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Australian federal election, 1983


Australian federal election, 1983

Australian federal election, 1983

5 March 1983

All 125 seats in the Australian House of Representatives
63 seats were needed for a majority in the House
All 64 seats in the Australian Senate
  First party Second party
Leader Bob Hawke Malcolm Fraser
Party Labor Liberal/National coalition
Leader since 3 February 1983 21 March 1975
Leader's seat Wills Wannon
Last election 51 seats 74 seats
Seats won 75 seats 50 seats
Seat change Increase24 Decrease24
Percentage 53.23% 46.77%
Swing Increase3.6 Decrease3.6

Prime Minister before election

Malcolm Fraser
Liberal/National coalition

Elected Prime Minister

Bob Hawke

Federal elections were held in Australia on 5 March 1983. All 125 seats in the House of Representatives, and all 64 seats in the Senate, were up for election, following a double dissolution. The incumbent coalition government in power since 1975, led by Malcolm Fraser (Liberal Party of Australia) and Doug Anthony (National Party of Australia), was defeated by the opposition Australian Labor Party led by Bob Hawke.


  • Results 1
    • Seats changing hands 1.1
  • Background 2
  • See also 3
  • Notes 4
  • External links 5


House of Reps (IRV) — 1983–84—Turnout 94.64% (CV) — Informal 2.09%
  Party Votes % Swing Seats Change
  Australian Labor Party 4,297,392 49.48 +4.34 75 +24
  Liberal Party of Australia 2,983,986 34.36 −3.07 33 −21
  National Party of Australia 799,609 9.21 +0.24 17 −3
  Australian Democrats 437,265 5.03 −1.54 0 0
  Other 166,611 1.92 +0.04 0 0
  Total 8,684,863     125  
  Australian Labor Party WIN 53.23 +3.6 75 +24
  Liberal/National coalition   46.77 −3.6 50 −24
Senate (STV) — 1983–84—Turnout 94.64% (CV) — Informal 9.87%
  Party Votes % Swing Seats Won Seats Held Change
  Australian Labor Party 3,637,316 45.49 +3.24 30 30 +3
  Liberal/National (Joint Ticket) 1,861,618 23.28 −2.35 8
  Liberal Party of Australia 923,571 11.55 −1.59 16 23 −4
  Australian Democrats 764,911 9.57 +0.31 5 5 0
  National Party of Australia 388,802 4.86 +0.41 3 4 +1
  Country Liberal Party 21,406 0.27 +0.02 1 1 0
  Independents 193,454 2.42 +1.29 1 1 0
  Other 203,967 2.55 −1.34 0 0 0
  Total 7,995,045     64 64

Independent: Brian Harradine

Seats changing hands

Seat Pre-1983 Swing Post-1983
Party Member Margin Margin Member Party
Barton, NSW   Liberal Jim Bradfield 0.4 4.4 4.0 Gary Punch Labor  
Bendigo, Vic   Liberal John Bourchier 1.3 4.1 2.8 John Brumby Labor  
Bowman, Qld   Liberal David Jull 1.2 3.4 2.2 Len Keogh Labor  
Calare, NSW   National Sandy Mackenzie 1.5 4.4 2.9 David Simmons Labor  
Canning, WA   Liberal Mel Bungey 1.8 9.2 7.4 Wendy Fatin Labor  
Casey, Vic   Liberal Peter Falconer 1.9 2.6 0.7 Peter Steedman Labor  
Chisholm, Vic   Liberal Graham Harris 2.2 4.4 2.2 Helen Mayer Labor  
Deakin, Vic   Liberal Alan Jarman 2.3 4.4 2.1 John Saunderson Labor  
Diamond Valley, Vic   Liberal Neil Brown 3.7 4.1 0.4 Peter Staples Labor  
Eden-Monaro, NSW   Liberal Murray Sainsbury 2.8 4.6 1.8 Jim Snow Labor  
Fadden, Qld   Liberal Donald Milner Cameron 1.5 3.1 1.7 David Beddall Labor  
Flinders, Vic   Liberal Peter Reith 2.3 5.6 1.0 Bob Chynoweth Labor  
Herbert, Qld   Liberal Gordon Dean 0.9 3.7 2.8 Ted Lindsay Labor  
Kingston, SA   Liberal Grant Chapman 0.2 3.3 3.1 Gordon Bilney Labor  
Leichhardt, Qld   National David Thomson 1.1 3.2 2.1 John Gayler Labor  
Macarthur, NSW   Liberal Michael Baume 3.2 5.3 2.1 Colin Hollis Labor  
Moore, WA   Liberal John Hyde 2.8 10.0 7.2 Allen Blanchard Labor  
Northern Territory, NT   Country Liberal Grant Tambling 1.2 3.1 1.9 John Reeves Labor  
Perth, WA   Liberal Ross McLean 1.0 7.4 6.4 Ric Charlesworth Labor  
Petrie, Qld   Liberal John Hodges 3.4 3.9 0.5 Dean Wells Labor  
Phillip, NSW   Liberal Jack Birney 0.6 2.5 1.9 Jeannette McHugh Labor  
Stirling, WA   Liberal Ian Viner 2.0 9.0 7.0 Ron Edwards Labor  
Tangney, WA   Liberal Peter Shack 4.6 7.8 3.2 George Gear Labor  
  • Members in italics did not contest their seat at this election.


At the time of the election, the economy suffered from high inflation and high unemployment, alongside increases in industrial disputation and drought across much of the rural areas. The coalition government was led by Malcolm Fraser, Prime Minister since 1975. Fraser had fought off a leadership challenge from Andrew Peacock, who had resigned from the Cabinet citing Fraser's "manic determination to get his own way", a phrase Fraser had himself used when he resigned from the Gorton ministry in 1971. The Liberals unexpectedly won the December 1982 Flinders by-election, after having lost the March 1982 Lowe by-election with a large swing.

Bob Hawke had entered Parliament at the 1980 federal election following a decade as leader of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU). Labor factions began to push for the deposition of Bill Hayden from the party leadership in favour of Hawke. Fraser was well aware of the ructions in Labor, and originally planned to call an election for 1982, more than a year before it was due. However, he was forced to scrap those plans after suffering a severe back injury.

On 3 February 1983 at a meeting in Brisbane, Hayden resigned on the advice of his closest supporters. Hawke was elected as interim leader unopposed. Later that morning, unaware of the events in Brisbane, Fraser in Canberra sought and received a double dissolution from the Governor-General, Sir Ninian Stephen, and called an election for 5 March. While an election wasn't due for seven more months, Fraser had been emboldened by the unexpected retention of Flinders. He'd also hoped to catch Labor before it could replace Hayden, and was surprised to learn that Hayden had resigned literally hours before the writs were dropped. In response to his removal, Hayden claimed that a "drover's dog" could lead the ALP to victory. Five days later, the ALP formally elected Hawke as party leader. Fraser also hoped to gain control of the Senate, where the Australian Democrats had held the balance of power since 1 July 1981.

Fraser's campaign used the slogan "We're Not Waiting for the World". Hawke's campaign theme was based around his favoured leadership philosophy of consensus, using the slogan "Bringing Australia Together". The Ash Wednesday bushfires that devastated areas of Victoria and South Australia on 16 February disrupted the Prime Minister's re-election campaign which was unofficially put on hold while he toured the affected areas. In response to an attack from Fraser on the security of the banking system to protect people's savings in which he asserted that ordinary people's money was safer under their beds than in a bank under Labor, Hawke laughed and said "you can't keep your money under the bed because that's where the Commies are!"[1]

As counting progressed on election night, it was obvious early on that the ALP had won on a massive swing. Hawke with wife Hazel claimed victory and a tearful Fraser conceded defeat. Ultimately, Labor won power on a 24-seat swing—the largest defeat of a sitting government since 1949, and the worst defeat a sitting non-Labor government has ever suffered. Fraser soon resigned from Parliament, leaving the Liberal leadership to one-time foe Andrew Peacock, who would later form a fierce leadership rivalry himself with future Prime Minister John Howard.

See also


  1. ^ Hawke Swoops into Power, TIME, 14 March 1983
  • 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. The 1983 swing of approximately 3.6 points is based on a pure deduction of one result from the other.

External links

  • University of WA election results in Australia since 1890
  • election details
  • AEC 2PP vote
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