Modern Australian political parties emerged during the 19th Century from the partisan politics of the Australian colonial parliaments. The early parties were based on divisions amongst labour, free trade and protectionist interest groups. In 1889, the Protectionist and Free Trade Parties were founded in the Colony of New South Wales (NSW). Later, in 1891, the future Australian Labor Party (ALP) was founded to represent the interests of working people.
Following the creation of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, the modern Australian two-party system evolved – the ‘Commonwealth Liberal Party’ and the Australian Labor Party. The ‘Commonwealth Liberal Party’ was founded in 1909 with the merger of the Protectionist and Free Trade parties, and became the first of a succession of parties to dominate the ‘non-labour’ or conservative end of the Australian political party spectrum. Federal governments since its early days have alternated between the ALP and the main conservative party.
During WW1, the governing ALP government split over the issue of conscription. In response, Billy Hughes (the PM) and his supporters merged with the Liberals in 1917 to found the Nationalist Party of Australia. Around the same time, rural conservatives began forming their own parties. In 1922 federal elections, the new Country Party of Australia sufficiently split the conservative vote requiring the Nationalist Party to engage the Country Party as a coalition partner to remain in office. Internal turmoil within the Nationalist Party throughout the 1920s divided and weakened it. Once in Opposition from 1929, the Nationalist Party was eclipsed by a rising new conservative party, the United Australia Party (UAP).
The UAP formed the federal government between 1932 and 1941, until its internal divisions tore it apart. While in Opposition, some of UAP members were drawn to former UAP Prime Minister, Robert Menzies. In 1945, Menzies formally founded the Liberal Party of Australia.
These various parties – Free Trade, Protectionist, ALP, Commonwealth Liberal, Nationalist, Country, UAP and Liberal Parties – have all rested upon ideological foundations. The ALP has favoured social democratic principles, whilst the non-labour parties have maintained uneasy ideological alliances amongst social conservatives and economic liberals.
The following speeches provided insights into the ideological foundations of these political parties.
|Light on a Hill||Type||Party Political Speech|
|Date||12 June 1949|
|Overview||At the Annual Conference of the NSW branch of the ALP, Ben Chifley (Australian PM) delivered a speech expressing his commitment to ALP Party values. Chifley’s speech is now regarded as seminal statement of ALP Party values.
‘I try to think of the Labor movement, not as putting an extra sixpence into somebody’s pocket, or making somebody Prime Minister or Premier, but as a movement bringing something better to the people, better standards of living, greater happiness to the mass of the people…’.
|Sources||Light on a Hill Speech|
|The Forgotten People||Type||Party Political Speech|
|Author||Robert Menzies (later, Sir Robert Menzies)|
|Date||22 May 1942|
|Overview||Following his ousting as Australian PM, and the increasing disintegration of his political party (the United Australia Party), Menzies set out to establish a new ideological platform and popular support base for a new political party – the Liberal Party of Australia.
‘The Forgotten People’ speech was intended to articulate a political consciousness for the Middle Class. He argued that ‘the rich can look after themselves’, whilst ‘the mass of unskilled people, almost invariably well-organised, and with their wages and conditions safeguarded by popular law’.
However, the Middle Class are the ‘forgotten people’ – forgotten by mainstream politics. While not politically organised, the Middle Class are defined by their contribution to the country – as home owners, as intelligent and independent thinkers, artists and innovators, and the champions of learning.
‘If the new world is to be a world of men, we must be not pallid and bloodless ghosts, but a community of people whose motto shall be, “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.” Individual enterprise must drive us forward.’
|Sources||The Forgotten People text|
|Title: Ben Chifley
Source: Wikipedia Commons
Copyright statement: This image is of Australian origin and is now in the public domain because its term of copyright has expired.
|Title: Robert Menzies
Date: 1953 (from the 1953 Commonwealth Parliamentary Handbook)
Source: Wikipedia Commons
This image is of Australian origin and is now in the public domain because its term of copyright has expired.