John Howard might have won three election but he has also presided over an unprecented reduction in coalition MPs in state and territory parliaments. Should be blamed for this?

We’ve based them on election results, which means in some cases we’ve missed the odd recalcitrant MP who has resigned from their party after losing pre-selection or had some other form of hissy-fit. It’s a bit hard to keep track of such events.

Federal

When John Howard became Liberal leader, the House of Representatives had last been elected in 1993, the Senate elected in two halves in 1990 and 1993. Shortly after becoming leader, the Liberal Party won the Canberra by-election, increasing their pre-1996 numbers. The numbers for Coalition MPs were as follows:

January 1995 (Howard became leader)

House of reps: 65

Senate: 36

Total: 101

March 1996 (Howard elected to office)

House of reps: 94

Senate: 37

Total: 131

November 2001 (Howard re-elected a 2nd time)

House of reps: 82

Senate: 35

Total: 117

Total federal increase from 101 to 117 since Howard became leader.

New South Wales

When John Howard became Liberal Leader, the Fahey government was about to be defeated

January 1995 (Howard elected leader)

Legislative Assembly: 48

Legislative Council: 20

Total: 68

March 1995 (Carr government elected)

Legislative Assembly: 46

Legislative Council: 18

Total: 64

March 1999 (Carr government re-elected)

Legislative Assembly: 33

Legislative Council: 14

Total: 47

Total reduction in John Howard’s home state from 64 to 47 since became leader.

Victoria

The Kennett government had been elected in October 1992, and called an election within days of Howard being elected in 1996. His attempt to be re-elected at an early election in 1999 failed badly, and the Labor Party has subsequently shored up its numbers with victory in the Burwood and Benalla by-elections.

January 1995 (Howard becomes leader)

Legislative Assembly: 61

Legislative Council: 30

Total: 91

March 1996 (Kennett government re-elected)

Assembly: 58

Council: 34

Total: 92

May 2000 (Following Bracks victory at the Benalla by-election)

Assembly: 41

Council: 30

Total: 71

Since Howard became leader the Victorian coalition MPs have fallen from 91 to 71.

Queensland

When John Howard became Liberal Leader, the Goss government still enjoyed the majority it held from the 1992 election. At the July 1995 election, it was re-elected with a bare 1 seat majority, subsequently lost at the Mundingburra by-election in February 1996, at the start of that year’s federal election campaign. The Coalition under Rob Borbidge took office following the by-election, were narrowly defeated by Peter Beattie in June 1998 as One Nation swept onto the political scene, and then were wiped out by the Beattie juggernaut in February 2001.

January 1995 (Howard elected leader)

Legislative Assembly: 35

February 1996 (Goss loses office)

Legislative Assembly: 44

February 2001 (Beattie Landslide)

Legislative Assembly: 15

Since Howard became Liberal leader, coalition MP numbers have fallen from 35 to 15.

Western Australia

The Court government had been elected in February 1993, and called a slightly early election in December 1996, but was badly defeated at its second re-election bid in February 2001.

January 1995 (Howard elected leader)

Legislative Assembly: 32

Legislative Council: 17

Total: 49

February 2001 (Court government defeated)

Legislative Assembly: 21

Legislative Council: 13

Total: 34

Total numbers down from 49 to 34 since Howard became leader

South Australia

The Brown, later Olsen government, was elected at a landslide in 1993. It lost a by-election the following May, but still leaving the government with a record majority when Howard became leader in 1995. It lost most of its majority in the disastrous 1997 campaign, and Labor crept into office in February 2002.

January 1995 (Howard elected leader)

Legislative Assembly: 36

Legislative Council: 11

Total: 47

February 2002 (Kerin government defeated)

Assembly: 21

Council: 9

Total 30

Since Howard became leader numbers are down from 47 to 30

Tasmania

When John Howard became Liberal leader, the Groom government still retained its majority from 1992. The Tasmanian election was one week before the Federal poll in 1996, and the Groom government lost its majority. Groom resigned, Tony Rundle took over as leader, lost in 1998, and we all saw what happened to the Liberal Party last weekend.

January 1995 (Howard elected leader)

Legislative Assembly: 19

July 2002 (Bacon government re-elected)

Legislative Assembly: 6

Since Howard became Leader the Libs are down from 19 to just 6.

Australian Capital Territory

When John Howard became Liberal leader, Rosemary Follett was Labor Chief Minister of the ACT. Her government was defeated by Kate Carnell the following month. After two terms in opposition, Jon Stanhope led Labor to victory in October 2001.

January 1995 (Howard elected leader)

Legislative Assembly: 6

February 1995 (Carnell victory)

Legislative Assembly: 7

October 2001 (Labor elected)

Legislative Assembly: LIB 7

Increase from 6 to 7 during Howard’s leadership

Northern Territory

Marshall Peron was still NT Chief Minister when John Howard came to office. He resigned after passage of his euthanasia bill, and Shane Stone led the CLP to yet another victory in a 1997 election. But it all went pear-shaped in 2001, when to everyone’s surprise, Clare Martin led Labor to office.

January 1995 (Howard elected leader)

Legislative Assembly: 17

August 2001 (Labor elected)

Legislative Assembly: 10

Down from 17 to 10 during Howard’s term.

IN CONCLUSION

So, when John Howard was elected Federal leader of the Liberal Party and their most powerful office holder in January 1995, he had 101 Federal coalition MPs in his corner in opposition. However, the conservatives were in power in Victoria, NSW, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory. Labor only ruled the roost Federally, in Queensland and the ACT.

So, John Howard was supported by 6 Liberal/National governments in our states and territories and an impressive total of 332 Coalition MPs.

Fast forward to July 2002 and John Howard is still the ultimate Liberal leader in Australia. He has increased the number of Coalition MPs in the Federal Parliament from 101 to 117 but there has been a huge wipe-out in the conservative ranks at state and territory level.

John Howard’s army of six governments and 332 supporting MPs in our lesser parliaments have shrunk to no governments and just 220 MPs.

More than one in three conservative MPs in state and territory governments have disappeared since January 1995.

How much of this can be blamed on John Howard? Well, he did stuff all to help the Tasmanians and was complicit in the decision which hurt them the most, the disendorsement of leading moderate and potential Premier Greg Barns by Howard supporter and fellow conservative Erica Betz and his other goons.

These are all very interesting figures and we’d be interested in your feedback as to whether Howard can be blamed for any of this. The Liberals were on a high in most states when he was elected so there was inevitably going to be some losses, but surely an inspiring Federal leader could have contained some of the carnage.

Crikey used to be a staunch Liberal supporter but John Howard singlehandedly put me off the Liberal Party with his Republic shenanigans, followed by the demonising of asylum seekers last year.

There must be thousands of other younger Liberal refugees waiting to be scooped up. The Dems should get on with their shift to the right.

Peter Fray

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