Sir James Killen: Moreton, Menzies and Mythology

Liberal Party elder statesman Jim Killen died last week. He represented the Brisbane based seat of Moreton in the federal parliament from 1955 to 1983 and was one a dwindling number of former MPs who served in the Menzies era.

One of the most frequently recounted aspects of Killen’s career relates to his extremely tight and crucial victory in the seat of Moreton in the 1961 election, which was pivotal in keeping the Liberals in government and Robert Menzies as Prime Minister.  Like many things in politics, there is a lot of mythology about that particular event – not all of it generated by Killen himself. Now is as good a time as any to outline some of the facts, including what the precise votes and preference flows from that contest actually were.

The reason why Killen’s win in Moreton was so crucial is because it delivered the Coalition parties a majority of 62 votes to 60 votes for Labor in the House of Representatives, keeping Robert Menzies as Prime Minister.  A long-standing story was that Menzies sent a delighted telegram, saying simply “Killen, you are magnificent.”  This piece in The Age notes that

“Killen revealed in his memoirs, all Menzies ever said to him in a brief telephone call was, “Well laddie, this is good news. I’m glad it’s over.” Sir James invented the telegram wording to give a break to a journalist friend looking for a good news story.” 

Of course, the story rather helped Killen as well as his journo friend, but I guess one can’t begrudge him that.

One fact which is rarely noted about the 1961 result is that even with Killen’s win in Moreton, Labor actually won the same number of House of Representatives seats as the Coalition. Both Labor and the Coalition won 62 seats, but 2 of Labor’s seats were for the Northern Territory and the ACT, whose representatives at that time only had limited voting rights. Their votes could not be counted on matters such as confidence votes which determine who would be in government.

Another frequently repeated story is that Killen won Moreton on the preferences of the Communist Party candidate (see examples in this Age article and in these speeches by John Howard).  This of course has a delicious irony because Moreton delivered government to Menzies, and Menzies was a long-standing anti-communist campaigner (or ‘Red baiter’ if you prefer).  A variant on this is that the Communist preferences were a consequence of ‘donkey votes’, where people vote 1 for whichever candidate happens to be at the top of the ballot paper and then just fill in their other preferences in order down the ballot.

Both variations of the story – that the seat was won on communist preferences and that this was the result of the donkey vote – are not really correct, although there is enough truth in both for people to be able to argue the technicalities if they really want to.  Of course, in politics a technically arguable proposition is often all that is needed for it to be asserted – repeatedly and aggressively if necessary – as indisputable fact.

Here’s the full vote count from that seat, in ballot paper order.

Christian Jarman Hagen – Democratic Labor Party (DLP)*         3 882
Max Nordan Julius – Communist Party of Australia (CPA)          676
Denis James Killen – Liberal Party                                                       22 667
John Edward O’Donnell – Australian Labor Party (ALP)               25 123

(The total number of Informal votes was 1 921)

In distributing the preferences of the 676 CPA votes, 390 (or 57.7% of them) went to the ALP, 193 (28.5%) went to the DLP and 93 (13.8%) to the Liberal.  This left the tally as follows:

DLP 4075, Lib 22 760, ALP 25 513.

In distributing the DLP’s 4075 votes, 3479 (or just over 85% of them) went to the Liberal and 596 went to the ALP, leaving a final tally for Killen of 26 239 and for O’Donnell of 26 109.

* I am fairly sure that at the 1961 election, DLP candidates in Queensland actually ran under the label of QLP – Queensland Labor Party.  Their Senate candidate in 1961 was Vince Gair (a former Labor Premier before the big split) and they were affiliated with the DLP nationally. I’ve used DLP to avoid confusion.

The simple facts are that it was a DLP candidate who was top of the ballot paper, with the Communist Party candidate second, and the small proportion of preferences that went from the Communist candidate to Killen was well short of delivering him victory without the huge flow of preferences from the DLP, (a flow which in itself was not particularly unusual).

Regardless of this, the number of preferences from the Communist Party candidate which went to Jim Killen was 93, and the final margin of Killen’s victory in Moreton  – and hence the final margin between there being a Liberal or Labor Prime Minister – was 130 (which means if 66 people had voted the other way, it would have changed the result and potentially the government).  It is therefore true to say that if Killen had got absolutely zero preferences from the Communist candidate, he would not have won.  But all he needed was 28 Communist preferences from their total of 676 votes (or fewer than 5%).  A leakage of preferences of 5 per cent is not at all unusual – indeed it would be quite rare for a leakage of that amount not to occur.

What I find much more remarkable, and don’t recall ever seeing any comment about anywhere, is the very large percentage of Communist Party preferences which went to the DLP.  Menzies may have campaigned against the communists for a long-time (he did try to make the whole party illegal after all), but being anti-communist was one of the central tenets of the DLP’s whole existence.  It was tensions surrounding attitudes towards communist sympathisers that were central to the split within the ALP in the 1950s and the formation of the DLP in the first place.  I find it surprising that nearly 30% of Communist Party voters gave their next preference to the DLP – something which can’t be explained by a donkey vote effect.  Perhaps it was a 1960s version of an anti-major party vote – anyone but Liberal or Labor? In any case, of itself it had no impact on the election result, which may be why I’ve never seen mention of it, despite it being the thing that struck me as most unusual about the ballot count.

What may have been crucial about those 193 people who voted Communist 1 and DLP 2 is where they put their number 3.  It may well be that in amongst the torrent of 3479 DLP preferences that pushed Killen over the line were a crucial 66 ballot papers which had a 3 written beside Killen’s name, rather than the Labor man. Unless those 45 year old ballot papers are still preserved in some archive somewhere, that is something we will never know, as the official electoral returns do not go to that level of detail (and still don’t for modern elections).

It is also partly true to say that the donkey vote helped Killen, although any donkey vote in this case is reflected in votes for the DLP and preferences flowing from their candidate, not the Communist candidate.  I don’t know what the average distribution of DLP preferences was in similar seats in that election, so I can’t assess that impact, although an 85-15 split between Liberal and Labor doesn’t sound particularly unusual to me.  The DLP primary vote for Moreton of 7.4% was almost exactly on the DLP’s state average for Queensland. 

It is almost impossible to accurately assess the true donkey vote in any given seat.  However, whilst there are varying views about how large the donkey vote is on any occasion, given the extremely small final margin, it is reasonable to argue that the positional advantage of Killen being higher on the ballot paper than the Labor candidate made a sufficient difference.  (if you are interested in further detail, this paper in the Election Law Journal by Graeme Orr goes into suitably scholarly detail, including a mention of the 1961 Moreton example)

In those days candidates were listed in alphabetical order, as opposed to randomly allocated as there are today, so one could even argue that all other things being equal, if Labor had preselected a candidate whose last name started with any letter from A to J, rather than O, they would have won the seat and thus government.  Of course, all other things never are equal, and it is impossible to know what qualities the Labor candidate brought to vote winning, besides his name.  Given his name was O’Donnell, it is reasonable to guess that he was of Irish Catholic background, which was also the background of many DLP voters – which has its own bit of irony given the big DLP preference flow won the seat for Killen.

One of the reason why mythologies like the above live on is because they can be useful for all sorts of illustrative reasons. Following are a range of examples I found through a quick Google.  Many show how such mythologies are not just psephological curiosities for trivia night contests, but can be used as weapons of political rhetoric.  

This discussion thread on John Quiggin’s blog a year ago was about the Iraq war (with argument opening up around the usual ‘left vs right’ fault line). One commenter (at comment #43) used the ‘Killen won because of the communists’ myth to argue “the Commos gave their preferences to the Tories because they argued that the Tories would by stupid maladministration bring on the crisis in capitalism. The Commos miscalculated.”    Another person (at #45) ‘corrects’ him by saying (wrongly) that “the Communist vote was inflated by the fact that they had the “donkey vote”, (as) their candidate was 1st on the Ballot paper.

The communist preferences story was cited in 2002 as a part of this detailed critique of historical differences between various strands of Australian socialists:

The Communist candidate in the seat, the Brisbane solicitor Max Julius, was at the top of the ballot paper and consequently his couple of hundred votes were inflated by the donkey vote, which unfortunately flowed down the ticket to Killen, who was thus elected by this leakage of Communist preferences. The fact that the Menzies government got back by one seat on these preferences was thereafter used against the CPA by vindictive Laborites.

This biography entry of Killen, taken from an outdated Wikipedia entry, repeats all three myths – the Menzies quote, the Communist preferences and a wrong description of the donkey vote.  Former federal Liberal Minister Peter Howson, repeats the Communist preferences story in this speech, complete with a completely imaginary figure, (and adds in the Menzies’ telegram myth for good measure) as a prelude to launching into a hardline ideological diatribe against the ‘left’.  Even this biography of the Communist Party’s candidate at the time, Max Julius, says “his preferences were essential to the Liberal candidate, (Sir) James Killen, winning Moreton, thus securing the return of the Menzies government.”

Of course, not everyone repeats the same story. Indeed, as this piece at Diogenes Lamp points out, even saying it was the Moreton result that ‘won’ the election can be seen as rather misleading.  Their opinion is that it was the campaigning that then-Premier Henry Bolte did in Victoria which made the critical difference in saving Menzies’ bacon in the face of huge swings against him in every other state.

So many different perspectives derived from a single set of numbers!

Seeing I’ve gone into this much detail, I may as well mention a few other pieces of information just to make the historical picture more complete.

I don’t have a 1961 map and can only go by the names of the polling booths of the time, but given how much electoral boundaries have changed between 1961 and now, it is amazing that the seat of Moreton covers much of the same area now as it did then.  The booths at the time were Coopers Plains, Darra, Moorooka, Mount Gravatt, Salisbury, Sherwood and Stephens – the majority of which are contained within the present boundaries (I am assuming that Stephens would have covered around the Tarragindi/Annerley/Greenslopes area). 

Despite the big increase in overall seats (there were only 18 House of Reps seats in Queensland in 1961, compared with 29 at this year’s election), the total number of voters is much greater today.  A little over 54 000 people voted in Moreton in 1961, compared with nearly 83 000 in 2004.

As noted above, there were only 7 polling booths in 1961, compared with 34 booths in 2004.  The numbers of votes cast at some of the booths in 1961 was enormous.  Salisbury booth had just over 12 000 votes cast and Mount Gravatt had just under that mark.  Another booth had over 7000 and another over 6 000.  In 2004, the busiest booth took in 5620 votes (which was Algester booth if you want to know, a suburb that would not have existed in 1961). 

The best booths for Killen were Sherwood and Stephens, and the best for Labor were Coopers Plains and Darra. All those areas would probably lean similar ways relative to each other today. Killen also polled quite strongly in the postal votes, getting 50.0% of the primary vote from that pool of 1685 votes.  If I had to make a definitive statement about what won (or saved) the seat for Killen, I would actually say he won it through the postals – which then as now can be an area where an incumbent can make up significant ground. Of course, saying the communists gave it to him sounds much more interesting than saying he won on postal votes.

One final point which punctures another myth which I’ve just reinforced myself in what I have written.  If Killen had lost Moreton, it is not certain that Menzies would have lost office.  It would have resulted in 61 seats each for both Labor and the Coalition (noting once again that Labor’s seats in the ACT and NT didn’t count in those days).  Australia has (thankfully) never had a dead heat following an election, so it’s not totally certain what would happen next in such a situation.  Many scenarios are conceivable, and all of them contestable.  It is quite possible it would have resulted in a fresh election, which of course no one could predict the result of.  However, such details, like much of those above, muddy a good story, which are generally best when the ‘facts’ are clear and simple.

One thing is for sure, if Menzies had lost the 1961 election, it would have meant we’d be hearing one storyline repeated all the way through to this year’s election. Menzies second period as Prime Minister started in December 1949.  If 66 people had voted the other way in December 1961 and Menzies had lost, this year’s election would be all about whether John Howard would beat Menzies’ record as the longest continually serving Prime Minister in Australia’s history.  The Communists didn’t play much of a role in preventing that scenario, but it is fair to say that James Killen did.  That could be one final thing some people may wish to acknowledge him for.

His State Funeral will be held in Brisbane this Friday.

ELSEWHERE: Other blog pieces about James Killen include this piece on Ambit Gambit by long-time friend Jeff Wall. Here are some links to short pieces by one of his grandaughters and by Bannerman, as well as a personal anecdote by Paul Fogarty.

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  1. Eh!The Moreton Bay fig tree…sycophant connection figs and that large word..figures..postal votes….and what type of union…..?Myths are not constructed on pse…etc,but lazy short cuts to hide facts..that maybe real and yet indigestable.If the people working in the post office tended to be communist inspired workers then the postal vote is the result of their work!The post office is or was a international type of syndicalism..a form of bureau and workers.Some good work in your post Senator,looks like Killen the nature of the man his stories and the real facts.Hope some Queenslanders enjoy your work presented.

  2. Thankyou for this incredibly detailed and inciteful piece on Sir James Killen and the 1961 election.

    It illustrates why we need more than a duopoly of political parties in Australia and why we all be encouraged to study history.

    Perhaps if we had another daily newspaper in this town – one that was geared to a reading age of over 12 – folks might delve a little deeper than the waffle about Killen’s silver tongue, practical jokes and wandering hands!

  3. Has me in mind of the 2004 stuff up, with Lennon in Tasmania, on behalf of vested interests betraying rational, progressive politics by openly siding with Howard, who bribed the notorious Tasmanian forestry division of the CFMEU; a fact that came out later in a detailed article in the “Australian” by Brad Norrington.
    Victorian Labor’s delinquent abuse of preferencing shot Labor and thus the mass of its helpless supporters in the foot, when they preferenced the Howard FF ally Steve Fielding, ignoring the more progressive Dems and Greens.
    The Tories too have had “bad hair” elections.’72 comes to mind and most recently 87′, when Howard and Bjelke-Peterson spent the campaign duration engaged in acrimonious conflict with each other, while Hawke slipped back into power.

  4. A very intersting article, I wonder how many other seats over the years have been decided by similar vagaries of small numbers of individuals.

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  6. The myth of Killen getting communist preferences came from a comment (apparently) made to Killen by a leading communist – possibly Julius – who said that he liked Killen personally better than O’Donnell. Then again, I read that in a quote from Killen himself, so maybe that’s crap too.

  7. One common tendency in ‘red’ parties to the left of the ALP is that it is the ALP that must be knocked out of the way so that room will open up for parties that are further left. (It is not the only attitdue though, and can be fiercely opposed by other tendencies)

    In that view, the ALP, and not the DLP or Liberals (despite their red-baiting), would be seen as the main enemy, because the ALP gets working-class votes that the CP wants. (Vaguely similar to the way Greens and Democrats compete for anti-war votes today).

    It’s possible that this is what drove those Communists who preferenced DLP or Liberal to do so.

    The split between CP voters who preferenced Labor, and those who preferenced Libs or DLP, seems to show that there was a good deal of disagreement about what to do.

    Does anyone know what the official CP how-to-vote card said? It would, as Andrew suggests, be good (but impossible) to know what happened to votes that went CP -> DLP after the DLP preferences were distributed.

  8. I don’t quite get you David Jackmanson. If I realise “the ALP” in no longer “the ALP”; eg “progressive” and usurped instead by self seeking, opportunist crypto-Tory scum and I entertain the idea of a better society the only choice I have is to remove support. I may then apply it somewhere else ( Greens; Democrats ), where a progressive agenda may have more chance of being worked through.
    It’s not a matter of “bumping labor out of the way”, it’s simply a matter of withdrawing support for something untenable. I don’t vote “badge”; I’m interested in the substance.
    “It’s not the power, stupid”, it is the underlying set of policies. You seem to be confusing “progressives” with “fascists”.

  9. Andrew Bartlett:
    Excellent concise look at the cliff-hander election.

    Megan [on 3]:
    You are absolutely correct about the influence of a very restricted press. It is never healthy when a politician is protected too much from scrutiny and criticism. Even our own good Senator probably deserves criticisn from time to time (but not the beat-up nonsense that was flung at him not all that long ago).

    Can’t recall any stories about groping, however, Killen’s alleged affair etc., was covered in independent up-market periodicals of the time but, if it actually happened, it was his own private business and had little to do with how well or how badly he discharged his public duties.

  10. I guess the time of Killen s initial election had no threats,no intimidation,no indirection coercion..and it was pure as the driven snow in his electorate for all his time as an electe official,and ,above and beyond those matters stated it would of ended up in yhe media,obviously.!!!!!!!Senator.

  11. True Graham. It would be nice if the media focussed on a politician’s policies and performance, rather than their private lives. I’ve heard one or two Australian politicians utter the most unbelievable things (such as torture is justified), which they then deny later on.

  12. Megan – I think compared to other countyries certainly the UK and the US our politicians have an extraordinarily favourable relationship with the media relatrive to their private lives. Those that get exposure in this area generally are those that crave it and create it. I’m sure Senator would agree.

    Yes certaily the media tend to focsu on the trivial and the irrelevant wrt to some political issues and politicians, but generally wandering hands stories and other personal issues are well and truly left alone, unless some unwritten rules are transgressed.

  13. I’m sorry, I understand what you’re saying, but I disagree. People seem to think we have this honourable media that stops short when it comes to reporting on the private lives of our politicians – when it’s arbitrary, selective and politically motivated.

    You will recall that when it looked like Mark Latham might be popular with real people, the media not only put his private life into the public arena, but went as far as to fabricate that story about a bucks party video, and shamelessly ran with it, knowing full well it was not true.

    These are the types of double standards I am complaining about.

  14. Ken & Megan: I won’t go on at length about it in this thread – perhaps another time – but I’d broadly agree with Ken that, from what I can tell, it’s not as bad in Australia as it can be in the US and esp the UK.

    However, it can still happen in Australia. Not that it’s a matter of blaming the media of course. There’s a few people around in all parts of politics who try to peddle the dirt, gossip and innuendo to damage political opponents. To their credit, usually the media won’t run with it, but occasionally circumstances conspire for someone to decide it’s ‘in the public interest’ to run with it, and once someone does, it’s can be on for one and all (including the general public too these days, with talkback and the web).

    However, given the topic of this post, I should emphasise there’s nothing I know about James Killen that would justify that, so I won’t talk about it futher now in case it gives the impression that there is.

  15. David,

    I would like to see the how-to-vote instructions for all parties too. Hopefully they were published in the local press at the time, because I want to write a long article on the Moreton result one day.

    It would have been characteristic of the CPA to give its preferences to the Liberal candidate – after all, the Liberals were just their opponents.

    The ALP, on the other hand, were their enemies.

  16. Yes.So true.Senator.Eh!As a attempt at validating impressions of people could you please indicate, the, knowledge of Killen that is yours?Now obviously.. there is an edge of contempt in my question,which,you can dismiss outright,if need be,but,time is a very hard teacher,and if you were under some sort of character assessment, knowing someone, would have to be authenticated..I doubt, I have to remind you of a very boring fact,sometimes 1 year can be broken down into 365 days regularily,365 by 24 hrs, or 365 by 34 hours by 60 minutes,and again by 60 seconds.Personally I do not know you Senator.It could be said validly,that the law ,if it had to judge your character,would find a problem that time is already constraining the nature of, what is your character?There is obviously no need to answer these statements,because to do so, may simply not meet the requirements of such,and implies that you would need to clarify something,that in my judgement was a a common enough summary..which doesnt necessarily impugn on your or Killen s character.And mine.

  17. Philip: As far as I can recall, I never met James Killen. I have deliberately sought to ensure I don’t use this website as a gossip site. I certainly don’t feel it’s my place to make general character assessments. I hear and read all sorts of things, and sometimes deliberately get told things specifically in the hope I might put them on this blog. Even if I had heard less than complimentary things about Mr Killen, I wouldn’t be repeating them here. We all have flaws and none us would like them to be publicly relayed – especially with the magnification effect that occurs in the internet/mass media age. From all I can gather, James Killen seemed to be very well liked by a wide range of people, including by his own family, which is more than many politicians (or ex-politicians) can say.

  18. Charles Murton, I was speaking today to someone who ended up in the ‘Maoists’ (CPA M/L)) in the late sixties, and her rough impression was that the official line of the CP in 1961 was ‘revisionist’ – which means they hated teh evil capitalist Liberals in their top hats more than the ‘horny-handed fellows in the ALP’.

    But the figures for CP preferences that Senator Bartlett has quoted could well indicate deep divisions inside the CP in 1961.

    I agree with your analysis about the difference between opponents and enemies. Enemies are the ones after the votes you want.

    Its possible the Brisbane Labor History Federation might be of use when you write your article – it’s more union than party based, but you might find some people who know the stories you are looking for.

    Maybe this year we should all collect, scan and upload as many HTV cards as we can find for future historians.

  19. I remain a bore,there are characterisations of everyone else here besides Killen.Not everyone as, Bartlett has suggested about Killen, is absolutely sure to be a commo in Australia means anything like other countries,although,I have seen some failings of their characters.And those who voted communist etc, they have been indirectly characterised,and,I must say unfairly.Because if there is no good reason to suggest a cynical open verdict about Killen,why not others?Cynical, in the sense, what seems to be,is never the reality.I mistyped I meant 52 weeks, although that doesnt account for Pollies being on or off the job.The last final swipe,at the Senator is,the media is still subject to law,and journalists are employees,and Parliamentary privileges,and security,do not work for the media,but is obviously overstated in measures.I do not read anything from the Murdoch Press now because of its owners contempt of Australia,and its Editors ringing endorsements to sell newspapers,Don Chipp was more than aware of this,and although I considered him a bit of a phoney,the Murdochs in comparison are the filers of self interest.The Senator,is entitled to his own ideas of what it is like to be in that building etc. and elsewhere,personal experience,and a ability to judge others fairly is a rare talent,my purpose here isnt to undermine,but clarify.I just didnt like Killen,another one of the pretentiousness glorified into the SOMEBODY that then doesnt err,who get trotted out as individualistic exemplars.

  20. Andrew Bartlett [on 17 and 20]:
    To be quite honest, I had no liking whatsoever for Killen – and that related to the considerable permanent, and unforgivable, harm he did to my wife and myself AS HIS CONSTITUENTS and not for any other reason, public or private. (There was no Ombudsman back in those days). He had his good points and his bad points – as do we all – it’s just that I got to see his unpublicized nastier side.

    I’m glad you mentioned the Communist, Max Julius, by name.

    Political commentators and historians, whenever they discuss this election, mention nebulous communist preferences, but airbrush Max Julius, the CPA candidate himself, right out of the picture. Yet for a decade prior to this election, his name often came up in conversation among working class people all over Brisbane – some loved him, some hated him, some feared him (or at least what they thought he represented).

    Reflecting on this decades later, I am amazed that the Communist Party had him stand in an unwinnable Federal electorate when, with a bit of basic market research and their knowledge of the intricacies of the Labor split and their undoubted ability to work tirelessly for their cause, they could have had Max Julius stand in a State electorate with an excellent chance of becoming the second Communist Member of the Legislative Assembly of Queensland. That they failed to do this suggests to me that the Communists Party in Queensland was definitely not being micromanaged by Moscow at all – what a blunder.

  21. Everyone:
    Just in case you get the wrong idea about Max Julius: the 1961 election was certainly not his first by a long chalk – but my remark about the CPA dissipating their resources instead of concentating on a winnable State seat still stands.

    It was not just working class people who supported him but some of the professionals as well, especially a group at the University of Queensland. At a time when Aborigines were treated worse than they were in the ‘Thirties, Julius was not ashamed to associate with “darkies”.

    Like Killen, Julius was a lawyer; I wonder how much of what happened in Brisbane’s legal circles spilled over into that election.

  22. Many fascinating points and varied interpretations revealing a broader picute gradually emerges. I wonder if the ‘sixty one election would benefit from comparisons to Gore/ Bush or Kennedy/Nixon,or the 76’dismissal. Admittedly, there were not so many reds under beds in some of these examples, but I suspect the similarities outweigh the difference. Perhaps am getting closer to the sense of what David may have ben trying to get at, given my clumsy use of modern political slang ( “it’s the economy, stupid”)? Truth stranger than fiction and many what if’s, whys and wherefores with all the above. Animals making politics or politics creating animals?
    On a different tack, found Andrew’s
    curius deferral to and for the (tabloid) press and media of this country a bit, well, intriguing!

  23. David,

    Thank you for that reference. I think that all how-to-vote cards should be compulsorily deposited with the National Library, for future historical reference. They are vital ephemera. Andrew, any chance of you agitating for this?

    There used to be a monarchist candidate at federal elections in the seat of Wills, Victoria, whose how-to-vote cards were fantastically rich and elaborate: gilt edging and so on. You had to buy them – they were not just given away!

  24. Thank you Jonk (right up until your last comment:-)

    Charles, I think there is quite a lot of election parapehalia somewhere in the National Archives (only because I’ve been involved in sending some of it there). Whether they’d have anything as specific as a minor party how to vote card from 1961 is another matter.

    Given the minimal preference flow that went to the Libs, I’d be highly surprised if the CPA how to vote went anywhere other than Labor. (Indeed, whilst I’m no expert on Marxist parties in Australia, I’d be very surprised if the CPA ever recommended a preference to the Liberals in any election ever)

    In addition, you have to remember that voters often don’t follow how to vote cards, and for minor parties especially they may not have enough booth workers to get them into all voters’ hands, making the party’s so-called preference ‘allocations’ even more meaningless.

  25. One point re booths – you say there were only 7 polling booths in 1961, compared with 34 booths in 2004. My understanding of pre-1983 electoral statistics is that these are not booths but “subdivisions”. When someone was enrolled to vote they were enrolled in both a division and subdivision. Hawke’s changes to the Electoral Act got rid of these, and subsequently, reporting was done on the basis of polling booths rather than subdivisions. It’s a pain from my end as I am interested in electoral trends and booth results do not appear to be available for any pre-1983 elections (I’ve even asked the AEC).

  26. I think Charles Murton made a couple of good points about the CPA having Liberals as their opponents, and Labor as their enemies (competition).

    Today the DLP has a similar stance but for slightly different reasoning. Labor and the CPA are both communist parties, with Labor moving further to the left with each passing year.

    The DLP is a centrist party which represents workers, small to medium sized business people and farmers/graziers. It doesn’t support corporatisation of the Australian people’s assets and utilities, making it at odds with both Labor and Liberals.

    Preferences are generally passed through the more socially conservative minor parties defaulting to the right (Liberals/Nationals). This is partly because the DLP is a socially conservative party. It belongs at the centre left on most other issues.

    I think it is also fairly common for most candidates and/or parties to preference those least likely to win, putting the incumbent last, and those with an excellent chance next to last particularly if they don’t like their politics.

  27. Cannot let this opportunity go past without referring to a Queensland COmmunist who DID make it to Parliament – Fred Patterson, the victim of a great injustice.

  28. I have some knowledge of this incident. AsS DLP Candidate for Moreton and DLP supporter from 1967 I met many of the DLP scrutineers and talked to them about the incident but these results are 50 Years ago.

    I see no point in proving that DLP preferences got Jim Killen elected in every election from 1955 to 1974. WE know it and He knew it but never admitted it let alone thank us. The 1961 Moreton result was an aberration for an electoral system that is normally fair and equitable. WE will never overcome the claim that Killen was elected with help from Communist Preferences. It is in virtually every first year political text book it is repeated ad nausea by Reporters who have never seen the figures.

    However some votes did go Communist 1, DLP 2, and finally Killen 3. I think it is reasonable to think these voters were either Donkey votes or cast by demented voters.

    I think Bartlett is wrong in thinking that CPA votes flowing to DLP were people who wanted to just vote against the Major Parties.

    In 1961 result was determined by either Donkey vote but each of the 20 000 plus major parties electors vote had the same value as the 3800 DLP electors votes and the 676 voters had exactly the same value for each vote. .

    85% of DLP vote flowed to Killen . This would have to had to drop to 80.7% for Communist Votes to have actually had a deciding effect.

    Andrew Owens is correct when he says that the “booth” figures were in fact sub-division votes. But he is incorrect that QEC did not release booth figures. The Statistical Report to Parliament showed only sub-divisional totals but I know that in 1970 I spent many hours working on a massive calculating machine working out percentages for individual booths. Unfortunately my data disappeared in 1974 floods and the DLP’s went in a building fire.

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