All 125 seats of the House of Representatives
63 seats were needed for a majority
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.
The 1972 Australian federal election was held in Australia on 2 December 1972. All 125 seats in the House of Representatives were up for election, as well as a single Senate seat in Queensland. The incumbent Liberal–Country coalition government, led by Prime Minister William McMahon, was defeated by the opposition Labor Party led by Gough Whitlam. Labor's victory ended 23 years of successive Coalition governments that began in 1949 and started the three-year Whitlam Labor Government.
The 1972 election campaign dealt with a combination of Vietnam and domestic policy issues, and the role of the federal government in resolving these issues. The Coalition of the Liberal and Country parties had been in government for 23 years. Successive Coalition governments promoted conservative economics, trade, and defence. However, Australian economic prosperity during the post-war period of the 1950s and 1960s led to the emergence of a range of "quality of life" issues regarding urban development, education, and healthcare. By 1972 these "quality of life" issues came to represent a major political problem for the coalition parties. Traditionally all of these areas had been handled by the state governments, and the Coalition had always asserted the importance of states rights, a view backed by Liberal state premiers like Robert Askin and Henry Bolte. Between 1966 and 1972, Labor leader Gough Whitlam developed policies designed to deal with the problems of urban and regional development using the financial powers granted to the federal government under the Australian Constitution. As Whitlam put it, Labor focused on "cities, schools and hospitals", and these issues were electorally appealing especially to the young and growing baby boomer generation living in the outer suburbs of the major cities.
By contrast, Coalition policies of conservative economic management, increasing trade, and Australian involvement in the Vietnam War disengaged a significant number of Australian voters. Australian involvement in the Vietnam War was initially popular. However, protests grew as the consequences of the war became apparent and the likelihood of a US-led victory diminished. A major part of the protests were directed at conscripting Australians to fight in the war. Liberal policies on Vietnam focused on the need to contain the spread of communism, but the gradual US and Australian troop withdrawal undermined this position. In 1971, Opposition Leader Gough Whitlam visited China. The Coalition heavily criticised the visit. The criticism soon became an embarrassment when US President Richard Nixon announced he would visit China the following year.
Finally, the incumbent Prime Minister William McMahon was no match for Whitlam, a witty and powerful orator. McMahon's position was precarious to begin with, for he had only emerged as Liberal Leader after a prolonged period of turmoil following the Coalition's unexpectedly poor showing at the half-Senate election held in 1970, and various state elections. In early 1971, Country Party leader John McEwen had retired, to be replaced by Doug Anthony. McEwen, who had disliked McMahon, held a virtual veto over the possibility of his becoming Liberal leader, which he had exercised in 1968. Anthony declared that this veto was no longer in operation, clearing the way for a leadership challenge by McMahon against Prime Minister John Gorton. Gorton survived, but only narrowly, and soon called for a vote of confidence in his leadership. The confidence vote resulted in a tie. Gorton concluded he had lost the support of the party room and resigned, and McMahon won the ensuing leadership spill This made the Coalition appear weak and divided, and consumed in internal struggles.
McMahon was further weakened by concerns about inflation and negative press coverage. For example, Rupert Murdoch and his newspaper The Australian supported the ALP. The ALP ran a strong campaign under the famous slogan It's Time – a slogan which, coupled with its progressive policy programme, gave it great momentum within the electorate after 23 years of Conservative rule.
|Defence of Government Schools||9,703||0.15||+0.15||0||0|
A special Senate election was held in Queensland to replace Liberal senator Annabelle Rankin, who resigned in 1971.Neville Bonner, who had been appointed to fill the casual vacancy by the Queensland Parliament, won the Senate position – the first Indigenous Australian elected to parliament. The election was held at the time of the House of Representatives elections as per Section 15 of the Constitution.
Otherwise, no Senate election was held. As of 2020, this is the last Australian federal election that did not have a concurrent half or full Senate election.
|Bendigo, Vic||Labor||David Kennedy||3.0||3.2||0.2||John Bourchier||Liberal|
|Casey, Vic||Liberal||Peter Howson||5.0||7.2||2.2||Race Mathews||Labor|
|Cook, NSW||Liberal||Don Dobie||2.8||3.5||0.7||Ray Thorburn||Labor|
|Darling Downs, Qld||Liberal||Reginald Swartz||N/A||3.4||11.3||Tom McVeigh||Country|
|Denison, Tas||Liberal||Robert Solomon||2.6||7.2||4.6||John Coates||Labor|
|Diamond Valley, Vic||Liberal||Neil Brown||6.1||7.7||1.6||David McKenzie||Labor|
|Evans, NSW||Liberal||Malcolm Mackay||1.2||3.9||2.7||Allan Mulder||Labor|
|Forrest, WA||Labor||Frank Kirwan||1.1||4.7||3.6||Peter Drummond||Liberal|
|Holt, Vic||Liberal||Len Reid||3.5||7.9||4.4||Max Oldmeadow||Labor|
|Hume, NSW||Country||Ian Pettitt||1.0||2.9||1.9||Frank Olley||Labor|
|La Trobe, Vic||Liberal||John Jess||5.2||10.2||5.0||Tony Lamb||Labor|
|Lilley, Qld||Liberal||Kevin Cairns||1.7||1.7||0.0||Frank Doyle||Labor|
|Macarthur, NSW||Liberal||Jeff Bate†||3.8||6.0||2.2||John Kerin||Labor|
|McMillan, Vic||Liberal||Alex Buchanan†||N/A||2.9||2.4||Arthur Hewson||Country|
|McPherson, Qld||Country||Charles Barnes||N/A||6.5||4.7||Eric Robinson||Liberal|
|Mitchell, NSW||Liberal||Les Irwin||2.5||3.7||1.2||Alfred Ashley-Brown||Labor|
|Phillip, NSW||Liberal||William Aston||0.4||4.1||3.7||Joe Riordan||Labor|
|Stirling, WA||Labor||Harry Webb||5.5||8.4||2.9||Ian Viner||Liberal|
|Sturt, SA||Labor||Norm Foster||0.5||2.2||2.7||Ian Wilson||Liberal|
The 1972 election ended 23 years of Liberal-Country rule—the longest unbroken run in government in Australian history. It is also unusual as Whitlam only scraped into office with a thin majority of 9 seats. Typically, elections that produce a change of government in Australia take the form of landslides (as in the elections of 1949, 1975, 1983, 1996, 2007 or 2013, for example). The comparatively small size of Whitlam's win is partly explained by his strong performance at the previous election of 1969, where he achieved a 7 percent swing, gaining 18 seats, from a low of 41 of 124 seats and a 43 percent two-party figure at the 1966 election.
The new Labor Government of Gough Whitlam was eager to make long-planned reforms, although it struggled against a lack of experience in its cabinet and the onset of the 1973 oil crisis and 1973–75 recession. In addition, the Senate was hostile to Whitlam, with the Coalition and Democratic Labor Parties holding more seats than the ALP, as the term of the Senate at the time was 1971 to 1974. This in particular would make governing difficult and led to the early double dissolution election of 1974.
The Australian Labor Party (ALP), also simply known as Labor and historically spelt Labour, is the major centre-left political party in Australia, one of two major parties in Australian politics, along with the centre-right Liberal Party of Australia. It has been in Opposition in the federal parliament since the 2013 election. The ALP is a federal party, with political branches in each state and territory. They are currently in government in Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, the Australian Capital Territory, and the Northern Territory. The Labor Party is the oldest political party in Australia.
Edward Gough Whitlam was the 21st Prime Minister of Australia, serving from 1972 to 1975. He led the Australian Labor Party (ALP) to power for the first time in 23 years at the 1972 election. He won the 1974 election before being controversially dismissed by the Governor-General of Australia, Sir John Kerr, at the climax of the 1975 Australian constitutional crisis. Whitlam remains the only Australian prime minister to have been removed from office in this manner.
The Liberal Party of Australia (LP) is a major centre-right political party in Australia, one of the two major parties in Australian politics, along with the centre-left Australian Labor Party. It was founded in 1944 as the successor to the United Australia Party.
John Malcolm Fraser was an Australian politician who served as the 22nd Prime Minister of Australia, in office from 1975 to 1983 as leader of the Liberal Party.
Sir John Grey Gorton was the nineteenth Prime Minister of Australia, in office from 1968 to 1971. He led the Liberal Party during that time, having previously been a long-serving government minister.
Sir William McMahon was an Australian politician who served as the 20th Prime Minister of Australia, in office from 1971 to 1972 as leader of the Liberal Party. He was a government minister for over 21 years, the longest continuous ministerial service in Australian history.
John Douglas Anthony, was an Australian politician. He served as leader of the National Party of Australia from 1971 to 1984 and was Deputy Prime Minister under John Gorton (1971), William McMahon (1971–1972) and Malcolm Fraser (1975–1983).
The Whitlam Government was the federal executive government of Australia led by Prime Minister Gough Whitlam of the Australian Labor Party. The government commenced when Labor defeated the McMahon Government at the 1972 federal election, ending a record 23 years of continuous Coalition government. It was terminated by Governor-General Sir John Kerr following the 1975 constitutional crisis and was succeeded by the Fraser Government—the sole occasion in Australian history when an elected federal government was dismissed by the head of state.
The 1963 Australian federal election was held in Australia on 30 November 1963. All 122 seats in the House of Representatives were up for election. The incumbent Liberal–Country coalition government, led by Prime Minister Robert Menzies, won an increased majority over the opposition Labor Party, led by Arthur Calwell. This was the first and only time both the Liberal Party or any party won a 7th successive election.
The 1977 Australian federal election was held in Australia on 10 December 1977. All 124 seats in the House of Representatives and 34 of the 64 seats in the Senate were up for election.
The 1974 Australian federal election was held in Australia on 18 May 1974. All 127 seats in the House of Representatives and all 60 seats in the Senate were up for election, due to a double dissolution. The incumbent Labor Party led by Prime Minister Gough Whitlam defeated the opposition Liberal–Country coalition led by Billy Snedden. This marked the first time that a Labor leader won two consecutive elections.
The 1969 Australian federal election was held in Australia on 25 October 1969. The incumbent Liberal–Country coalition government, led by Prime Minister John Gorton, won the election with a severely diminished majority over the opposition Labor Party, led by Gough Whitlam despite losing the two party popular vote. Both major parties had changed their leaders in the run-up to the election, the first time this had occurred since 1946. This was the first and only time either the Liberal Party or any political party in Australia won a 9th successive 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. This was the first and only time the Liberal Party or any Political party won an 8th successive election.
The 1954 Australian federal election were held in Australia on 29 May 1954. All 121 seats in the House of Representatives were up for election, but no Senate election took place. The incumbent Liberal–Country coalition led by Prime Minister Robert Menzies defeated the opposition Labor Party led by H. V. Evatt, despite losing the two-party preferred vote. As well as being the only election in which a party received a clear majority of votes and was unable to form government.
The 1949 Australian federal election was held in Australia on 10 December 1949. All 121 seats in the House of Representatives and 42 of the 60 seats in the Senate were up for election. The incumbent Labor Party, led by Prime Minister Ben Chifley, was defeated by the opposition Liberal–Country coalition under Robert Menzies. Menzies became prime minister for a second time, his first period having ended in 1941. This election marked the end of the 8-year Curtin-Chifley Labor Government that had been in power since 1941 and started the 23-year Liberal/Country Coalition Government. This was the first time the Liberal party won government at the federal level.
Thomas James Burns AO was an Australian politician who led the Labor Party (ALP) in Queensland between 1974 and 1978 and was Deputy Premier of Queensland between 1989 and 1996. He served as the Member for Lytton in the Parliament of Queensland between 1972 and 1996. Burns had previously served as the Federal President of Labor between 1970 and 1973, playing a key role in modernising the party prior to the election of Gough Whitlam as the Prime Minister of Australia in 1972.
The Gorton Government was the federal executive government of Australia led by Prime Minister John Gorton. It was made up of members of a Liberal-Country Party coalition in the Australian Parliament from January 1968 to March 1971.
The Holt Government was the federal executive government of Australia led by Prime Minister Harold Holt. It was made up of members of a Liberal-Country Party coalition in the Australian Parliament from 26 January 1966 – 19 December 1967.
The McMahon Government was the period of federal executive government of Australia led by Prime Minister William McMahon of the Liberal Party. It was made up of members of a coalition between the Liberal Party and the Country Party, led by Doug Anthony as Deputy Prime Minister. The McMahon Government lasted from March 1971 to December 1972, being defeated at the 1972 federal election. Writing for the Australian Dictionary of Biography, Julian Leeser describes McMahon's prime ministership as "a blend of cautious innovation and fundamental orthodoxy".
The Liberal Party of Australia held a leadership spill on 7 November 1969, following the party's poor performance at the federal election on 25 October. Prime Minister John Gorton was re-elected as the party's leader, defeating challengers William McMahon and David Fairbairn.