Colonial Origins

The prehistory of the Australian Labor Party can be traced well back into the 19th Century, notably with the beginnings of the trade union movement in mid-century and spasmodic attempts to give workers some representation in colonial Parliaments. In most colonies in the second half of that century, there were occasional candidates for election, some of them successful, who claimed that they represented the interests of workers or of trade unions. Some had the formal…

Organisational Stresses

Although the Labor Party had been founded by the trade union movement, it very soon developed a life of its own, so that stresses between the party and unions were already evident in the 1890s. In New South Wales, the TLC lost control of the party organisation almost immediately, although this was not particularly significant because a more important development was that a chasm opened up between the parliamentary and extra-parliamentary sections of the party.…

A National Party

The early Labor Party had to identify its social base if it wanted to have continuing and improving electoral success. Obviously it made an appeal to trade unionists. However, most workers were not unionists at this time. ¬†Even many trade union members in the various colonies had developed an allegiance to protectionist parties that promised to protect jobs and industry. From the beginning until well into the next century, the main social base of the…