Coalition (Australia)

Coalition (Australia)
The Coalition
Leader Tony Abbott MP
Deputy Leader Warren Truss MP
Founded 1922
Headquarters Cnr Blackall & Macquarie St, Barton ACT 2600 (Liberal)
John McEwen House, 7 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600 (Nationals)
Ideology Conservative liberalism,
Liberal conservatism,
New Right
Political position Centre-right
Official colours Blue and Green
House of Representatives
72 / 150
34 / 76
Politics of Australia
Political parties

The Coalition in Australian politics refers to a group of centre-right parties that has existed in the form of a coalition agreement (on and off) since 1922. The Coalition partners are the Liberal Party of Australia (or its predecessors before 1945) and the National Party of Australia (known as the Australian Country Party from 1921 to 1975 and the National Country Party of Australia from 1975 to 1982). The Country Liberal Party in the Northern Territory and the Liberal National Party in Queensland are their equivalents in those states, while the National Party of Western Australia and The Nationals South Australia are not in any form of coalition and are separate parties. There is no National Party in the ACT or Tasmania. The Coalition's main rival for government is the centre-left Australian Labor Party.

The Liberal leader usually becomes the Prime Minister or Premier, while the Nationals leader usually becomes the Deputy Prime Minister or Deputy Premier, if the parties win government. In modern times, Queensland was the only state where this system worked in reverse, as Queensland was the only state where the National Party was the stronger coalition partner (Victoria had Country-party dominated coalitions from the 1920s to the 1950s). However, the Queensland coalition parties merged in 2008, meaning that former party affiliations had no real effect.


Present-day Coalition status

Coalition Member Parties
  Liberal Party of Australia
  Liberal National Party of Queensland
  National Party of Australia
  Country Liberal Party (NT)

The status of the Coalition varies across the Commonwealth and states. Below is the status of each state on a state-by-state basis.

At the federal level, there was until recently a Coalition between the Liberals, Nationals and Country Liberal Party, with the Queensland Liberal National Party participating through their affiliation with the Liberals. This was briefly broken in 1987, but was renewed after the 1987 federal election.[3] In September 2008, Barnaby Joyce became leader of the Nationals in the Senate, with the party moving to the crossbenches. Joyce stated that his party in the upper house would no longer necessarily vote with their Liberal counterparts.[4][5][6]

  • New South Wales: A Coalition between the Liberal and National parties exists in New South Wales. The Liberal Party is led by Barry O'Farrell and the National Party by Andrew Stoner. It won the 2011 state election in a massive swing. New South Wales is the only state where the coalition had never broken, and yet had also never merged.
Coalition Lower House Seats
(and endorsed parties)
NSW Parliament
69 / 93
Vic Parliament
45 / 88
QLD Parliament
34 / 89
WA Parliament
29 / 59
SA Parliament
18 / 47
Tas Parliament
10 / 25
ACT Parliament
6 / 17
NT Parliament
11 / 25
  • Victoria: A Coalition between the Liberal and National parties exists in Victoria. The Liberal Party is led by Ted Baillieu and the National Party by Peter Ryan.[7] When Ryan became leader of the Nationals shortly after the 1999 election, he briefly terminated the Coalition agreement and went into the 2002 and 2006 elections separately from the Liberals. However, the Coalition agreement was renewed in 2008 and the Victorian Liberal and National parties went into the 2010 election as a Coalition. The Coalition ended up winning the 2010 election with a one-seat margin.
  • Queensland: In recent times, Queensland is the only state in which the Nationals have been the stronger coalition partner. The Queensland Liberals broke the Coalition in 1983. At a election held two months later, the Nationals under Joh Bjelke-Petersen came up one seat short of a majority, but later gained a majority when two Liberal MLAs crossed the floor to the Nationals. The Nationals then governed in their own right until 1989, but governed in Coalition under Rob Borbidge from 1996 to 1998. In 2008, the parties agreed to merge, forming the Liberal National Party, which is affiliated with the Liberal Party. LNP MP Warren Truss is the federal leader of the Nationals, and four other LNP MPs sit with the Nationals in the House. Barnaby Joyce, the Senate leader of the Nationals, is an LNP member, and one other LNP Senator sits with the Nationals as well. There is an informal agreement within the LNP as to which party room LNP members will sit with. Members who were are re-elected to parliament remain in the same party, whereas members who win seats from the ALP that previously belonged to the coalition will sit with the previous member's party. An amicable division of seats was decided upon for new seats or seats that have never been won by the coalition.[8]
  • Western Australia: The National Party of Western Australia was in Coalition with the state Liberal government from 1993 to 2001 (see Hendy Cowan), but the Coalition was subsequently broken. In 2008, the Liberals, Nationals, and an independent MP formed the Government after the 2008 election, but this is not characterised as a "traditional coalition", with limited cabinet collective responsibility for National cabinet members.[9] The Leader of the Liberals in Western Australia is Premier Colin Barnett and the Nationals Leader is Brendon Grylls. Tony Crook was elected as the WA Nationals candidate for the seat of O'Connor at the 2010 federal election. He is a crossbencher in the hung parliament. Crook and the WA Nationals remain independent and not in a coalition.[10]
  • South Australia: The two parties merged to form the Liberal and Country League in 1932. This in turn joined the Liberal party in 1973, and a separate Country Party (later Nationals SA) emerged, which has only ever had two representatives: Peter Blacker from 1973 to 1993, and Karlene Maywald from 1997 to 2010. From 2004 to 2010, Maywald was a Minister in the Rann Labor Government, before losing her seat at the 2010 South Australian state election, thereby informally creating a coalition between the ALP and the National Party at South Australia's state level of government. The National Party, at the time, rejected the notion that it was in a coalition with Labor at the state level. State National Party President John Venus told journalists that: "We (The Nationals) are not in coalition with the Labor Party, we aren't in coalition with the Liberals, we are definitely not in coalition with anyone. We stand alone in South Australia as an independent party." Flinders University political scientist Haydon Manning disagreed, saying that it is "churlish to describe the government as anything but a coalition".[11] The party did not run candidates at the 2010 federal election.
  • Tasmania: The National Party is not affiliated in Tasmania, leaving the Liberal Party as the sole major non-Labor party in the state.
  • Australian Capital Territory: The National Party is not affiliated in the Australian Capital Territory, leaving the Liberal Party as the sole major non-Labor party in the territory.
  • Northern Territory: The two parties merged in 1975, forming the Country Liberal Party. CLP Senator Nigel Scullion is the current deputy leader of the National Party, and was the leader of the Nationals in the Senate until Barnaby Joyce took that position in September 2008. The Country Liberal Party maintains full voting rights with the federal National Party, and has observer status with the federal Liberal Party. Federal CLP members are directed by the CLP whether to sit with the federal Liberals or Nationals.[12]


Coalition arrangements are facilitated by Australia's preferential voting systems which enable Liberals and Nationals to compete locally while exchanging preferences in elections, thereby avoiding "three-cornered-contests", usually with the Australian Labor Party (ALP), which would weaken their prospects under first past the post voting. From time to time, friction is caused by the fact that the Liberal and National candidates are campaigning against each other, usually without undue long-term damage to the relationship.

Indeed, the whole point of introducing preferential voting was to allow safe spoiler-free three-cornered contests. It was a government of the forerunner to the modern Liberal party that introduced the necessary legislation, after Labor won the 1918 Swan by-election after the conservative vote was split in two. Two months later, a by-election held under preferential voting caused the initially-leading ALP candidate to lose after some lower-placed candidates' preferences had been distributed.

As a result of variations on the preferential voting system used in every state and territory, the Coalition has been able to thrive, wherever both its member parties have both been active. The preferential voting system has allowed the Liberal and National parties to compete and cooperate at the same time. By contrast, a variation of the preferential system known as Optional Preferential Voting has proven a significant handicap to coalition co-operation in Queensland and New South Wales, because significant numbers of voters don't express all useful preferences.

Liberal/National Merger

Merger plans came to a head in May 2008, when the Queensland state Liberal Party announced that they would not wait for a federal merger blueprint, but would merge as soon as possible. The new party, the "Liberal-National Party", has a self-imposed deadline of late July for party registration.[13] Candidates for the new Liberal National party contested the 2010 Australian Federal Election, with previously-elected members of parliament retaining their affiliation until their next election.


Due to a disciplined coalition between the parties and their predecessors in existance for almost 100 years with only a few brief cessations and the peception of a two-party parliamentary system, most commentators and the general public often refer to The Coalition as a single party. Polling and electoral results contain a two-party-preferred (TPP) vote which is based on Labor and the Coalition. The Australian Electoral Commission has distinguished between "traditional" (Coalition/Labor) two-party-preferred (TPP/2PP) contests, and "non-traditional" (Independent, Greens, Liberal vs National) two-candidate-preferred (TCP/2CP) contests. At the 2010 federal election, all eight seats which resulted in a two-candidate-preferred result were re-counted to also express a statistical-only two-party-preferred result.[14]


  1. ^ "What's in a name? Ask the Nationals". Melbourne: 15 October 2003. Retrieved 30 April 2010. 
  2. ^ australian policy online[dead link]
  3. ^ The Nationals - An Introduction, National Party Document, p.12
  4. ^ "Nationals won't toe Libs' line: Joyce - SMH 18/9/2008". 18 September 2008. Retrieved 1 February 2011. 
  5. ^ Nicola Berkovic (18 September 2008). "Leader Barnaby Joyce still a maverick: The Australian 18/9/2008".,25197,24363515-5013404,00.html. Retrieved 1 February 2011. 
  6. ^ "Barnaby elected Nationals Senate leader: ABC AM 18/9/2008". 18 September 2008. Retrieved 1 February 2011. 
  7. ^ | Retrieved 14 March 2010
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Labor's clean sweep broken". (Sydney). 14 September 2008.,23599,24343802-1245,00.html. Retrieved 14 September 2008. [dead link]
  10. ^ Ker, Peter (26 August 2010). "Don't count me among Coalition, says Nat: The Age 26 August 2010". Melbourne: Retrieved 1 February 2011. 
  11. ^ "SA Govt recruits National Party MP: ABC PM 23/7/2004". 23 July 2004. Retrieved 1 February 2011. 
  12. ^ "History of the Country Liberals". Northern Territory: Country Liberal Party. 2010. Retrieved 24 August 2010. 
  13. ^ "A conservative marriage". The Courier-Mail. 12 May 2008.,23739,23680093-13360,00.html. 
  14. ^ "Non-classic Divisions". Australian Electoral Commission. 2010. Retrieved 7 November 2011. 

External links

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