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This paper provides an overview of the main features of the lead-up to the 2010 federal election, the issues that animated the election campaign itself, and the emergence of a hung parliament.

Key findings:

  • The 2010 Federal election occurred in the wake of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party’s decision to remove Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and elect his deputy Julia Gillard to the prime ministership on 24 June 2010. Rudd had become Opposition Leader in December 2006, and his Kevin07 election campaign saw the ALP sweep into office a year later after four terms of Coalition Government under Prime Minister John Howard.
  • The Rudd Government faltered as perceptions grew that its promises were not being matched by outcomes and that Rudd’s leadership style was inhibiting the government’s effectiveness. Notwithstanding the Government’s successful handling of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, some of its financial stimulus programs were plagued by alleged rorting, cost blow-outs and other controversies. The replacement of Malcolm Turnbull by Tony Abbott as Opposition Leader in December 2009 intensified the political dynamics around the Government’s proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. Rudd’s deferral of climate change legislation in April 2010 was widely seen as a fatal blow to his prime ministership.
  • Prime Minister Gillard, having been elevated to the post by her party, was keen to secure an electoral mandate in her own right, and called an election for 21 August 2010. The election campaign was especially challenging for Gillard as she sought to establish her prime ministerial credentials and assert her personal attributes and abilities in a hostile political environment.
  • The election proved an extremely close contest, with neither of the major parties securing an absolute majority in the House of Representatives, and the Australian Greens winning the balance of power in the Senate. Protracted negotiations with Independent and Greens MPs finally resulted in an agreement that delivered minority government to the ALP, with Prime Minister Gillard confronting a hung parliament.
  • The election campaign was also notable for a High Court decision striking down electoral provisions introduced by the Howard Government and enabling around 100 000 additional electors to participate in the 2010 election.
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