Coalition (Australia)

This article is about the Liberal–National coalition. For other coalition governments, see Coalition government.
"The Coalition" redirects here. For the video game developer, see The Coalition (company).
Liberal/National Coalition
Leader Malcolm Turnbull
Deputy Leader Barnaby Joyce
Founded 1923
House of Representatives
76 / 150
30 / 76

The Coalition, also known as the Liberal–National Coalition, is a political alliance of centre-right liberal and conservative parties, which has existed in Australian politics in various forms since 1923.

The Coalition is composed of the Liberal Party of Australia (formerly the United Australia Party, the Nationalist Party of Australia and the Commonwealth Liberal Party) and the National Party of Australia (formerly named the Country Party and the National Country Party), as well as the Liberal National Party (LNP) in Queensland and the Country Liberal Party (CLP) in the Northern Territory.

The extent to which the parties are in alliance varies at state and territory level. At one extreme, the non-Coalition National Party of Western Australia and The Nationals South Australia currently compete alongside Coalition parties, while the CLP and LNP, contesting elections only in the Northern Territory and Queensland, respectively, were formed from mergers of Liberal and National state branches. A Liberal–National merger at a national level has been proposed on several occasions, without much progress.

When in government at the federal level, the Liberal Party leader usually serves as Prime Minister of Australia and the National Party leader as Deputy Prime Minister, as is currently the case with Malcolm Turnbull and Barnaby Joyce, respectively. This situation derives from the Liberal Party's consistently superior numbers in the Parliament of Australia, and is usually reflected at state level, with Liberal Party leaders of state branches generally serving as Premiers (or Chief Ministers in territories). The most notable exception to this rule was in Queensland, where the National Party was generally the stronger coalition partner, and also occasionally in Victoria and Western Australia. At all levels of government, the Coalition's strongest opponent is most often the Australian Labor Party. Based on the traditional definition of what a Coalition is, it currently only exists in federal, New South Wales and Victorian politics.

Present-day Coalition status

Malcolm Turnbull, Prime Minister 2015–present, Liberal leader 2008–09 and 2015–present


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

The main members of the Coalition at the federal level are the Liberal Party of Australia and the National Party of Australia. The Country Liberal Party of the Northern Territory participates through its affiliation with the Nationals and the Liberal National Party of Queensland participates through its affiliation with the Liberals (though some federal LNP parliamentarians sit as Nationals).

The origins of the Coalition date back to the 1922 federal election, when the Nationalist Party, the main middle-class non-Labor party of the time, lost the absolute majority it had held since its formation in 1917. The Nationalists' only realistic coalition partner was the two-year-old Country Party. However, Country Party leader Earle Page had never trusted the Nationalist Prime Minister, Billy Hughes, and demanded Hughes' resignation before he would even consider coalition talks with the Nationalists. Hughes resigned, and Page then entered negotiations with the new Nationalist leader, Stanley Bruce. The Country Party's terms were unusually stiff for a prospective junior partner in a Westminster system (and especially so for a relatively new party)--five seats in an 11-member cabinet, as well as the Treasurer's post and second rank in the ministry for Page. Nonetheless, Bruce agreed rather than force a new election. The Nationalist–Country Coalition was reelected twice, and continued in office until its defeat in 1929.

The Country Party fought the 1931 federal election in a coalition with the Nationalists' successor party, the United Australia Party, but the latter came up only four seats short of a majority in its own right, enough to rule alone with confidence and supply support from the Country Party. The parties once again joined in a full Coalition government following the 1934 federal election, and remained in coalition following Labor's return to power in 1941. The Coalition again split following the 1943 election, but the Country Party and the UAP's successor, the present-day Liberal Party, renewed their agreement for the 1946 federal election. They won the 1949 election as a Coalition, and stayed in office for a record 23 years. Since 1946, the Coalition has remained intact with two exceptions, both in opposition: the parties decided not to form a coalition opposition following the 1972 election, but resumed the coalition though still in opposition following the 1974 election.[1] The Coalition remained together upon entering opposition in 1983 election. The Coalition suffered another break, related to the "Joh for Canberra" campaign, from April to August 1987, the rift healing after the 1987 federal election.[2]

The solidity of the Coalition is so strong that when the Liberals won outright parliamentary majorities in their own right in 1975, 1977 and 1996, the Coalition was retained.


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

Coalition Lower House Seats
(and endorsed parties)
NSW Parliament
54 / 93
Vic Parliament
38 / 88
QLD Parliament
42 / 89
WA Parliament
38 / 59
SA Parliament
21 / 47
Tas Parliament
15 / 25
ACT Parliament
8 / 17
NT Parliament
2 / 25



Coalition arrangements are facilitated by Australia's preferential voting systems which enable Liberals and Nationals to compete locally in "three-cornered-contests", with the Australian Labor Party (ALP), while exchanging preferences in elections. Such contests 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, without 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 legislation, following Labor's unexpected win at the 1918 Swan by-election where the conservative vote split. 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 co-operate 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 do not express all useful preferences.


Due to a disciplined coalition between the parties and their predecessors being in existence for almost 100 years with only a few brief cessations within a 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.[13]

Federal election results

House of Representatives

Election Seats won ± Total votes Share of votes Position Leader
51 / 75
Increase11 1,551,760 53.20% Majority gov't (NP-CP) Stanley Bruce
42 / 75
Decrease9 1,286,208 49.56% Majority gov't (NP-CP) Stanley Bruce
24 / 75
Decrease18 1,271,619 44.17% Opposition Stanley Bruce
50 / 75
Increase26 1,533,627 48.35% Majority gov't (UAP-CP) Joseph Lyons
42 / 74
Decrease8 1,618,946 45.58% Majority gov't (UAP-CP) Joseph Lyons
44 / 74
Increase2 1,774,805 49.26% Majority gov't (UAP-CP) Joseph Lyons
36 / 74
Decrease8 1,703,185 43.93% Minority gov't (UAP-CP) Robert Menzies
19 / 74
Decrease17 948,750 23.01% Opposition Arthur Fadden
26 / 76
Increase7 1,706,387 39.28% Opposition Robert Menzies
74 / 121
Increase48 2,314,143 50.26% Majority gov't (LP-CP) Robert Menzies
69 / 121
Decrease5 2,298,512 50.34% Majority gov't (LP-CP) Robert Menzies
64 / 121
Decrease5 2,133,979 46.82% Majority gov't (LP-CP) Robert Menzies
75 / 122
Increase11 2,093,930 47.63% Majority gov't (LP-CP) Robert Menzies
77 / 122
Increase2 2,324,500 46.55% Majority gov't (LP-CP) Robert Menzies
62 / 122
Decrease15 2,208,213 42.09% Majority gov't (LP-CP) Robert Menzies
72 / 122
Increase10 2,520,321 46.03% Majority gov't (LP-CP) Robert Menzies
82 / 124
Increase10 2,853,890 49.98% Majority gov't (LP-CP) Harold Holt
66 / 125
Decrease16 2,649,219 43.33% Majority gov't (LP-CP) John Gorton
58 / 125
Decrease8 2,737,911 41.48% Opposition William McMahon
61 / 127
Increase3 3,319,220 44.91% Opposition Billy Snedden
91 / 127
Increase30 4,102,078 53.05% Majority gov't (LP-NCP) Malcolm Fraser
86 / 124
Decrease5 3,811,340 48.10% Majority gov't (LP-NCP) Malcolm Fraser
74 / 125
Decrease12 3,853,549 46.40% Majority gov't (LP-NCP-CLP) Malcolm Fraser
50 / 125
Decrease24 3,783,595 43.57% Opposition Malcolm Fraser
66 / 148
Increase16 3,872,707 44.69% Opposition Andrew Peacock
62 / 148
Decrease4 4,236,238 45.91% Opposition John Howard
69 / 148
Increase7 4,302,127 43.46% Opposition Andrew Peacock
65 / 147
Decrease4 4,681,822 44.27% Opposition John Hewson
94 / 148
Increase29 5,103,859 46.90% Majority gov't (LP-NP-CLP) John Howard
80 / 148
Decrease14 4,352,795 39.18% Majority gov't (LP-NP) John Howard
82 / 150
Increase2 4,887,998 43.01% Majority gov't (LP-NP-CLP) John Howard
87 / 150
Increase5 5,471,588 46.70% Majority gov't (LP-NP-CLP) John Howard
65 / 150
Decrease22 5,229,024 42.09% Opposition John Howard
72 / 150
Increase7 5,365,529 43.32% Opposition Tony Abbott
90 / 150
Increase18 5,882,818 45.55% Majority gov't (LP-LNP-NP-CLP) Tony Abbott
76 / 150
Decrease14 42.15% Majority gov't (LP-LNP-NP) Malcolm Turnbull


  1. Paul Davey (2006). The Nationals: The Progressive, Country, and National Party in New South Wales 1919–2006. Annandale, NSW: Federation Press. pp. 39–40. Retrieved 18 August 2013.
  2. "Origins". The Nationals. Retrieved 18 August 2013.
  3. King, Madonna (18 May 2010). "LNP differences a Coalition headache". The Drum. Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
  4. Haxton, Nance (23 July 2004). "SA Govt recruits National Party MP". PM. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 1 February 2011.
  5. Brennan, Ben (4 September 2013). "Joyce takes aim at claim". The Murray Valley Standard. Retrieved 17 November 2013.
  6. Petrow, Stefan: Country Party, The Companion to Tasmanian History (University of Tasmania).
  7. "Matthew Guy elected as new Liberal Party leader in Victoria". ABC News. 4 Dec 2014. Retrieved 10 February 2015.
  8. Savage, Alison. "Peter Walsh takes over National Party leadership with new MP as deputy". ABC News. Retrieved 10 February 2015.
  9. "Labor's clean sweep broken". Sydney: News Limited. 14 September 2008. Retrieved 14 September 2008.
  10. Ker, Peter (26 August 2010). "Don't count me among Coalition, says Nat". The Age. Melbourne: Fairfax Media. Retrieved 1 February 2011.
  11. David Weber (11 March 2013). "Counting resumes for WA election but won't change decisive Barnett victory". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 11 March 2013.
  12. "History of the Country Liberals". Northern Territory: Country Liberal Party. 2010. Retrieved 24 August 2010.
  13. "Non-classic Divisions". Australian Electoral Commission. 2010. Retrieved 7 November 2011.

External links

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