May 1977 Australian Labor Party leadership spill

A leadership spill of the Australian Labor Party (ALP), then the opposition party in the Parliament of Australia, was held on 31 May 1977. Former Treasurer Bill Hayden unsuccessfully challenged Labor leader Gough Whitlam. Whitlam was narrowly re-elected by 32 votes to 30 (the smallest possible majority) leading him to later refer to many in his caucus as 'out of touch'.[1]

May 1977 Australian Labor Party
Leadership spill

← 1976 31 May 1977 December 1977 →
  Gough Whitlam headshot.jpg Bill Hayden 1971.jpg
Candidate Gough Whitlam Bill Hayden
Caucus vote 32 30
Percentage 51.62 48.38

Leader before election

Gough Whitlam

Elected Leader

Gough Whitlam


After his party's heavy defeat at the 1975 election Gough Whitlam was comfortably re-elected leader of the ALP. However over the following year his support began to fall away and many MPs lobbied his former Treasurer Bill Hayden to stand against him. In March 1977 Hayden announced his candidacy.[2][3][4]


Potential candidates who declined to runEdit


Australian Labor Party
Deputy Leadership spill, May 1977
Candidate Tom Uren Paul Keating Chris Hurford
1st Rd. 28 22 12
1st Rd. % 45.2% 35.5% 19.4%
Final Rd. 34 28 Eliminated
Final Rd. % 54.8% 45.2% Eliminated

Deputy Leader before election

Tom Uren

Deputy Leader after election

Tom Uren

Leadership ballotEdit

The following tables gives the ballot results:[6]

Name Votes Percentage
Gough Whitlam 32 51.62
Bill Hayden 30 48.38

Deputy leadership ballotEdit

Candidate 1st ballot 2nd ballot
Tom Uren 28 34
Paul Keating 22 28
Chris Hurford 12 Eliminated


Despite surviving the vote the ALP only gained a handful of seats at the 1977 election, which prompted Whitlam to resign as leader with Hayden elected as his replacement.


  1. ^ Davidson, Gay (1 June 1977). "Many Labor MPs 'out of touch'". The Canberra Times. p. 1.
  2. ^ Gay Davidson (12 March 1977). "Hayden to run as leader of ALP". The Canberra Times. p. 1. Retrieved 20 December 2021.
  3. ^ Gay Davidson (15 March 1977). "THE LABOR LEADERSHIP The factions gear up for the numbers games". The Canberra Times. p. 2. Retrieved 20 December 2021.
  4. ^ "Leadership vote: HAYDEN TO CHALLENGE WHITLAM". The Canberra Times. 31 May 1977. Retrieved 20 December 2021.
  5. ^ Gay Davidson (16 March 1977). "Spill of Labor posts likely". The Canberra Times. p. 3. Retrieved 20 December 2021.
  6. ^ "Gough stays as ALP boss". The Canberra Times. 1 June 1977. Retrieved 1 December 2021.