Australian federal politics at the turn of the century is a contest between two leaders, John Howard and Kim Beazley. The major political issue remains taxation reform. The next federal election in 2001 will be a re-match, in terms of leaders and issues, of the last election in 1998.

This study of that 1998 election, by academic commentators and party officials, reveals how diverse are the interpretations of the recent political past. This applies both to the reasons for the election result–for John Howard’s victory–and the significance that ought to be attached to it.

In the eyes of the coalition government their success was a triumph for taxation reform and for the grassroots campaigning of Liberal and National members and candidates, as well as a rejection of an “out of touch” Labor Party.

In the eyes of the Labor opposition they lost (despite winning a majority of the votes) while “convincing electors that they deserved better than a coalition government” which had broken its promises about a GST.