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Australian federal election, 1961

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9 December 1961  1963 →
77 seats  45 seats
15  15
23 September 1943  7 March 1960
62 seats  60 seats
49.50%  50.50%
Australian federal election, 1961

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.



Independent: Reg Turnbull

Seats changing hands

  • Members in italics did not contest their seat at this election.
  • Issues

    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.

    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. 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 and briefly Prime Minister 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.


    Australian federal election, 1961 Wikipedia

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