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The Liberal Party of Australia is an Australian political party.

Founded a year after the 1943 federal election to replace the United Australia Party, the centre-right Liberal Party competes with the centre-left Australian Labor Party for political office. When in government it traditionally governs in a coalition with the National Party.

In federal politics, the Liberal Party is in opposition since losing the 2007 federal election, having held power since the 1996 election. At the state and territory level, the Liberals hold government only in Western Australiamarker.

Since the Liberal Party of Australia leadership election, 2009, the federal leader of the party has been Tony Abbott, with Julie Bishop as deputy.


Modern Liberalism in Australia is represented in the vast majority by the Liberal Party of Australia, who are generally an advocate of economic liberalism (see New Right). However, during Liberal governments prior to the Howard Government, the party was quite interventionist in its economic policy and maintained Australia's high tariff levels. At that time, the Liberals' coalition partner, the Country Party, the older of the two in the coalition (now known as the "National Party"), had considerable influence over the Government's economic policies.

Socially, the Liberal Party is a conservative party, although it has a minority socially liberal wing. In recent years, during the Prime Ministership of John Howard, the party moved to a more socially conservative policy agenda.


[[Image:Nla.pic-an23458756-v.jpg|right|100px|thumb|[[William McMahon|Sir William McMahon]], Prime Minister of Australia 1971-72]]
The Liberals' immediate predecessor was the United Australia Party, formed in 1931. The UAP, led by Sir Robert Menzies, disintegrated after suffering a heavy defeat in the 1943 election. More broadly, the party's ideological ancestry stretched back to the anti-Labor groupings in the first Commonwealth Parliaments. The Commonwealth Liberal Party was a fusion of the Free Trade Party and the Protectionist Party in 1909 by second Prime Minister Alfred Deakin in response to Labor's growing electoral prominence. The Commonwealth Liberal Party was replaced by the Nationalist Party of Australia in 1917, which was replaced by the UAP in 1931. With each reincarnation, the elected Parliamentarians of the party remained constant between re-organisations.

Menzies called a conference of Conservative parties and other groups opposed to the ruling Australian Labor Party which met in Canberra on 13 October 1944, and again in Alburymarker in December 1944. The formation of the party was formally announced in February 1945. The Liberal Party absorbed several former conservative parties, principally the United Australia Party. The Australian Women's National League, a powerful conservative women's organisation, also merged with the new party. A conservative youth group Menzies had set up, the Young Nationalists, was also merged into the new party. It became the Liberal Party's youth division, the Young Liberals. By September 1945 there were more than 90,000 members, many of whom had not previously been members of any political party.

After an initial failure to defeat Labor at the 1946 election, Menzies led the Liberals to victory at the 1949 election, and they stayed in office for a record 23 years. After the retirement of Menzies in 1966 and the death of his successor, Harold Holtmarker, in 1967, the Liberals went into decline, and were defeated in 1972. After the dismissal of 1975 they returned to office under Malcolm Fraser, and stayed in power for eight years. Losing government in 1983, the Liberals returned to power in 1996 under John Howard, and governed until their electoral defeat in 2007.

At the state level, the Liberals have been dominant for long periods in all states except Queenslandmarker, where they have always held fewer seats than the National Party (not to be confused with the old Nationalist Party). The Liberals were in power in Victoriamarker from 1955 to 1982. Initially a Liberal and Country Party affiliated party, the Liberal and Country League reigned in South Australiamarker from 1932 to 1965. The similarly dual aligned Country Liberal Party ruled the Northern Territorymarker from 1972 to 2001.

Throughout their history, the Liberals have been in electoral terms largely the party of the middle class (whom Menzies, in the era of the party's formation called "the forgotten people"), though such class-based voting patterns are no longer as clear as they once were. In the 1970s a left-wing middle class emerged that no longer voted Liberal. One effect of this was the success of a breakaway party, the Australian Democrats, founded in 1977 by former Liberal minister Don Chipp and members of minor liberal parties; other members of the left-leaning section of the middle-class became Labor supporters. On the other hand, the Liberals have done increasingly well among socially conservative working-class voters in recent years. In country areas they either compete or have a truce with the Nationals, depending on various factors.

The Liberal Party is a member of the International Democrat Union, the only party name of Liberal to do so, rather than Liberal International. Strong opposition to socialism and communism in Australia and internationally was one of the foundation principles of the Liberal Party, named by Menzies after the early Commonwealth Liberal Party. Menzies came to power the year the Moscow aligned Communist Party of Australia had led a cripling coal strike in Australia; and the same year that Stalin's Soviet Unionmarker exploded its first atomic bomb, and that Mao Zedong seized power in Chinamarker; and just a year before the invasion of South Koreamarker by Communist North Koreamarker. By 1955 the Labor Party had split over the issue of Communist influence over certain Unions and anti-communism was successfully exploited through the 1950s and 1960s by Menzies and his political successors (see Democratic Labor Party). During the Korean War, Menzies went so far as to attempt to ban the Communist Party via unsuccessful 1951 legislation and subsequent refendum. Menzies was an ardent royalist, devoted to maintaining Australia as a constitutional monarchy. Today the party is divided on the monarchy, with some, such as Peter Costello and Malcolm Turnbull, being minimalist republicans while others, such as Tony Abbott remain monarchists. The Liberals have also sought to portray themselves as the party most committed to the alliance with the United States.

Domestically, Menzies presided over a fairly regulated economy in which utilities were publicly owned, and commercial activity was highly regulated through centralised wage-fixing and high tariff protection. It was not until the late 1970s and through their period out of power federally in the 1980s that the party came to be influenced by what was known as the "New Right" - neo-liberal group who advocated market deregulation, privatisation of public utilities, reductions in the size of government programs and tax cuts. This program was largely implemented by the Howard government of 1996-2007.

Socially, while liberty and freedom of enterprise form the basis of its beliefs, elements of the party have wavered between what is termed "small-l liberalism" and social conservatism. Historically, Liberal Governments have been responsible for the carriage of a number of notable "socially liberal" reforms, including Harold Holtmarker's 1967 Referendum on Aboriginal Rights; Sir John Gorton's 1968 establishment of the Australian Film Development Corporation; selection of the first Aboriginal Senator, Neville Bonner, in 1971;; Malcolm Fraser's Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1976 and John Howard's gun control reform of 1997.

The Liberal Party's organisation is dominated by the six state divisions, reflecting the party's original commitment to a federalised system of government (a commitment which was strongly maintained by all Liberal governments until 1983, but had been to a large extent abandoned by the Howard government, which had shown strong centralising tendencies). Menzies deliberately created a weak national party machine and strong state divisions. Party policy is made almost entirely by the parliamentary parties, not by the party's rank-and-file members, although Liberal party members do have a degree of influence over party policy.

In the 2004 Federal elections the party strengthened its majority in the Lower House and, with its coalition partners, became the first federal government in twenty years to gain an absolute majority in the Senate. This control of both houses permitted their passing of legislation without the need to negotiate with independents or minor parties, exemplified by industrial relations legislation known as WorkChoices.

The 2007 federal election saw the defeat of the Howard federal government, and the Liberal Party was in opposition throughout Australia at the state and federal level; the highest Liberal office-holder at the time was Brisbane Lord Mayor Campbell Newman. This ended after the Western Australian state election, 2008, when Colin Barnett became Premier of that state.

The Liberal Party does not officially contest most local government elections, although many members do run for office in local government as independents. An exception is the Brisbane City Council, where both Sallyanne Atkinson and Campbell Newman (the incumbent) have been elected Lord Mayor of Brisbane.

Liberal/National Merger

Merger plans came to a head in May 2008, when the Queensland state Liberal Party gave an announcement not to wait for a federal blueprint but instead to merge now. The new party, the Liberal National Party was formed on the 26th July following a joint Convention of the Queensland Liberal and National Parties. However, despite the change of name the party continues to be the Queensland Division of the Liberal Party of Australia .

Liberal Federal Leaders

Shown by default in chronological order of leadership
Year Name Term in office Period Time in office
1945 Sir Robert Menzies Prime Minister (UAP 1939-41),1949-66 February 1945-26 January 1966 20y 01m
1966 Harold Holtmarker Prime Minister 1966-67 26 January 1966-17 December 1967 01y 10m 23d
1968 Sir John Gorton Prime Minister 1968-71 10 January 1968-10 March 1971 03y 02m
1971 Sir William McMahon Prime Minister 1971-72 10 March 1971-5 December 1972 01y 08m
1972 Sir Billy Sneddon December 1972-March 1975 02y 03m
1975 Malcolm Fraser Prime Minister 1975-83 March 1975-11 March 1983 08y 00m
1983 Andrew Peacock First term March 1983-September 1985 02y 06m
1985 John Howard First term September 1985-May 1989 03y 08m
1989 Andrew Peacock Second term May 1989-March 1990 00y 10m
1990 John Hewson March 1990-May 1994 03y 02m
1994 Alexander Downer May 1994-January 1995 00y 08m
1995 John Howard Prime Minister 1996-2007 30 January 1995-29 November 2007 12y 10m
2007 Brendan Nelson 29 November 2007-16 September 2008 00y 10m
2008 Malcolm Turnbull 16 September 2008-1 December 2009 01y 03m
2009 Tony Abbott 1 December 2009-present Incumbent

Liberal Federal Deputy Leaders

Shown in chronological order of leadership


Name Notes
1944 Sir Eric Harrison
1956 Harold Holtmarker Later Prime Minister 1966-67
1966 Sir William McMahon Later Prime Minister 1971-72
1971 Sir John Gorton Later Prime Minister 1968-71
1971 Sir Billy Snedden Later Leader
1972 Sir Phillip Lynch
1982 John Howard Later Prime Minister 1996-07
1985 Neil Brown
1987 Andrew Peacock Later Leader
1989 Fred Chaney
1990 Peter Reith
1993 Michael Wooldridge
1994 Peter Costello
2007 Julie Bishop Incumbent

Current Liberal State and Territory Parliamentary Leaders

State/ Territory Leader Notes
ACTmarker Zed Seselja Opposition Leader of the Australian Capital Territory since 2007
NSWmarker Barry O'Farrell Leader of the Opposition since 2007
NTmarker Terry Mills Leader since 2008 1
QLDmarker John-Paul Langbroek Opposition Leader since 2009 2
SAmarker Isobel Redmond Leader of the Opposition since 2009
TASmarker Will Hodgman Leader since 2006
VICmarker Ted Baillieu Leader of the Opposition of Victoria since 2006
WAmarker Colin Barnett Premier of Western Australia since 2008

1 The Northern Territorymarker is represented by the Country Liberal Party, which is endorsed as the Territory division of the Liberal Party.

2 Queenslandmarker is represented by the Liberal National Party of Queensland, this party is the result of a merger of the Queensland Division of the Liberal Party and the Queensland National Party to contest elections as a single party.

Past Liberal State Premiers and Territory Chief Ministers

Australian Capital Territorymarker Years
Trevor Kaine 1989-91
Kate Carnell 1995-2000
Gary Humphries 2000-01
New South Walesmarker Years
Sir Robert Askin 1965-75
Thomas Lewis 1975
Sir Eric Willis 1975-76
Nick Greiner 1988-92
John Fahey 1992-95
Queenslandmarker Years
Sir Gordon Chalk 1968
South Australiamarker Years
Sir Thomas Playford 1938-65
Steele Hall 1968-70
David Tonkin 1979-82
Dean Brown 1993-96
John Olsen 1996-2001
Rob Kerin 2001-02
Tasmaniamarker Years
Sir Angus Bethune 1969-72
Robin Gray 1982-89
Ray Groom 1992-96
Tony Rundle 1996-98
Victoria Years
Ian MacFarlan 1945
Thomas Hollway 1947-50
Sir Henry Bolte 1955-72
Sir Rupert Hamer 1972-81
Lindsay Thompson 1981-82
Jeff Kennett 1992-99
Western Australiamarker Years
Sir Ross McLarty 1947-53
Sir David Brand 1959-71
Sir Charles Court 1974-82
Ray O'Connor 1982-83
Richard Court 1993-2001

Liberal Federal Presidents

Shown in chronological order of presidency

See also

Further reading

  • Gerard Henderson, Menzies' Child: The Liberal Party of Australia 1944-1994, Allen and Unwin, 1994
  • Dean Jaensch, The Liberals, Allen and Unwin, 1994
  • John Nethercote (ed.), Liberalism and the Australian Federation, Federation Press, 2001
  • Marian Simms, A Liberal Nation: The Liberal Party and Australian Politics, Hale and Iremonger, 1982
  • Graeme Starr, The Liberal Party of Australia: A Documentary History, Drummond/Heinemann, 1980



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