Ten Federal Elections that Shaped Australia

Edited by Benjamin T. Jones, Frank Bongiorno FASSA and John Uhr

In a world of fake news and populist politics, elections can seem like theatre. With growing rates of informal votes and a perceived narrowing of differences between the major parties, do Australian elections really matter? Taking ten examples, this book argues that elections do matter (even when it seems they don’t). It is not just elections with memorable jingles or triumphant campaigns from opposition to government that can shape the nation. Could it be that the Labor loss in 1969 formed the country more than the famous win in 1972? Or did the return of the Coalition in 1954 have more impact than securing government in 1949?

Elections Matter looks at prime ministers and policies that never were and examines how the democratic process could have produced a different country. Had key elections taken a different turn, Australia might have had a different constitution, a different head of state, different health and education systems and a different foreign policy approach. This book looks at ten elections that powerfully shaped Australia.


Elections: Aren’t They All the Same? — Benjamin T. Jones
1. 1901: Getting the Job Done — Marian Simms
2. 1910: Fisher Leads Labor to Victory — John Uhr
3. 1929: The Patrician and the Orator — Alex Millmow
4. 1940: What to Do in an Electoral Draw — Benjamin T. Jones
5. 1954: Did Petrov Matter? — Bridget Brooklyn
6. 1969: ‘Our Politics Are No Longer Frozen’ — Richard Reid
7. 1987: Labor Makes It Three — Frank Bongiorno
8. 1996: Lazarus Rises — Jill Sheppard
9. 2001: Boats, Terror and Legacy — Marija Taflaga
10. 2010: Another Hung Parliament — Isobelle Barrett Meyering
Conclusion: A New Normal? — Benjamin T. Jones
Appendix: How Australians Vote — Michael Maley

About the Editors

Frank Bongiorno is Professor of History at the Australian National University. His books include The People’s Party: Victorian Labor and the Radical Tradition 1875-1914 (1996), The Sex Lives of Australians: A History (2012) and The Eighties: The Decade that Transformed Australia (2015).

Benjamin T. Jones is a historian at the Australian National University specialising in republicanism and Australian politics. His work has been disseminated in leading history and education journals and the mainstream media. His recent books include Atheism for Christians (2016), Republicanism and Responsible Government (2014), and Project Republic (2013).

John Uhr is professor of political science in the School of Politics and International Relations at the Australian National University, where he established the Centre for the Study of Australian Politics. Among his recent books is Political Leadership and Rhetoric, written with Dr Adam Masters (Palgrave 2017).

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