The number of MPs in both houses had been increased at the election, and single transferable vote under a proportional voting system had been introduced in the Senate. Though Labor lost government, Labor retained a Senate majority at the election. However, this ended at the 1951 election. With the Senate changes in place, Labor has not held a Senate majority since.
The election hinged on the policies of the Federal Labor Government, especially bank nationalisation. Prime Minister Chifley intended to bring all of the banks under Government control, a socialist policy which the Coalition argued was not in the country's interest. The Coalition promised to end unpopular wartime rationing. The election took place against the background of the 1949 Australian coal strike, the developing Cold War and growing fears of communism.
Robert Menzies broke new ground in using the radio as his primary method of reaching voters.
As of this election, single transferrable vote with proportional representation became the method for electing the Senate. This was to try to prevent the Senate from being dominated by one party, which had often occurred previously. For example, coming into this election the ALP held 33 of the 36 Senate seats, whilst the conservatives at the 1919 election held 35 of the 36 Senate seats. In addition, the House of Representatives was enlarged from 74 to 121 seats and the Senate from 36 members to 60 members. All 121 lower house seats, and 42 of the 60 upper house seats, were up for election.
The Chifley Government was defeated, ending the longest period of Labor Federal Government in Australian history up to that date (1941–49). Labor would not return to office until 1972. Robert Menzies became Prime Minister for the second time, and the Liberal Party of Australia won government federally for the first time.
^Ian Ward, "The early use of radio for political communication in Australia and Canada: John Henry Austral, Mr Sage and the Man from Mars," Australian Journal of Politics & History (1999) 45#3 pp 311–30. online
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.