The Australian Labor Party or ALP is Australia's oldest political party. It is so-named because of its origins in and close links to the trade union movement. While Australians normally spell "Labour", in the name of the party it is spelt "Labor". This spelling was adopted in 1912 due to the influence of the American labor movement.
The ALP was the world's first successful Labor party, first forming a minority national government in May 1904, and forming it's first majority government in 1910. Labor became a Federal Party when the former colonies of Australia federated in 1901. Separate labour parties had been established in the colonies (now states) during the formative decade of the 1890s.
The party has historically been committed to socialist economic policies, but while commited to nationalised wage fixing and a strong welfare system did not nationalise private enterprise - an attempt to nationalise the banking system in the 1940's was deemed unconsistitional. In the 1970's and beyond, the party largely gave up its old-guard socialist views and became essentially a social-democratic party. Indeed, during the 1980's the party was responsible for the introduction of many economic policies such as privatization of government enterprises, and deregulation of many previously tightly-controlled industry, which are normally the province of conservative governments.
During the 1950s the issue of communism caused great internal conflict in the Labour party; many believed that it was being infiltrated by Communists and Soviet agents. This eventually led to the splitting off from it of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP), led by Joseph Santamaria. The DLP was heavily influenced by Catholic social teachings and had the support of the Catholic Archdiocesse of Melbourne. (The Catholic Archdiocesse of Sydney, however, was opposed to the DLP, and continued to support the ALP.) The DLP helped the Liberal Party of Australia remain in power for almost two decades. But the DLP ceased to exist in the 1970s.
ALP Prime Ministers:
- W.M. ("Billy") Hughes
- J.H. Scullin
- John Curtin
- Ben Chifley
- Gough Whitlam
- Bob Hawke
- Paul Keating
ALP State Premiers / Territory Chief Ministers
- Bob Carr (Current Premier of New South Wales)
- Peter Beatty (Current Premier of Queensland)
- Steve Bracks (Current Premier of Victoria)
- Geoff Gallup (Current Premier of Western Australia)
- Jim Bacon (Current Premier of Tasmania)
- Clare Martin (Current Chief Minister of the Northern Territory)
The ALP is currently in Opposition at the Commonwealth level; the Opposition Leader is Simon Crean.