Government Politics of Australia

Last elections: July 2016

Next elections: 2019

Head of State: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor-General, Peter Cosgrove (2014–)

Head of Government: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull

Ruling party: Liberal–National coalition

Prime Minister John Howard’s Liberal-National coalition was comfortably returned for a third consecutive term in November 2001, winning 81 seats (Liberal Party 68, National Party 13) to Labor Party’s 65. In an election dominated by the issue of Asian immigration, the government’s firm action in August 2001 of denying a shipload of Afghan asylum-seekers entry into the country seemed to have proved decisive.

The October 2004 election which had been thought too close to predict was again won comfortably by the Liberal-National coalition and Howard was returned to government, winning 85 seats (Liberal Party 73, National Party 12) while the Labor Party took 57.
Kevin Rudd became the Labor Party leader in December 2006.

In the fiercely fought contest, in November 2007, the Labor Party took 84 seats, the Liberal-National coalition 64 and independent candidates two; Rudd became Prime Minister and immediately signalled a significant shift in domestic and foreign policy by ratifying the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.

In September 2008, Quentin Bryce was sworn in as Australia’s 25th Governor-General; she is the first woman to hold the post.

In June 2010, after a dramatic fall in the popularity of Prime Minister Rudd, Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard successfully challenged Rudd for the Labor Party leadership and became Prime Minister, the first woman to hold the post.

In the early general election in August 2010 neither Labor (winning 72 out of 150 seats in the lower house) nor the Liberal-National coalition led by Tony Abbott (73 seats) was able to secure a parliamentary majority. The remaining seats were won by the Green Party (one) and independents (four). After several weeks of negotiations with these members, Gillard was successful in winning the support of the Green Party member and three of the independents, giving the Labor party a narrow overall majority.

In June 2013, when polls suggested the Labor Party would lose the September election, Rudd ousted Gillard in a Labor Party leadership election (57:45). On 27 June he was sworn in as Prime Minister.

The Labor government was ousted in the federal election of 7 September 2013. The Liberal-National coalition led by Tony Abbott secured 90 seats and the Labor Party 55. The remaining seats were won by the Green Party (one), Katter’s Australian Party (one), Palmer United Party (one) and independents (two). Liberal Party leader Tony Abbott was sworn in as Prime Minister.

On 28 March 2014, former Chief of the Australian Defence Force, Sir Peter Cosgrove, was sworn in as Australia’s 26th Governor-General.

Malcolm Turnbull replaced Tony Abbott as Prime Minister on 15 September 2015, after defeating him in a Liberal Party leadership election (54:44) the previous evening.

In the July 2016 federal election (a double dissolution election) the Liberal-National coalition retained their majority, securing 76 seats to the Labor Party’s 69.  Malcolm Turnbull remained in office as Prime Minister.