First State Conference - Coolgardie, 1899

Foundation of the Australian Labor Party

The Australian Labor Party is Australia's oldest political party.

It is about 30 years older than the Country Party and more than 50 years older than the Liberal Party.

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Origins of Labor in Parliament

Labor became a Federal Party when the former colonies of Australia federated in 1901.

Separate labour parties had been established in the colonies during the formative decade of the 1890s.

These parties were sponsored by the trade union movement, to help get sympathetic politicians elected to colonial parliaments. In Western Australia, Tasmania and Victoria, there were no strong and coherent labour parties until after federation.

However, by 1900 strong labour parties had emerged in Queensland and New South Wales, quickly taking up a prominent role in Parliamentary politics.

Australia's first labour government took office in Queensland in 1899. It lasted seven days. Although these early labour parties were strongly influenced by the trade unions, they were never confined to union membership and interests. Their earliest programs and platforms show that they sought the support of farmers, small businessmen and non-union employees including clerical and other white-collar workers.

From the start the Labour Party was essentially a pragmatic and non-doctrinaire party, representing a broad range of social and economic interests. It was broad in appeal and moderate in aim, although this did not stop its opponents from attacking it as extremist.

The Australian Labor Party entered federal politics at the first Commonwealth elections of 1901, when 16 Labor members were elected to the House of Representatives and eight to the Senate. They met before the first sitting of Parliament on 8 May 1901 and agreed to form a Federal Labor Party. J.C. (Chris) Watson, a Sydney printer and a former member of the NSW Parliament, was elected the first Leader of the Party.

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History of WA Labor

The Western Australian Labor Party was established by a Trade Union Congress, held in Coolgardie in 1899. Representatives of Trades and Labor Councils from around the State agreed to the formation of a political party to protect the interests of workers. The result was the Western Australian Labor Party.

1899: WA Labor Party was established by a Union Congress in Coolgardie. The First Platform was agreed upon.

1900: The Labor Party gained representation in the WA Parliament with the election of six members of the Legislative Assembly. Labor also became a federal party, and 24 Labor members were elected to the first Federal parliament.

1903: WA Labor became a state branch of the Australian Labor Federation.

1904: Labor won 22 Legislative Assembly seats and formed a minority government. Henry Daglish became the first Labor Premier of WA.

1911: Labor won a landslide electoral victory. John Scaddan became the second Labor Premier of WA. Scaddan lead Labor to a second electoral victory in 1914.

1916: The Conscription controversy split Labor both in WA and nationally. Labor governments at both levels were defeated in Parliament and at subsequent general elections.

1924: Labor was returned to power under the leadership of Phillip Collier (3rd Labor Premier). The Collier government was re-elected in 1927.

1925: May Holman was elected to the Legislative Assembly. She was the first Labor woman and second woman ever to be elected to an Australian parliament.

1930: The WA Labor government was defeated at a general election.

1933: The WA Labor Party was returned to government in a landslide, again under the leadership of Phillip Collier.

1935: John Curtin, the Federal Member for Fremantle, was elected Federal Parliamentary Leader. He was the first person from WA to be Leader of the Federal Labor Party.

1936: John Wilcock replaces Phillip Collier as Premier, leading the Labor Government for the next nine years.

1941: John Curtin became Prime Minister two months before the bombing of Pearl Harbour. He lead Labor to victory at the 1943 election on the basis of the government's war record.

1945: Frank Wise becomes Premier. John Curtin died in July.

1947: Labor unexpectedly loses the State election, having held office for 20 of the previous 23 years.

1953: Bert Hawke leads Labor to victory and becomes Premier.

1956: Labor wins the State election with an increased majority.

1959: Bert Hawke's Government was defeated due to a preference strategy run in marginal seats by the anticommunist, anti-ALP, Democratic Labor Party.

1971: Labor was returned to government in WA under the leadership of John Tonkin. Tonkin was Premier until 1974, when Labor lost the State Election, although he remained Leader until 1976.

1983: Labor was victorious in both the state and federal spheres, under the leadership of Brian Burke and Bob Hawke.

1988: Peter Dowding became Labor leader and Premier when Brian Burke retired.

1989: Peter Dowding lead Labor to a third successive electoral victory.

1990: Carmen Lawrence became WA Labor leader and the first woman Premier in Australia.

1993: Labor was defeated at a State election after 10 years in office.

1993: Ian Taylor replaces Carmen Lawrence as Labor leader. Carmen Lawrence stands for, and wins, the Federal seat of Fremantle in a by-election on 12th March.

1994: Jim McGinty becomes Leader of the Opposition.

1996: Geoff Gallop becomes Labor Leader. Labor is defeated in a December State Election. Kim Beazley was elected Opposition Leader, becoming the second Western Australian to lead the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party.

1999: Marked the centenary of the WA Branch. A Centenary State Conference was held on May 8th and 9th, 1999, to reformulate the Branch's platform in preparation for a 2000-2001 State Election.

2001: Geoff Gallop led WA Labor to victory in the State Election. Creating a Government which stopped all logging of old-growth forests and doubled the size of Perth's passenger rail services by building a train to Mandurah.

2005: The Gallop Government was re-elected with an increased majority and immediately introduced a fair, one-vote one-value, electoral system for the first time in WA. This had been part of Labor's platform since 1899.

2006: Geoff Gallop resigned as Labor Leader and Premier, citing his battle with depression. Alan Carpenter became the 12th Labor Premier of WA.

2008: Labor loses a tightly contested election to Colin Barnett, having held office since 2001.

2008: Eric Ripper becomes WA Labor Leader.

2012: Mark McGowan becomes WA Labor Leader

 

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WA Election Dates

27 Nov to 12 Dec, 1890
14 June to 3 July, 1894
27 April to 28 May, 1897
24 April, 1901
28 June, 1904
27 October, 1905
11 September, 1908
3 October, 1911
21 October, 1914
29 September, 1917
12 March, 1921
22 March, 1924
26 March, 1927
8 April, 1933
15 February, 1936
18 March, 1939
20 November, 1943
15 March, 1947
25 March, 1950
14 February, 1953
7 April, 1956
21 March, 1959
31 March, 1962
20 February, 1965
23 March, 1968
20 February, 1971
30 March, 1974
19 February, 1977
23 February, 1980
19 February, 1983
8 February, 1986
4 February, 1989
6 February, 1993
14 December, 1996
10 February, 2001
26 February, 2005
6 September, 2008
9 March 2013 

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WA Labor Leaders

There have been twenty-one Parliamentary leaders of the Labor Party in Western Australia, twelve of whom have served as Premier:

Robert Hastie 1901-1903
Henry Daglish - 1904-1905
W.D. Johnson 1905
Tom Bath - 1906-1910
John Scaddan - 1910-1916
Phillip Collier - 1917-1936
John Willcock - 1936-1945
Frank Wise - 1945-1951
Bert Hawke - 1951-1966
John Tonkin - 1967-1976
Colin Jamieson - 1976-1978
Ron Davies - 1978-1981
Brian Burke - 1981-1988
Peter Dowding - 1988-1990
Carmen Lawrence - 1990-1993
Ian Taylor - 1993-1994
Jim McGinty - 1994-1996
Geoff Gallop - 1996-2006
Alan Carpenter - 2006-2008
Eric Ripper - 2008-2012
Mark McGowan 2012-

 

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WA Labor Premiers

Henry Daglish - 1904-05
John Scaddan - 1911-16
Phillip Collier - 1924-30
John Willcock - 1936-45
Frank Wise - 1945-47
Bert Hawke - 1953-59
John Tonkin - 1971-74
Brian Burke - 1983-88
Peter Dowding - 1988-90
Carmen Lawrence - 1990-93
Geoff Gallop - 2001-06
Alan Carpenter - 2006-2008

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Our sincere thanks to Bobbie Oliver for much of the content on this page.

To learn more about the history of the Labor Party you can contact party office (9328 7222) to purchase a copy of Unity is Strength: A History of the Australian Labor Party and the Trades and Labour Council in Western Australia, 1899-1999