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House of Representatives by-elections: 1901–2017

5 Mar 2018

This paper provides details of House of Representatives by-elections, from that held for Darling Downs on 14 September 1901 to the most recent held on 16 December 2017 for Bennelong.

The following observations can be made about those by-elections:

• there have been 151 by-elections, an average of 3.4 per parliament

• the average number of nominations has grown over the years from 2.2 per by-election to 12.0 per byelection

• in only four cases was a by-election contested by just a single candidate

• an increasing tendency has been for governments to avoid contesting by-elections in their opponents’ safe seats

• in only ten cases have the opposition party failed to contest a by-election

• seventy-six of the by-elections followed the resignation of the member, 68 members died in office, there have been six voided elections, and one MP was expelled from the House

• since 1949 resignations account for almost two-thirds of by-elections and over half the resignations have occurred in safe seats

• on 35 occasions the party complexion of a seat has altered at a by-election

• five of the losses have been by the opposition of the day

• the average two-party preferred swing against the government of the day has been 3.8 per cent

• since 1949 the largest two-party swing against a government occurred against Labor in Canberra in 1995. The largest swing to a government occurred to the Coalition in McPherson in 1981.

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