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Time in Government since Federation


On Monday 28 March 2011 Barry O’Farrell was sworn in as Premier of New South Wales thus ending the Labor Party’s 16-year period in office. The Liberal/National Coalition’s win in NSW brings to three the current number of non-Labor governments in Australia’s nine federal, state and territory jurisdictions (Western Australia, Victoria and New South Wales).

This is the first time since Federation that these three states have been under Coalition control while Labor is in power in the other six jurisdictions. It is quite the norm for there to be a mix of Labor and non-Labor jurisdictions. There have been only six periods when all federal and state governments were of the same political persuasion with non-Labor predominating.

These are:
  •  Non-Labor: 1 January 1901 – 27 April 1904 (three years three months 26 days including a period in Queensland from 17 September 1903 when there was a Liberal/Labor coalition)
  • Non-Labor: 25 August 1905 – 13 November 1908 (three years two months 19 days including periods of Liberal/ Labor coalitions in Queensland and South Australia)
  • Non-Labor: 2 June 1909 – 20 October 1909 (four months 18 days including a period of Liberal and Labor coalition in South Australia)
  • Non-Labor: 27 October 1909 – 29 April 1910 (six months two days)
  • Non-Labor: 26 May 1969 – 1 June 1970 (one year seven days)
  • Labor: 3 December 2007 – 23 September 2008 (nine months 20 days)

It was not until 6 March 2002 that a federal government (Coalition) was of a different persuasion to all of the State and Territory governments (Labor). This state of affairs continued for five years eight months 27 days until Labor came to power federally on 3 December 2007.

This ushered in the only period when all Federal and State and Territory governments have been of the same political persuasion, Labor, until 23 September 2008; nine months 20 days. The territories did not gain self government until 1 July 1978 (NT) and 11 May 1989 (ACT).

Proportion and extent of time in government

Across all jurisdictions since Federation non-Labor parties have been in power for about 54% of the time compared to Labor’s 46%. Labor has dominated in four jurisdictions: the Australian Capital Territory (63% of the time) followed by Tasmania (61%), New South Wales (58%) and Queensland (56%). Non-Labor has been predominant in the other five jurisdictions: Victoria (72% of the time) followed by the Northern Territory (71%); the Commonwealth (67%); South Australia (61%); and Western Australia (52%).

Table 1: Longest period in government by Labor or non-Labor for each jurisdiction

JurisdictionLabor/
non-Labor
Dates in Government Time in Government
Tasmania Labor 22 Jun 1934–26 May 196934 yrs 11 mths 4 days
Queensland non-Labor 12 Aug 1957–7 Dec 198932 yrs 3 mths 25 days
South Australia non-Labor18 Apr 1933–10 Mar 196531 yrs 10 mths 20 days
Victoria non-Labor 7 Jun 1955–8 Apr 198226 yrs 10 mths 1 day
New South Wales Labor 16 May 1941–13 May 196523 yrs 11 mths 27 days
Northern Territory non-Labor 1 Jul 1978–26 Aug 200123 yrs 1 mth 26 days
Commonwealth non-Labor 19 Dec 1949–5 Dec 197222 yrs 11 mths 16 days
Western Australia Labor 24 Apr 1933–1 Apr 194713 yrs 11 mths 8 days
Australian Capital Territory Labor 12 Nov 2001 onwards 9 yrs 4 mths 16 days