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National Labor Party

The National Labor Party was formed by Australian Prime Minister Billy Hughes in 1916. Hughes had taken over as leader of the Australian Labor Party and Prime Minister of Australia when anti-conscriptionist Andrew Fisher resigned in 1915. He formed the new party for himself and his followers after he was expelled from the ALP a month after the 1916 plebiscite on Conscription in Australia. Hughes held a pro-conscription stance in relation to World War I.

On 15 September 1916 the executive of the Political Labour League (the Labor Party organisation in New South Wales at the time) expelled Hughes from the Labor Party. When the Federal Parliamentary Labor caucus met on 14 November 1916, lengthy discussions ensued until Hughes walked out with 24 other Labor members and the remaining (43) members of Caucus then passed their motion of no confidence in the leadership, effectively expelling Hughes and the other members. Hughes and his followers, who included several early Labor leaders, formed a minority government supported by the Commonwealth Liberal Party, led by another Labor dissident, Joseph Cook. Believing the Labor Party was no longer sufficiently nationalist, they began laying the groundwork for a new party that would be both socially radical and nationalist.

In 1917, Hughes and Cook turned their confidence-and-supply agreement into a formal party, the Nationalist Party of Australia. Hughes became the merged party's leader, with Cook as his deputy. Although it was essentially an upper- and middle-class party dominated by former Liberals, the presence of several Labor men allowed the party to project an image of national unity.

The National Labor Party was never formally constituted itself as a party and had no organisational structure, although some trade union officials and Labor Party branches, particularly in Western Australia and Tasmania, supported it.

Western Australia

The National Labor movement in Western Australia started off as two separate groups—one known as the Labor Solidarity Committee based out of Trades Hall in George Pearce for leadership and guidance. Unlike its federal counterpart, it maintained its own distinct identity and structure and worked with the Nationalists as coalition partners. A number of Western Australian unions disaffiliated from the Australian Labor Federation to support the National Labor movement—most notably those representing the engine-drivers, railway employees, boilermakers and carpenters which were powerful in the goldfields. Organisationally, however, the party was believed to be over-dependent on its Senate patrons and struggled to build a genuine extraparliamentary organisation.

The party scored six of 50 Assembly seats in each of the 1917 and 1921 elections, and held three of 30 Council seats during this period. However, in the 1924 elections, their representation was reduced to one in the Assembly and two in the Council—many through the defeat of sitting NLP members by Labor candidates—and later that year, what remained of the Party was subsumed by the Nationalists.

See also


  • Australian Dictionary of Biography - Billy Hughes
  • Robertson, John R. (1958). The Scaddan government and the conscription crisis, 1911-17 : aspects of Western Australia's political history (thesis). University of Western Australia. Accessed in Special Collections, Reid Library, UWA.
  • Cusack, Danny. (2002). With an olive branch and a shillelagh: The political career of Senator Paddy Lynch (1867-1944) (thesis). Murdoch University. Accessed via Murdoch Digital Theses.

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