The Australian Labor Party (also ALP and Labor, was Labour before 1912) is an Australian political party. It has governed the Commonwealth of Australia since the 2007 federal election. Kevin Rudd is the party's federal parliamentary leader. In the state and territory parliaments, Labor governs in South Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory. The party competes against the Liberal/National Coalition for political office at the federal and state (and sometimes local) level.
Labor's constitution states: "The Australian Labor Party is a democratic socialist party and has the objective of the democratic socialisation of industry, production, distribution and exchange, to the extent necessary to eliminate exploitation and other anti-social features in these fields." This "socialist objective" was introduced in 1921, but has always been heavily qualified by wording which makes it clear that Labor supports private property.][ It has been a dead letter since the 1940s, when the Chifley government failed to nationalise the private banks. Today Labor defines itself as "a coalition that includes reformers, radicals, progressives, social democrats and democratic socialists united by a critique of the inequalities in society, a commitment to a more just and equal society, and the achieving of this aim by democratic means."
The ALP was founded as a federal party prior to the first sitting of the Australian Parliament in 1901, but is descended from labour parties founded in the various Australian colonies by the emerging labour movement in Australia, formally beginning in 1891. Labor is thus the country's oldest political party. Colonial labour parties contested seats from 1891, and federal seats following the Federation at the 1901 federal election. Labor was the first party in Australia to win a majority in either house of the Australian Parliament, at the 1910 federal election. The ALP pre-dates both the British Labour Party and New Zealand Labour Party in party formation, government, and policy implementation.
The ALP is descended from Labour parties founded in the 1890s in the Australian colonial parliaments prior to federation. Labor tradition ascribes the founding of Queensland Labour to a meeting of striking pastoral workers under a ghost gum tree (the "Tree of Knowledge") in Barcaldine, Queensland in 1891. The Balmain, New South Wales branch of the party claims to be the oldest in Australia.
Labour as a parliamentary force dates from 1891 in New South Wales, 1893 in South Australia and Queensland, and later in the other colonies. In New South Wales in 1891, the first election contested by Labour candidates, 35 of 141 seats were won by Labour candidates. Labour was in a balance of power position and had a stance of government support in exchange for policy concessions with the colonial Protectionist and Free Trade parties. In 1899, Anderson Dawson formed a minority Labour government in Queensland, the first in the world, which lasted one week while the conservatives regrouped after a split.
The colonial Labour parties and the trade unions were mixed in their support for the Federation of Australia. Some Labour representatives argued against the proposed constitution, claiming the Senate as proposed was too powerful, similar to the anti-reformist colonial upper houses and the British House of Lords. They feared federation would further entrench the power of the conservative forces. The first Labour leader and Prime Minister, Chris Watson, however, was a supporter of federation.
After Federation, the federal parliamentary Labour Party (informally known as the Caucus) first met on 8 May 1901 at Parliament House, Melbourne, the meeting place of the first Federal Parliament. This is now taken as the founding date of the federal Labor Party, but it was some years before there was any significant structure or organisation at a national level.
Labour during its early years was distinguished by its rapid growth and success at a national level, first forming a minority government under Chris Watson, the first Labour prime minister in the world, for four months in 1904. Andrew Fisher then formed another minority government 1908–09. At the 1910 election, Fisher led Labor to victory. The Fisher government was Australia's first federal majority government, held Australia's first Senate majority, and was the world's first labour party majority government. This was the first time a labour party had controlled any house of a legislature, and the first time it controlled both houses of a bicameral legislature. The state branches were also successful, except in Victoria, where the strength of Deakinite liberalism inhibited the party's growth. The state branches formed their first majority governments in New South Wales and South Australia in 1910, in Western Australia in 1911, in Queensland in 1915 and in Tasmania in 1925. Such success eluded equivalent social democratic and labour parties in other countries for many years.
Analysis of the early NSW Labor caucus reveals "a band of unhappy amateurs", made up of blue collar workers, a squatter, a doctor, and even a mine owner, indicating that the idea that only the socialist working class formed Labor is untrue. In addition, many members from the working class supported the liberal notion of free trade between the colonies – in the first grouping of state MPs, 17 of the 35 were free-traders.
In the aftermath of World War I and the Russian Revolution of 1917, support for socialism grew in trade union ranks, and at the 1921 All-Australian Trades Union Congress a resolution was passed calling for "the socialisation of industry, production, distribution and exchange." As a result, Labor's Federal Conference in 1922 adopted a similarly worded "socialist objective," which remained official policy for many years. The resolution was immediately qualified, however, by the "Blackburn amendment," which said that "socialisation" was desirable only when was necessary to "eliminate exploitation and other anti-social features." In practice the socialist objective was a dead letter. Only once has a federal Labor government attempted to nationalise any industry (Ben Chifley's bank nationalisation of 1947), and that was held by the High Court to be unconstitutional. The commitment to nationalisation was dropped by Gough Whitlam, and Bob Hawke's government carried out many free market reforms including the floating of the dollar and privatisation of state enterprises such as Qantas airways and the Commonwealth Bank.
The Labor Party is commonly described as a social democratic party, and its constitution stipulates that it is a democratic socialist party. The party was created by, and has always been influenced by, the trade unions, and in practice its policy at any given time has usually been the policy of the broader labour movement. Thus at the first federal election 1901 Labor's platform called for a White Australia Policy, a citizen army and compulsory arbitration of industrial disputes. Labor has at various times supported high tariffs and low tariffs, conscription and pacifism, White Australia and multiculturalism, nationalisation and privatisation, isolationism and internationalism.
Historically, Labor and its affiliated unions were strong defenders of the White Australia Policy which banned all non-European migration to Australia. This policy was partly motivated by 19th century theories about "racial purity" and by fears of economic competition from low-wage overseas workers which was shared by the vast majority of Australians and all major political parties. In practice the party opposed all migration, on the grounds that immigrants competed with Australian workers and drove down wages, until after World War II, when the Chifley Government launched a major immigration program. The party's opposition to non-European immigration did not change until after the retirement of Arthur Calwell as leader in 1967. Subsequently Labor has become an advocate of multiculturalism, although some of its trade union base and some of its members continue to oppose high immigration levels.
The ALP adopted the formal name "Australian Labour Party" in 1908, but changed the spelling to "Labor" in 1912. While it is standard practice in Australian English both today and at the time to spell the word labour with a "u", the party was influenced by the United States labour movement and a prominent figure in the early history of the party, the American–born King O'Malley, was successful in having the spelling "modernised". The change also made it easier to distinguish references to the party from the labour movement in general. Furthermore, the spelling "labor" had been acceptable in both British and Australian English in earlier periods. (See also: Spelling in Australian English)
The Curtin and Chifley governments governed Australia through the latter half of World War II and initial stages of transition to peace. Labor leader John Curtin became prime minister in October 1941 when two independents crossed the floor of Parliament. Labor, led by Curtin, then led Australia through the years of the Pacific War. In December 1941, Curtin announced that "Australia looks to America, free of any pangs as to our traditional links or kinship with the United Kingdom", thus helping to establish the Australian-American alliance (later formalised as ANZUS by the Menzies Government). Remembered as a strong war time leader and for a landslide win at the 1943 election, Curtin died in office just prior to the end of the war and was succeeded by Ben Chifley. Chifley Labor won the 1946 election and oversaw Australia's initial transition to a peacetime economy. Labor was defeated at the 1949 election. At the conference of the New South Wales Labor Party in June 1949, Chifley sought to define the labour movement as having:
[A] great objective – the light on the hill – which we aim to reach by working for the betterment of mankind... [Labor would] bring something better to the people, better standards of living, greater happiness to the mass of the people.
— Ben Chifley
To a large extent, Chifley saw centralisation of the economy as the means to achieve such ambitions. With an increasingly uncertain economic outlook, after his attempt to nationalise the banks and a strike by the Communist-dominated Miners Federation, Chifley lost office at in 1949 to Robert Menzies' Liberal-National Coalition. Labor commenced what would be a 23-year period in opposition.
Various ideological beliefs were factionalised under reforms to the ALP under Gough Whitlam, resulting in what is now known as the Socialist Left who tend to favour a more interventionist economic policy and more socially progressive ideals, and Labor Right, the now dominant faction that tends to be more economically liberal and focus to a lesser extent on social issues. The Whitlam Labor government, marking a break with Labor's socialist tradition, pursued social-democratic policies rather than democratic socialist policies. Whitlam, in contrast to earlier Labor leaders, also cut tariffs by 25 percent. Whitlam led the Federal Labor Party back to office at the 1972 and 1974 elections, and passed a large amount of legislation. The Whitlam Government lost office following the 1975 Australian constitutional crisis and dismissal by Governor-General Sir John Kerr after the Coalition blocked supply in the Senate after a series of political scandals, and was defeated at the 1975 election. Whitlam remains the only Prime Minister to have his commission terminated in that manner.
Bob Hawke led Labor back to office at the 1983 election and the Hawke-Keating Government remained in power until defeated by John Howard at the 1996 election.
Kim Beazley led the party to the 1998 election, winning 51 percent of the two-party preferred vote but falling short on seats, and lost ground at the 2001 election. Mark Latham led Labor to the 2004 election but lost further ground. Beazley replaced Latham in 2005. Beazley in turn was challenged by Kevin Rudd who went on to defeat John Howard at the 2007 election with 52.7 percent of the two-party vote. The Rudd Government ended prior to the 2010 election with the replacement of Rudd as leader of the Party by deputy leader Julia Gillard. The Gillard Government was commissioned to govern in a hung parliament following the 2010 election with a one-seat parliamentary majority and 50.12 percent of the two-party vote.
Between the 2007 federal election and the 2008 Western Australian state election, Labor was in government nationally, as well as in all eight state and territory legislatures. This was the first time any single party or any coalition had achieved this since the ACT and the NT gained self-government. After narrowly losing government in Western Australia at the 2008 state election and Victoria at the 2010 state election, Labor lost government in landslides in New South Wales at the 2011 state election and Queensland at the 2012 state election.
Existing for over a century, the Australian Labor Party has been responsible for the carriage of many Acts in the Parliament of Australia. Passing 113 Acts, the 1910–13 Labor government was a period unmatched in the Commonwealth until the 1940s. The first federal Labor Party led by Chris Watson, holding the balance of power (Watson being prime minister for four months in 1904), was very influential in Edmund Barton and Alfred Deakin Protectionist Party government policy since the beginning of the Parliament of Australia in 1901. With a change of Labor leader in 1907, Andrew Fisher was a Labor prime minister three times between 1908 and 1915, collectively four years and ten months, second only to Bob Hawke's eight years. Fisher's second government resulting from the 1910 federal election represented a number of firsts: it was the first time a party had been elected to majority government in the House of Representatives, it was also the first time a party received a Senate majority, and it was the world's first Labour Party majority government at a national level. The ALP vote rose rapidly, going from 15 percent against two larger and more established parties in 1901, to 50 percent in 1910, after a majority of the Protectionist Party merged with the Anti-Socialist Party (formerly Free Trade Party), creating the Commonwealth Liberal Party led by Deakin which received 45 percent. At the time, it represented the culmination of Labour's involvement in politics, with success that eluded Labour Parties in other countries for decades. Labour implemented many Acts in defence, constitutional matters, finance, transport and communications, and social security, achieving the vast majority of his aims in his first government, such as establishing old-age and disability pensions, improved working conditions including a maternity allowance and workers compensation, issuing Australia's first paper currency, forming the Royal Australian Navy, the commencement of construction for the Trans-Australian Railway, expanding the bench of the High Court of Australia, founding Canberra and establishing the government-owned Commonwealth Bank of Australia. Fisher carried out measures to break up land monopolies, put forward proposals for more regulation of working hours, wages and employment conditions, and amended the 1904 Conciliation and Arbitration Act to provide greater authority for the court president and to allow for Commonwealth employees' industrial unions, registered with the Arbitration Court. A land tax, aimed at breaking up big estates and to provide a wider scope for small-scale farming, was also introduced, while coverage of the Arbitration system extended to agricultural workers, domestics, and federal public servants. In addition, the age at which women became entitled to the old-age pension was lowered from 65 to 60. The introduction of the maternity allowance enabled more births to be attended by doctors, thus leading to reductions in infant mortality. Labour was renamed Labor in 1912. Labor lost the 1913 election by one seat, but retained a Senate majority, and returned to government at the 1914 election. Fisher resigned as prime minister and left Parliament in 1915, Labor had split following Labor leader and Prime Minister Billy Hughes being expelled over his support for Conscription in Australia as a result of World War I. Hughes and his supporters eventually led the Commonwealth Liberal Party replacement, the Nationalist Party of Australia. The and for conscription failed. The National Party of Australia (then Country Party) started contesting elections from the 1918 Swan by-election, after which full-preference instant-runoff voting was introduced by the Nationalist Party government. Days before the global Great Depression struck, the one-term James Scullin government was elected at the 1929 election but with a minority in the Senate. As such, Labor would remain without workable lower/upper house majorities on the floor until the 1940s.
Labor under John Curtin formed a minority government in 1941 after the crossbench consisting of two independent MPs crossed the floor in the House of Representatives, bringing down the United Australia Party Coalition minority government of Robert Menzies which resulted from the 1940 election – aside from the formulative early parliaments, the only other hung parliament has resulted from the 2010 election. Curtin led federal Labor to the greatest win of an Australian federal political party with two thirds of seats in the lower house and 58.2 percent of the two-party preferred vote at the 1943 election, and a Senate majority. Child endowment payments were introduced in 1941, widow's pensions in 1942, and Commonwealth unemployment benefits in 1945. Curtin led Australia when the Australian mainland came under direct military threat during the Japanese advance in 1942 during World War II. He is widely regarded as one of the country's greatest Prime Ministers; General Douglas MacArthur said that Curtin was "one of the greatest of the wartime statesmen", while Curtin's Prime Ministerial predecessor and 1943 election Coalition leader, Arthur Fadden of the Country Party wrote: "I do not care who knows it but in my opinion there was no greater figure in Australian public life in my lifetime than Curtin." Ben Chifley became Labor leader and Prime Minister when Curtin died in 1945. Chifley Labor went on to retain a majority in both houses of Australian Parliament at the 1946 election with 54.1 percent of the two-party preferred vote against the newly formed Liberal Party of Australia in their Coalition with the Country Party. Amongst Chifley's Acts, he expanded health care in Australia with a Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and free hospital ward treatment, introduced the Australian citizenship, a post-war immigration scheme, the founding of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), the reorganisation and enlargement of the Australian scientific organisation CSIR to the CSIRO, the Snowy Mountains Scheme, improvements in social services, the establishment of a Universities Commission for the expansion of university education, the creation of the Commonwealth Employment Service (CES), the introduction of federal funds to the States for public housing construction, the creation of a civilian rehabilitation service, over-viewing the foundation of airlines Qantas and TAA, and the creation of the Australian National University. One of the few successful referendums to modify the Australian Constitution, the 1946 Social Services referendum, took place during Chifley's term. It was a period not matched until the 1970s, the number of Chifley government Acts was such that between 1946 and 1949, the Australian Parliament passed 299 Acts, a new record up until Whitlam, and well beyond Fisher. The Senate was changed to proportional voting prior to Labor's defeat at the 1949 election, Labor has not held a majority in both houses since. Labor had split in 1955, key people in the split were Labor leader H. V. "Doc" Evatt, and the ruling mind behind the "Catholic Social Studies Movement" or "the Movement" and the Democratic Labor Party, B. A. Santamaria.
Gough Whitlam led Labor to power at the 1972 election and retained government at the 1974 election, before his dismissal during the 1975 constitutional crisis. Whitlam and his government massively expanded the federal budget to implement an extensive number of new programs and policy changes, such as fee-free tertiary education, the formal removal of the White Australia Policy, the implementation of legal aid programs, the elimination of military conscription and criminal execution, health care in Australia became universal with the creation of Medibank, and tariffs were cut across the board by 25 percent. His government passed around one-thousand Acts in total. The Whitlam government passed more Acts in one term of parliament than any other previous government, and remains the only government in history to hold a joint sitting of federal Parliament, the 1974 joint sitting, for the purposes of passing twice-rejected legislation. The Senate had a shared balance of power which drifted between the DLP, the Liberal Movement, and independents or any from the Coalition who crossed the floor.
Bob Hawke and Paul Keating led Labor to victory at five consecutive federal elections: 1983, 1984, 1987, 1990 and 1993, before being defeated in 1996. Hawke was defeated as Labor leader in a 1991 spill against Keating who had been Treasurer of Australia since 1983. Hawke is Labor's longest-serving Prime Minister and Australia's third-longest-serving Prime Minister. The Hawke and Keating Labor governments radically transformed the Australian economy, departing from a historical bipartisan Keynesian approach to the Australian economy, with the change of the Australian dollar from a government-fixed exchange rate to a floating exchange rate. Extensive deregulation of financial and banking systems occurred, both of which made Australia significantly more integrated with the global economy. Privatisation of state sector industries occurred, including Qantas and Commonwealth Bank. The tariff system was dismantled, and the subsidisation of some loss-making industries ended. Low-income centralised wage fixing was introduced through the Prices and Incomes Accord, and enterprise bargaining was introduced. The tax system was changed, including the introduction of fringe benefits tax and a capital gains tax. Superannuation in Australia was implemented with a nine percent employer contribution. Tertiary education fees in Australia saw a HECS payment system introduced as a replacement for fee-free tertiary education which had been removed after Whitlam. Medicare was introduced as a replacement for Medibank which had also been removed after Whitlam. Dental insurance through the Commonwealth Dental Health Program was introduced, but was removed after Labor lost government. Funding for schools was considerably increased, financial assistance was provided for students to enable them to stay at school longer, native title in Australia was recognised, and progress was made in directing assistance to the most disadvantaged recipients over a whole range of welfare benefits. The Parliament of Australia itself was reformed in several ways. The duration of the 13-year Labor government saw thousands of Acts passed by the Australian Parliament. The balance of power in the Senate was held by the Democrats, but with Labor nine seats short of an upper-house majority from the 1993 election, it was shared between seven Democrats, two WA Greens and independent Brian Harradine.
Labor led by Kevin Rudd won the 2007 election with a 23-seat, 5.5 percent two-party-preferred swing, but in the Senate, Labor was seven seats short of a majority, with a collectively shared balance of power between five Greens, Family First's Steve Fielding and independent Nick Xenophon. The Rudd government signed the Kyoto Protocol, and delivered an apology to Indigenous Australians for the stolen generations. The previous Coalition government's WorkChoices industrial relations system was largely dismantled and Fair Work Australia was created. National Broadband Network (NBN) discussions and the final agreement with Telstra occurred and construction and rollout commenced, remaining Iraq War combat personnel were withdrawn, and the "Australia 2020 Summit" was held. Labor reduced income tax rates in 2008, 2009 and 2010, and pensions were increased, as well as additional funding for health and education. A new Teen Dental Plan was launched, while around 100 laws relating to same-sex relationships in the LGBT community were changed after a HREOC enquiry found them to be discriminatory. In response to the Global Financial Crisis, the government provided economic stimulus packages, and Australia was one of the few western countries to avoid the late-2000s recession. Julia Gillard replaced Rudd as Labor leader and Prime Minister in a 2010 spill. At the 2010 election, the first hung parliament occurred since the 1940 election, the incumbent Gillard Labor government formed a minority government in the House of Representatives with four crossbenchers – three independents and one Green, a one-seat parliamentary majority. (However, on 19 February 2013, the Greens announced that Labor had ended the alliance between the two parties.) Later changes in speaker and government support increased the parliamentary majority to three seats, then two seats. In the Senate, the Greens with nine seats went from a shared balance of power position to a sole balance of power position. The Gillard Labor government introduced the Clean Energy Bill as a replacement for the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) in conjunction with compensation including further income tax cuts and an increase in the tax-free threshold, a Minerals Resource Rent Tax (MRRT) was introduced as a replacement for the Resource Super Profits Tax (RSPT), Gillard reached a health care agreement with state and territory leaders, introduced paid parental leave, plain cigarette packaging laws, the biggest cuts on consumer prices of medicines in Australian history under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), and allocated funding for children and concession holders to receive dental insurance through Medicare. The 2011 Labor conference saw an agreement to a conscience vote for same-sex marriage in Australia through a private members bill. Under Rudd and Gillard, around 500 Acts have been passed by the Australian Parliament, including many in the current hung parliament.
The Labor Party has split three times:
In addition, founding member Joseph Cook left the party in 1894, and went on to be Prime Minister of Australia with the Commonwealth Liberal Party in 1913–14.
The policy of the Australian Labor Party is contained in its National Platform, which is approved by delegates to Labor's National Conference, held every three years. According to the Labor Party's website, "The Platform is the result of a rigorous and constructive process of consultation, spanning the nation and including the cooperation and input of state and territory policy committees, local branches, unions, state and territory governments, and individual Party members. The Platform provides the policy foundation from which we can continue to work towards the election of a federal Labor Government."
The platform gives a general indication of the policy direction which a future Labor government would follow, but does not commit the party to specific policies. It maintains that "Labor's traditional values will remain a constant on which all Australians can rely." While making it clear that Labor is fully committed to a market economy, it says that: "Labor believes in a strong role for national government – the one institution all Australians truly own and control through our right to vote." Labor "will not allow the benefits of change to be concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, or located only in privileged communities. The benefits must be shared by all Australians and all our regions." The Platform and Labor "believe that all people are created equal in their entitlement to dignity and respect, and should have an equal chance to achieve their potential." For Labor, "government has a critical role in ensuring fairness by: ensuring equal opportunity; removing unjustifiable discrimination; and achieving a more equitable distribution of wealth, income and status." Further sections of the Platform stress Labor's support for equality and human rights, labour rights and democracy.
In practice, the Platform provides only general policy guidelines to Labor's federal, state and territory parliamentary leaderships. The policy Labor takes into an election campaign is determined by the Cabinet (if the party is in office) or the Shadow Cabinet (if it is in opposition), in consultation with key interest groups within the party, and is contained in the parliamentary Leader's policy speech delivered during the election campaign. When Labor is in office, the policies it implements are determined by the Cabinet, subject to the Platform. Generally, it is accepted that while the Platform binds Labor governments, how and when it is implemented remains the prerogative of the parliamentary caucus. It is now rare for the Platform to conflict with government policy, as the content of the Platform is usually developed in close collaboration with the party's parliamentary leadership as well as the factions. However, where there is a direct contradiction with the Platform, Labor governments have sought to change the Platform as a prerequisite for a change in policy. For example, privatisation legislation under the Hawke government occurred only after holding a special national conference to debate changing the Platform.
The Australian Labor Party is a democratic and federal party, which consists of both individual members and affiliated trade unions, who between them decide the party's policies, elect its governing bodies and choose its candidates for public office. The majority of trade unions in Australia are affiliated to the party, and their affiliation fees, based on the size of their memberships, makes up a large part of the party's income. The party consists of six state and two territory branches, each of which consists of local branches which any Australian resident can join, plus affiliated trade unions. Individual members pay a membership fee, which is graduated according to income. Members are generally expected to attend at least one meeting of their local branch each year, although there are differences in the rules from state to state. In practice only a dedicated minority regularly attend meetings. Many members only become active during election campaigns. The party has about 35,000 individual members, although this figure tends to fluctuate along with the party's electoral fortunes.
The members and unions elect delegates to state and territory conferences (usually held annually, although more frequent conferences are often held). These conferences decide policy, and elect state or territory executives, a state or territory president (an honorary position usually held for a one-year term), and a state or territory secretary (a full-time professional position). The larger branches also have full-time assistant secretaries and organisers. In the past the ratio of conference delegates coming from the branches and affiliated unions has varied from state to state, however under recent national reforms at least 50% of delegates at all state and territory conferences must be elected by branches.
The party holds a national conference every three years, which consists of delegates representing the state and territory branches (many coming from affiliated trade unions, although there is no formal requirement for unions to be represented at the national conference). The national conference approves the party's platform and policies, elects the national executive, and appoints office-bearers such as the national secretary, who also serves as national campaign director during elections. The current National Secretary is George Wright. The most recent National Conference was held from 2 to 4 December 2011.
The federal parliamentary leader of the Labor Party is elected by the Labor members of the national Parliament (the Caucus), not by the conference. Until recently the national conference elected the party's national president, but since 2003 the position has rotated amongst a presidential team of three, directly elected by the party's individual members. Each member of the team serves a one-year term as national president, with the other members serving as vice-presidents. The current national president is Jenny McAllister, the national vice-presidents are Tony Sheldon and Jane Garrett.
The Labor Party contests national, state and territory elections. In some states it also contests local government elections: in others it does not, preferring to allow its members to run as non-endorsed candidates. The process of choosing candidates is called preselection. Candidates are preselected by different methods in the various states and territories. In some they are chosen by ballots of all party members, in others by panels or committees elected by the state conference, in still others by a combination of these two. Labor candidates are required to sign a pledge that if elected they will always vote in Parliament in accordance with the platform and decisions made by a vote of the Caucus. They are also sometimes required to donate a portion of their salary to the party, although this practice has declined with the introduction of public funding for political parties.
The Labor Party has always had a left wing and a right wing, but since the 1970s it has been organised into formal factions, to which some party members belong and often pay an additional membership fee. The two largest factions are Labor Unity (on the right) and the Socialist Left. Labor Unity generally supports free-market policies and the US alliance and tends to be conservative on some social issues. The national Left, although it seldom openly espouses socialism, favours more state intervention in the economy, is generally less enthusiastic about the US alliance and is often more progressive on social issues. The factions are themselves divided into sub-factions, primarily state-based.
Labor-affiliated trade unions are also factionally aligned. The largest unions supporting the right are the Australian Workers' Union (AWU), the National Union of Workers (NUW), the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees' Association (SDA), and the Transport Workers Union (TWU). Important unions supporting the left include the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU), United Voice, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), the Australian Services Union (ASU) and the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA). These affiliations are seldom unconditional or permanent. The AWU and the NUW, for example, are bitter rivals and the NUW sometimes aligns itself with the left. Moreover, in some cases different union branches may have different factional alignments. On some issues, such as opposition to the Howard Government's industrial relations policy, all the unions were in agreement and worked as a bloc within the party.
Preselections are usually conducted along factional lines, although sometimes a non-factional candidate will be given preferential treatment (this happened with Cheryl Kernot in 1998 and again with Peter Garrett in 2004). Deals between the factions to divide up the safe seats between them often take place. Preselections, particularly for safe Labor seats, can sometimes be strongly contested. A particularly fierce preselection sometimes gives rise to accusations of branch stacking (signing up large numbers of nominal party members to vote in preselection ballots), personation, multiple voting and, on occasions, fraudulent electoral enrolment. Trade unions were in the past accused of giving inflated membership figures to increase their influence over preselections, but party rules changes have stamped out this practice. Preselection results are sometimes challenged, and the National Executive is sometimes called on to arbitrate these disputes.
Australian Capital Territory
New South Wales
see also Leader of the Australian Labor Party in New South Wales
See Category:Australian Labor Party politicians
For current ALP federal politicians, see: