Political history – NSW 2015

Throughout the 1930s, the ALP was rocked by internal conflict in New South Wales. Jack Lang had been elected Labor leader in 1923, and quickly established himself as the dominant figure in the NSW Labor Party. He served as Premier from 1925 to 1927 and again from 1930 to 1932. His second term as Premier ended with his dismissal by the Governor, after a crisis in which the New South Wales government refused to pay its debts and came into conflict with the Commonwealth government.

In 1931, Lang’s supporters in the federal Parliament had brought down the federal Scullin Labor government, which led to a split between the NSW Labor Party and the rest of the party. Throughout the 1930s, two Labor Parties competed in New South Wales, one led by Lang and one aligned to the federal ALP, and led by future Prime Minister Ben Chifley. This period saw the conservative United Australia Party dominate New South Wales politics, and Labor’s weakness in Australia’s largest state crippled the ability of the party to compete in federal elections.

Following Lang’s third election defeat in a row in 1938, some state Labor MPs broke away from Lang, led by Bob Heffron. A state conference in 1939 unified the factions of the NSW Labor Party, restored its relationship to the federal party, and installed William McKell as the new ALP leader.

In the late 1930s, the governing United Australia Party began to crumble. Bertram Stevens had served as Premier since Lang’s dismissal in 1932. In 1939, UAP deputy leader Eric Spooner resigned from the Cabinet and moved a no-confidence motion against Stevens, which saw his government fall, and a new UAP government led by Alexander Mair was formed.

Labor 1941-1965
The Mair government was heavily defeated in 1941 by the Labor Party, led by McKell. The UAP/Country Party coalition was reduced from 59 seats to 26.

New South Wales politics has been dominated by the Labor Party ever since 1941. In the 70 years since that election, the Coalition has only governed in New South Wales for just over 18 years, while the ALP has been in government for over 50 years.

McKell’s victory in 1941 was the beginning of 24 years of continuous Labor rule. McKell led the party until 1947, when he resigned from NSW politics to take up the office of Governor-General. Following the 1941 election, the United Australia Party collapsed into a number of splinter parties, which eventually coalesced into the Liberal Party in 1944.

James McGirr served as Premier from 1947 to 1952. At the 1950 election McGirr lost his majority, and relied on independent Labor MPs to maintain power. He was replaced in 1952 by Joseph Cahill, who led the party to successful election wins in 1953, 1956 and 1959. Cahill died later in 1959, and was succeeded by Bob Heffron.

Heffron led the ALP to one final election victory in 1962, before retiring in 1964. Jack Renshaw then served as Labor Premier, leading the ALP into the 1965 election.

Coalition 1965-1976
In 1965, Labor lost power to a coalition of the Liberal Party and Country Party. The Liberal Party was led by Bob Askin. Askin had been Liberal leader since 1959. The sixth leader of the NSW Liberal Party, he was the first to become Premier.

Askin led the Liberal Party during its most successful period in NSW history. He won re-election in 1968, 1971 and 1973. At the 1971 and 1973 elections he defeated Labor leader Pat Hills, who to this day is the only NSW Labor leader to not serve as Premier.

At the 1973 election, the leader of the Labor Party in the Legislative Council, Neville Wran, moved to the Legislative Assembly. Shortly after the election, Wran challenged Hills for the Labor leadership.

Askin retired in 1975, and Tom Lewis took over. Lewis lasted barely a year, until his party replaced him with Eric Willis in January 1976.

Labor 1976-1988
Willis was defeated at the 1976 election by Neville Wran, putting an end to eleven years of Coalition rule.

Wran led the ALP to massive landslide victories at the 1978 and 1981 elections. At both those elections, the Liberal leader not only lost the election but was defeated in his own seat.

In 1983, Nick Greiner was elected Liberal leader. He reduced the ALP government’s majority at the 1984 election.

In 1986, Neville Wran retired from politics, and the ALP’s leader in the Legislative Council, Barrie Unsworth, was elected as Labor leader. He resigned from the Legislative Council and contested a vacant seat in the Legislative Assembly, barely holding on in Rockdale against a savage swing to the Liberal Party.

Coalition 1988-1995
In 1988, the ALP was defeated in a massive landslide to the Coalition, which saw Nick Greiner become Premier. Many senior Labor figures lost their seats, and the leadership of the ALP went to former minister Bob Carr.

Greiner was expected to easily win a second term in 1991, but the election produced a hung parliament. The Coalition government continued in minority, requiring the support of a number of independent MPs.

Greiner was forced to resign in 1992 after the Independent Commission Against Corruption found he had acted corruptly in creating a position for Liberal-turned-independent MP Terry Metherell to vacate his seat and allow the government to regain it at a by-election. Greiner was succeeded as Premier by John Fahey.

Labor 1995-2011
The Fahey Coalition government lost in 1995 to the Labor Party, led by Bob Carr. The Carr government gained a slim majority.

In 1999, Labor won a landslide victory, which they largely repeated in 2003.

In 2005, after ten years in office and after overtaking both Bob Askin and Neville Wran to become New South Wales’ longest serving Premier, Bob Carr retired. He was succeeded by Minister for Health Morris Iemma.

Morris Iemma led the ALP to the 2007 election, where the Labor Party won a fourth term in government with a slightly reduced majority.

Iemma was replaced as Labor leader in 2008 by first-term MP Nathan Rees. Rees’ Premiership lasted little more than a year before he too was replaced by Kristina Keneally in late 2009.

Coalition 2011-?
Barry O’Farrell led the Liberal/National coalition to a landslide victory in March 2011, winning 69 out of 93 seats in the Legislative Assembly.

In 2014, the Liberal Party was hit hard by investigations conducted by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). Barry O’Farrell resigned as Premier and Liberal leader after it was revealed that he had failed to disclose a bottle of expensive wine given to him by a target of an ICAC investigation. Mike Baird, who had served as Treasurer in the O’Farrell government, became the new Premier.

In addition, a number of Liberal MPs were also targetted by ICAC. A number of these MPs stepped down from the Liberal Party and moved to the crossbench, including two members of the upper house and eight members of the lower house. Two of these MPs, Tim Owen and Andrew Cornwell, resigned from their seats of Newcastle and Charlestown, and Labor won the ensuing by-election.