Rob Lundie, Politics and Public Administration Section
The 2010 Federal Election was held on Saturday 21 August and
resulted in a hung parliament – the first federally since
1940. The election was called by Prime Minister Julia Gillard on 17
July. She had successfully challenged Kevin Rudd for the leadership
of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) on 24 June following a marked
decline in support for the ALP in the polls. Her opponent was
Liberal Party leader Tony Abbott who had defeated Malcolm Turnbull
for the leadership on 1 December 2009. The House was dissolved
and the Senate prorogued on 19 July when the writs were also
The 14 088 260 people enrolled to vote included
57 732 who were added to the roll following the High
Court’s decision on 6 August to extend the period for
enrolling to 26 July. There were 1198 candidates (1421 in 2007):
849 for the 150 House of Representatives seats and 349 for the 40
Senate vacancies. There were 353 female candidates and 845
Prior to the election, redistributions had been held in NSW,
Qld, WA, Tasmania and the NT. As a result Qld gained one seat
(Wright) taking its tally to 30. NSW lost a seat reducing its
representation to 48.
The campaign featured a single formal leaders’ debate on
25 July at the National Press Club in Canberra where they faced
questions from a panel of journalists. There were two community
forums on 11 August in western Sydney and on 18 August in Brisbane
where the leaders faced questions from an audience of voters.
Both leaders campaigned extensively in Queensland and NSW where
most of the marginal seats were located and where it was expected
the election would be won or lost. WA was also an important state
where Labor’s proposed mining tax was a significant
Gillard began her campaign revealing that she was ‘moving
forward’ although she was often forced to look back when
answering questions about her ‘removal’ of Kevin Rudd.
Disquiet over the way he was removed, even amongst those who
supported Gillard, and particularly amongst Queensland voters in
Rudd’s home state, threatened to interfere with her desire to
portray a new beginning for Labor.
Her campaign also received a setback when it was leaked that she
had questioned pension increases and aspects of a parental leave
scheme when they were discussed in Cabinet. Parental leave was an
area in which both parties put schemes to the electorate.
While Gillard was dealing with the Rudd factor and the leaks,
Abbott was trying to distance himself from Work Choices, even
signing a declaration that it was ‘dead, buried and
Abbott campaigned on the slogan ‘real action’ to
take advantage of his popular image as a man with physical energy
and stamina. This theme was highlighted when he campaigned
throughout the night on the last day of the campaign.
Both leaders were keen to portray themselves as economically
responsible and declared that they were not going to make big
spending promises during the campaign. Parental leave and a
national broadband network were two main areas of policy
The Coalition stopped submitting its policies to Treasury for
costing after a document was leaked which allegedly revealed an
$840 million hole. It then commissioned its own costings report by
a private firm late in the campaign.
Opinion polls throughout the campaign revealed that a hung
parliament was a real possibility, and so it turned out to be.
Labor won 72 seats, the Coalition 73, the Greens one and there were
There was a swing against Labor of 2.6 per cent but it won the
two party preferred vote 50.1 per cent to the Coalition’s
49.9 per cent. The seats won by the parties and the change from the
2007 election are shown in the table below. These figures are based
on votes counted to 15 September and could change.
Both major parties began negotiations with the Greens and
independent members in an attempt to gain their support in the
House to form stable government: in effect ensuring they would have
the numbers to pass supply and to defeat any no confidence motions.
In return for their support, the major parties responded to lists
of demands which, among other things, sought a greater policy focus
on regional Australia, a series of parliamentary reforms, and an
assurance that whichever party formed government, it would serve a
full term and provide stability. Prime Minister Gillard was soon
able to secure the support of Andrew Wilkie (independent, Denison,
Tas) and Adam Bandt (Greens, Melbourne, Vic). The three
‘country independents’ (and former Nationals) worked
together in their dealings with the parties but came to their own
separate decisions as to who they would support. Bob Katter
(independent, Kennedy, Qld) chose to support the Coalition while
Tony Windsor (independent, New England, NSW) and Rob Oakeshott
(independent, Lyne, NSW) went with the ALP. So, the Gillard
Government was granted a second term, securing the smallest
possible majority of 76 to 74 to pass the Budget and survive no
confidence motions. The independents and the Greens member reserved
the right to vote differently on other matters.
Voter turnout nationally was 93.2 per cent down 1.5 per cent
from the last election. The informal vote nationally was 5.55 per
cent in the House of Representatives, an increase of 1.6 per cent.
In the Senate, the informal vote was 3.75 per cent, an increase of
1.2 per cent.
Labor lost one senator, the Coalition three and the Greens
gained four senators. From 1 July 2011 the Greens, with nine
senators, will have the balance of power. This fact played a part
in the independents’ decision to support Labor in the House
of Representatives thus increasing the likelihood of a longer
period of stable government.
|Members of the Australian Parliament
||House of Representatives
|Australian Labor Party
|Liberal Party of Australia
|The Nationals/Country Liberal
|Liberal National Party
|Democratic Labor Party
Library publications and key documents
Australian Electoral Commission Virtual Tally
Room as at 15 September 2010 with 93.21 per cent of the primary
vote, and 90.76 per cent of the two party preferred vote, counted,