A liberal decline: an analysis of the electoral collapse of the Liberal Party of Australia, 1966-69

Williams, Paul Douglas (2003). A liberal decline: an analysis of the electoral collapse of the Liberal Party of Australia, 1966-69 PhD Thesis, School of Political Science & International Studies, The University of Queensland.

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Author Williams, Paul Douglas
Thesis Title A liberal decline: an analysis of the electoral collapse of the Liberal Party of Australia, 1966-69
School, Centre or Institute School of Political Science & International Studies
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2003
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Dr. Paul Reynolds
Total pages 331
Language eng
Subjects 160601 Australian Government and Politics
Formatted abstract
This dissertation is a case study of electoral change in postwar Australia. It analyzes the extraordinary electoral movement recorded between the November 1966 and October 1969 elections for the House of Representatives. At the former, at what has been dubbed the "Vietnam" or "khaki" election, the Liberal-Country Party (LCP) Coalition Government achieved a record majority of 40 seats with 49.9 per cent of the primary vote. That same poll saw the vote share of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) Opposition collapse to just 40.0 per cent, its lowest level in 35 years. At the latter, and within the space of three years, the electoral standing of the major parties was reversed: the ALP increased its vote to 47.0 per cent while the LCP, in securing just 43.4 per cent, narrowly clung to Government with a majority of just seven seats. While numerous accounts of Australian political history note the Liberals' electoral decline in the late 1960s, no singular work has explained adequately the factors behind this rapid, and dramatic, electoral movement. One theme commonly expounded, however, is the assertion that the "poor" leadership of Prime Minister John Gorton was a major, or principal, or even the sole, cause of the Liberals' decline. This thesis argues that such bold over-attribution of culpability to a single political actor is fundamentally flawed scholarship as it ignores a range of concurrent long and short-term determinants of electoral behaviour. This dissertation instead hypothesizes that Gorton's leadership, while itself bearing some impact on the 1969 election result, must be considered as only one of a host of interdependent factors. Lastly, this thesis holds that the 1969 federal election has been largely undervalued in Australian political science as a subject of psephological interest. Given that the 7.1 per cent swing to the ALP in 1969 dwarfed the 2.5 per cent swing it received in 1972 - the year of Labor's return to government - this dissertation submits that the years between 1966 and 1969 remain of far greater utility than the succeeding 1969-72 triennium in providing an explanation for Labor's eventual return to government.
Keyword Liberal Party of Australia -- History -- 20th century
Australia -- Politics and government -- 1965-1972
Gorton, John Grey, 1911-2002

Document type: Thesis
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