working majority in the House.[1] The 1961 election had been won with a substantially reduced majority of only two seats. One of the consequences of an early House election was that there were separate Senate and House elections until 1974. This became a factor in the Gair Affair.

The Coalition government of the Liberal Party led by Sir Robert Menzies and the Country Party led by John McEwen was returned with a substantially increased majority over the Australian Labor Party led by Arthur Calwell.

Indigenous Australians could vote in federal elections on the same basis as other electors for the first time in this election following an amendment to the Commonwealth Electoral Act becoming law on 1 November. The amendment enfranchised Indigenous people in Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory. Indigenous voting rights in other states had been in place since 1949.


State aid for non-government schoolsEdit

The toilets of St Brigid's; the reason for the 1962 school strike and the beginning of state aid to non-government schools.

The election was notable for the issue of state aid to non-government schools being finally resolved. There was a school strike in Goulburn, New South Wales in 1962. Health officials had requested the installation of three extra toilets at a Catholic primary school. The Catholic Church declared it had no money to install the extra toilets. The archdiocese closed down its schools and sent the children to government schools. Nearly 1,000 children turned up to be enrolled locally and the state schools were unable to accommodate them. The strike received national attention. The Labor premier of New South Wales, Robert Heffron, had promised money for science labs at non-government schools. This policy was overturned by a meeting of the Labor Party's federal executive. Under ALP rules the federal executive had responsibility for party policy when the party's national conference was out of session. Menzies called a snap election with state aid for science blocks and Commonwealth scholarships for students at both government and non-government schools as part of his party's platform. This tended to woo Catholic voters away from the Labor Party which they traditionally supported; the wedge driven between the ALP and its Catholic constituency took nearly a decade to overcome. Most non-government schools were Catholic. The Labor Party suffered a first-preference swing of −2.43% and the loss of ten seats. The Country Party vote was higher than the Democratic Labor Party (DLP) vote for the first time since 1955; the DLP had evolved from the Catholic wing of the ALP. The Liberal Party was, however, not dependent on the state-aid issue to win the election;[2] other issues, such as the "36 faceless men" gibe, also did damage to the ALP.

North-west Cape communications facilityEdit

Naval Communication Station Harold E. Holt, the North-west Cape communications facility which was built in the 1960s

Other key issues in the election included the proposal by the United States to build the North-west Cape communications facility which would support the US nuclear submarine capability. A special federal conference of the ALP was called in March 1963 which, by a narrow margin, supported the base. The Left faction was opposed to a foreign base on Australian soil, especially one which supported America's nuclear weapons capability.[3]

"36 faceless men"Edit

During the ALP Federal Conference in March 1963, journalist Alan Reid commissioned a photograph of Arthur Calwell and Gough Whitlam standing outside the conference venue at Kingston, a suburb of Canberra. Although Calwell was the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives and Whitlam was his deputy, neither man was eligible to attend the conference, which consisted of six members elected by each state ALP branch. Reid jibed that the ALP was ruled by "36 faceless men" – an accusation that was picked up by Menzies and the Liberal Party in its election propaganda, and is still remembered more than 40 years later.[3][4][5]

Assassination of US President KennedyEdit

The week before the election, on 22 November 1963, John F. Kennedy, the President of the United States, was assassinated. Alister McMullin, President of the Senate, represented Australia at the funeral in Washington.[6] It has been suggested that this tragedy helped to consolidate Menzies' position.[7]


House of Reps (IRV) — 1963–66—Turnout 95.73% (CV) — Informal 1.82%
Party Votes % Swing Seats Change
  Liberal–Country coalition 2,520,321 46.04 +3.95 72 +10
  Liberal  2,030,823 37.09 +3.51 52 +7
  Country  489,498 8.94 +0.43 20 +3
  Labor 2,489,184 45.47 –2.43 50 –10
  Democratic Labor 407,416 7.44 –1.27 0 0
  Communist 32,053 0.59 +0.11 0 0
  Independents 25,739 0.47 –0.21 0 0
  Total 5,474,713     122
  Liberal–Country coalition Win 52.60 +3.10 72 +10
  Labor 47.40 –3.10 50 –10

See 1961 Australian federal election and 1964 Australian Senate election for Senate compositions.

Popular vote
Two-party-preferred vote
Parliament seats

Seats changing handsEdit

Seat Pre-1963 Swing Post-1963
Party Member Margin Margin Member Party
Bowman, Qld   Labor Jack Comber 1.9 3.3 1.4 Wylie Gibbs Liberal  
Canning, WA   Liberal Neil McNeill N/A 17.9 2.2 John Hallett Country  
Cowper, NSW   Labor Frank McGuren 1.8 4.8 3.0 Ian Robinson Country  
Evans, NSW   Labor James Monaghan N/A 8.7 7.8 Malcolm Mackay Liberal  
Hume, NSW   Labor Arthur Fuller 0.9 1.7 0.8 Ian Pettitt Country  
Lilley, Qld   Labor Don Cameron 1.3 4.8 3.5 Kevin Cairns Liberal  
Mitchell, NSW   Labor John Armitage 3.4 6.5 3.1 Les Irwin Liberal  
Parkes, NSW   Labor Les Haylen 4.2 5.9 1.7 Tom Hughes Liberal  
Petrie, Qld   Labor Reginald O'Brien 0.7 4.2 3.5 Alan Hulme Liberal  
Phillip, NSW   Labor Syd Einfeld 1.4 4.2 2.8 William Aston Liberal  
St George, NSW   Labor Lionel Clay 4.9 7.2 2.3 Len Bosman Liberal  

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "House of Representatives Practice; Chapter 3 Elections and the electoral system". Parliament of Australia, House of Representatives. 2005. Archived from the original on 25 May 2006. Retrieved 4 April 2006.
  2. ^ "The Battle for State Aid". Timeframe. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 1997. Archived from the original on 6 January 2014. Retrieved 2 April 2006.
  3. ^ a b "Boilermaker Bill's Jakarta jottings; Boilermaker Bill McKell Labor Legend". Crikey. 10 September 2004. Archived from the original on 11 September 2005. Retrieved 3 April 2006.
  4. ^ Holt, Stephen (July 2006). "The Ultimate Insider" (PDF). National Library Australia News. Retrieved 3 November 2010.
  5. ^ "Tracking the Red Fox". Media Report. ABC Radio National. 18 December 2008. Retrieved 3 November 2010.
  6. ^ United Press International; American Heritage Magazine (1964). Four Days. New York: American Heritage Pub. Co. pp. 140-141.
  7. ^ Farnsworth, Malcolm. "It's Time; 1972 Federal Election: Sound Archives". australianpolitics.com. Archived from the original on 9 May 2006. Retrieved 4 April 2006.


  • 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.