Political history – Victoria 2014

1913-1955 – Back and forth

For most of the twentieth century, government in Victoria was dominated by conservative parties. Prior to 1982, no Labor government had lasted for more than three years.

The first Labor government only lasted for thirteen days in December 1913, when a breakdown in the governing Liberal Party saw a Labor government formed. The previous Liberal premier, William Watt, returned to power after the short Labor rule, and continued until 1914.

The Liberal Party (later renamed the Nationalist Party) governed continuously from 1913 until 1924.

The 1924 election produced a hung parliament, and the Country Party briefly supported a Labor government in power. This government, led by George Prendergast, only lasted five months until November 1924.

The Labor government fell in late 1924 when a new coalition agreement was formed which saw the smaller Country Party’s John Allan take the premiership.

The 1927 election saw a swing to the Labor Party, who formed a more stable minority government, led by Edmond Hogan. This government lasted eighteen months until November 1928, when a Nationalist government led by William McPherson which governed until late 1929.

The 1929 election saw Labor again gain more seats but fall short of a majority, and Edmond Hogan formed another Labor minority government. The second Hogan government lasted for two-and-a-half years, which remained the longest lasting Labor government in Victoria for the next fifty years.

The Hogan government came to power at the beginning of the Great Depression, and weathered those storms. Hogan, along with Prime Minister James Scullin, supported a program of cutting spending to ensure that Australia’s governments could afford to pay their debts. In 1931, the ‘Premiers’ Plan’ laid out further cuts in government spending, and Hogan supported this plan.

In 1932, Hogan travelled to London, and his deputy, Tom Tunnecliffe, opposed the Premiers’ Plan, which led to the government falling and a new election, with the ALP now led by Tunnecliffe. In the lead up to the 1932 election, the Victorian Labor executive expelled all those MPs, including Hogan, who supported the plan.

At the 1932 election, the ALP lost ground to the United Australia Party (formerly the Nationalist Party) and the Country Party, with Hogan and a colleague re-elected on a pro-Premiers’ Plan platform.

Stanley Argyle led the United Australia Party/Country coalition government following the 1932 election, which lasted until the 1935 election.

The 1935 election was a resounding victory for the UAP/Country government, with the Country Party winning more seats than Labor. Following the election, Argyle and UAP were shocked to discover that the Country Party had formed a new alliance with Labor, which saw the Country Party form a new minority government with Labor support.

This Country Party government was led by Albert Dunstan. Dunstan effectively governed for the next ten years. The 1937 election saw the three parties all win roughly the same number of seats, and in 1940 the United Australia Party was effectively reduced to the junior partner despite winning substantially more than double the Country Party’s vote.

Dunstan won a fourth term in 1943. In September 1943, the Country Party’s Dunstan lost a vote of no confidence after a split between the Country Party and the UAP. This resulted in the Labor Party, led by John Cain Sr, forming a government that lasted for four days, before a restored alliance saw Dunstan’s Country/UAP government return to power.

Dunstan’s government lost its majority in September 1945, and he was forced to resign in October to allow the passage of supply. A government was formed by the Liberal Party’s Ian Macfarlan, who led the government until the conservatives were defeated at the November 1945 election.

The 1945 election was won by Labor, led by John Cain Sr, who formed a majority with the support of two independents. The Cain Labor government governed until 1947, when its budget was blocked by the conservative Legislative Council, and Labor lost the subsequent election.

A new Liberal/Country government won a large majority at the 1947 election, and formed a government led by the Liberal Party’s Thomas Hollway. The coalition with the Country Party was dissolved in 1948, and the Liberal Party governed as a minority government.

Hollway won the 1950 election, but shortly after the election the supply agreement with the Country Party was ended, and the Labor Party again supported a minority Country Party, as they had done in 1935.

John McDonald led a Country Party government from 1950 to 1952.

The 1952 election was a landslide for Labor, which saw John Cain Sr return to power, leading the first ever majority Labor government in Victoria. Cain’s government governed effectively for the next three years, but fell in 1955 when 19 members of his government were expelled and crossed the floor to vote ‘no confidence’ in the Labor government. This vote was the beginning of ‘The Split’ which led to the formation of the Democratic Labor Party.

1955-1982 – Bolte/Hamer/Thompson

The 1955 election was won by the Liberal and Country Party (a new name for the Liberal Party), led by Henry Bolte.

The LCP won half of the seats at the 1955 election, and won majorities at every election until the late 1970s.

Henry Bolte led the government until his retirement in 1972.

Rupert Hamer led the Liberal government to victories at the 1973, 1976 and 1979 elections, and retired in 1981.

Lindsay Thompson became Liberal leader and Premier in 1981. He served as Premier for less than a year, leading the Liberal Party to defeat at the 1982 election.

1982-1992 – Cain/Kirner

Labor won power in 1982, led by John Cain II, son of John Cain Sr who had led three Labor governments in the 1940s and 1950s.

The ALP won three elections in 1982, 1985 and 1988. Cain retired in 1990, and was succeeded as Premier and Labor leader by Joan Kirner.

Kirner led the Labor government for two years until the 1992 election.

1992-1999 – Kennett

Jeff Kennett led the Liberal-National coalition to victory at the 1992 election. The Coalition had won a majority of the two-party-preferred vote at the 1988 election but didn’t win a majority of seats.

Joan Kirner briefly continued as Opposition Leader following losing the 1992 election, but stepped down in early 1993. Jim Kennan took over as Labor leader, but resigned shortly afterwards.

Kennan was replaced as Labor leader by John Brumby, a member of the Legislative Council. Kennan resigned from his seat of Broadmeadows, and the by-election was won by Brumby.

Kennett and the Coalition was re-elected in 1996, with a slightly reduced (but still quite large) majority.

Brumby continued to serve as Labor leader until early 1999, when he was replaced by Steve Bracks.

1999-2010 – Bracks/Brumby

The 1999 election was expected to produce an easy third victory for the Kennett Coalition government, but the government lost thirteen seats, producing a hung parliament. A supplementary by-election was triggered in Frankston East due to the death of the sitting member, which was won by the ALP. Following this by-election, the three sitting independent MPs decided to support the ALP in government.

This new Labor government, led by Steve Bracks, governed as a minority government until 2002, although Bracks gained an additional seat in late 1999 when Labor won the by-election in Jeff Kennett’s former seat of Burwood.

Peter Ryan was elected as leader of the National Party following the 1999 election, and the National Party terminated the coalition with the Liberal Party shortly afterwards.

Jeff Kennett stepped down as Liberal leader shortly after the election, and was replaced by Denis Napthine. Napthine led the Liberal Party from 1999 until shortly before the 2002 election, when he was replaced as Liberal leader by Robert Doyle.

The 2002 election was a landslide to Labor, giving Bracks a majority in both houses. This was the first time that Labor had won a majority in the Legislative Council. Following on from this result, Labor embarked on reforms to the Legislative Council. Up until that point, the upper house was elected by single-member ‘provinces’ which each covered four Legislative Assembly electorates. Each province elected one member every four years for an eight-year term, and the Council tended to produce conservative supermajorities. The new Legislative Council, elected for the first time in 2006, consisted of eight regions each electing five members for a four-year term using proportional representation.

In May 2006, Robert Doyle stepped down as Liberal leader and was replaced by Ted Baillieu. Doyle retired at the 2006 election, but was elected Lord Mayor of Melbourne in 2008, and has held that position ever since.

The Bracks government won a third term at the 2006 election, with the Greens, Nationals and the DLP sharing the balance of power in the Legislative Council.

Steve Bracks resigned as Premier and Labor leader in July 2007. John Brumby, who had led the ALP from 1993 to 1999, returned to the Premiership.

In 2008, the Liberal Party and the Nationals restored their coalition, which had been dissolved in 1999.

2010-2014 – Baillieu/Napthine

At the 2010 election, a shock swing to the Coalition saw Ted Baillieu lead the conservative parties to a slim 45-43 majority in the Legislative Assembly, with no minor parties or independents winning seats. The Coalition also won a slim majority in the Legislative Council.

John Brumby stepped down as Labor leader and was succeeded by Daniel Andrews.

In March 2013, Ted Baillieu stepped down as Liberal leader and Premier, and was succeeded by Denis Napthine.