Australia Party

The Australia Party was a minor political party established initially in 1966 as the Liberal Reform Group. As the Australia Party it became influential, particularly in the landmark 1972 federal election when its preferences assisted the Australian Labor Party to victory—ending 23 years of Liberal/Country Coalition government.

The Australia Party grew out of the Liberal Reform Group,[1] a group of members of the Liberal Party of Australia and Independents who opposed the party's policy of conscription and military involvement in the Vietnam War. The leading figure in this group was a businessman, Gordon Barton, who was assisted in the funding by Ken Thomas of TNT Transport and with the party organisation and branch establishment by Nick Gorshenin, Sydney shark meshing contractor and North Sydney council alderman.

In 22 October 1966, when US President Lyndon B. Johnson visited Sydney, Gordon Barton and Ken Thomas sponsored a full-page advertisement in the Sydney Morning Herald lamenting the involvement of Australian troops in the Vietnam War. At that time no political party was opposed to Australian involvement in the war. Nick Gorshenin telephoned Gordon Barton that evening and they decided to form the Liberal Reform Group. They used their various contacts to establish the initial branches in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Newcastle and Gold Coast.

The "Australia Party" name was adopted in 1969, by which time it was also attracting disaffected Australian Labor Party (ALP) supporters. The party contested state and federal elections, achieving its best results in 1972. Though failing to win any seats, by directing its preferences to the ALP, it greatly assisted that party to win government for the first time since 1949. The Australia Party poll performance declined a little in 1974 and again in the 1975 federal election; however, by this stage it had replaced the Democratic Labor Party as the fourth party after Labor, Liberal and Country parties.

Subsequently, the party allied itself with the New Liberal Movement in the formation of the Australian Democrats for the 1977 federal election. However, a rump party continued on, fielding separate candidates at the 1980 election and the 1982 Flinders by-election. The Australia Party merged into John Siddons' new Unite Australia Party (UAP) in December 1986, along with the Advance Australia Party. At the time The Canberra Times reported that the Australia Party had few remaining members, most of whom were in Victoria.[2]

Significant figures in the Australia Party were Senator Reg Turnbull (elected as an independent, but Australia Party leader in 1969–1970), and journalist Alan Fitzgerald, then a member of the elected Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council. Australia Party members who later entered federal parliament as Australian Democrats senators included Colin Mason (NSW), John Siddons (Vic), Sid Spindler (Vic)[3] and Jean Jenkins (WA).

An important aspect of the Australia Party and later Australian Democrats is that they nullified and then overtook the minority influence of the Democratic Labor Party, which had wielded much influence in post-war federal and state politics.[citation needed] The Australia Party altered the power dynamics, and the Australia Democrats continued that role until they were succeeded by the Greens in the 2004 federal election.[citation needed]

Election results

House of Representatives

Election Votes % Swing Seats won Rank
1969 53,646 0.88 Increase 0.88
0 / 125
Increase 4th
1972 159,916 2.42 Increase 1.54
0 / 125
Steady 4th
1974 172,176 2.33 Decrease 0.09
0 / 127
Increase 3rd
1975 33,630 0.43 Decrease 1.89
0 / 127
Decrease 6th
No candidates stood at the 1977 election.
1980 701 0.01 Decrease 0.42
0 / 125
Decrease 13th
1983 844 0.01 Steady 0.00
0 / 125
Decrease 16th

Senate

Election Votes % Swing Seats won Rank
1970 163,343 2.90 Increase 2.90
0 / 60
Increase 4th
1974 92,107 1.39 Decrease 1.51
0 / 60
Steady 4th
1975 34,632 0.48 Decrease 0.91
0 / 64
Decrease 7th
1977 8,283 0.11 Decrease 0.37
0 / 64
Decrease 9th
1980 27,404 0.36 Increase 0.25
0 / 64
Increase 7th

See also

References

  1. ^ ABC PM report 2005: The life and death of Gordon Barton
  2. ^ "Siddons finds a new party". The Canberra Times. 16 December 1986.
  3. ^ Spindler S Gordon Barton—electoral impacts (Speech at Sydney University, 3 Sep 2005)