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ALP: It’s Time (1972)


This is the Australian Labor Party’s principal television advertisement for the 1972 federal election.

Curator’s notes

In the federal election of 2 December 1972, after 23 years of Liberal-Country Party government, Labor, led by Gough Whitlam, won 67 seats in the House of Representatives to the Liberal Party’s 38 and the Country Party’s 20. In hindsight, the success of the ALP election campaign – promoting a charismatic candidate to a national community ripe for change – seems self-evident. And the It’s Time television commercial is still one of the best-remembered ads in federal election history. However, while the ad was a focus of the election strategy, it was only part of a much larger and highly disciplined campaign. In his 2004 essay Modernising Menzies, Whitlam, and Australian Elections in the Australian Review of Public Affairs, Robert Crawford refers to the ‘72 campaign as being at the vanguard of contemporary electioneering practices – characterised by the primary use of electronic media, market research, opinion polls, image management and other consumer-targeted advertising and promotion techniques.

In the political domain of 1972, for this new approach to succeed, all levels of party management had firstly to agree and commit to a standardised and unified campaign. ALP party principals and members, in each of the State branches, who had previously determined election publicity based on their own judgement of the mood of the people, now had to submit to a new facet of the party machine – pollsters, advertising agents and sundry media professionals. Federal secretary Mick Young, energetic, enthusiastic and motivated as he was, had his work cut out for him. A National Campaign Committee was formed, made up of Whitlam, Young, federal publicity officer David White and each of the State branch secretaries. The NCC co-ordinated campaign planning, while ensuring there was co-operation from each of the State executives on the unity of the campaign message and the method of its delivery – right down to printed material for each individual candidate. For the advertising account, the party’s association with Hansen Rubensohn McCann Erikson (HRME) was maintained (Sim Rubensohn was a long-time Labor supporter), but Spectrum International Marketing Services was employed for additional electoral and market research.