1973 Balcatta state by-election

A by-election for the seat of Balcatta in the Legislative Assembly of Western Australia was held on 28 July 1973. It was triggered by the resignation of Herb Graham, the deputy premier in the Labor government of John Tonkin, on 30 May 1973.

Like the earlier 1971 Ascot by-election, the Balcatta by-election was of great importance to the Labor Party, as a loss would have seen it reduced to minority government. The party retained the seat despite a 16.5-point negative swing, with Brian Burke (a future premier) outpolling the Liberal candidate, Neil Beck, by only 30 votes on the two-party-preferred count. Burke had been behind Beck on first preferences, but passed him after the preferences of the Australia Party candidate were distributed.


Herb Graham had held Balcatta for the Labor Party since the seat's re-creation at the 1962 state election, and had served in parliament since 1943. He was made deputy premier under John Tonkin following Labor's victory at the 1971 election, but the pair had frequent differences of opinion. Graham resigned from parliament on 30 May 1973 and was instead appointed chairman of the Licensing Court of Western Australia.[1] After his resignation, the writ for the by-election was issued on 1 June, with the close of nominations on 28 June. Polling day was on 28 July, with the writ returned on 17 August.[2]


Balcatta state by-election, 1973
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal Neil Beck 9,178 49.0 +15.6
Labor Brian Burke 9,075 48.5 –18.0
Australia Wilfrid Campin 469 2.5 +2.5
Total formal votes 18,722 97.5 +2.9
Informal votes 478 2.5 –2.9
Turnout 19,200 80.7 –19.3
Two-party-preferred result
Labor Brian Burke 9,376 50.1 –16.5
Liberal Neil Beck 9,346 49.9 +16.5
Labor hold Swing –16.5


The Tonkin government was defeated at the 1974 state election, which also saw Balcatta abolished in a redistribution. Burke transferred to the seat of Balga, and remained in parliament until his retirement in 1988. He was elected leader of the Labor Party in 1981, and became premier at the 1983 state election.[3]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ David, Black (2007). "Graham, Herbert Ernst (1911–1982". Australian Dictionary of Biography. 17. Melbourne University Press. ISSN 1833-7538 – via National Centre of Biography, Australian National University.
  2. ^ Black, David; Prescott, Valerie (1997). Election statistics, Legislative Assembly of Western Australia, 1890-1996. Perth, Western Australia: Parliamentary History Project and Western Australian Electoral Commission. p. 22. ISBN 0-7309-8409-5.
  3. ^ Brian Thomas Burke, Biographical Register of Members of the Parliament of Western Australia. Retrieved 24 January 2017.