Labour History

Triumphant, Troubled, then Terminal: An Examination of the Cain and Kirner Decade 30 Years On

Labour History (2013), 105, (1), 27–46.


More than 30 years have elapsed since the election of the Cain Labor government in Victoria in April 1982 and, given that only limited academic literature exists on this period of governance in Australia’s second most populous state, it is worth examining in detail the Cain and Kirner Labor governments. This article sets this period in the context of the longer political history of Victoria, provides analysis of Labor’s rise from electoral inconsequence to government, and charts the course of Labor’s decade in office until it ended unceremoniously in October 1992. The article argues that, in contrast to the Hawke and Keating federal governments, Labor in Victoria largely eschewed neoliberalism and pursued a more traditional social democratic agenda. This program proved fruitful until “the recession we had to have” severely impacted on the local economy in 1990–91 and led to the landslide defeat of 1992.

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*The author would like to thank the two anonymous referees ofLabour Historyfor their comments and suggestions. Google Scholar

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Author details

Harkness, Alistair