1968 Liberal Party of Australia leadership election

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Liberal Party of Australia
leadership election, 1968

← 1966 9 January 1968 1969 →
  JohnGorton1968.jpg Paul Hasluck 1960.jpg
Candidate John Gorton Paul Hasluck
First Ballot 35 24
Second Ballot 51 30

  Les Bury.jpg BillySnedden.jpeg
Candidate Les Bury Billy Snedden
First Ballot 16 6
Second Ballot Eliminated Eliminated

Leader before election

Harold Holt

Elected Leader

John Gorton

A leadership election in the Liberal Party of Australia, the party of government in the Parliament of Australia, was held on 9 January 1968. It followed the disappearance and presumed drowning of previous leader Harold Holt, who had been declared dead on 19 December 1967. The contest was won by Senator John Gorton in a party room ballot; he was sworn in as prime minister the following day, replacing caretaker John McEwen.[1][2]


The Liberal Party Room as the election took place.

Incumbent party leader Harold Holt sensationally disappeared while swimming at Cheviot Beach near Portsea on the Mornington Peninsula of Victoria on 17 December 1967. William McMahon, the incumbent Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party was assumed to be his probable successor, however, John McEwen, the interim Prime Minister and leader of the Country Party (the junior Coalition partner), announced that he and his party would not serve in a government led by McMahon. McMahon subsequently withdrew.


Gorton being sworn in as Prime Minister on 10 January 1968.

The following table gives the ballot results:

Candidate 1st ballot 2nd ballot
John Gorton 35 51
Paul Hasluck 24 30
Les Bury 16 Eliminated
Billy Snedden 6 Eliminated

To date, Gorton is the only Australian Senator to be sworn in as Prime Minister. He later won Holt's vacant seat of Higgins at a by-election. Hasluck was later nominated and accepted the position of Governor-General from Gorton in 1969 and Snedden became party leader in December 1972. Bury later served as Treasurer of Australia under both Gorton and McMahon respectively.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gaul, Jonathan (10 January 1968). "Gorton's Sweeping Victory". The Canberra Times. p. 1.
  2. ^ "The 'devilish race' for leadership of the country". The Canberra Times. 3 June 1984. p. 7.