Green is good

Gasp in awe at Antony Green’s gargantuan online compendium of New South Wales election results, the product of many months’ labour in conjunction with the state’s Department of Lands. Featured are district-level results going right back to the very beginning (1856), including all by-elections. What a Poll Bludger wouldn’t give for such a resource in every other state. You might care to begin your browsing with the Prime Minister’s near-successful bid for the state seat of Drummoyne in 1968, which escaped my notice when I was compiling my state election guide. It appears that only the donkey vote stood between Mr Howard and a no doubt very stimulating career in state politics.

If you’re really keen – and why wouldn’t you be? – you can splash out $85 on the accompanying Electoral Atlas of New South Wales 1856-2006, co-edited with Eamonn Clifford and David Clune. As well as featuring boundary maps for every election, it “maps historical curiosities such as the Sydney Hamlets, the non-contiguous boroughs and the extensive pastoral districts of the 1850s, the multi-Members electorates of the 1880s and the experimental proportional representation of the 1920s, the maladjustment caused by country weightings and the emergence of one-vote, one-value electorates that we have today&#148. Some idea of this product’s magnificence can be gleaned from the images available on the Wikipedia entry. In comments, Antony tells us he is “still working on the project to put all the old NSW maps on the web, on a site to be combined with all the results”.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

43 comments on “Green is good”

  1. Seek out Prime Ministers who contested NSW Elections
    Edmund Barton
    John Christian Watson
    George Houstoun Reid
    William Morris Hughes
    Ben Chifley (against jack Lang in 1935)
    Gough Whitlam (Sutherland 1950)
    John Howard (Drummoyne 1968)
    And the 39 (!) elections contested by Henry Parkes

  2. A big congrats on that.

    wouldn’t it be a wondering thing for all State results be recorded.

    On the result of Howard and Drummoyne, it says the seat was gained by the ALP from the Liberals, but it then says the MP was returned.

  3. There had been a redistribution since the previous election which made the seat notionally Liberal held according to secondary sources. Eventually I’ll get around to confirming that, or at least footnote that piece of detail.

    The project developed a life of its own. Catching everything back to 1962 was easy, but became more complex from then on, why I decided to start making it an annotated database. The ninteenth century ended up a huge task of finding and reconciling results.

    Drummoyne in 1968 is one contest that I need to footnote to take account of the redistribution. There are more than 6,500 results on the site. I can’t guarantee to have remembered to footnote everything.

    My personal favourites are

    And this one shows some of the difficulties of finding accurate results when there are no official sources.

  4. The ALP used to be competitive in just about all rural seats in Australia as they would receive votes from farm workers & miners. With increased mechanisation and the general drift towards cities their vote was whittled away – basically the farmers (Nat/Lib voters) themselves stayed while the workers (ALP voters) left. Antony discussed this briefly in relation to the old gerrymander in WA being maintained by the ALP at various stages because of their good vote.

    As well, where ever there was intensive mining you would also see an increased ALP vote (hence the ALP holding the mining & pastoral seats in WA – Kalgoorlie/Ashburton/Pilbara/Eyre etc), but with much of the industry mechanised and many of the remaining workers now fly-in-fly-out that advantage is now also being lost with only more permanent business owners staying. The rise in public sector employee’s in rural areas has maintained an ALP vote, as has “tree” & “sea”-changers.

  5. ps: excellent work Antony. However, I note this only covers the Legislative Assembly – is there something similar covering members of the Leg Council (realising that the first elections for it were in 1978, and it wasn’t fully elected until 1984)?

  6. Labor’s decline in rural NSW is nearly all to do with the declining need for rural labourers. The decline of the wool industry has seen shearer numbers fall. No longer do you need large numbers of men to dig holes by hand, to tend horses, to work in regional abbattoirs. In recent years, even the old railway towns, with workshops and re-fueling/watering services, have disappeared. Road and rail gangs are now smaller with the increased use of machinery. And as roads are improved, people drive to larger centres to shop, which has led to the further decline of smaller townships and the growth of major regional centres.

    Labor was also particularly successful in its first years amongst small rural landholders because of its policies to allow the further break up of pastoral runs. But that issue became less important over time.

  7. Stewart, I’ve done a number of publications on the LC for the NSW Parliamentary Library. In a sense, details of the LC and candidates are more readily available. The website includes published results for pre-1891 elections for the first time ever. We may eventually add the LC, but it’s been a major effort just to achieve what we have so far.

  8. The rural working class was always more conservative than the urban working class, much fewer union members (David Kemp’s first book is good on this). My research on the 1932 NSW election when Labor lost every rural seat shows that many rural manual workers supported the conservatives. A lot of the NSW Labor rural vote is a Catholic thing. Labor is a workers’ party in the urban-mining region but a Catholic populist party in the bush. Down here in Warrnambool area switched overnight after the split, in NSW drift is slower but it is significant.
    Great work Anthony, do you have a list available of the surviving maps that show subdivisions, as I need this to match census data by local government areas to electoral results by subdivisions?

  9. This is amazing stuff, and will come in really handy for many things.

    For the record, though – it’s not the only project of this nature – Dean Jaensch put out a similar compedium of all general and by-election results for South Australia earlier this year.

  10. Peter Blazey (such a hoot, how we miss him) ran against Jones for the same reason David Widdup ran against Bill McMahon in 1972. The laws of defamation probably preclude further comment.

    Antony, you are an inspiration to election-nuts everywhere.

  11. Blazey was running in protests at Police arrests in June at the first Sydney Gay Mardi Gras. I understand he stood on the slogan “Put a poofter in parliament”, not quite as memorable as Widdup’s “I’ve got my eye on Billy’s seat”. Blazey was a former Press Secretary to Andrew Peacock, a former reporter in the Melbourne state press gallery, and wrote a very good biography of Sir Henry Bolte.

  12. Geoff Robinson – I didn’t realise you were THE Geoff Robinson who did the Chapters in the People’s Choice. Dr Clune at the NSW Parliamentary Library can put you in contact with me. The sub-division boundaries are always problematic, as they were essentially drawn to match up state and federal boundaries. There are descriptions of sub-divisions in the relevant redistributions, but maps of them were not always drawn. It was always the boundary descriptions that had legal force, not the maps.

    The maps of all the redistributions exist from 1893, but each redistribution would have to be checked to be certain whether sub-divisions were mapped. The documents all exist in Parliamentary Papers and in the Lands Department.

  13. Rebecca, I have a copy of Dean’s work, and a similar project was undertaken by Scott Bennett on Tasmanian elections. David Black has also undertaken similar research in Western Australia. However, this site’s the first that has set out to be produced as a website with fully linked and indexed pages. Doing it as a data base has allowed a lot more annotation, and allows it to be updated as I chase down more detail. Certainly the party affiliations prior to 1891 have been much better documented on this site than was possible in the book format used by Hughes and Graham et al.

    It was a very hard task to do with a database, so I am in awe of people like Joan Rydon who’ve trawled through this material previously and sources using pencils and card index files.

  14. Antony – was David Black’s book an atlas like this book or a compendium of election results. As an ex-waussie this is still a major interest for me.

  15. Black was involed the the 1990s centenary series of publications. He produced an index to all WA candidates, of which I have a copy, and I presume he therefore had another publication with results. I certainly own one of his publications covering the 1960s and 1970s.

  16. Antony, if you ever want to do a similar project for Qld, it may be a reasonable undertaking for at least the 20th century results. The Qld Uni library has (or had in the 90s) a lot of relevant info (parliamentary papers and so on).

  17. That reminds me – I remember seeing maps of the original electorates in the Qld parliament (after 1859) in one of Manning Clark’s volumes on Select Documents in Australian History, if that’s of interest.

  18. Excellent work. As I browsed through successive election outcomes, it reinforced how difficult it has been, historically, for non-Labor to pick up enough seats in the Assembly to form government (for example, I noticed Askin’s majorities were never particularly large and that was after 24 years of Labor). I am sure Barry O’Farrell understands this.

  19. John His Grace the Most Noble Duke of Avram. He was elected because his last name started with ‘H’ (for His) and so he appeared under Robin Gray on the ballot paper in 1989.
    He was defeated in 1992 and changed his name to John The Duke of Avram and appeared under ‘T’ at the 1996 election. His original name was John Rudge, and from memory he was the former Warden (Mayor) of Strahan. He started a bank in the 1970s called the Bank of Avram, and after being warned by the Reserve Bank to cease and desist calling calling it a Bank, dropped the B and called it the ‘Ank of Avram’. We don’t get enough of his type in politics anymore.

    I might have the elections wrong. That could be 1982, 1986 and 1989, but have no way

  20. Let me add to the congratulations, Antony.

    I just had a look at the by-elections page. A couple of things jumped out at me. One was how many more by-elections NSW has had in the last couple of decades compared to Victoria.

    There have been nine since the last Victorian by-election. While this is an unusually long gap down here, its clear that eve during normal service NSW had far more. Considering that they have only slightly more Legislative Assembly seats, and that until recently Victoria could also have Legislative Council byelections while NSW could not, this seems remarkable to me.

    The other thing was that I recently checked a page of British by-elections. I was struck by how many were caused by deaths, in comparison to Australia where very few are (around 10% in recent decades judging by the NSW page).

    Naturally I welcome the fact that Australian MPs go of their own accord, but I wonder if anyone has theories on the two differences.

  21. Hmm, looks like yesterday was a bad day to comment that there are fewer by-elections in Victoria than NSW, although we’d need the whole cabinet to resign before we’d catch them over the last few decades.

  22. Yeah, it seems like Victoria might be going through a bit of the same thing NSW did in 2005, although Brumby obviously has far more of a history at the top of Victorian politics than Iemma, who appeared out of nowhere for most people.

    Just wondering if people know of the last time an Opposition Leader became Premier/PM later on (after a period out of leadership) without having to win an election, like Brumby is about to do.

    Antony, this looks really great. Do people know if this is out now and can be found at bookstores? While it’s really expensive it looks like something worth keeping for the future.

    Does the fact that most UK by-elections are caused by death is related to either the much larger number of MPs (so it’s more acceptable for people to step back from a leadership role without resigning, or that people just stay in their seats until they die) or the fact that it’s technically illegal to resign your seat in the House of Commons (there’s a convention I can’t think of now they use

  23. Ben,
    The convention is appointment to the Chiltern Hundreds, which being an office of profit under the crown, denies them membership of the Commons.

  24. Ben and Chris, I never knew that. It probably explains it.

    I think Ben’s other point about the larger parliament making it more acceptable for older figures to hang around is probably true to an extent. However, I noticed that quite a few of those British MPs who died were not that old so I don’t think that’s the whole story.

  25. Sorry if I am out of place with my enquiry on this site but led here on info from the State Library Archives after my approach to them re family history search I am carrying out on my Grandfather Ellison Wentworth QUIRK (1866-1938) MLA 1901 to 1904, Waringah.
    E.W. QUIRK was a long term local government in Manly and Waringah also Mayor of both areas and then did one term as MLA for seat then called Warringah. He then lost the 1904 election when standing for Middle Harbour due to boundary changes. The seat ws then won by a Richard ARTHUR noted as a Liberal Party member.
    E.W. QUIRK’s notes in Parliamentary Archives state he was an Independant … “who later joined the liberals” and I am trying to sort out his real political position/party at the time. When defeated he was presented with “an illuminated address of thanks” from the Brookvale Labour Electoral League which des not sound like a likely action towards a Liberal Party member … and then would two “Liberals” have stood against one another ??
    The issue seems to have been a function of early groupings of independents before the establishment of the party groupings that we know today.
    Is this an Antony Green site?, does he sometimes answer queries like this ?? and/or is access to the Atlas available only through purchase or also libraries etc?? …. could the Atlas give me a lead on these questions ??
    Regards from Peter QUIRK, Nelson Bay, NSW.

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