1951 Local Issues
The Wool Deduction Tax
In 1951 after just fifteen months in office, the Menzies Fadden government called a double dissolution election in a bid to gain a majority in the Senate, which Labor still held and was using to block all bills. It worked, the coalition was returned with a large majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate.161 However in Hume, Charles Anderson lost his seat to Fuller by 796 votes.162 In his second maiden speech in 1951, Fuller says, “mine was the only victory for the Labor party in the whole of New South Wales.”163 The issues that caused this change cannot have been national, because most of the rest of the nation voted for the coalition. Neither can it be that the people of Hume disliked Anderson greatly, because just four years later they voted Anderson back in as their representative for a further six years. Neither had the electoral boundaries of Hume changed since 1949 (and they did not change again until 1965). This leaves just one of the five factors remaining, local issues. In 1951, the Federal government introduced the Wool Sales Deduction Act. This act deducted money from Graziers wool cheques throughout the year much like income tax is deducted from employees pay cheques. It did not mean that woolgrowers paid any more tax; it was simply paid in a different way. It was part of a bid by the Federal government to stop inflation. Unfortunately, the Bill was not well explained to woolgrowers and Fuller capitalized on this. He claimed the Act was “a vicious form of sectional tax”164 and that “Labor will repeal the Wool Tax Deduction Act and return all the money already collected under the scheme.” Perhaps the most telling factor was that Anderson lost two of his mainstay divisions, Yass and Boorowa and had a severely diminished margin in Crookwell, all huge wool growing areas.165 This was also reflected in the editorials of newspapers with the Tumut and Adelong Times claiming, “The swing in Hume can mostly be attributed to the prepayment of tax scheme imposed on woolgrowers”166
1955 Local and National Issues
By 1955, the Wool Tax had been forgotten and Hume voted Charles Anderson as their representative, again.167 This time Anderson beat Fuller by 1715 votes, the biggest margin of their 20-year battle.168 At a national level the Coalition’s majority in the House of Representatives rose by an additional fifteen seats.169 The local papers give no coverage to any local issues during the election campaign. However, it appears that Australia’s prosperity was the basis behind the positive Coalition vote. Economically Australia and Hume were prosperous. An editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald stated, “the country is prosperous. Jobs are abundant and real wages high. Welfare services are at their highest level and internal wellbeing is unclouded.”170 In Hume is particular wool was booming, with small wool towns like Crookwell tripling in population,171 wheat prices were stable, thanks to stabilization schemes, Yass was benefiting from a growing Canberra, and Tumut was enjoying prosperity and population growth from the building of the Snowy Scheme.172 In a lovely analogy used by Anderson during his campaign he stated “the workers of Australia have realized that the larger the cake, the larger his own share of the cake.” He went on to say, “This has led to an era of peace in industry, high levels of production and prosperity for us all.”173 Buoyed by this period of prosperity and economic safety the electors of Hume appeared to take Anderson’s advice and “not take chances with your prosperity.”174 They returned to power the government who they felt had brought them this prosperity and in Hume, that meant Colonel Anderson.
1961 National Issues
Poverty and Unemployment
At the 1961 election, the Coalition’s campaign slogan was “vote for continued good government.”175 As in 1955, they were hoping that the people would return them to power on the basis of the last fifteen years. However, nationally there was a 5% swing to the Labor party, with just 7.1% needed for a Labor victory.176 The Coalition continued to control the House but by just two seats, and they lost control of the Senate to Independents and the Democratic Labor Party.177 In 1961, Hume again changes their representative, returning Arthur Fuller for one final term. Once again, there were no local issues given coverage in the speeches of the candidates or the local papers. However, national issues were focused on extensively. Namely the high levels of unemployment and the stagnation of the economy. Fuller travelled the Hume electorate claiming “In Australia at present there are about 170 000 people unemployed and commonwealth statisticians have calculated that this means £170 million less spending money each year.”178 The Sydney Morning Herald withdrew its support of the Liberal-Country Party coalition, and a letter published in the paper from John Fairfax and Sons reads, “there is a degree of stagnation and unemployment which Australia should not tolerate and there is no prospect of relief.”179 The reality was that the post war boom that Australia had been experiencing was drawing to an end. From 1960 until 1966, public opinion in Australia began to change; in particular, Australians became aware of the poverty in their own country.180 A number of reports highlighting the plight of marginalised Australians were released in this time, including Jean Aitken-Swann’s Widows in Australia (62), Ray Brown’s Demographic Investigations, Poverty in Australia (63), and the benchmark study People in Poverty the Henderson Report of 1966.181 This change in public opinion and knowledge reduced support for the Liberal and Country Parties and would, in several more years, help bring Gough Whitlam to power.
By the 1963 election, Charles Anderson had retired from politics and Arthur Fuller was seventy, with rapidly failing health. His new Country Party challenger John Pettit, was much younger and fitter than Fuller and it appears that the people of Hume sympathetically removed Fuller from office. The Tumut and Adelong Times a long term supporter of their local man Fuller, claimed “It is time for our grand old man of politics to retire and we are afraid that as Mr Fuller will not do it himself it is up to us to ensure he looks after himself and enjoys his retirement. On the 30th vote 1 John Pettit.”182 1963 was the only time, apart from 1949 when Fuller lost his home divisions of Tumut and Adelong.183
In exploring the changes of representatives at elections in Riverina and Hume in 1943, Riverina, Farrer and Hume in 1949 and Hume in 1951, 1955, 1961 and 1963, I have identified and explored five factors that appear to have influenced the voting of country electors. The first factor that caused a change in representative was the changing demographic in an electorate. This was most commonly brought about by changes in electoral boundaries, but was also caused by changes in the economy of the area. The other four factors that influenced country voters were local issues, national issues, the personalities and the pattern of thinking called country-mindedness. These five factors although by no means definitive, are good indicators in helping to understand country politics and the reasons behind country electorates voting patterns and changes in representatives during the period 1943-1963.