Members in italics did not contest their seat at this election.
The 1987 federal election was called 6 months early by Labor Prime Minister Bob Hawke to capitalise on disunity in the opposition. The trigger for the double dissolution was legislation for the Australia Card, although it did not figure prominently in the campaign. Opposition Leader John Howard had dismissed his predecessor Andrew Peacock from the shadow ministry in March, following unfortunate remarks by Peacock to Victorian state opposition leader Jeff Kennett in an infamous car phone conversation. Howard, who had succeeded Peacock in 1985, was fighting a war on two fronts – the origin of his oft-repeated remark that, in politics, "disunity is death".
This election was the last time the Liberals and Nationals competed directly against each other in a federal election. This was due to the abortive Joh for Canberra campaign of Queensland premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen. Although Bjelke-Petersen did not run, the resulting schism between the Nationals and Liberals led to several three-cornered contests. Labor campaigned strongly on the disunity among the opposition parties. The Labor result of 86 seats was the party's highest ever (the total number of seats was expanded by 23 in 1984).