|Leader||Tony Abbott MP|
|Deputy Leader||Warren Truss MP|
|House of Representatives|
|Politics of Australia
In Australian federal politics, the Coalition is a formal alliance of broadly centre-right parties, existing in various forms since the 1922 federal election. The partners in the alliance are the Liberal Party, the National Party (formerly the Country Party and the National Country Party), the Country Liberal Party (CLP), and the Liberal National Party (LNP). Notable previous partners were the Nationalist Party and the United Australia Party, both predecessors of the current Liberal Party. The extent to which these parties are in alliance varies at state and territory level. At one extreme, the National Party of Western Australia and The Nationals South Australia currently compete alongside the Liberals, 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 national level has been proposed on several occasions, without much progress.
When in government, the Liberal leader usually serves as Prime Minister of Australia and the National leader as Deputy Prime Minister, as is currently the case with Tony Abbott and Warren Truss, 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 leaders of state branches generally serving as Premiers (or Chief Ministers). 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.
|Coalition Member Parties|
|Liberal Party of Australia|
|Liberal National Party of Queensland|
|National Party of Australia|
|Country Liberal Party (NT)|
At the federal level, there is a Coalition between the Liberals, Nationals and Country Liberal Party, with the Queensland Liberal National Party participating through their affiliation with the Liberals (though some federal LNP senators and MPs sit as Nationals). The origins of the Coalition lie with the coalition between the Nationalist Party of Australia and the Country Party formed following the 1922 federal election and continuing until their defeat in 1929. The Country Party fought the 1931 federal election on the basis of an electoral coalition with the CLP's successor party, the United Australia Party, but the latter won enough seats to rule in its own right and did so. The parties once again joined in a coalition government following the 1934 government, and remained in coalition following Labor's return to power in 1941. The parties again split following the 1943 election, but reunited after the Country Party and the UAP's successor party, the modern Liberal Party, defeated Labor at the 1949 election. Since then, 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 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 status of the Coalition varies across the Commonwealth and states. Below is the status of each state on a state-by-state basis:
- New South Wales: A Coalition between the Liberal and National parties exists in New South Wales. The Liberal Party is led by Barry O'Farrell and the National Party by Andrew Stoner. It won the 2011 state election in a massive swing. New South Wales is the only state where the coalition has never broken, and yet has also never merged.
|Coalition Lower House Seats
(and endorsed parties)
- Queensland: Queensland is the only state in which the Nationals have consistently been the stronger coalition partner. The Nationals were the senior partner in the non-Labor Coalition from 1925 until the Coalition was broken in 1983. At an election held two months later, the Nationals under Joh Bjelke-Petersen came up one seat short of a majority, but later gained a majority when two Liberal MLAs crossed the floor to join the Nationals. The Nationals then governed in their own right until 1989. The Coalition was renewed in 1991, and won power under Rob Borbidge from 1996 to 1998. In 2008, the parties agreed to merge, forming the Liberal National Party, which is affiliated with the Liberal Party and has observer status within the National Party. The LNP won an overwhelming majority government in the 2012 state election under the leadership of Campbell Newman. At the federal level, LNP MP and Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss is the federal leader of the Nationals, and six other LNP MPs sit with the Nationals in the House. LNP Senator Matthew Carnavan sits with the Nationals. There is an informal agreement within the LNP as to which party room LNP members will sit with. Members who were are re-elected to parliament remain in the same party, whereas members who win seats from the ALP that previously belonged to the coalition will sit with the previous member's party. An amicable division of seats was decided upon for new seats or seats that have never been won by the coalition.3 In practice, most LNP MPs from Brisbane and the Gold Coast sit with the Liberals, while those from country seats usually sit with the Nationals.
- South Australia: The two parties merged to form the Liberal and Country League in 1932. This in turn joined the Liberal party in 1973, and a separate Country Party (later Nationals SA) emerged, which has only ever had two representatives: Peter Blacker from 1973 to 1993, and Karlene Maywald from 1997 to 2010. From 2004 to 2010, Maywald was a Minister in the Rann Labor Government, before losing her seat at the 2010 South Australian state election, thereby informally creating a coalition between the ALP and the National Party at South Australia's state level of government. The National Party, at the time, rejected the notion that it was in a coalition with Labor at the state level. State National Party President John Venus told journalists, "We (The Nationals) are not in coalition with the Labor Party, we aren't in coalition with the Liberals, we are definitely not in coalition with anyone. We stand alone in South Australia as an independent party." Flinders University political scientist Haydon Manning disagreed, saying that it is "churlish to describe the government as anything but a coalition".4 The party did not run candidates at the 2010 federal election, but ran one candidate in the seat of Barker and two for the Senate at the 2013 election. The Nationals candidate for Barker and several other Coalition figures assured electors that the Nationals would be part of the Coalition if they were elected, after comments from the Liberal candidate to the contrary.5
- Tasmania: The National Party is not affiliated in Tasmania, leaving the Liberal Party as the sole major non-Labor party in the state.
- Victoria: The Country Party was the stronger coalition partner on multiple occasions from the 1920s through to the 1950s, and Country leaders served as Premier of Victoria on five separate occasions. A Coalition between the Liberal and National parties exists in Victoria. The Liberal Party is led by Denis Napthine and the National Party by Peter Ryan.6 When Ryan became leader of the Nationals shortly after the 1999 election, he briefly terminated the Coalition agreement and went into the 2002 and 2006 elections separately from the Liberals. However, the Coalition agreement was renewed in 2008 and the Victorian Liberal and National parties went into the 2010 election as a Coalition. The Coalition ended up winning the 2010 election with a one-seat margin.
- Western Australia: The Country Party was the stronger coalition partner from the 1933 state election to the 1947 state election, although the Coalition did not form government during this period; Western Australia has never had a premier from the National Party or its predecessors. The National Party of Western Australia was in Coalition with the state Liberal government from 1993 to 2001 (see Hendy Cowan), but the Coalition was subsequently broken. In 2008, the Liberals, Nationals, and an independent MP formed the Government after the 2008 election, but this is not characterised as a "traditional coalition", with limited cabinet collective responsibility for National cabinet members.7 The Leader of the Liberals in Western Australia is Premier Colin Barnett and the Nationals Leader is Brendon Grylls. Tony Crook was elected as the WA Nationals candidate for the seat of O'Connor at the 2010 federal election. Although some reports initially counted Crook as a National MP, and thus part of the Coalition, Crook sat as a crossbencher.8
- Australian Capital Territory: The National Party is not affiliated in the Australian Capital Territory, leaving the Liberal Party as the sole major non-Labor party in the territory.
- Northern Territory: The two parties' branches in Northern Territory merged in 1974, forming the Country Liberal Party. The CLP governed the Territory from 1974 to 2001, and won back power in 2012. The CLP retains full voting rights within the federal National Party, and has observer status with the federal Liberal Party. Federal CLP members are directed by the CLP whether to sit with the federal Liberals or Nationals.9 CLP Senator Nigel Scullion was the deputy leader of the federal Nationals until 2013 and was the leader of the Nationals in the Senate until September 2008 and was replaced in both positions by Barnaby Joyce. After Joyce made his successful transition to the House of Representatives at the 2013 election, Senator Scullion returned as the Nationals Senate leader. The CLP's lone member in the House of Representatives, Natasha Griggs, sits with the Liberals.
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, usually without undue 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 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.10
- 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.
- "Origins". The Nationals. Retrieved 18 August 2013.
- King, Madonna (18 May 2010). "LNP differences a Coalition headache". The Drum (Australian Broadcasting Corporation).
- Haxton, Nance (23 July 2004). "SA Govt recruits National Party MP". PM (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). Retrieved 1 February 2011.
- Brennan, Ben (4 September 2013). "Joyce takes aim at claim". The Murray Valley Standard. Retrieved 17 November 2013.
- Best, Catherine (11 February 2008). "Coalition reunites in Victoria". The Sydney Morning Herald (Fairfax media). AAP. Retrieved 14 March 2010.
- "Labor's clean sweep broken". News.com.au (Sydney: News Limited). 14 September 2008. Retrieved 14 September 2008.dead link
- Ker, Peter (26 August 2010). "Don't count me among Coalition, says Nat". The Age (Melbourne: Fairfax Media). Retrieved 1 February 2011.
- "History of the Country Liberals". Northern Territory: Country Liberal Party. 2010. Retrieved 24 August 2010.
- "Non-classic Divisions". Australian Electoral Commission. 2010. Retrieved 7 November 2011.
- Liberals site
- Nationals site
- LNP site
- CLP site
- History of preferences page at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation site