The Australian Labor Party
is the oldest political party
, tracing its foundation
s back to the formation
in the 1890
s of several colony
-based labour parties
. Many of these were form
ed in the lead-up to Federation
wings of the Australian Trade Union
movement. The movement was especially successful in the colonies of New South Wales
, and Australia
's first Labour government
ed in Queensland
. It lasted only seven days.
When the six colonies and the territories federated as the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901, the ALP competed against the Free Traders and the Protectionists in the first Federal election, winning 16 of the 72 Lower House seats and 8 of 36 in the Senate. The first Federal Labor Government was elected in 1904 but was a minority government. It had little success under Prime Minister John Christian Watson, and collapsed after three months.
The most recent ALP Prime Minister was Paul Keating (1991 - 1996) who staged an internal coup of sorts to replace Bob Hawke (1983 - 1991). Hawke defeated the unpopular Liberal Party PM Malcolm Fraser, who had replaced Labor's Gough Whitlam (1972 - 1975) when Whitlam's government was sacked in 1975 in controversial circumstances by Governor-General Sir John Kerr (see The Dismissal). The current leaderof the ALP is Simon Crean, who replaced Kim Beazley following the Federal election of November 2001 in which John Howard’s Liberal Party won a third consecutive term.
The ALP has never been revolutionary in any sense but in the past it did do a good job of protecting workers' rights and implementing/maintaining various social welfare programs, such as Medicare. In the last 20 years however it has followed the path of mainstream leftist parties everywhere, and has shifted considerably to the right. In terms of economic and social policies the ALP is almost indistinguishable from its major opponent, the Liberal Party of Australia.
Labor is often criticised for its factional infighting, although of course the Liberal Party makes much more of this issue than is warranted. The Right-wing faction of the party is known as Unity and is dominant in most States and Territories. The Centre left and Socialist Left (not really socialist) factions are much weaker individually but often side together. A few independents also exist, as well as a "non-aligned" faction. Members of the three major factions hold executive positions (ie. are Ministers/Shadow Ministers) in proportion to each faction's influence. All current ALP Premiers are Unity members, as is Simon Crean.
In the 1950s cries of "reds under the beds" led to the formation of the Democratic Labor Party, composed of those who feared the Labor Party was being infiltrated by Soviet agents. Of course this was a simple case of mass paranoia, but the DLP managed to scare Catholic voters especially (traditionally ALP supporters) into abandoning the party. The DLP was in many ways even more right-wing than the Liberal Party, and was instrumental in keeping Labor out of power for many years - most notably during the Menzies era. The DLP is still in existance but has the support of less than one percent of the Australian population.
The ALP has branches in all States and the two mainland Territories. At the time of writing (May 2002) it is in government in all eight continental States and Territories, but Federally in opposition. The most recent State election was held in Tasmania which the ALP led by Jim Bacon won by a landslide.
"Labor" is spelled in the Amerikkkan fashion thanks to the influence of the US Trade Union movement. Or so all the textbooks and the party's website (http://www.alp.org.au/) say, but it's not a very satisfying explanation in my opinion. /msg me if you know more.
A list of all Federal leaders of the Party
since the Federation
of the colonies in 1901. Those who served as Prime Minister
have their names highlighted in bold
, with the dates of their time in office in bold+italics.
- John Christian Watson, NSW: 08-05-01 to 30-10-07, 27 April 1904 - 17 August 1904
- Andrew Fisher, Qld.: 30-10-07 to 30-10-15, 13 November 1908 - 2 June 1909, 13 April 1910 - 30 May 1913, 17 September 1914 - 30 October 1915
- William Hughes, NSW: 30-10-15 to 14-11-16, 30 October 1915 - 14 November 1916
- Frank Tudor, Vic.: 15-11-16 to 10-01-22 (died as leader)
- Matthew Charlton, NSW: 16-05-22 to 29-03-28
- James Scullin, Vic.: 26-04-28 to 01-10-35, 22 October 1929 - 6 January 1932
- John Curtin, WA: 01-10-35 to 05-07-45, 7 October 1941 - 05 July 1945 (died in office)
- Ben Chifley, NSW: 12-07-45 to 13-06-51, 05 July 1945 - 19 December 1949 (died as leader)
- Herbert Evatt, NSW: 20-06-51 to 07-03-60
- Arthur Calwell, Vic.: 07-03-60 to 08-02-67
- Gough Whitlam, NSW: 08-02-67 to 22-12-77, 5 December 1972 - 11 November 1975
- Bill Hayden, Qld.: 22-12-77 to 3-2-83
- Bob Hawke, Vic.: 03-02-83 to 19-12-91, 11 March 1983 - 19 December 1991
- Paul Keating, NSW: 19-12-91 to 19-03-96, 19 December 1991 - 11 March 1996
- Kim Beazley, WA: 19-3-96 to 22-11-01
- Simon Crean, Vic.: 22-11-01 to 2-12-03
- Mark Latham, NSW: 2-12-03 to 18-1-05
- Kim Beazley, WA: 28-1-05 to 4-12-06 (second stint in power)
- Kevin Rudd, Qld.: 4-12-06 to 24-6-10, 3 December 2007 – 24 June 2010 (removed from office by the party)
- Julia Gillard, Wales: 24-6-10 to present, 24 June 2010 to present (first female leader of the ALP and PM of Australia)