By-elections and supplementary elections

Updated: 8 October 2019

By-elections

A by-election is held whenever a vacancy occurs in the House of Representatives.

Whenever a vacancy occurs in the House of Representatives because of the death, resignation, absence without leave, expulsion, disqualification or ineligibility of a member, a writ may be issued by the Speaker for the election of a new member. A writ may also be issued when the Court of Disputed Returns declares an election of a member of the House of Representatives to be void.

A by-election may be held on a date to be determined by the Speaker, or, in the Speaker's absence from Australia, by the Governor-General in Council. The polling must take place on a Saturday.

The Acting Speaker performing the duties of the Speaker during the Speaker's absence from the Commonwealth may also issue a by-election writ. The Chairman of Committees as Deputy Speaker has also issued a writ during the Speaker's absence from the Commonwealth, and the Chairman of Committees as Deputy Speaker has informed the House of the Speaker's intention to issue a writ.

There are no constitutional or statutory requirements that writs be issued for by-elections within any prescribed period.

The following cases have occurred:

  • with a federal election pending, the Speaker has declined to issue a writ in order to avoid the need for two elections within a short period of time, and
  • a writ has been issued and then withdrawn by the Speaker when a dissolution of the House of Representatives has intervened.

The guiding principle in fixing the date of a by-election has always been to hold the election as early as possible so that the electors are not left without representation any longer than is necessary.

Source: House of Representatives Practice 5th Edition, p90.

By-elections since 1901
By-election Election day Party elected (previous)
Wentworth 20 October 2018 IND (LP)
Perth 28 July 2018 ALP (ALP)
Fremantle 28 July 2018 ALP (ALP)
Mayo 28 July 2018 Centre Alliance (XEN)
Braddon 28 July 2018 ALP (ALP)
Longman 28 July 2018 ALP (ALP)
Batman 17 March 2018 ALP (ALP)
Bennelong 16 December 2017 LP (LP)
New England 2 December 2017 NP (NP)
North Sydney 5 December 2015 LP (LP)
Canning 19 September 2015 LP (LP)
Griffith 8 February 2014 ALP (ALP)
Higgins 5 December 2009 LP (LP)
Bradfield 5 December 2009 LP (LP)
Mayo 6 September 2008 LP (LP)
Lyne 6 September 2008 IND (NP)
Gippsland 28 June 2008 NP (NP)
Werriwa 19 March 2005 ALP (ALP)
Cunningham 19 October 2002 GRN (ALP)
Aston 14 July 2001 LP (LP)
Ryan 17 March 2001 ALP (LP)
Isaacs 12 August 2000 ALP (ALP)
Holt 6 November 1999 ALP (ALP)
Fraser 1 February 1997 ALP (ALP)
Lindsay 19 October 1996 LP (LP)
Blaxland 15 June 1996 ALP (ALP)
Wentworth 8 April 1995 LP (LP)
Canberra 25 March 1995 LP (ALP)
Kooyong 19 November 1994 LP (LP)
Warringah 26 March 1994 LP (LP)
Mackellar 26 March 1994 LP (LP)
Bonython 19 March 1994 ALP (ALP)
Fremantle 12 March 1994 ALP (ALP)
Werriwa 29 January 1994 ALP (ALP)
Wills 11 April 1992 IND (ALP)
Menzies 11 May 1991 LP (LP)
Gwydir 15 April 1989 NP (NP)
Oxley 8 October 1988 ALP (ALP)
Groom 9 April 1988 LP (NP)
Port Adelaide 26 March 1988 ALP (ALP)
Adelaide 6 February 1988 LP (ALP)
Scullin 8 February 1986 ALP (ALP)
Richmond 18 February 1984 NP (NP)
Hughes 18 February 1984 ALP (ALP)
Corangamite 18 February 1984 LP (LP)
Moreton 5 November 1983 LP (LP)
Bruce 28 May 1983 LP (LP)
Wannon 7 May 1983 LP (LP)
Flinders 4 December 1982 LP (LP)
Lowe 13 March 1982 ALP (LP)
Wentworth 11 April 1981 LP (LP)
McPherson 21 February 1981 LP (LP)
Curtin 21 February 1981 LP (LP)
Boothby 21 February 1981 LP (LP)
Grayndler 23 June 1979 ALP (ALP)
Werriwa 23 September 1978 ALP (ALP)
Cunningham 15 October 1977 ALP (ALP)
Bass 28 June 1975 LP (ALP)
Parramatta 22 September 1973 LP (LP)
Murray 20 March 1971 CP (CP)
Chisholm 19 September 1970 LP (LP)
Australian Capital Territory 30 May 1970 ALP (ALP)
Gwydir 7 June 1969 CP (CP)
Bendigo 7 June 1969 ALP (ALP)
Curtin 19 April 1969 LP (LP)
Higgins 24 February 1968 LP (LP)
Capricornia 30 September 1967 ALP (ALP)
Corio 22 July 1967 ALP (LP)
Kooyong 2 April 1966 LP (LP)
Dawson 26 February 1966 ALP (CP)
Riverina 27 February 1965 CP (CP)
Robertson 5 December 1964 LP (LP)
Parramatta 20 June 1964 LP (LP)
Angas 20 June 1964 LP (LP)
Denison 15 February 1964 LP (LP)
East Sydney 28 September 1963 ALP (ALP)
Grey 1 June 1963 ALP (ALP)
Batman 1 September 1962 ALP (ALP)
Higinbotham 10 December 1960 LP (LP)
Calare 5 November 1960 CP (LP)
Bendigo 16 July 1960 ALP (ALP)
Balaclava 16 July 1960 LP (LP)
La Trobe 9 April 1960 LP (LP)
Hunter 9 April 1960 ALP (ALP)
Parramatta 8 March 1958 LP (LP)
Richmond 14 September 1957 CP (CP)
Wentworth 8 December 1956 LP (LP)
Barker 13 October 1956 LP (LP)
Cunningham[2] 28 April 1956 ALP (ALP)
Cook 21 May 1955 ALP (ALP)
Gwydir 19 December 1953 CP (CP)
Lang 29 August 1953 ALP (ALP)
Corangamite 29 August 1953 LP (LP)
Dalley 9 May 1953 ALP (ALP)
Bradfield 20 December 1952 LP (LP)
Werriwa 29 November 1952 ALP (ALP)
Flinders 18 October 1952 ALP (LP)
Lyne 22 March 1952 CP (CP)
Macquarie 28 July 1951 ALP (ALP)
Balaclava 28 July 1951 LP (LP)
Henty 30 March 1946 LP (IND)
Wimmera 9 February 1946 CP (CP)
Fremantle 18 August 1945 ALP (ALP)
Boothby 24 May 1941 UAP (UAP)
Swan 21 December 1940 CP (CP)
Kalgoorlie 16 November 1940 ALP (ALP)
Corio 2 March 1940 ALP (UAP)
Wilmot 27 May 1939 ALP (UAP)
Griffith 20 May 1939 ALP (FLP)
Wakefield 10 December 1938 ALP (UAP)
Gwydir 8 May 1937 ALP (CP)
Darling Downs 19 December 1936 CP (UAP)
Kennedy 12 December 1936 FLP (FLP)
Fawkner 17 August 1935 UAP (UAP)
Newcastle 1 June 1935 FLP (FLP)
Flinders 11 November 1933 UAP (UAP)
East Sydney 6 February 1932 LANG LAB (UAP)
East Sydney 7 March 1931 ALP (ALP)
Parkes 31 January 1931 NAT (ALP)
Franklin 14 December 1929 ALP (IND)
Balaclava 3 August 1929 NAT (NAT)
Wide Bay[2] 22 September 1928 CP (NAT)
Martin 16 June 1928 NAT (NAT)
Warringah 21 May 1927 NAT (NAT)
Dalley 26 February 1927 ALP (ALP)
Eden-Monaro 6 March 1926 NAT (NAT)
Yarra 18 February 1922 ALP (ALP)
Parramatta 10 December 1921 NAT (NAT)
West Sydney 3 September 1921 ALP (ALP)
Maranoa 30 July 1921 CP (ALP)
Kalgoorlie 18 December 1920 NAT (ALP)
Ballaarat[3] 10 July 1920 ALP (NAT)
Echuca 20 September 1919 VFU (NAT)
Corangamite 14 December 1918 VFU (NAT)
Swan 26 October 1918 ALP (NAT)
Flinders 11 May 1918 NAT (NAT)
Grampians 27 October 1917 NAT (LIB)
Darwin 30 June 1917 NAT (NAT)
Wide Bay 11 December 1915 LIB (ALP)
Dalley[2] 15 May 1915 ALP (ALP)
Grampians 20 February 1915 LIB (ALP)
Bendigo 6 February 1915 ALP (ALP)
Kalgoorlie[2] 17 January 1914 ALP (ALP)
Adelaide 10 January 1914 ALP (ALP)
Werriwa 1 June 1912 ALP (ALP)
Boothby 11 November 1911 LIB (ALP)
North Sydney 11 March 1911 LIB (LIB)
Batman 8 February 1911 ALP (ALP)
Kooyong 24 August 1910 LIB (LIB)
Wakefield 28 August 1909 ANTI-SOC (ANTI-SOC)
Adelaide 13 June 1908 ALP (PROT)
Echuca 10 July 1907 PROT (PROT)
Riverina 18 May 1904 PROT (FT)
Melbourne 30 March 1904 ALP (PROT)
Wilmot 26 February 1904 FT (FT)
East Sydney 4 September 1903 FT (FT)
Tasmania[1] 26 March 1902 FT (FT)
Darling Downs 14 September 1901 PROT (PROT)
  1. Tas. voted as one at the by-election of 1902
  2. These by-elections were not contested
  3. Spelt 'Ballaarat' in the writ as the division name was spelt this way until 1977

Supplementary elections

A supplementary election must be held if a candidate for a House of Representatives election dies in the period between close of nominations and polling day.

A supplementary election must be held if a candidate for a House of Representatives election dies in the period between the close of nominations and election day. A new writ is issued for another election in that division, but the election is held using the electoral roll prepared for the original election. This provision is found in section 181 of the Act.

This provision was introduced in its current form in 1928 following the automatic election of Nationalist Party candidate, Grosvenor Francis, in the division of Kennedy. Mr Francis was elected after the death of the Labor candidate, Charles McDonald, who died the day before election day in 1925. Mr McDonald had represented the division of Kennedy from 1901 to 1925. As only two candidates nominated for the seat, the Nationalist member was automatically elected under the law of the day.

The first supplementary election occurred in the division of Hume in 1972. It was held on the same day as the 1972 federal election so was not classified as a separate election. This can no longer occur because of the minimum 33 day timetable between the issue of the writ and election day.

If a candidate for a Senate election dies in the period between close of nominations and election day, and the number of remaining candidates is not greater than the number of candidates to be elected, those candidates are declared elected. However, if the remaining candidates are greater in number than the number of candidates to be elected, the election proceeds. A vote recorded on a Senate ballot paper for the deceased candidate is counted to the candidate who received the voter's next preference.

Supplementary elections since 1972
  Original election dates Supplementary election dates
Hume 1972 election
Close of nominations 10 November 1972 21 November 1972
Election day 2 December 1972 2 December 1972
Return of writ 31 January 1973 31 January 1973
Dickson 1993 election
Close of nominations 19 February 1993 26 March 1993
Election day 13 March 1993 17 April 1993
Return of writ 16 May 1993 16 June 1993
Newcastle 1998 election
Close of nominations 10 September 1998 29 October 1998
Election day 3 October 1998 21 November 1998
Return of writ 9 December 1998 27 January 1999
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