National Labor Party

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National Labor Party
Leader Billy Hughes
Founded 14 November 1916
Dissolved 17 February 1917
Preceded by pro-conscription Labor
Succeeded by Nationalist Party of Australia
Ideology Social democracy
Nationalism
Political position Centre-left
Political parties

The National Labor Party was an Australian political party which only existed for three months. It was started by Prime Minister Billy Hughes in November 1916. Hughes had taken over as leader of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) and Prime Minister when Andrew Fisher resigned in 1915. Hughes formed the new party after he was forced out of the ALP a month after conscription was rejected by the people in the 1916 vote. Hughes still wanted conscription for World War I.

On 15 September 1916 the Labor Party in New South Wales forced Hughes from the Labor Party. On 14 November 1916, Hughes and 24 other Labor members walked out of a meeting of the Labor members of parliament. The remaining 43 members said they did not want Hughes to continue as their leader. Hughes and his followers formed a minority Government with support from the Commonwealth Liberal Party (CLP) led by Joseph Cook. They said the Australian Labor Party was no longer nationalist. They wanted a new party that would be both socially radical and nationalist.

The National Labor Party had to depend on support from the Commonwealth Liberal Party to govern. In 1917 the two groups joined to form a new party, the Nationalist Party of Australia, with Hughes as leader.

The National Labor Party was never a proper political party. It did not have any organisational structure. It did get support from some trade union officials and Labor Party branches, particularly in Western Australia and Tasmania.

Western Australia[change | change source]

The National Labor Party in Western Australia started off as two separate groups. One group was the Labor Solidarity Committee based in Perth. The other was National Labor based on the goldfields. The two joined in April-May 1917, led by former Premier John Scaddan. After he lost his seat in Parliament the party turned to Federal Senators Patrick Lynch, Hugh de Largie and George Pearce for leadership and guidance. Unlike the federal party, it did not join with the CLP and kept its own identity. It worked with the Nationalist Party as partners.

The party won six of 50 Assembly seats in the Western Australian state elections of 1917 and 1921. It also held three of 30 Council seats during this period. However, in 1924 elections they won only one seat in the Assembly and two in the Council. Later that year they were taken over by the Nationalists.

References[change | change source]

  • Australian Dictionary of Biography - Billy Hughes
  • Robertson, John R. (1958). The Scaddan government and the conscription crisis, 1911-17 : aspects of Western Australia's political history (thesis). University of Western Australia. Accessed in Scholars Centre, Reid Library, UWA.
  • Cusack, Danny. (2002). With an olive branch and a shillelagh: The political career of Senator Paddy Lynch (1867-1944) (thesis). Murdoch University. Accessed via Murdoch Digital Theses.