New South Wales state election, 1959

New South Wales state election, 1959
New South Wales state election, 1959
New South Wales
1956 ←
21 March 1959 (1959-03-21)
→ 1962

All 94 seats in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly.
  First party Second party
  JJ Cahill.JPG Pat Morton.jpg
Leader Joseph Cahill Pat Morton
Party Labor Liberal/Country coalition
Leader since 2 April 1952 20 September 1955
Leader's seat Cook's River Mosman
Last election 50 seats 42 seats
Seats won 49 seats 44 seats
Seat change decrease1 increase2
Percentage 49.12% 44.06%
Swing increase1.87 decrease2.19

Premier before election

Joseph Cahill

Elected Premier

Joseph Cahill

The 1959 New South Wales state election was held on 21 March 1959. It was conducted in single member constituencies with compulsory preferential voting and was held on boundaries created at a 1957 redistribution. The election was for all of the 94 seats in the Legislative Assembly.



A redistribution of electoral boundaries was undertaken in 1957 based on the 1954 Australian Census. Reflecting population shifts from the eastern and inner western suburbs of Sydney to western Sydney, two safe Liberal seats, Ashfield and Croydon were combined into the seat of Ashfield-Croydon and two safe Labor seats, Paddington and Waverley were combined into Paddington-Waverley. Merrylands was created in Western Sydney and was a notional Labor seat. In addition, the marginal seat of Parramatta became a safe Labor seat. In southern Sydney, the marginal seat of Sutherland became a safe Labor seat by the creation of Cronulla which had a notional Liberal majority. The effect of the redistribution was to increase Labor's numbers by 1.


In March 1959, Labor had been in power for 18 years and Joseph Cahill had been premier for 8 years. Cahill, who was commonly known as "old smoothie" continued to be a popular premier but the opposition campaign argued that his cabinet consisted of "tired old men". While nationally the Labor party remained divided on sectarian and ideological grounds, in New South Wales much of the split between Labor and the DLP had been avoided. Clive Evatt, the brother of H V Evatt, who had been the major left-wing agitator within the caucus was expelled from the party after he voted against a government move to increase tram fares. As a result, party unity was significantly improved. However, a small branch of the DLP under the leadership of Jake Kane had organised in NSW and nominated candidates at this election for the first time.

Cahill attacked the opposition for its "reckless election promises" which were "worth no more than a handful of Bondi sand" .[1] Labor promised, that if re-elected, it would form a Commonwealth- State Housing Corporation to lend up to 95% of housing costs on a 45 year basis. It would attempt to reduce road taxes for haulage companies and promised a vigorous program of road development including the possible use of privately constructed toll roads. Cahill announced plans to build Housing Commission towers in Surry Hills and promised a referendum on the abolition of the New South Wales Legislative Council.[2]

The coalition of the Liberal Party and the Country Party coalition had been led by Pat Morton since September 1955. However, Morton remained a somewhat aloof figure, with a public presence more typical of pre-war conservative politicians, and found it difficult to connect with the public. Davis Hughes, who had led the Country Party since September 1958 was forced to resign the leadership at the start of the campaign when it was revealed that he had falsely claimed to have a university degree. He was replaced by Charles Cutler.

The opposition campaigned on the government's broken promises and its continuing record of over-budget and uncompleted public works. In addition it promised to abolish several taxes including; land tax and the road maintenance tax. School transport would be free and the number of high school bursaries increased. Sewering the outer western suburbs, with a deep sea discharge, and completing the Sandy Hollow railway line were the opposition's public works priorities. The housing crisis was to be resolved by the government construction of 100,000 houses in 3 years [3] [4].


The result of the election showed little change but was a clear victory for Labor with a buffer of 2 seats in the parliament:

Labor regained the seat of Hurstville from Clive Evatt who had sat as an Independent Labor member since his expulsion from the party. It had already reclaimed Kahibah at a by-election caused by the death of the Independent Labor Member Tom Armstrong. However Labor failed to take back the usually safe seat of Waratah from Frank Purdue. As expected Labor won Parramatta, Sutherland and Merrylands but lost Dubbo, Cronulla and Blacktown to the Liberals. It had already lost the seat of Wagga Wagga at a by-election caused by the death of Eddie Graham. Labor also lost Young to the Country Party.

The DLP performed poorly, finishing behind the Communist party with less than 2% of the vote.

Seats changing party representation

This table lists changes in party representation since the 1956 election

Seat Incumbent member Party New member Party
Ashfield Richard Murden   Liberal Abolished absorbed into Ashfield-Croydon
Ashfield-Croydon New seat David Hunter   Liberal
Blacktown John Freeman   Labor Alfred Dennis   Liberal
Cronulla New Seat Ian Griffith   Liberal
Croydon David Hunter   Liberal Abolished absorbed into Ashfield-Croyden
Dubbo Clarrie Robertson   Labor Les Ford   Liberal
Kahibah   Independent Labor Jack Stewart   Labor
Merrylands New Seat Jack Ferguson   Labor
Paddington Maurice O'Sullivan   Labor Abolished absorbed into Paddington-Waverley
Paddington-Waverley New Seat Bill Ferguson   Labor
Parramatta James Clough   Liberal Daniel Mahoney   Labor
Sutherland Ian Griffith   Liberal Tom Dalton   Labor
Wagga Wagga   Labor Wal Fife   Liberal
Waverley Bill Ferguson   Labor Abolished absorbed into Paddington-Waverley
Young Fred Cahill   Labor George Freudenstein   Country

‡ Labor won the seat of Kahibah at a 1957 by-election caused by the death of the Independent Labor member Tom Armstrong

¶ The Liberal Party won the seat of Wagga Wagga from Labor at a 1957 by-election caused by the death of Eddie Graham

Key dates

Date Event
16 February 1959 The Legislative Assembly was dissolved, and writs were issued by the Governor to proceed with an election.
20 February 1959 Nominations for candidates for the election closed at noon.
21 March 1959 Polling day.
16 April 1959 Last day for the writs to be returned and the results formally declared.
21 April 1959 Opening of 39th Parliament.

Tabulated Results

New South Wales state election, 21 March 1959
Legislative Assembly
<< 19561962 >>

Enrolled Voters 2,075,268[1]
Votes Cast 1,739,580 Turnout 94.00 +0.73
Informal Votes 31,864 Informal 1.83 +0.16
Summary of votes by party
Party Primary Votes % Swing Seats Change
  Labor 838,836 49.12 +1.87 49 -1
  Liberal 603,718 35.35 -0.74 28 +1
  Country 148,738 8.71 -1.45 16 +1
  Independent 61,939 3.63 +0.50 1 -
  Communist 24,784 1.45 -0.29 0 -
  Democratic Labor 22,508 1.32 +1.32 0 -
  Independent Labor 7,193 0.42 -1.46 0 -1
Total 1,707,716     94  
1 There were 1,850,675 enrolled voters in 83 contested electorates and 224,593 were enrolled in 11 uncontested electorates (1 Labor, 5 Liberal and 5 Country ).



Joseph Cahill died in October 1959 and was replaced by Robert Heffron who continued as Premier for the rest of the term. Pat Morton was replaced as Leader of the Opposition in July 1959 by Robert Askin. Charles Cutler remained Leader of the New South Wales National Party throughout the term of the parliament. During the parliament there were 6 by-elections with Labor and the Country Party each winning a seat at the other party's expense.


  1. ^ "Morton promises like Bondi beach sand". The Sydney Morning Herald. 3 March 1959 p4. 
  2. ^ "Labor Plan for 95% home purchase loans". The Sydney Morning Herald. 25 February 1959 p1. 
  3. ^ "Morton promises like Bondi beach sand". The Sydney Morning Herald. 3 March 1959 p4. 
  4. ^ McMullin, Ross (1991). The Light on the Hill: The Australian Labor Party 1891-1991. Oxford University Press. ISBN 019554966X. 
  5. ^ *Antony Green. "1959 New South Wales state election". New South Wales Parliament. Retrieved 12 January 2009. 

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