|Description||Introducing the National Party |
The National Party has been represented in the Federal Parliament ever since its formation over 80 years ago.
It is an independent, conservative political party with a proud record of achievement for its constituents across rural, regional and remote Australia.
The National Party is a private enterprise organisation. It provides a vital balance, ensuring the interests of people living beyond the capital cities have a voice in Parliament. Without the National Party, government policy would be determined by a substantial majority of city-based parliamentarians.
The Party is a staunch advocate for the nation's wealth generating rural and resource industries. It was born out of farm organisations and still places priority on agricultural and trade policies.
Changing political, economic and demographic circumstances have required the Party to broaden its base to the point where it has policies covering the entire range of portfolio interests. It gives special attention to balanced environmental protection and sustainable development, small and family business, regional development, tourism and family and social issues.
It upholds traditional values and fights for a better quality of service, opportunity and life for all people, from remote inland communities to major regional and coastal centres.
The Party has a major influence on policy and is responsible for many landmark initiatives for Australia, ranging from hospital and medical benefits schemes, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), the Australian Institute of Sport and the abolition of Federal death and gift duties, to the Regional Australia Summit, the Natural Heritage Trust, the Roads to Recovery Program , the Agriculture - Advancing Australia package, the Supermarket to Asia and major increases in funding for country and regional health, education and communications.
How the National Party Works
Parliamentary National Parties
The objective of the National Party at Federal and State levels is to win as many seats as possible in the Parliaments of Australia and so implement or advance Party policy and philosophy. Therefore the Parliamentary National Parties are of major significance to the structure of the Party as a whole.
National Party members elected to the Federal and State Parliaments form Parliamentary National Parties.
These work under their own meeting procedures and elect their own office bearers.
In Federal Parliament, the Parliamentary National Party comprises all those Party members elected to the Senate and the House of Representatives. If an elected member or members of the Northern Territory Country Liberal Party choose to sit in the Federal Parliament with the National Party, they also become members of the Federal Parliamentary National Party.
State National Party Organisations
There are five State National Parties - Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. While all have similar operational structures, each is an independent and autonomous organisation with its own Constitution and Rules.
The State Parties join together in an affiliation to form the National Party of Australia.
Each State Party has financial members who belong to local Branches. Each year the Branches send delegates to a State Annual Conference, at which State Party policy is decided. These conferences also discuss issues of a Federal nature which, if carried, can be put through for consideration by the Federal Party at Federal Council and Conference.
The State National Parties are administered on a day to day basis by Management Committees or Central Executives, which meet regularly.
Larger Central Councils, made up of delegates from all State and Federal Electorate Divisions and State and Federal Parliamentary representatives are the governing bodies of the State Parties and are able to make policy decisions between Annual Conferences. These usually meet at least four times a year.
A primary strength of the National Party is the participation by Branch members in all the processes of the Party.
Branch members have the opportunity to be directly involved in the selection of candidates for election and the development of policy for the Party at both Federal and State level. They may stand for preselection themselves or for elected office within the Party. They may also become directly involved in election campaigning.
The vast majority of the National Party's membership is in regional and country centres, whereas the bulk of the Liberal and Labor Parties' membership is in the capital cities.
On the ground Party members are the absolute strength of the National Party. They are dedicated volunteers who contribute an enormous amount of their own time to the Party's interests. A vital role they play is handing out how-to-vote cards during elections. This is particularly important given that at least 10% of voters go to polling booths on election day undecided about how they will vote.
The Federal National Party
Unlike the State National Parties, the Federal Party has no direct responsibility for membership or the endorsement of candidates for election.
The Federal Organisation is made up of representatives from the affiliated State Parties. Its role is to coordinate the work of the Federal Parliamentary Party with the Sate Parliamentary and Organisation Parties.
There are three main bodies which handle the administration and policy decisions of the Federal National Party Organisation - the Federal Management Committee, Federal Council and Federal Conference.
The work of these bodies and coordination with the Federal Parliamentary Party, is supported by a Federal Secretariat, located in Canberra. It was founded by the then Federal Leader, Sir John McEwen and opened on November 4, 1968.
The Federal Secretariat helps to organise meetings of the Federal Management Committee, Federal Council and Federal Conference.
It provides research, information and training on Federal issues to the Federal Parliamentary Party, their staff, the State Parliamentary and Organisational Parties, and endorsed candidates for Federal elections.
It coordinates Federal election campaign activities and publishes a range of Party promotional material for use by Federal and State Parliamentarians and National Parties.
Federal Management Committee
The Federal Management Committee is made up of the Federal President, Senior Federal Vice-President, Federal Treasurer, Federal Secretary (all of whom are appointed annually by Federal Council); the Federal Parliamentary Leader, Deputy Leader and Leader in the Senate; the Presidents of affiliated State Parties; the President of the Women's Federal Council, the Federal President of the Young National Party of Australia; and the Immediate Past-Federal President.
The Committee meets quarterly, or by tele-conference as necessary, and is the body which manages the day to day affairs of the Party.
The Federal Council meets once a year and is the supreme governing body of the National Party of Australia. It has the power to make policy decisions, alter the Party's Federal Constitution, establish committees, set fees payable by the affiliated Parties, admit organisations to affiliation or association and terminate such affiliations or associations.
Federal Council consists of around 77 delegates - of whom at least 42 are Branch members. All delegates have the right to vote.
Traditionally, Federal Council meets in Canberra between September and November, following the State Conferences, which are held between May and August. This ensures that resolutions on Federal issues from State Conferences can be considered by Federal Council. If adopted, they then become the policy of the Federal Party.
The Federal Constitution provides for a Federal Conference to be convened once every three years or once in the life of each Federal Parliament.
Federal Conference is designed to ensure maximum participation by the Branch members of the Party right around Australia. Each Federal Electorate Council may send three delegates to Conference.
Federal conferences generally comprise around 360 voting delegates, of whom about 240 are Branch members. This ensures voting outcomes cannot be dominated by Parliamentary or other Organisational numbers.
Party Policy and Parliamentary Parties
The National Party does not rigidly impose the policy of the Party adopted through State and Federal Councils and Conferences on its Parliamentary Parties.
However, the Parliamentary Parties are required to follow the policy of the Party as far as possible, and the Parliamentary Leaders are required to report to their respective Organisational Executives if there are occasions when they will not or cannot adopt a policy position that is consistent with that of the Party.
The reason for this relative freedom is because Parliamentarians have to make policy decisions almost on a daily basis, and in light of changing political circumstances.
The Party's Federal Record
Bruce/Page Ministry (1923-1929)
The development of an independent Country Party at Federal level provided new opportunity. Prime Minister Billy Hughes had been leader of an ALP Government from October 27, 1915 to November 14, 1916, a National Labour Government from November 14, 1916 to February 17, 1917, and a Nationalist Government from February 17, 1917 to February 9, 1923.
Following the December 16, 1922 Federal election, the new Country Party held the balance of power. It would not work in Government with Billy Hughes. As a result he resigned. Stanley Bruce revamped the Nationalists and entered into an agreement with the Country Party, enabling a Bruce/Page Government to be formed. It held office until the elections of October 12, 1929.
Scullin Ministry (1929-1931)
The ALP under James Scullin won the 1929 election. However, it was defeated in the election on December 19, 1931.
Lyons Ministry (1932-1934)
The United Australia Party, under Joseph Lyons was able to form a Government in its own right between January 6, 1932 and November 9, 1934.
Lyons/Page Ministry (1934-1939)
As a result of the election on September 13, 1934, Lyons had to enter into an agreement with the Country Party to maintain office. A Lyons/Page Ministry continued from November 9, 1934 until April 7, 1939.
Page Ministry (April 1939)
Joseph Lyons died in Office on April 7, 1939. Page took over as Prime Minister, forming a new joint Ministry. The United Australia Party (UAP) elected Robert Menzies as its new Leader. Page would not work with Menzies. He resigned as Prime Minister, leaving Menzies to form a minority Government from April 26, 1939.
Menzies/Cameron Ministry (March-Oct 1940)
The Second World War was declared on September 3, 1939. With such a major development, it was decided to reform a joint Government. Page, who would still not work with Menzies, resigned as Leader of the Country Party. The South Australian Member for Barker, Archie Galbraith Cameron, was narrowly elected Leader, and a Menzies/Cameron Government continued from March 14, 1940.
Menzies/Fadden Ministry (1940-1941)
The non-Labor Parties were returned to office at the election on September 21, 1940. However, Cameron lacked support for his continuing leadership in the Parliamentary Country Party. He resigned and joined the UAP. Earle Page and the Victorian Member for Echuca, John McEwen tied in the subsequent leadership ballot. The Party Room had elected Queensland Member for Darling Downs, Arthur Fadden, as Deputy Leader. To break the deadlock it appointed him as Acting Leader 'for the time being'. The Menzies/Fadden Ministry took office from October 28, 1940.
With the deepening War crisis, Fadden was confirmed Country Party Leader on March 12, 1941. Menzies, however, was losing support within his own Parliamentary Party. He resigned and on August 23, 1941 the joint Government Parties elected Fadden unopposed as Prime Minister.
Fadden Ministry (1941)
The Fadden Ministry was sworn in on August 29, 1941. Since the 1940 election, the Government had held office with the support of two independent Members. On October 1, 1941, the independents voted against the Fadden budget, thereby putting the Government out of office. The Labor Party, under John Curtin, formed a new Government.
Labor Ministry (1941-1949)
The ALP, successively under John Curtin, Frank Forde and Ben Chifley, held office until the general election on December 10, 1949 when Robert Menzies, leading a newly formed Liberal Party of Australia, won enough seats to form a new Government with Fadden's Country Party.
Joint Ministries (1949-1972)
The Government of the Country and Liberal Parties continued for 23 years, from 1949 to 1972, under a number of Leaders - John McEwen and Doug Anthony for the Country Party and Robert Menzies, Harold Holt, John Gorton and William McMahon for the Liberal Party.
McEwen Ministry (Dec 1967-Jan 1968)
The disappearance of Prime Minister Harold Holt off Cheviot Beach, Victoria, on December 17, 1967, caused a major crisis for Australia. Country Party Leader, John McEwen, took over as Prime Minister from December 19, 1967. When the Liberal Party elected John Gorton as its Leader, McEwen relinquished the Prime Ministership. The Gorton/McEwen Ministry was sworn in from January 10, 1968.
Joint Ministries (1968-1972)
McEwen retired from Parliament in February 1971, with his Deputy, Doug Anthony, taking over the Country Party leadership. William McMahon took over the Liberal leadership and Prime Ministership in March 1971, forming a McMahon/Anthony Government.
Whitlam Ministry (1972-1975)
The Australian Labor Party under Gough Whitlam won the election on December 2, 1972.
The Country and Liberal Parties decided to work independently in Opposition, but after Whitlam won the election on May 18, 1974, they agreed to form a joint Opposition.
The Federal Country Party changed its name to the National Country Party of Australia on May 2, 1975.
Fraser/Anthony Ministry (1975-1983)
By the time the Governor-General dismissed the Whitlam Government on November 11, 1975, the Liberals were being led by Malcolm Fraser. He and Doug Anthony formed a caretaker Government after the dismissal and an ongoing Government after being overwhelmingly elected at the polls on December 13, 1975.
The Federal National Country Party changed its name to National Party of Australia on October 16, 1982.
The Fraser/Anthony Government continued in office until its defeat at the polls on March 5, 1983.
Hawke Ministry (1983-1991)
Following the election of the Hawke Labor Government on March 5, 1983, the Liberal and National Parties agreed to work together in Opposition.
Anthony retired from Parliament in January 1984, handing over the leadership to his Deputy, Ian Sinclair.
Dissatisfaction with the joint Opposition arrangements, particularly among some sections of the National Party, lead to the them being broken on April 28, 1987. The Federal election on July 11, 1987 saw the return of the Hawke Labor Government. As a result, the National and Liberal Parties reformed a joint Opposition from August 6, 1987.
These Opposition arrangements were reconfirmed by the National and Liberal Parties after each election from 1987 to 1996 under successive National Party Leaders Ian Sinclair, Charles Blunt and Tim Fischer, and Liberal Leaders Andrew Peacock, John Hewson, Alexander Downer and John Howard.
Keating Ministries (1991-1996)
Paul Keating became Prime Minister on December 21, 1991, after a vote by the Federal Labor Caucus, and went on to win the March 15, 1993 election.
Howard/Fischer Ministry (1996-98)
On March 2, 1996 the Howard/Fischer Opposition won the Federal election ending 13 years of Labor administration. A new Government was formed with Tim Fischer becoming Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade.
Howard/Fischer Ministry (1998-1999)
The Government won the next election on October 3, 1998. Tim Fischer announced his retirement from the National Party leadership and the Ministry on June 30, 1999. The National Party Room elected the Deputy Leader and Member for Gwydir, NSW, John Anderson, as its new Leader and the Member for Lyne, NSW, Mark Vaile, as Deputy Leader the following day, July 1, 1999.
Howard/Anderson Ministry (current)
John Anderson assumed the position of Deputy Prime Minister and kept his portfolio of Transport and Regional Services, while Mark Vaile moved from Agriculture, Fishing and Forestry to Trade. The Agriculture portfolio remained with the National Party, going to the Member for Wide Bay in Queensland, Warren Truss.The Hon Bruce Scott, from Queensland, is the Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence, and Minister for Veterans' Affairs. The Hon Peter McGauran has the portfolio for the Arts and the Centenary of Federation, while the Hon Larry Anthony is the Minister for Community Services.