1966 Australian federal election

The 1966 Australian federal election was held in Australia on 26 November 1966. All 124 seats in the House of Representatives were up for election. The incumbent Liberal–Country coalition government, led by Prime Minister Harold Holt, won an increased majority over the opposition Labor Party, led by Arthur Calwell.

1966 Australian federal election

26 November 1966

All 124 seats of the Australian House of Representatives
63 seats were needed for a majority
  First party Second party
Leader Harold Holt Arthur Calwell
Party Liberal/Country coalition Labor
Leader since 20 January 1966 7 March 1960
Leader's seat Higgins (Vic.) Melbourne (Vic.)
Last election 72 seats 50 seats
Seats won 82 seats 41 seats
Seat change 10 9
Percentage 56.90% 43.10%
Swing 4.30% 4.30%

Popular vote by state and territory with graphs indicating the number of seats won. As this is an IRV election, seat totals are not determined by popular vote by state or territory but instead via results in each electorate.

Prime Minister before election

Harold Holt
Liberal/Country coalition

Subsequent Prime Minister

Harold Holt
Liberal/Country coalition


Robert Menzies had retired from politics in January. His successor, former Treasurer Holt, was stylish, debonair and popular with the electorate. He cast a sharp contrast with the much rougher figure of Arthur Calwell, who had already lost two elections. Calwell held to the beliefs that had been central to the last Labor Government of 1941–1949, many of which were seen as being old-fashioned in 1966. For example, he still defended socialism, the White Australia Policy, and nationalization. He also came across poorly on television compared to Holt, and looked and sounded older than his 70 years.

In addition, a strong economy and initial enthusiasm for Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War virtually guaranteed the Coalition another term. The Coalition campaigned with the slogan "Keep Australia secure and prosperous – play it safe".[1]

The election was a landslide win for the Coalition, which won twice as many seats as Labor. The Liberals actually came up two seats short of a majority in their own right, the closest that the major non-Labor party had come to governing in its own right since adopting the Liberal banner. Holt's victory was greater than any of Menzies' eight victories, and resulted in the largest majority government in Australian history at the time. It was seen as the electoral high point of both Holt's Prime Ministership and the 23 years of continuous Coalition rule.

Calwell retired to the backbench a month after the election and was succeeded by Deputy Labor leader Gough Whitlam.


House of Reps (IRV) — 1966–69—Turnout 95.13% (CV) — Informal 3.10%
Party Votes % Swing Seats Change
  Liberal–Country coalition 2,853,890 49.98 +3.94 82 +10
  Liberal  2,291,964 40.14 +3.05 61 +9
  Country 561,926 9.84 +0.90 21 +1
  Labor 2,282,834 39.98 –5.49 41 –9
  Democratic Labor 417,411 7.31 –0.13 0 0
  Liberal Reform 49,610 0.87 +0.87 0 0
  Communist 23,056 0.40 –0.19 0 0
  Independents 82,948 1.45 +0.98 1 +1
  Total 5,709,749     124 +2
Two-party-preferred (estimated)
  Liberal–Country coalition WIN 56.90 +4.30 82 +10
  Labor 43.10 4.30 41 9

Independents: Sam Benson

Popular Vote
Two Party Preferred Vote
Parliament Seats

Seats changing hands

Seat Pre-1966 Swing Post-1966
Party Member Margin Margin Member Party
Adelaide, SA   Labor Joe Sexton 7.2 10.0 2.8 Andrew Jones Liberal  
Barton, NSW   Labor Len Reynolds 0.7 2.9 2.2 Bill Arthur Liberal  
Batman, Vic   Labor Sam Benson N/A 8.7 7.8 Sam Benson Independent  
Eden-Monaro, NSW   Labor Allan Fraser 2.7 3.4 0.7 Dugald Munro Liberal  
Grey, SA   Labor Jack Mortimer 4.8 7.8 3.0 Don Jessop Liberal  
Griffith, Qld   Labor Wilfred Coutts 5.8 6.9 1.1 Don Cameron Liberal  
Herbert, Qld   Labor Ted Harding 3.2 4.3 1.1 Robert Bonnett Liberal  
Hughes, NSW   Labor Les Johnson 2.7 4.7 2.0 Don Dobie Liberal  
Kennedy, Qld   Labor Bill Riordan 13.5 15.0 1.5 Bob Katter Country  
Kingston, SA   Labor Pat Galvin 4.5 12.7 8.2 Kay Brownbill Liberal  
Lalor, Vic   Labor Reg Pollard 7.0 7.7 0.7 Mervyn Lee Liberal  
Northern Territory, NT   Labor Jock Nelson 100.0 51.7 1.7 Sam Calder Country  
  • Members in italics did not contest their seat at this election.

See also



  • University of WA election results in Australia since 1890
  • AEC 2PP vote
  • Prior to 1984 the AEC did not undertake a full distribution of preferences for statistical purposes. The stored ballot papers for the 1983 election were put through this process prior to their destruction. Therefore, the figures from 1983 onwards show the actual result based on full distribution of preferences.
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