- Australian Labor Party
party_name = Australian Labor Party
party_wikicolourid = Labor
foundation = 1891
Democratic socialism, Social democracy,
headquarters = 161 London Circuit
holds_government = NSW, VIC, QLD, SA WA, TAS, ACT & NT
website = [http://www.alp.org.au www.alp.org.au] |
The Australian Labor Party is an Australian political party.
Known as the ALP for short, the party is the current governing party of Australia.
Kevin Ruddis the party's federal parliamentary leader and Prime Minister of Australia.
Founded in 1891 by the emerging labour movement in Australia, Labor is the country's oldest active political party, having contested state seats from 1891, federal seats following the Federation at the 1901 federal election, and gained Australia's first majority in either house at the 1910 federal election. The ALP predates both the
British Labour Partyand New Zealand Labour Partyamong others in both party formation and government. The party today competes with the Liberal/National coalition for political office at a federal and sometimes state and local level.
The policy of the Australian Labor Party is contained in its National Platform, which is approved by delegates to Labor's National Conference, held every three years. According to the Labor Party's website, "The Platform is the result of a rigorous and constructive process of consultation, spanning the nation and including the cooperation and input of state and territory policy committees, local branches, unions, state and territory governments, and individual Party members. The Platform provides the policy foundation from which we can continue to work towards the election of a federal Labor Government." [cite web |url=http://www.alp.org.au/platform/index.php |publisher=Australian Labor Party |title=ALP National Platform and Constitution 2007]
The platform gives a general indication of the policy direction which a future Labor government would follow, but does not commit the party to specific policies. It maintains that "Labor's traditional values will remain a constant on which all Australians can rely." While making it clear that Labor is fully committed to a market economy, it says that: "Labor believes in a strong role for national government — the one institution all Australians truly own and control through our right to vote." Labor "will not allow the benefits of change to be concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, or located only in privileged communities. The benefits must be shared by all Australians and all our regions." The Platform and Labor "believe that all people are created equal in their entitlement to dignity and respect, and should have an equal chance to achieve their potential." For Labor, "government has a critical role in ensuring fairness by: ensuring equal opportunity; removing unjustifiable discrimination; and achieving a more equitable distribution of wealth, income and status." Further sections of the Platform stress Labor's support for Equality, Human Rights, Labour Rights and Democracy.
In practice, the Platform provides only general policy guidelines to Labor's federal, state and territory parliamentary leaderships. The policy Labor takes into an election campaign is determined by the Cabinet (if the party is in office) or the Shadow Cabinet (if it is in opposition), in consultation with key interest groups within the party, and is contained in the parliamentary Leader's policy speech delivered during the election campaign. When Labor is in office, the policies it implements are determined by the Cabinet, subject to the Platform. Generally, it is accepted that while the Platform binds Labor governments, how and when it is implemented remains the prerogative of the parliamentary caucus. It is now rare for the Platform to conflict with government policy, as the content of the Platform is usually developed in close collaboration with the party's parliamentary leadership as well as the factions. However, where there is a direct contradiction with the Platform, Labor governments have sought to change the Platform as a prerequisite for a change in policy. For example, privatisation legislation under the Hawke government occurred only after holding a special national conference to debate changing the Platform.
The Labor Party is commonly described as a social democratic party, but its constitution stipulates that it is a democratic socialist party.
The light on the hillis a phrase used to describe the objective of the Australian Labor Party. The phrase was coined in a 1949 conference speech by then Prime Minister Ben Chifley. The party was created by, and has always been influenced to some extent by trade unionists, and its policy at any given time has been the policy of the broader labour movement. Thus at the first federal election 1901 Labor's platform called for a White Australia (a view held by all federal MPs at the time bar Bruce Smith, a Free Trader), a citizen army and compulsory arbitration of industrial disputes. [McKinlay (1981) p. 19] Labor has at various times supported high tariffs and low tariffs, conscriptionand pacifism, White Australiaand multiculturalism, nationalisationand privatisation, isolationismand internationalism, as has the conservative side of Australian politics.
In the aftermath of
World War Iand the Russian Revolution, support for socialism grew in trade union ranks, and at the 1921 All-Australian Trades Union Congress a resolution was passed calling for "the socialisation of industry, production, distribution and exchange." As a result, Labor's Federal Conference in 1922 adopted a similarly worded "socialist objective," which remained official policy for many years. The resolution was immediately qualified, however, by the "Blackburn amendment," which said that "socialisation" was desirable only when was necessary to "eliminate exploitation and other anti-social features." [McKinlay (1981) p. 53] In practice the socialist objective was a dead letter. Only once has a federal Labor government attempted to nationalise any industry ( Ben Chifley's bank nationalisation of 1947), and that was held by the High Court to be unconstitutional.
However, the idea that only the socialist working class formed Labor is untrue. Analysis of the early NSW Labor caucus reveals "a band of unhappy amateurs", made up of blue collar workers, a squatter, an MD, and even a mine owner. In addition, many members from the working class supported the liberal notion of free trade between the colonies - in the first grouping of state MPs, 17 of the 35 were free-traders. Some historically declare the party a mix of socialism, liberalism, pragmatism and 'Laborism'. These commitments are deemed to place Labor closer, intellectually and historically, to the 19th century colonial liberals as the forerunners to the Labor party over the conservatives of the time. [ [http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A593200 The Ideology of the Australian Labor Party: BBC, 16 August 2001] ]
Various ideological beliefs were factionalised under reforms to the ALP under
Gough Whitlam, resulting in what is now known as the Socialist Leftwho tend to favour a more interventionist economic policy and more socially progressive ideals, and Labor Right, the now dominant faction that tends to be more economically liberal and focus to a lesser extent on social issues.
Bob Hawkeand Paul Keatinggovernments from 1983 to 1996 pursued many economic policies associated with economic rationalismand the "Third Way", such as floating the Australian Dollarin 1983, reductions in trade tariffs, taxation reforms, changing from centralised wage-fixing to enterprise bargaining, the privatisation of Qantasand Commonwealth Bank, and deregulating the banking system. Keating also proposed a GST in 1985, however due to its unpopularity amongst Labor as well as the electorate, was scrapped. The party also refrained from other reforms, such as wholesale labour market deregulation (eg WorkChoices), the eventual GST, the privatisation of Telstraand welfare reformincluding " work for the dole", which John Howardand the Liberal Party of Australiawere to initiate after winning office in 1996.
It is also said by a former
Tony Blairstaffer that UK Labourand Blair learnt from the Hawke government in the 1980s on how to govern when they took power in the UK. [ [http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2007/12/16/1197740090746.html?page=2 How the British came, saw and helped Rudd - National - theage.com.au ] ]
The Whitlam government was first to use the term
economic rationalism. [Cite book |url=http://www.uq.edu.au/economics/johnquiggin/JournalArticles97/Econrat97.html |title=Economic rationalism |first=John |last=Quiggin |year=1997 |publisher=Crossings] The Gough WhitlamLabor government from 1972 to 1975 changed from a democratic socialist platform to a social democratic one, a precursor to the party's current third way policies. Under the Whitlam government, tariffs across the board were cut by 25 percent after 23 years of Labor being in opposition. [cite web |url=http://www.whitlam.org/collection/1973/19730718_Tariff_Reduction/ |title=Tariff Reduction |publisher=The Whitlam Institute |work=The Whitlam Collection]
Current Labor leader
Kevin Rudd's first speech to parliament in 1998 stated:
Competitive markets are massive and generally efficient generators of economic wealth. They must therefore have a central place in the management of the economy. But markets sometimes fail, requiring direct government intervention through instruments such as industry policy. There are also areas where the public good dictates that there should be no market at all.Rudd is critical of free market economists such as
We are not afraid of a vision in the Labor Party, but nor are we afraid of doing the hard policy yards necessary to turn that vision into reality. Parties of the Centre Left around the world are wrestling with a similar challenge—the creation of a competitive economy while advancing the overriding imperative of a just society. Some call this the `third way'. The nomenclature is unimportant. What is important is that it is a repudiation of Thatcherism and its Australian derivatives represented opposite. It is in fact a new formulation of the nation's economic and social imperatives. [cite web | first=Kevin | last=Rudd | title = First Speech to Parliament | publisher = "
Parliament of Australia" | date= 11 November 1998 | url =http://www.aph.gov.au/house/members/firstspeech.asp?id=83T | accessdate =2006-12-09] Friedrich Hayek, [cite web | first=Kevin | last=Rudd | title = What's Wrong with the Right | date= 16 November 2006 | url =http://www.kevinrudd.com/_dbase_upl/061116%20CIS.pdf
accessdate =2006-12-09] [cite web | first=Peter | last=Hartcher | title = Howard's warriors sweep all before them | publisher =
The Sydney Morning Herald| date= 14 October 2006 | url = http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2006/10/13/1160246325222.html?page=fullpage | accessdate =2006-12-04 ] although Rudd describes himself as "basically a conservative when it comes to questions of public financial management", pointing to his slashing of public service jobs as a Queensland governmental advisor. [cite web | title = New Labor Leader Outlines Plan | publisher = " The 7.30 Report" | date= 4 December 2006 | url =http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2006/s1804034.htm?page=fullpage | accessdate =2006-12-05] [cite web | title = Labor elects new leader | publisher = " The 7.30 Report" | date= 4 December 2006 | url =http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2006/s1804032.htm?page=fullpage | accessdate =2006-12-05]
Party mythology says the first Labor branch was founded at a meeting of striking pastoral workers under a ghost gum tree (the "Tree of Knowledge") in
Barcaldine, Queenslandin 1891. The Balmain, New South Walesbranch of the party also claims to be the oldest in Australia. The party as a serious electoral force dates from 1891 in New South Wales, 1893 in Queensland and South Australia, and later in the other colonies. Hartley, NSW was the first parliamentary seat to be won by Labour (as Labor was spelt at the time - see Etymology) the candidate being Joseph Cook. In New South Wales in 1891, the first election contested by Labour candidates, 35 of 141 seats were won by Labour candidates. [Page 4, So Monstrous a Travesty, Ross McMullen. Scribe Publications 2004.] In 1899, Anderson Dawsonformed a minority Labour government in Queensland, the first in the world, which lasted one week.
Sections of state Labour and the
Australian labour movementwere mixed in their support for the Federation of Australia. Some labour representatives argued against the proposed constitution, claiming the Senate as proposed was much too powerful, similar to the anti-reformist Colonial upper houses and the British House of Lords. They feared federation would distract attention from the need of social and industrial reform, and further entrench the power of the conservative forces. The first Labour leader and Prime Minister, Chris Watson, was a supporter of federation but not its implementation.
After Federation, the Federal Parliamentary Labour Party (informally known as the
Caucus) first met on 8 May 1901 at Parliament House, Melbourne, the meeting place of the first Federal Parliament. [Faulkner; Macintyre (2001) p. 3] This is now taken as the founding date of the federal Labor Party, but it was some years before there was any significant structure or organisation at a national level.
The ALP during its early years was distinguished by its rapid growth and success at a national level, first forming a
minority governmentunder Chris Watson, the first Labour Prime Minister in the world, for four months in 1904. Andrew Fisherthen formed another minority government 1908-09. At the 1910 federal election, Fisher and Labour became Australia's first federal majority government, held Australia's first Senate majority, was the world's first Labour Partymajority government, the first time the Labour Party had controlled "any" house of a legislature, and the first time it controlled "both" houses of a bicameral legislature.cite web
first= D. J.
title =Fisher, Andrew (1862 - 1928)
Australian National University
Australian Dictionary of Biography
accessdate = 2007-05-31] The state branches were also successful, except in Victoria, where the strength of Deakinite
liberalisminhibited the party's growth. The first majority Labor state governments were formed in New South Walesand South Australiain 1910, in Western Australiain 1911 and in Queenslandin 1915. Such success eluded equivalent social democratic and labour parties in other countries for many years. One of the party's early innovations was the establishment of a federal arbitrationsystem for the resolution of industrial disputes, which formed the basis of the industrial relations system for many decades.
Through its membership of the
Socialist International, the ALP is affiliated with democratic socialist, social democratic and labour parties in many countries. The party was historically committed to socialisteconomic policies, but this term was never clearly defined, and no Labor government ever attempted to implement "socialism" in any serious sense. Labor supported national wage fixing and a strong welfare system, it did not nationalise private enterprise. The single exception to this was Ben Chifley's attempt to nationalise the private banks in the 1940s, but this was ruled unconstitutional by the High Court of Australia. [Faulkner; Macintyre (2001) p. 87] The commitment to nationalisation was dropped by Gough Whitlam.
From its formation until the 1950s Labor and its affiliated unions were the strongest defenders of the
White Australia Policy, which banned all non-European migration to Australia. This policy was partly motivated by 19th century theories about "racial purity" (shared by most Australians at this time), and partly by fears of economic competition from low-wage labour. In practice the party opposed all migration, on the grounds that immigrants competed with Australian workers and drove down wages, until after World War II, when the Chifley government launched a major immigration program. The party's opposition to non-European immigration did not change until after the retirement of Arthur Calwellas leader in 1967. Subsequently Labor has become an advocate of multiculturalism, although some of its trade union base and some of its members continue to oppose high immigration levels.
Between the 2007 federal election and the 2008 Western Australian state election, the party was in government nationally, as well as in all eight state and territory legislatures. This was the first time any single party or any coalition had achieved this since the ACT and the NT gained self-government. [In 1969-1970, before the ACT and NT achieved self-government, the Liberal and National Coalition was also in power federally and in all six states. [http://elections.uwa.edu.au/ University of WA elections database] ]
The ALP adopted the formal name "Australian Labour Party" in 1908, but changed the spelling to "Labor" in 1912. While it was standard practice in
Australian Englishat the time to spell the word labour with a "u", the party was influenced by the United States labor movement and a prominent figure in the early history of the party, the North American-born King O'Malley, was successful in having the spelling "modernised". [cite web |url=http://www.alp.org.au/about/history.php |publisher=Australian Labor Party |title=History of the Australian Labor Party] The change also made it easier to distinguish references to the party from the labour movementin general. [Clarke, FG, "Australia: A Concise Political and Social History" (Sydney: Harcourt Brace & Company 1996), p 205] Furthermore, the spelling "labor" had been acceptable in both British and Australian English in earlier periods. (See also: Spelling in Australian English)
The Labor Party has suffered three major splits:
*In 1916 over the issue of
conscriptionduring the First World War. [ [http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A090395b.htm Hughes, William Morris (Billy) (1862 - 1952)] , Australian Dictionary of Biography, ANU web site] Labor Prime Minister Billy Hughessupported the introduction of conscription, while the majority of his colleagues in the ALP and trade union movement opposed it. After failing to gain majority support for conscription in two national plebiscites which bitterly divided the country in the process, Hughes and his followers were expelled from the Labor Party. He formed the Nationalist Party of Australiain alliance with the conservatives and remained Prime Minister until 1923. At the state level William Holman, also a supporter of conscription, quit the party at the same time and became Nationalist Party Premier of New South Wales.
*In 1931 over economic issues revolving around how best to handle the
Great Depression. The ALP was essentially split three ways, between those who believed in radical policies such as NSW Premier Jack Lang, who wanted to repudiate Australia's debt to British bondholders; proto-Keynesians such as federal Treasurer Ted Theodore; and believers in orthodox finance such as Prime Minister James Scullinand a senior minister in his government, Joseph Lyons. In 1931 Lyons left the party and joined the conservatives, forming the United Australia Partyas successors to the Nationalists and becoming Prime Minister in 1932.
*The 1954 split on
communism. During the 1950s the issue of communism and support for communist causes or governments caused great internal conflict in the Labor party and the trade union movement in general. During the 1950s, staunchly anti-CommunistRoman Catholic members (Catholics being an important traditional support base) became suspicious of communist infiltration of unions and formed Industrial Groupsto gain control of them, fostering intense internal conflict. After Labor's loss of the 1954 election, federal leader Dr H.V. Evatt blamed subversive activities of the "Groupers" for the defeat. After bitter public dispute many Groupers were expelled from the ALP and formed the Democratic Labor Party (DLP) whose intellectual leader was B.A. Santamaria. The DLP was heavily influenced by Catholic social teachingand had the support of the Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, Daniel Mannix. The DLP's preferences (see Australian electoral system) helped the Liberal Party of Australiaremain in power for over two decades but it was successfully undermined by the Whitlam Labor Government during the 1970s and ceased to exist as a federal parliamentary party after the 1974 election.
In addition, founding member
Joseph Cookleft the party in 1894, and went on to be Prime Minister of Australiawith the Commonwealth Liberal Partyin 1913-14.
The Australian Labor Party is a democratic and federal party, which consists of both individual members and affiliated trade unions, who between them decide the party's policies, elect its governing bodies and choose its candidates for public office. The majority of trade unions in Australia are affiliated to the party, and their affiliation fees, based on the size of their memberships, makes up a large part of the party's income. The party consists of six state and two territory branches, each of which consists of local branches which any Australian resident can join, plus affiliated trade unions. Individual members pay a membership fee, which is graduated according to income. Members are generally expected to attend at least one meeting of their local branch each year, although there are differences in the rules from state to state. In practice only a dedicated minority regularly attend meetings. Many members only become active during election campaigns. The party has about 50,000 individual members, although this figure tends to fluctuate along with the party's electoral fortunes.
The members and unions elect delegates to state and territory conferences (usually held annually, although more frequent conferences are often held). These conferences decide policy, and elect state or territory executives, a state or territory president (an honorary position usually held for a one-year term), and a state or territory secretary (a full-time professional position). The larger branches also have full-time assistant secretaries and organisers. In the past the ratio of conference delegates coming from the branches and affiliated unions has varied from state to state, however under recent national reforms at least 50% of delegates at all state and territory conferences must be elected by branches.
The party holds a National Conference every three years, which consists of delegates representing the state and territory branches (many coming from affiliated trade unions, although there is no formal requirement for unions to be represented at the National Conference). The National Conference approves the party's Platform and policies, elects the National Executive, and appoints office-bearers such as the National Secretary, who also serves as national campaign director during elections. The current National Secretary is
Tim Gartrell. The most recent National Conference was held in April 2007.
The national Leader of the Labor Party is elected by the Labor members of the national Parliament (the
Caucus), not by the conference. Until recently the national conference elected the party's National President, a largely honorary position, but since 2003 the position has rotated among people directly elected by the party's individual members. The current National President is Premier of South Australia, Mike Rann, who assumed the post in February 2008.
The Labor Party contests national, state and territory elections. In some states it also contests local government elections: in others it does not, preferring to allow its members to run as non-endorsed candidates. The process of choosing candidates is called pre-selection. Candidates are pre-selected by different methods in the various states and territories. In some they are chosen by ballots of all party members, in others by panels or committees elected by the state conference, in still others by a combination of these two. Labor candidates are required to sign a pledge that if elected they will always vote in Parliament in accordance with the Platform and decisions made by a vote of the Caucus. They are also sometimes required to donate a portion of their salary to the party, although this practice has declined with the introduction of public funding for political parties.
The Labor Party has always had a left wing and a right wing, but since the 1970s it has been organised into formal factions, to which many party members belong and often pay an additional membership fee. The two largest factions are
Labor Unity(on the right) and the Socialist Left. Labor Unity generally supports free-market policies and the US Alliance and tends to be conservative on some social issues. The National Left, although it seldom openly espouses socialism, favours more state intervention in the economy, is generally less enthusiastic about the U.S. Alliance and is often more progressive on social issues. The factions are themselves divided into sub-factions, and there is a constantly changing pattern of factional and sub-factional alliances around particular policy issues or around particular pre-selection disputes. Frequently these alliances and disputes reflect power struggles between or within trade unions.
The trade unions are also factionally aligned. The largest unions supporting the right are the
Australian Workers Union(AWU), the National Union of Workers(NUW) and the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees' Association(SDA). Important unions supporting the left include the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union(AMWU), the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union(LHMU), the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union(CFMEU), the Australian Services Union(ASU) and the Maritime Union of Australia(MUA). But these affiliations are seldom unconditional or permanent. The AWU and the NUW, for example, are bitter rivals and the NUW sometimes aligns itself with the left to further its conflict with the AWU. Moreover, in some cases different branches may have different factional alignment. On some issues, such as opposition to the Howard government's industrial relations policy, all the unions are in agreement and work as a bloc within the party.
Pre-selections are usually conducted along factional lines, although sometimes a non-factional candidate will be given preferential treatment (this happened with
Cheryl Kernotin 1998 and again with Peter Garrettin 2004). Deals between the factions to divide up the safe seats between them are also common. Pre-selections, particularly for safe Labor seats, are often bitterly contested, and have often involved practices such as branch stacking(signing up large numbers of nominal party members to vote in pre-selection ballots), personation, multiple voting and, on occasions, fraudulent electoral enrolment. Trade unions were in the past accused of giving inflated membership figures to increase their influence over pre-selections, but party rules changes have stamped out this practice. Pre-selection results are frequently challenged, and the National Executive is sometimes called on to arbitrate these disputes.
ALP Federal Parliamentary Leaders
Kevin Rudd2006–current (Prime Minister 2007–current)
Paul Keating1991–96 (Prime Minister 1991–96)
Bob Hawke1983–91 (Prime Minister 1983–91)
Gough Whitlam1967–77 (Prime Minister 1972–75)
* Herbert "Bert" Evatt 1951–60
Ben Chifley1945–51 (Prime Minister 1945–49)
Frank Forde1945 (caretaker Prime Minister 1945)
John Curtin1935–45 (Prime Minister 1941–45)
James Scullin1928–35 (Prime Minister 1929–32)
Billy Hughes1915–16 (Prime Minister 1915–23, expelled from Labor Party 1916 and formed the NLP)
Andrew Fisher1907–15 (Prime Minister 1908–09, 1910–13, 1914–15)
Chris Watson1901–07 (Prime Minister 1904)
List of ALP federal leaders by time served"
ALP State and Territory Parliamentary Leaders
Jon Stanhope- Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territorysince 5 November 2001
Mike Rann- Premier of South Australia since 6 March 2002
John Brumby- Premier of Victoria since 30 July 2007
Anna Bligh- Premier of Queensland since 13 September 2007
* Paul Henderson -
Chief Minister of the Northern Territorysince 26 November 2007
David Bartlett- Premier of Tasmania since 26 May 2008
Nathan Rees- Premier of New South Wales since 5 September 2008
Eric Ripper- Leader of the Opposition of Western Australia since 23 September 2008
Past Premiers and Chief Ministers
Clare Martin(2001–2007, first Labor Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, first female Chief Minister of the Northern Territory)Australian Capital Territory
Rosemary Follett(1989, 1991–95, inaugural Chief Minister of the ACT, and first female head of government of an Australian state or territory)New South Wales
* Jack Lang (1925–27, 1930–32)
* James Dooley (1921, 1921–22)
* John Storey (1920–21)
* Ned Hanlon (1946–52)
William Forgan Smith(1932–42)
* William Gillies (1925)
T. J. Ryan(1915–19)
Anderson Dawson(1899, world's first leader of a parliamentary socialist government)South Australia
Don Dunstan(1967–68, 1970–79)
* Robert Richards (1933)
Lionel Hill(1926–27, 1930–33)
* John Gunn (1924–26)
* Michael Field (1989–92)
* Doug Lowe (1977–81)
Eric Reece(1958–69, 1972–75)
* Edward Brooker (1947–48)
Robert Cosgrove(1939–47, 1948–58)
* John Earle (1909, 1914–16)Victoria
Joan Kirner(1990–92, first female premier of Victoria)
John Cain II(1982–90)
John Cain (senior)(1943, 1945–47, 1952–55)
Edmond Hogan(1927–28, 1929–32)
* George Elmslie (1913)Western Australia
Carmen Lawrence(1990–93, first female premier of an Australian state)
Philip Collier(1924–30, 1933–36)
Other past Labor politicians
For current ALP federal politicians, see:
List of members of the Australian House of Representatives
List of members of the Australian Senate
First Rudd Ministry
Australian Labor Party National Executive
Australian Young Labor
Politics of Australia
List of political parties in Australia
* [http://www.alp.org.au/ Australian Labor Party website]
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.