1996 Federal Election

March 2, 1996

The 1996 election brought to an end 13 years of Labor Government under Bob Hawke and Paul Keating. The ALP lost 31 seats to the coalition and lost 6.1% of its primary vote from 1993. Its 38.8% primary vote was the lowest recorded by the ALP since 1934.

The Liberal Party leader, John Howard, had resumed the leadership of his party in January 1995, following a disastrous 8 months under the leadership of Alexander Downer. Downer and Peter Costello had succeeded Dr. John Hewson early in 1994 and were touted as the leaders of the new-generation Liberals. In the end, the party opted for the seasoned Howard, perhaps an acknowledgement that he was the only one left standing after a decade of party infighting.

Howard approached the campaign with a determination to present as small a target as possible. Throughout 1995, he refused to detail specific policy proposals. By 1996, however, it was clear that the electorate had tired of the Labor government and Paul Keating in particular. “The recession we had to have” line resonated with deadly force throughout the electorate, although Keating also attracted much support and adoration from supporters attracted by his republicanism and internationalist approach to Australia’s future.

The election saw the entry of Pauline Hanson into the Parliament as the member for the Queensland seat of Oxley. Hanson was the endorsed Liberal candidate until she made controversial statements about aborigines. She was disendorsed by the Liberal Party during the campaign, but remained on the ballot paper as a Liberal. During the next 12 months she was to establish Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party.

Election News Commentary

VCEpolitics.com maintained an irregular 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 original.

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