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Political Parties

Australian Labor Party (ALP)


The Australian Labor Party was formed in the 1890s by trade unions seeking a political voice and an increase of influence in government after the failure of the shearers and maritime strikes. Recognised as the oldest political party in Australia, Labor formed its first government in Queensland in 1899, two years before federation.

Interests represented

The party developed as an organisation to represent the interests of paid labour, that is, the workers. It has significant financial support and membership from trade unions. Its strongest electoral support typically comes from inner city and industrial suburbs with populations characterised by lower incomes and blue-collar occupations. Since the 1970s, the party has been attracting broader support from middle-class professional occupation groups.


The ALP has traditionally advocated improved working and living conditions for the wage-earning population. Labor believes that unregulated private enterprise tends to produce inequalities and injustices. The party argues for a more equal distribution of wealth and opportunity achieved through government economic intervention and the provision of services.


Labor Party policy is influenced by its National Platform, which is endorsed by the National Conference at tri-annual meetings. The National Conference is made up of delegates from the States and Territory branches of the Party, as well as affiliated trade unions. The Party's National Executive, which administers the party between conferences, is also elected at the National Conference and is the final source of appeal in federal pre-selection matters. The State and Territory branches of the party have these roles in their respective States and Territories. Labor candidates for parliamentary elections are members of the Labor Party in a State or Territory and are nominated from the local branches in their electorates. The Parliamentary Party or Caucus elects the leaders of the parliamentary party and formulates policy.

In the Parliaments

The Australian Labor Party is represented in all federal, State and Territory Parliaments and has governed in most parliaments many times since federation. Since the Second World War, the Labor Party has governed federally from 1941–1949 (governments led by J Curtin and JB Chifley); 1972–1975 (led by EG Whitlam); and 1983–1996 (governments led by RJ Hawke and PJ Keating). Julia Gillard was sworn in as Australia’s first female Prime Minister in June 2010.

Australian Labor Party website

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