1998 Federal Election

October 3, 1998

The Federal election of 1998 was held six months earlier than required by the Constitution. Prime Minister John Howard made the announcement following the launch of the coalition’s GST policy launch and a 5-week advertising campaign. The ensuing election was almost entirely dominated by the proposed 10% Goods and Services Tax and proposed income tax cuts.

The Howard government entered the campaign with a 40-seat majority. The government suffered a nationwide swing of approximately 5% against it and the loss of 19 seats in the House of Representatives. It was returned with a 12 seat majority.

The government was re-elected with 49.02% of the two-party-preferred vote, compared to 50.98% for the Australian Labor Party.

One Minister, Warwick Smith, the Family Services minister, lost his seat. The Foreign Affairs Minister, Alexander Downer, fought off a strong challenge from the Australian Democrats in his South Australian seat of Mayo.

Whilst polling around 8% of the national vote, the One Nation party lost its leader, Pauline Hanson, who was defeated on preferences by the Liberal candidate in the Queensland electorate of Blair. One Nation won no seats in the lower house, but Heather Hill gained a Senate seat in Queensland at the expense of the National Party’s Bill O’Chee. She was subsequently disqualified under Section 44 of the Constitution.

As a result of the election, the balance of power in the Senate reverted to the Australian Democrats after July 1, 1999.

The Democrats increased their numbers from 7 to 9, including the election of the second Aboriginal member of parliament, Senator Aden Ridgeway, in New South Wales.

The ALP made the single biggest gain by an Opposition party following an election defeat. The swing was sufficient in all states to deliver government to the party, but the uneven nature of the swing denied Kim Beazley the extra few seats necessary to command a majority in the House.

Following the election, the Howard government held 10 seats by a margin of less than 1% and looked to be highly vulnerable to even the smallest swing against it at the next election.

State of the Parties

House of Representatives Elections 1998
ALP LIB NPA IND Total
NSW
22
18
9
1
50
VIC
19
16
2
37
QLD
8
14
5
27
WA
7
7
14
SA
3
9
12
TAS
5
5
ACT
2
2
NT
1
1
Total
67
64
16
1
148

 

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VCEpolitics.com maintained a daily news commentary during this election. These reports are archived here. They have been redesigned to fit the current look of the site, but the text is the unedited original.

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