1983 Australian federal election

The 1983 Australian federal election was held in Australia on 5 March 1983. All 125 seats in the House of Representatives and all 64 seats in the Senate were up for election, following a double dissolution. The incumbent Coalition government which had been in power since 1975, led by Malcolm Fraser (Liberal Party) and Doug Anthony (National Party), was defeated in a landslide by the opposition Labor Party led by Bob Hawke.

1983 Australian federal election

← 1980 5 March 1983 1984 →

All 125 seats in the House of Representatives
63 seats were needed for a majority in the House
All 64 seats in the Senate
Registered9,372,064 Increase 3.86%
Turnout8,870,175 (94.64%)
(Increase0.29 pp)
  First party Second party
Leader Bob Hawke Malcolm Fraser
Party Labor Liberal/National coalition
Leader since 8 February 1983 21 March 1975
Leader's seat Wills (Vic.) Wannon (Vic.)
Last election 51 seats 74 seats
Seats won 75 seats 50 seats
Seat change Increase 24 Decrease 24
First preference vote 4,297,392 3,787,151
Percentage 49.48% 43.61%
Swing Increase 4.34% Decrease 2.79%
TPP 53.23% 46.77%
TPP swing Increase 3.60% Decrease 3.60%

Results by division for the House of Representatives, shaded by winning party's margin of victory.

Prime Minister before election

Malcolm Fraser
Liberal/National coalition

Subsequent Prime Minister

Bob Hawke

This election marked the end of the seven year Liberal–National Coalition Fraser government and the start of the 13 year Hawke-Keating Labor government. The Coalition would spend its longest ever period in opposition and the Labor party would spend its longest ever period of government at a federal level. The Coalition would not return to government until the 1996 election.

Hawke became the second Labor leader after World War II to lead the party to victory from opposition, after Gough Whitlam in 1972 and before Kevin Rudd in 2007 and Anthony Albanese in 2022.

Background and issues


At the time of the election, the economy suffered from high inflation and high unemployment, alongside increases in industrial disputation and drought across much of the rural areas. The coalition government had been led by Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser since 1975. Fraser had fought off a leadership challenge from Andrew Peacock, who had resigned from the Cabinet citing Fraser's "manic determination to get his own way", a phrase Fraser had himself used when he resigned from John Gorton's government in 1971. The Liberal government had to contend with the early-1980s recession. They unexpectedly won the December 1982 Flinders by-election, after having lost the March 1982 Lowe by-election with a large swing.

The Gallagher Index result: 10.54

Hawke had entered Parliament at the 1980 federal election following a decade as leader of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU). Labor factions began to push for the deposition of Bill Hayden from the party leadership in favour of Hawke. Fraser was well aware of the ructions in Labor, and originally planned to call an election for 1982, more than a year before it was due. However, he was forced to scrap those plans after suffering a severe back injury.

On 3 February 1983 at a meeting in Brisbane held in conjunction with the state funeral of former Labor Prime Minister Frank Forde, Hayden resigned on the advice of his closest supporters such as Senator John Button. An election was not due for seven more months; however, Fraser, emboldened by the unexpected retention of Flinders, had caught wind of the impending change and attempted to immediately call an election (for 5 March), which would have put Parliament into "caretaker mode" and essentially frozen Labor into contesting the election with Hayden as leader.

However, Fraser could not secure a swift dissolution of parliament as paperwork for the double dissolution had to be prepared, delaying the official proclamation by Governor-General, Sir Ninian Stephen by a few hours. Fraser had hoped to do this before the announcement of the change in Labor leadership. Unfortunately for Fraser, Hayden had resigned two hours before Fraser travelled to Government House. He only learned Hayden had resigned after the writs formally issued.

Richard de Crespigny (future Captain of Qantas flight 32 which was crippled on a flight from Singapore to Sydney), who was serving at this time as aide de camp to Governor-General Stephen, details this event in his book. The actual double dissolution of the parliament occurred the following day on 4 February.[1] Fraser also hoped to gain control of the Senate, where the Australian Democrats had held the balance of power since 1 July 1981.

Five days later on 8 February, the ALP formally elected Hawke as party leader. Fraser was intensely unpopular at the time, and now faced the prospect of going into an election facing a Labor Party led by the popular Hawke. In response to his abrupt removal, Hayden made his famous claim that a "drover's dog" could lead the ALP to victory. Fraser's campaign used the slogan "We're Not Waiting for the World", while Hawke's campaign theme was based around his favoured leadership philosophy of consensus, using the slogan "Bringing Australia Together".

The Ash Wednesday bushfires that devastated areas of Victoria and South Australia on 16 February disrupted the Prime Minister's re-election campaign which was unofficially put on hold while he toured the affected areas.

Fraser tried to brand Hawke as a union organiser who was too friendly towards Communism. On the security of the banking system to protect people's savings, he asserted that ordinary people's money was safer under their beds than in a bank under Labor. In response to an attack, Hawke laughed and said "you can't keep your money under the bed because that's where the Commies are!"[2]

As counting progressed on election night, it was obvious early on that the ALP had won with a massive swing. Hawke with wife Hazel claimed victory and a tearful Fraser conceded defeat. Ultimately, Labor achieved a 24-seat swing —- the largest defeat of a sitting government since 1949 and the worst defeat a sitting non-Labor government has ever suffered. Fraser soon resigned from Parliament, leaving the Liberal leadership to his long-term foe Andrew Peacock, who would later have a fierce leadership battle himself with the future Liberal Prime Minister John Howard.

The Labor Party would spend 13 years in government, with both Hawke and Paul Keating as leaders—the longest period of continuous federal government in the party's history.

Voting intention



Date Brand Firm Interview mode Primary vote
5 March 1983 election 43.61% 49.48% 5.03% 1.88%
3 March 1983 Gallup Morgan Telephone 43% 50% 6% 1%
2 March 1983 Spectrum Australian Telephone 42% 52% 5% 1%
27 – 28 February 1983 ANOP National Times Telephone 42% 51.5% 5% 1.5%
19 – 20 February 1983 Gallup Morgan Telephone 42% 52% 4% 2%
12 – 13 February 1983 Gallup Morgan Telephone 41% 52% 5% 2%
5 – 6 February 1983 Gallup Morgan Telephone 41% 52% 5% 2%
22 – 29 January 1983 Gallup Morgan Telephone 43% 48% 7% 2%
18 October 1980 election 46.40% 45.15% 6.57% 1.88%



House of Representatives

Government (75)
  Labor (75)

Opposition (50)
  Liberal (33)
  National (17)
House of Reps (IRV) – 1983–84—Turnout 94.64% (CV) – Informal 2.09%
Party Votes % Swing Seats Change
  Labor 4,297,392 49.48 +4.34 75   24
  Liberal–National coalition 3,787,151 43.61 –2.79 50   24
  Liberal 2,983,986 34.36 −3.07 33   21
  National 782,824 9.01 +0.27 17   2
  Country Liberal  20,471 0.24 +0.01 0   1
  Democrats 437,265 5.03 −1.54
Others 162,925 1.87
Total 8,684,862 125
Two-party-preferred (estimated)
  Labor 53.23 +3.6 75   24
  Coalition 46.77 −3.6 50   24
Invalid/blank votes 185,312 2.1
Turnout 8,870,175 94.6
Registered voters 9,372,064
Source: Federal Election Results 1949-1993
Popular vote
Two-party-preferred vote
Parliament seats


Government (30)
  Labor (30)

Opposition (28)
  Liberal (23)
  National (4)
  CLP (1)

Crossbench (6)
  Democrats (5)
  Independent (1)
Senate (STV) – 1983–84—Turnout 94.64% (CV) – Informal 9.87%
Party Votes % Swing Seats won Total seats Change
  Labor 3,637,316 45.49 +3.24 30 30 +3
  Liberal–National coalition 3,195,397 39.97 –3.51 28 28 –3
  Liberal–National joint ticket 1,861,618 23.28 −2.35 8 * *
  Liberal (separate ticket) 923,571 11.55 −1.59 16 23 –4
  National (separate ticket) 388,802 4.86 +0.41 3 4 +1
  Country Liberal 21,406 0.27 +0.02 1 1 0
  Democrats 764,911 9.57 +0.31 5 5 0
  Call to Australia 96,065 0
  Progress Party 1,905 0
  White Australia 1,025 0
  Independents 193,454 2.42 +1.29 1 1 0
  Other 203,967 2.55 −1.34 0 0 0
  Total 7,995,045     64 64

Seats changing hands

Seat Pre-1983 Swing Post-1983
Party Member Margin Margin Member Party
Barton, NSW   Liberal Jim Bradfield 0.4 4.4 4.0 Gary Punch Labor  
Bendigo, Vic   Liberal John Bourchier 1.3 4.1 2.8 John Brumby Labor  
Bowman, Qld   Liberal David Jull 1.2 3.4 2.2 Len Keogh Labor  
Calare, NSW   National Sandy Mackenzie 1.5 4.4 2.9 David Simmons Labor  
Canning, WA   Liberal Mel Bungey 1.8 9.2 7.4 Wendy Fatin Labor  
Casey, Vic   Liberal Peter Falconer 1.9 2.6 0.7 Peter Steedman Labor  
Chisholm, Vic   Liberal Graham Harris 2.2 4.4 2.2 Helen Mayer Labor  
Deakin, Vic   Liberal Alan Jarman 2.3 4.4 2.1 John Saunderson Labor  
Diamond Valley, Vic   Liberal Neil Brown 3.7 4.1 0.4 Peter Staples Labor  
Eden-Monaro, NSW   Liberal Murray Sainsbury 2.8 4.6 1.8 Jim Snow Labor  
Fadden, Qld   Liberal Don Cameron 1.5 3.1 1.7 David Beddall Labor  
Flinders, Vic   Liberal Peter Reith 2.3 5.6 1.0 Bob Chynoweth Labor  
Herbert, Qld   Liberal Gordon Dean 0.9 3.7 2.8 Ted Lindsay Labor  
Kingston, SA   Liberal Grant Chapman 0.2 3.3 3.1 Gordon Bilney Labor  
Leichhardt, Qld   National David Thomson 1.1 3.2 2.1 John Gayler Labor  
Macarthur, NSW   Liberal Michael Baume 3.2 5.3 2.1 Colin Hollis Labor  
Moore, WA   Liberal John Hyde 2.8 10.0 7.2 Allen Blanchard Labor  
Northern Territory, NT   Country Liberal Grant Tambling 1.2 3.1 1.9 John Reeves Labor  
Perth, WA   Liberal Ross McLean 1.0 7.4 6.4 Ric Charlesworth Labor  
Petrie, Qld   Liberal John Hodges 3.4 3.9 0.5 Dean Wells Labor  
Phillip, NSW   Liberal Jack Birney 0.6 2.5 1.9 Jeannette McHugh Labor  
Stirling, WA   Liberal Ian Viner 2.0 9.0 7.0 Ron Edwards Labor  
Tangney, WA   Liberal Peter Shack 4.6 7.8 3.2 George Gear Labor  
  • Members listed in italics did not contest their seat at this election.

See also



  • Prior to 1984 the AEC did not undertake a full distribution of preferences for statistical purposes. The stored ballot papers for the 1983 election were put through this process prior to their destruction. Therefore, the figures from 1983 onwards show the actual result based on full distribution of preferences. The 1983 swing of approximately 3.6 points is based on a pure deduction of one result from the other.


  1. ^ House of Representatives Practice, 6th Ed, Appendix 12: GENERAL ELECTIONS—SIGNIFICANT DATES FROM 19TH TO 44TH PARLIAMENTS
  2. ^ Hawke Swoops into Power, TIME, 14 March 1983
  3. ^ "105 volumes : illustrations (chiefly coloured), portraits (chiefly coloured) ; 30-40 cm.", The bulletin., John Ryan Comic Collection (Specific issues)., Sydney, N.S.W: John Haynes and J.F. Archibald, 1880, ISSN 0007-4039, nla.obj-1248743470, retrieved 5 March 2021 – via Trove