Is Australia headed for a record period without a change of government at state, territory or federal level?

Mike Rann was sworn in as the new Labor Premier of South Australian on April 5, 2002, so it has now been more than 1000 days since a change of government. How does this compare with recent history?
Well, since 1970, there have been three longer periods of stability. After the election of the Hawke Government on March 5, 1983, it was more than five years before the next change happened when Nick Greiner got the Liberal Party back into the game by winning the NSW election on March 25, 1988.

During the Liberal dominated period after the Whitlam government, there was only one change between the election of the Wran Labor government in NSW on May 14, 1976 and the election of the Bannon Labor Government in SA on November 10, 1982 and that was the 1979 election of the one-term Tonkin Liberal Government in South Australia.

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However, we are now certainly in the longest period of stability since 1982 and it looks like might will get even longer because the only election scheduled for 2005 is in the Northern Territory and Clare Martin is tipped to get another term. The likely change was always going to be in WA so it is very hard to see where the next one will come from.

What follows is a chronology of Government changes in Australia over the past 30 years. If we’ve missed any, please email

1970, June 2: Don Dunstan elected Labor Premier in SA
1971, March 3: Tonkin Labor Government elected in WA
1972, May 3: Eric Reece elected Labor Premier in Tasmania
1972, December 2: Whitlam Labor government comes to power
1974, April 8: Liberal Charles Court assumes power in WA
1975, December 13: Fraser Coalition Government elected federally
1976, May 14: Wran Labor Government elected in NSW
1979, September 18: Tonkin Liberal Government elected in SA
1982, November 10: Bannon Labor Government takes office in South Australia
1982, May 26: Gray Liberal Government elected in Tasmania
1982, April 8: Cain Labor Government elected in Victoria
1983, February 25: Burke Labor Government elected in WA
1983, March 5: Hawke Labor government elected federally
1988, March 25: Greiner Coalition Government takes office in NSW
1989, June 29: Labor/Green Coalition assumes office in Tasmania
1989, December 2: Goss Labor Government elected in Queensland
1992, February 17: Groom Liberal government elected in Tasmania
1992, October 3: Kennett Coalition Government elected in Victoria
1993, February 16: Liberal Richard Court elected Premier in WA
1993, December 14: Brown Liberal government elected in South Australia
1995, February 18: Carnell Liberal government wins power in ACT
1995, March 25: Carr Labor Government elected in NSW
1996, February 20: Borbidge minority Coalition government takes office in Queensland
1996, March 2: Howard Coalition Government elected federally
1998, June 26: Peter Beattie forms majority Labor Government in Queensland
1998, August 28: Bacon Labor Government elected in Tasmania
1999, October 20: Bracks Labor Government assumes office in Victoria
2001, February 10: Gallop Labor Government elected in WA
2001, August 10: Martin Labor Government assumes office in the Northern Territory
2001, October 20: Labor Government takes office in ACT
2002, April 5: Mike Rann sworn in as new Labor premier in South Australia

Charles Richardson on political stability
Subscriber email March 1

By occasional political historian Charles Richardson

Crikey yesterday noted the recent records for length of time without a change in government. The period of just over five years from March 1983 to March 1988 is the longest in more than 30 years.

Going back a little further, however, there was a period of almost six years from April 1959 (when the Brand government came to power in Western Australia) to March 1964 (when the Playford government finally fell in South Australia). If we keep going, we will pass that record on 11 February 2008.

There is only one longer period of stability since Federation: from 22 June 1934 there was no change until 16 May 1941, a stretch of almost seven years, or 2,520 days. To match that, the present period would have to extend until 27 January 2009.

Which, although it is a long way off, doesn’t really seem unlikely. In that time there will be just one election in each state (except WA), plus a federal election. Four of those governments (the four eastern states) have huge majorities, and it is hard to imagine any of them losing. The Rann government in South Australia is in its first term and rating well in the polls, so will probably be re-elected. And the Howard government currently looks pretty secure in Canberra.

So come January 2009 we could well be celebrating a new record for government longevity.


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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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