A Conservative government with the Liberal
Party and the National Party has ruled Australia since
2013. During the period, the Prime Minister has been
replaced twice in internal partisans - something that
has become increasingly common in recent years. Scott
Morrison is the latest in the line of prime ministers.
He surprisingly managed to lead the government coalition
to yet another electoral victory in the spring of 2019.
Liberal Party leader Tony Abbott took office in
September 2013 as the new prime minister for a coalition
between his own party and the National Party, after the
parties won a clear victory over Labor in the
parliamentary elections held earlier that month (see
Modern History). Only one woman was a member of the
government, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who was also
the deputy leader of the Liberals.
Country facts and history of Australia, including state flag, location map, demographics, GDP data, currency code, and business statistics.
Abbott immediately began to fulfill his election
promises. First out was to stop the boat refugees. Boats
with refugees were taken off by the Australian fleet and
escorted back to Indonesian ports. In addition,
agreements were made with Nauru, Papua New Guinea with
several countries to receive refugees who wanted to seek
asylum in Australia (see also Population and Languages).
Prime Minister Abbott also began work on repealing
the carbon tax introduced by Labor, which he believed
went beyond the jobs and meant higher energy prices for
everyone. Instead, farmers and entrepreneurs would
receive direct grants to voluntarily reduce their
emissions. The climate skeptic Abbott also had the job
of abolishing the post of Minister of Science, raising
loan funds for green technology and putting down two
state commissions researching climate change - all with
a view to cutting state spending.
Confidence in Abbott gradually dropped, even within
his own party. He was criticized for being poorly judged
on various issues, not least when it came to the
decision to award British Queen Elizabeth's husband
Prince Philip a noble title in the fall of 2015, a
designation that was ridiculed, among other things, in
the media. It was questioned what the Prince did for
Australia and why a royal person in another country
would receive this old fashioned award.
Turnbull takes over
Abbott's support in polls declined and after two
years at the Prime Minister's post he was forced to
resign in September 2015. By then he had lost a Liberal
Party party vote against his former Communications
Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who took office a day later
as new Prime Minister.
After just over six months, Turnbull announced
parliamentary elections until July 2, 2016. That was
several months earlier than planned, but Turnbull hoped
to win a stable majority in the new parliament. Since on
two occasions the Senate had blocked a bill, Turnbull,
according to the constitution, had the right to announce
elections early. According to the constitutional
provision, which came into use for the first time since
1987, both chambers in Parliament would be dissolved and
replaced with newly elected members. In addition,
Parliament had approved a change in the electoral system
to the Senate, which meant that voters gained greater
control over their voting by, among other things, second
and third hand elections being more clearly specified.
The change was expected to mean that fewer small and
single-issue parties would enter the Senate.
During the election campaign, the Liberal Party and
Turnbull promised continued economic growth, new jobs
and tax cuts for companies, while Labor and its leader
Bill Shorten wanted to give more money to education and
the health sector.
The government is losing support
The parliamentary elections became very even between
the two blocks and a disappointment for Turnbull. The
Liberals / National Party backed from 90 to 76 seats in
the House of Representatives, giving the government
coalition a majority with only one mandate. Labor
received 69 seats and 1 seat went to the Greens.
Turnbull failed to take control of the Senate: the
government parties got 30 seats, three fewer than
before, against 26 for Labor, while right-wing populist
One Nation again managed to be represented with four
The fragile support in Parliament was reflected in
the new government's policy and Turnbull was also
careful to bump into his party rival, Tony Abbott and
his right wing.
This was evident, among other things, with regard to
the issue of same-sex marriage. Turnbull advocated that
this would be legal in Australia - one of the few
Western countries that have not yet introduced such
legislation - and wanted Parliament to vote on new
legislation. But he was pressured instead to go on
Abbott's line that a referendum would be held. Because
of opposition to this in the Senate, from Labor, among
others, the government ultimately chose to allow the
statistical authority to conduct a non-binding postal
vote among Australians in the fall of 2017. If the
majority were positive that gays would be allowed to
marry, the government promised to make sure that
Parliament was allowed to vote on the issue. After the
yes side won the vote, in December 2017 Parliament
approved a proposal to allow same-sex marriage.
Turnbull is forced to back down
Even when it comes to the climate issue, Turnbull has
met the Conservatives. From being one of the most active
proponents of renewable energy and for a greenhouse gas
emissions trading system, he went on to advocate for the
country to build new, modern coal-fired power plants.
Abbott's pressure and threat to vote against the
government also contributed to the Turnbull government
not following the recommendation of its own expert to
force electricity companies to use a certain proportion
of environmentally friendly energy in their production.
Instead, the companies would ensure that energy
production was as efficient as possible so that the
country could meet the climate goals (see also Natural
Resources and Energy).
In the summer of 2017, Turnbull's government also
faced other problems. It was then discovered that not
only several members of Parliament had dual citizenship,
but also Turnbull's own Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby
Joyce, leader of the National Party. The Constitution
does not allow MPs to have anything other than
Australian citizenship. In October, the Supreme Court
ruled that seven politicians, who came from different
parties, were not allowed to sit in Parliament because
they had dual citizenship. One of them was Joyce who was
allowed to leave both the government and parliament.
Shortly thereafter, another member of the Liberal Party
was allowed to leave his seat in the House of
Representatives. As a result of the decision, the
government coalition lost its meager majority in the
House of Representatives and must now seek support from
independent MPs. There was a risk that the opposition
would try to topple the government. At the same time,
support for Turnbull was low among Australians.
The Government Coalition got back one of the two
terms it lost in the House of Representatives in early
December 2017, when Barnaby Joyce won in a filling
election. He could thus also return as Deputy Prime
Minister. Later that month, MP John Alexander was also
re-elected in a general election after resigning from
his British citizenship. Thus, the government had
regained its scarce majority in Parliament. Just a few
months later, Joyce resigned as Deputy Prime Minister
and leader of the National Party following a scandal
surrounding a love affair with a co-worker and suspected
sexual harassment. However, Joyce retained her place in
the House of Representatives.
Turnbull is kicked
The government's weak parliamentary majority and
tensions within its own party continued to put Turnbull
in the wheel. In July 2018, the government parties
failed to seize the opportunity to secure more seats in
the House of Representatives when filling elections were
held to five seats, four of which belonged to Labor
members who were forced to resign, among other things,
after discovering that they had dual citizenship. That
the opposition retained the seats was a tough blow for
Turnbull and his government. Combined with low turnout
figures for Turnbull, the chances for the government
parties to do well in the upcoming elections, which must
be held by May 2019, looked dark.
In August 2018, Turnbull suffered yet another defeat
against party colleague Abbott and his conservative
Falang, when he was forced to give up attempts to
enforce a law on emissions reductions. The
contradictions sparked a leadership battle within the
Liberal Party during a chaotic week. At first, it looked
like Turnbull would ride out the storm after winning a
first internal vote against Interior Minister Peter
Dutton on the party leader and prime minister posts.
Dutton chose to resign as Minister of the Interior, but
the crisis for Turnbull was not over.
A few days later, three more influential ministers
announced that they would leave the government. Shortly
thereafter, it turned out that a majority of the party's
MPs were critical of Turnbull and supported Dutton's
initiative for a new vote. But it was not Dutton who won
the vote, but Treasury Secretary Scott Morrison. The
third candidate, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, was
voted off in the first round. Morrison, who is an
evangelical Christian, has more social conservative
views than the moderate Turnbull. He is also the
architect behind the country's criticized immigration
policy, which was introduced during his years as
Minister of Migration 2013–2014.
In a filling election in October of that year, the
government lost its majority on a mandate in the House
of Representatives. The election was held to fill the
seat after Turnbull, who chose to leave the House of
Representatives after losing the Prime Minister's post.
In the election, the Liberal candidate, Dave Sharma,
lost to popular independent candidate Kerryn Phelps.
Morrison's government would now be dependent on the
support of independent MPs to pass the vote in the House
The 2019 parliamentary elections
In April 2019, Prime Minister Scott Morrison
announced parliamentary elections on May 18. The Labor
opposition had for several months had a head start in
opinion polls before the election and it looked like it
could be a change of power for the first time in six
years. However, the Liberals and Prime Minister Morrison
did everything to try to win back voters' confidence,
not least by highlighting the country's strong economy.
Labor, in turn, sought to win votes through pledges to
remove existing loopholes for the rich to escape tax and
to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the country.
During the election movement, there was also a
continuing lively discussion on other major issues that
have dominated the political debate in recent times. It
was about the constant shifts in the Prime Minister's
post and whether the rights and status of indigenous
peoples would be confirmed in an official agreement.
Also the position of women in politics and how women
members are addressed in Parliament were debated issues.
Against all odds, it was not Labor who won the
elections to the House of Representatives in May 2019
but the government parties. After it became clear that
Labor had failed to take over the government, party
leader Bill Shorten announced that he would step down.
When the votes were largely finished, it was clear that
the Liberals and the National Party had succeeded in
gaining their own majority. Scott Morrison could thus
continue as prime minister and that the government
parties had now controlled a majority of the mandate in
the House of Representatives would make it much easier
for him to push through government policy.
Forest fires and corona crisis
From September to December 2019 in particular, New
South Wales, Victoria and South Australia were
devastated by the worst forest fires of many decades. At
least 24 people were killed, hundreds of homes were
destroyed and the consequences for wildlife were
devastating. Prime Minister Morrison was criticized for
failing to stop the severe forest fires and support for
him declined. He was also criticized by
environmentalists for turning a blind eye to the impact
of climate change on the extent of forest fires.
But in the spring of 2020, the situation changed
completely as the corona pandemic began to erupt
seriously in the outside world and also in Australia.
Australians' confidence in Morrison and his government
grew as a result of the successful management of the
crisis. Since the Labor Party led opinion polls in
January, the Morrison government had instead taken over
Australia suffered relatively mildly compared to many
other countries in the world. With the help of major
efforts to test residents to see if they were carrying
the covid-19 virus-caused disease and by means of
infection detection, the authorities managed to limit
the spread of corona. Already in early May, the spread
of infection was under control and the country then
began to ease the various restrictions that were
introduced. Restaurants and shops reopened and it was
allowed to travel within the states. In June, only 100
people had died, while the number of reported cases of
the infection was just over 7,000. Although hundreds of
thousands of Australians became unemployed as a result
of the crisis, nearly two-thirds of voters had
confidence in the government's economic policies, which
included several support measures.
FACTS - POLITICS
Commonwealth of Australia / Australian Commonwealth
monarchy, federal state
Head of State
Queen Elizabeth II
Head of government
Prime Minister Scott Morrison (2018−)
Most important parties with mandates in the
The coalition between the Liberal Party (LP) and the
National Party (NP) 77, the Labor Party (Labor) 68, The
Green 1, the other 5 (2019) 1
Main parties with mandates in the second most
Coalition between Liberal Party (LP) and National
Party (NP) 76, Labor Party (Labor) 69, Green 1 (2016)
about 92% in the 2019 parliamentary elections
parliamentary elections by 2022
- Distribution of seats in the House of
2nd mandate in the House of