The Liberal tradition has provided the main political organisations defending freedom and democracy in Australia. Liberals established democracy in the colonies, led the movement for Federation, and provided the governments that helped Australia to victory in World War One, brought Australia out of the Great Depression, and laid the basis for national defense in World War Two.
For over one hundred and fifty years Liberals have worked to provide governments enabling Australians to live in a strong, democratic, prosperous and growing nation of expanding opportunities.
In 1944, the modern Liberal Party of Australia was founded after a three-day meeting held in a small hall not far from Parliament House in Canberra.
The meeting was called by the then Leader of the Federal Opposition (and Leader of the United Australia Party), Robert Menzies.
Those who believed in liberal values were concerned that Labor would use the wartime powers of government to establish a socialist society in which government would seek to control people's private lives and run the economy for the benefit of special interests. New political organisations were beginning to form to defend individual rights and the UAP was fragmenting.
Robert Menzies had already served as Prime Minister of Australia (1939-41), but he saw that the liberal and conservative organisations needed to unite to present a strong alternative government to the Australian people, and to bring Australia successfully through the reconstruction period after the Second World War..
Eighty men and women from 18 liberal and conservative political parties and organisations attended the first Canberra conference.
They shared a common belief that Australians should have greater personal freedom and choice than that offered under Labor's post-war socialist plans.
Robert Menzies believed the time was right for a new political force in Australia - one which fought for the freedom of the individual and produced enlightened liberal policies.
In his opening address at that meeting, he said :
...what we must look for, and it is a matter of desperate importance to our society, is a true revival of liberal thought which will work for social justice and security, for national power and national progress, and for the full development of the individual citizen, though not through the dull and deadening process of socialism."
The new party appealed to those whom Robert Menzies had described as the 'forgotten people' of Australia; "salary earners, shopkeepers, skilled artisans, professional men and women, farmers and so on" - those mainstream Australians whose goals, needs and aspirations were being ignored by Labor.
The Liberal Party of Australia
On October 16, 1944, the name The Liberal Party of Australia was adopted, uniting the many different political organisations. Two months later, at the Albury Conference, the Party's organisational and constitutional framework was drawn up.
The name Liberal was chosen deliberately to signal the heritage of the new party in the progressive colonial Liberal Parties that had established democracy, implemented policies to achieve social equality and brought into being the new nation of Australia in 1901.
The name of the new party also recognised its direct links to the first national Liberal Party that had been formed in 1910 out of the 'fusion' of the Liberal freetraders and the Liberal protectionists that Alfred Deakin had achieved in 1909. The early Liberals had formed the Nationalist 'win the war' government (with 'Billy' Hughes') during the First World War and had successfully formed the United Australia Party that brought Australia through the Great Depression of the 1930s.
By May 1945 membership of the Liberal Party had swelled to 40,000. It was to grow within a short time to over 200,000 nationwide.
The new party fought its first election in 1946 with some success and in 1947, the Liberal Party won State Government in Western Australia, South Australia and Victoria. In 1949 the Liberals, in coalition with the Country Party, were first elected to national government.
Sir Robert Menzies went on to lead Australia for 16 years, before he retired from politics in 1966.
The Liberal Party has become Australia's most successful postwar party; it was elected to Government for 23 years from 1949 to 1972, and for another term of more than seven years from 1975 to 1983 led by Malcolm Fraser.
In 1996, in a landslide win, the Australian people again re-elected the Liberal Party, in Coalition with the National Party of Australia, to govern Australia; and in 1998, 2001 and 2004 that government was re-elected.
John Howard's government was one of the most successful in Australian history and the strong economy created by its policies meant that Australia was best placed of any Western nation to face the global financial crisis of 2008.
The Party Organisation
The Liberal Party is a democratic, community-based, party standing for the values of liberty and human dignity, equal opportunity, personal and community responsibility, reward for effort, and believing in the family and the creative powers of individual effort.
The Liberal Party is a volunteer party open to any person who believes in Liberal values and who would like to participate in the government of Victoria and Australia. The party aims to be the party of choice for all those who wish to be active in Australia's democratic system of government.
Women and country members have equal positions with men and city members at all levels of the party.
The members of the party choose its candidates, work with the party's parliamentary party to develop policies reflecting Liberal values, and take part in campaigns to elect Liberal governments. Through its membership the party aims to be representative of the Australian community.
The Liberal Party is the leading volunteer organisation in Australian politics.
It is very different from its major opponent, the Labor Party, which was established by the trade union movement to represent a section of the community, and is still dominated by trade union officials. At least fifty per cent of delegates at ALP conventions are union officials.
The Labor Party is a highly centralised and sectional party committed to promoting the interests and the views of the organisations which brought it into existence in the first place. It has always been plagued by extreme ideological Left-wing groups.
The Liberal Party, by contrast, is a party comprising individual people who can speak on their own behalf and on behalf of what they see as the true interests of their State and of Australia..
Liberty, justice and prosperity for all Australians
The freedom and prosperity that Australians have enjoyed since the Second World War have been the product largely of governments formed by the Liberal and National (Country) Parties working in Coalition.
Australia prospered during the 16 years of the Menzies Government, enjoying an average growth rate of more than 4.1 per cent and an unemployment rate that rarely exceeded 2 per cent. Women and families were beneficiaries of the farsighted child endowment and health insurance policies and the encouragement of home ownership by the Menzies government.
Future patterns for trade with our Asian neighbours were put in place in the 1950s with the signing of a trade treaty by the Menzies government with Japan, and in the 1960s the great resource developments in Western Australia began. The Liberal /National Party governments have constantly and successfully worked to persuade other countries to lower their barriers to trade with Australia. Most recently the Howard government concluded a free-trade agreement with the United States.
Under Premier Bolte (1955-1972), Victoria established substantial rural and industrial infrastructure. Large scale road sealing achievements in regional and rural Victoria accompanied the development of Ford at Broadmeadows, Alcoa at Portland and the oil and gas fields in Bass Strait which went on to supply nearly 60 per cent of Australia's domestic consumption. An international airport was established at Tullamarine.
The commitment of Liberal Governments to the value of education for Australian youth saw new universities established under the Menzies and later Liberal governments. There was a massive expansion of the university and college sector during the sixties and seventies and a national focus on TAFE under the Fraser Government.
The Howard Government more than doubled the number of apprenticeship and training opportunities, and mounted an historic attack on educational disadvantage by establishing Australia's first national literacy and numeracy standards. The Howard government successfully encouraged private investment in education and training at all levels.
Liberal Governments have made Australia a world leader in providing choice in schooling for people at all income levels, despite the attempts of successive Labor governments under union pressure to weaken the capacity of parents to choose the school that best suits their child. Robert Menzies restored justice to Catholic and independent school parents by funding school developments, and the Fraser government strengthened parental choice policies. The Howard government replaced Labor's unjust and political school funding policies with a fair and objective system for funding parent choice. Public school funding was greatly expanded.
Liberal Governments have led the field in the promotion of equal opportunity and social justice for women with the introduction of far-sighted policies such as the Child Care Act in 1972 and the Family Allowance in 1976. The Family Tax benefits and child care policies of the Howard government were further major advances.
The continued commitment of Liberal Governments to Arts, Sport, and Heritage saw the establishment of the Australian Institute of Sport and the Museum of Australia by Malcolm Fraser, the construction of the Victorian Arts Centre precinct under the premierships of Henry Bolte and Dick Hamer. The Howard government established the Australian Heritage Council and the National List for nationally important heritage. It reformed soccer and created a world-leading anti-doping agency. Arts funding significantly increased, and the National Portrait Gallery was established.
Australia's strength and cultural richness derive in part from the quality of the people attracted to our shores and their descendants.
The Liberal Party presided over the great post-war immigration program that underpinned the prosperity of the post-war era. The government of Harold Holt abolished the "white Australia" policy, and the Fraser government welcomed the refugees fleeing communism in Vietnam, and established multicultural television and the Institute for Multicultural Affairs. The Howard government encouraged large numbers of migrants to come to Australia, and maintained one of the world's largest refugee programs, while at the same time taking strong action against illegal immigration and people smuggling.
Liberal governments' commitment to justice for all people has been seen in a large number of policies over the years. The Holt government in 1967 appealed to the Australian people to remove the discrimination against Aboriginal people from the Constitution and succeeded. The first Indigenous member of the Federal parliament, Neville Bonner, was shortly afterwards elected to the Senate for the Liberal Party. The Fraser government legislated for Aboriginal land rights in the Northern Territory and established the Human Rights Commission. The Howard government put in place the National Aboriginal Literacy and Numeracy Strategy, abolished the ineffective Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, expanded greatly the number of young Indigenous people in training, and intervened in the Northern Territory to protect Indigenous children in remote communities. The first indigenous member of the House of Representatives, Ken Wyatt, was elected in 2010 as a Liberal.
Liberals also have an enviable environmental record - including the Fraser government's ending of commercial whaling and the leading role taken by the Howard government in the international campaign for the ending of whaling around the world. The Fraser Government established the world's largest marine park, the Great Barrier Reef, and the Howard Government expanded greatly the protected areas of the Park, leading the world in marine protection.
The Howard government also put in place the visionary Natural Heritage Trust and National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality, and working with the States established some 60 catchment authorities across the continent to protect water quality, land, vegetation and biodiversity. Communities were empowered to protect their catchment regions. The world's first national Greenhouse Office was established and effective policies were put in place to achieve Australia's Kyoto target.
We can all share a measure of pride in the achievements of Liberal Federal and State Governments: from a $1 billion family tax cut to balanced budgets and a better credit rating, better roads, Capital Gains Tax relief, City Link, debt reduction, Docklands, encouragement for private health insurance, fairer native title and workplace relations, Federation Square, the Formula 1 Grand Prix, an improved credit rating, Jeff's Shed, less crime, Local Government reform, lower interest rates, more employment, more productive ports, the Motorcycle Grand Prix, the Natural Heritage Trust, safer gun laws, Schools of the Future, the Sports and Aquatic Centre, to the Federation Fund and working for the Dole.