Federal Opposition Leaders Since 1901 – Terms Of Office

The table on this page lists all of Australia’s Federal Opposition Leaders since 1901 by the total length of their time in that office.

The Opposition Leader is the leader of the second largest grouping of members in the House of Representatives. He or she is chosen by the parliamentary members of the Opposition.

There have been 33 men who have served as Opposition Leader since 1901. They have served 45 separate terms in the position. Seventeen (52%) of them served as prime minister at some time.

There have been 10 Opposition Leaders who contested 18 federal elections but never became prime minister: Tudor (1917, 1919), Charlton (1922, 1925), Evatt (1954, 1955, 1958), Calwell (1961, 1963, 1966), Snedden (1974), Hayden (1980), Peacock (1984, 1990), Hewson (1993), Beazley (1998, 2001), Latham (2004).

There have been 4 Opposition Leaders who never contested federal elections and never became prime minister: Latham (1929-31), Downer (1994-95), Crean (2001-03), and Nelson (2007-08).

John (Chris) Watson is the only person to have become Prime Minister before he became Opposition Leader but who never fought an election as Opposition Leader. He was Prime Minister for 4 months in 1904 and became Opposition Leader the day after he was defeated in the House of Representatives. He ceased to be Opposition Leader before the 1906 election.

Federal Opposition Leaders – Terms of Office
No. Name Party Period in Office Length
1.
Evatt, Herbert Vere, QC
ALP
20.06.1951 – 09.02.1960
8 years, 7 months, 21 days
2.
Whitlam, Edward Gough, QC
ALP
08.02.1967 – 05.12.1972
27.01.1976 – 22.12.1977
5 years, 9 months, 28 days
1 year, 10 months, 26 days
Total: 7 years, 8 months, 23 days
3.
Beazley, Kim Christian
ALP
19.03.1996 – 22.11.2001
28.01.2005 – 04.12.2006
5 years, 8 months, 3 days
1 year, 10 months, 6 days
Total: 7 years, 6 months, 9 days
4.
Calwell, Arthur Augustus
ALP
07.03.1960 – 08.02.1967
6 years, 11 months, 2 days
5.
Reid, George Houston
FT
09.05.1901 – 18.08.1904
07.07.1905 – 16.11.1908
3 years, 3 months, 10 days
3 years, 4 months, 10 days
Total: 6 years, 7 months, 20 days
6.
Menzies, Robert Gordon
UAP/LP
23.09.1943 – 19.12.1949
6 years, 2 months, 27 days
7.
Curtin, John
ALP
01.10.1935 – 07.10.1941
6 years, 7 days
8.
Charlton, Matthew
ALP
16.05.1922 – 29.03.1928
5 years, 10 months, 14 days
9.
Scullin, James Henry
ALP
26.04.1928 – 22.10.1929
07.01.1932 – 01.10.1935
1 year, 5 months, 27 days
3 years, 8 months, 25 days
Total: 5 years, 2 months, 21 days
10.
Hayden, William George
ALP
22.12.1977 – 03.02.1983
5 years, 1 month, 13 days
11.
Tudor, Frank Gwynne
ALP
17.02.1917 – 10.01.1922
4 years, 10 months, 25 days
12.
Howard, John Winston
LP
05.09.1985 – 09.05.1989
30.01.1995 – 11.03.1996
3 years, 8 months, 5 days
1 year, 1 month, 12 days
Total: 4 years, 9 months, 17 days
13.
Hewson, John Robert
LP
03.04.1990 – 23.05.1994
4 years, 1 month, 21 days
14.
Abbott, Tony
LP
01.12.2009 – 18.09.2013
3 years, 9 months, 17 days
15.
Shorten, Bill
ALP
13.10.2013 –
3 years, 9 months, 10 days
16.
Peacock, Andrew Sharp
LP
11.03.1983 – 05.09.1985
09.05.1989 – 03.04.1990
2 years, 5 months, 26 days
10 months, 26 days
Total: 3 years, 4 months, 21 days
17.
Cook, Joseph
FT
17.11.1908 – 26.05.1909
20.01.1913 – 24.06.1913
08.10.1914 – 17.02.1917
6 months, 10 days
5 months, 5 days
2 years, 4 months, 10 days
Total: 3 years, 3 months, 25 days
18.
Deakin, Alfred
LP
26.05.1909 – 02.06.1909
01.07.1910 – 20.01.1913
8 days
2 years, 6 months, 20 days
Total: 2 years, 6 months, 28 days
19.
Snedden, Billy Mackie, QC
LP
20.12.1972 – 21.03.1975
2 years, 3 months, 2 days
20.
Fisher, Andrew
ALP
02.06.1909 – 29.04.1910
08.07.1913 – 17.09.1914
10 months, 28 days
1 year, 2 months, 10 days
Total: 2 years, 1 month, 7 days
21.
Crean, Simon
ALP
22.11.2001 – 02.12.2003
2 years, 10 days
22.
Fadden, Arthur William
CP
08.10.1941 – 23.09.1943
1 year, 11 months, 16 days
23.
Latham, John Greig
Nat
20.11.1929 – 07.05.1931
1 year, 5 months, 18 days
24.
Chifley, Joseph Benedict
ALP
21.02.1950 – 13.06.1951
1 year, 3 months, 24 days
25.
Turnbull, Malcolm
LP
16.09.2008 – 01.12.2009
1 year, 2 months, 15 days
26.
Latham, Mark
ALP
02.12.2003 – 18.01.2005
1 year, 1 month, 16 days
27.
Rudd, Kevin
ALP
04.12.2006 – 03.12.2007
1 year
28.
Watson, John Christian
ALP
18.08.1904 – 05.07.1905
10 months, 18 days
29.
Nelson, Brendan
LP
03.12.2007 – 16.09.2008
9 months, 13 days
30.
Lyons, Joseph Aloysius
UAP
07.05.1931 – 06.01.1932
9 months
31.
Downer, Alexander John Gosse
LP
23.05.1994 – 30.01.1995
8 months, 8 days
32.
Fraser, John Malcolm
LP
21.03.1975 – 11.11.1975
7 months, 22 days
33.
Hawke, Robert James Lee
ALP
03.02.1983 – 11.03.1983
1 month, 9 days
Bowen, Chris (Interim Leader)
ALP
13.09.2013 – 13.10.2013
1 month

 

Key
  • ALP = Australian Labor Party
  • CP = Country Party
  • FT = Free Traders
  • LP = Liberal Party
  • NAT = Nationalists
  • PROT = Protectionists
  • UAP = United Australia Party
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