Federal Opposition Leaders Since 1901

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
No. Name Party Period in Office Length
1.
Reid, George Houston
FT
09.05.1901 – 18.08.1904 (1/2)
3 years, 3 months, 10 days
2.
Watson, John Christian
ALP
18.08.1904 – 05.07.1905
10 months, 18 days
Reid, George Houston
FT
07.07.1905 – 16.11.1908 (2/2)
3 years, 4 months, 10 days
Total: 6 years, 7 months, 20 days
3.
Cook, Joseph
FT
17.11.1908 – 26.05.1909 (1/3)
6 months, 10 days
4.
Deakin, Alfred
LP
26.05.1909 – 02.06.1909 (1/2)
8 days
5.
Fisher, Andrew
ALP
02.06.1909 – 29.04.1910 (1/2)
10 months, 28 days
Deakin, Alfred
LP
01.07.1910 – 20.01.1913 (2/2)
2 years, 6 months, 20 days
Total: 2 years, 6 months, 28 days
Cook, Joseph
LP
20.01.1913 – 24.06.1913 (2/3)
5 months, 5 days
Fisher, Andrew
ALP
08.07.1913 – 17.09.1914 (2/2)
1 year, 2 months, 10 days
Total: 2 years, 1 month, 7 days
Cook, Joseph
LP
08.10.1914 – 17.02.1917 (3/3)
2 years, 4 months, 10 days
Total: 3 years, 3 months, 25 days
6.
Tudor, Frank Gwynne
ALP
17.02.1917 – 10.01.1922
4 years, 10 months, 25 days
7.
Charlton, Matthew
ALP
16.05.1922 – 29.03.1928
5 years, 10 months, 14 days
8.
Scullin, James Henry
ALP
26.04.1928 – 22.10.1929 (1/2)
1 year, 5 months, 27 days
9.
Latham, John Greig
Nat
20.11.1929 – 07.05.1931
1 year, 5 months, 18 days
10.
Lyons, Joseph Aloysius
UAP
07.05.1931 – 06.01.1932
9 months
Scullin, James Henry
ALP
07.01.1932 – 01.10.1935 (2/2)
3 years, 8 months, 25 days
Total: 5 years, 2 months, 21 days
11.
Curtin, John
ALP
01.10.1935 – 07.10.1941
6 years, 7 days
12.
Fadden, Arthur William
CP
08.10.1941 – 23.09.1943
1 year, 11 months, 16 days
13.
Menzies, Robert Gordon
UAP
LP
23.09.1943 – 19.12.1949
6 years, 2 months, 27 days
14.
Chifley, Joseph Benedict
ALP
21.02.1950 – 13.06.1951
1 year, 3 months, 24 days
15.
Evatt, Herbert Vere, QC
ALP
20.06.1951 – 09.02.1960
8 years, 7 months, 21 days
16.
Calwell, Arthur Augustus
ALP
07.03.1960 – 08.02.1967
6 years, 11 months, 2 days
17.
Whitlam, Edward Gough, QC
ALP
08.02.1967 – 05.12.1972 (1/2)
5 years, 9 months, 28 days
18.
Snedden, Billy Mackie, QC
LP
20.12.1972 – 21.03.1975
2 years, 3 months, 2 days
19.
Fraser, John Malcolm
LP
21.03.1975 – 11.11.1975
7 months, 22 days
Whitlam, Edward Gough, QC
ALP
27.01.1976 – 22.12.1977 (2/2)
1 year, 10 months, 26 days
Total: 7 years, 8 months, 23 days
20.
Hayden, William George
ALP
22.12.1977 – 03.02.1983
5 years, 1 month, 13 days
21.
Hawke, Robert James Lee
ALP
03.02.1983 – 11.03.1983
1 month, 9 days
22.
Peacock, Andrew Sharp
LP
11.03.1983 – 05.09.1985 (1/2)
2 years, 5 months, 26 days
23.
Howard, John Winston
LP
05.09.1985 – 09.05.1989 (1/2)
3 years, 8 months, 5 days
Peacock, Andrew Sharp
LP
09.05.1989 – 03.04.1990 (2/2)
10 months, 26 days
Total: 3 years, 4 months, 21 days
24.
Hewson, John Robert
LP
03.04.1990 – 23.05.1994
4 years, 1 month, 21 days
25.
Downer, Alexander John Gosse
LP
23.05.1994 – 30.01.1995
8 months, 8 days
Howard, John Winston
LP
30.01.1995 – 11.03.1996 (2/2)
1 year, 1 month, 12 days
Total: 4 years, 9 months, 17 days
26.
Beazley, Kim Christian
ALP
19.03.1996 – 22.11.2001 (1/2)
5 years, 8 months, 3 days
27.
Crean, Simon
ALP
22.11.2001 – 02.12.2003
2 years, 10 days
28.
Latham, Mark
ALP
02.12.2003 – 18.01.2005
1 year, 1 month, 16 days
Beazley, Kim Christian
ALP
28.01.2005 – 04.12.2006 (2/2)
1 year, 10 months, 6 days
Total: 7 years, 6 months, 9 days
29.
Rudd, Kevin
ALP
04.12.2006 – 03.12.2007
1 year
30.
Nelson, Brendan
LP
03.12.2007 – 16.09.2008
(elected party leader 29.11.2007)
9 months, 13 days
31.
Turnbull, Malcolm
LP
16.09.2008 – 01.12.2009
1 year, 2 months, 15 days
32.
Abbott, Tony
LP
01.12.2009 – 18.09.2013
3 years, 9 months, 17 days
Bowen, Chris
ALP
Interim ALP leader
13.09.2013 – 13.10.2013
1 month
33.
Shorten, Bill
ALP
13.10.2013 –
3 years, 9 months, 10 days

 

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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