The Nationals (NAT)
The Nationals have evolved from State parties formed by various associations of farmers. The first was founded in Western Australia in 1912. The Australian Country Party was set up nationally in 1920 to represent the interests of primary producers in the Federal Parliament. This party changed its name in 1975 to the National Country Party and again in 1982 to the National Party of Australia to appeal to a wider constituency. In 2003, for similar reasons, The Nationals was adopted as the party's name. It is a federal party made up of five independent State affiliated National parties.
Originally the Country Party promoted the interests of farmer associations and farming communities who thought that governments and other major parties were dominated by the interests of those living and working in cities. Since the 1980s, The Nationals (then the National Party) have broadened their electoral appeal to include policies relevant to all Australians. However, the party still retains a primary focus on matters of regional and rural importance.
The Nationals' values are socially conservative and promote private enterprise, national pride and loyalty. While they advocate government support and activity for rural interests, the party believes that the role of government should be kept to a minimum in order to foster the development of private enterprise.
The Nationals are represented in Queensland, South Australia, Victoria, Western Australia and New South Wales through their affiliated state organisations. While largely independent of each other, these organisations provide the representatives for the Federal Council and the party's Federal Conference, as well as pre-select candidates for Federal and State parliamentary elections. The Federal Council, half of whom are local branch members from the States, is required to convene annually. It formulates policy for the federal party, and may alter the federal party's constitution. Its counterparts in the States are the Central Councils, who derive their authority from their respective Annual Conferences where State policy is also decided. The Federal Conference takes place once during a federal parliamentary term.
In the Parliaments
Since its foundation, firstly as the Australian Country Party and later as the National Party of Australia, The Nationals, in coalition with the Liberal Party, have participated in a number of federal governments. They have assisted the Liberal Party to form government at the federal level each time the Liberal party has been in a position to do so since 1949. The Nationals have governed in their own right in Victoria (as the Country Party) and in Queensland (as the National Party) where they are the dominant conservative party. In the Northern Territory, The Nationals have a close association with the Country Liberal Party, which has held government in the Territory and has been successful in electing members to the House of Representatives and the Senate. With the election of the 42nd Commonwealth Parliament, The Nationals had ten seats in the House of Representatives and four Senators.
The Nationals website