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Welcome from

Brett Gale, Executive Director of the Chifley Research Centre

The Australian Labor Party is the great ‘party of initiative’ in Australian life. Since before Australia federated, our campaigns and governments have been marked by the struggle for change. The Chifley Research Centre is honoured to be able to present Labor’s history of progress on this new, dynamic website. Through this site, we hope students and teachers, researchers and activists, or interested members of the Australian community will be able to explore the way Labor…

comments by

Fmr. Senator John Faulkner

The Australian Labor Party is Australia's oldest political party. Our state branches are older than the nation; our Federal Parliamentary Labor Party was formed at a meeting the day before the Australian Commonwealth Parliament's first ever meeting. Our history and the history of Australia's democracy are inextricably intertwined. Since the days when Australia was still a collection of colonies on the same continent, the labour movement has aimed, in the words of Gough Whitlam, to…

Colonial Origins

The prehistory of the Australian Labor Party can be traced well back into the 19th Century, notably with the beginnings of the trade union movement in mid-century and spasmodic attempts to give workers some representation in colonial Parliaments. In most colonies in the second half of that century, there were occasional candidates for election, some of them successful, who claimed that they represented the interests of workers or of trade unions. Some had the formal…

A National Party

The early Labor Party had to identify its social base if it wanted to have continuing and improving electoral success. Obviously it made an appeal to trade unionists. However, most workers were not unionists at this time. ?Even many trade union members in the various colonies had developed an allegiance to protectionist parties that promised to protect jobs and industry. From the beginning until well into the next century, the main social base of the…

Organisational Stresses

Although the Labor Party had been founded by the trade union movement, it very soon developed a life of its own, so that stresses between the party and unions were already evident in the 1890s. In New South Wales, the TLC lost control of the party organisation almost immediately, although this was not particularly significant because a more important development was that a chasm opened up between the parliamentary and extra-parliamentary sections of the party.…

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