||"A historical political resource."
Australian Captial Territory ALP Branch
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The Australian Labor Party is the oldest and largest political party in Australia. It was initially formed as the political wing of the trade union movement and has continued to maintain strong links with this movement. To cover the history, the successes or otherwise of the Australian labour movement and the ALP is a daunting task. Here we give a brief outline of the history of the ALP in the ACT.
The ALP is essentially a coalition believing in social change that includes reformers, radicals, progressives, social democrats and democratic socialists. This coalition has had and continues to have a range of views. What unites the party is a critique of the inequalities in society, a commitment to a more just and equal society and the achieving of this aim by democratic means.
In 1930 the first ACT ALP Branch was established as part of the NSW party. The first meeting was held at the Friendly Society's hall at Kingston. The party endorsed candidates for the Advisory council and also for the Canberra Community Hospital Board.
In 1931 the Branch called a meeting of trade union representatives which resulted in the formation of the ACT Trades and Labour Council. During the 1940's the party continued to grow. It met monthly in either the Civic or Kingston Hotels.
The party lobbied for federal representation and in 1949 Canberrans elected their first federal member. Initially an independent was elected but shortly after Jim Fraser won the seat for the ALP. Fraser held the seat for 19 years until his death. However he was limited to voting only on Territorial matters until 1966.
In 1951 a second ACT Branch was established in Jervis Bay (this no longer exists). A South Canberra Branch was established in 1957 which led to the establishment of a Canberra Federal Electorate Council of the NSW Branch.
1968 saw a challenge to the preselection of Jim Fraser within the ALP. The issue was Vietnam and it involved a North-South split. The contender Gordon Walsh won the preselection but this was later overturned by the NSW Branch.
During this time the ANU was a major source of members of the party and various academics were active participants in its affairs. For example, in 1968 the Canberra City (North) Branch had 118 members of which 13 were undergraduates, 14 were postgraduate students and 10 were academics.
In 1973 the ALP National Conference established an autonomous ACT Branch and the present structure was established. The ACT electorate was divided into two electorates of Canberra and Fraser (after Jim Fraser not Malcolm) and two Senate positions were established in 1974.
The women's movement has exerted a strong influence on the ACT Branch. In 1974 Susan Ryan was preselected for the Senate and the Branch has a history of electing women as its candidates and party officials. In 1983 Senator Susan Ryan became the first Labor woman Federal Minister. In 1987 Ros Kelly became the first Labor woman Federal Minister in the House of Representatives. In 1989, Rosemary Follett became the first woman Chief Minister or Premier of any State or Territory in Australia, and then the first woman in Australia's history to attend the Premiers Conference.
While Canberra has largely been an exclusively Federal concern it has nevertheless had a partial elected Advisory Council since 1930. The ALP has endorsed candidates to the different versions of this body since its inception. In 1974 the Advisory Council was replaced by a fully elected advisory body titled the Legislative Assembly. In the first elections the ALP won only 4 out of the 18 positions.
The Federal Liberal Government held a referendum on self-government in 1978. The referendum was conducted in such a way as to ensure a negative outcome. Following the referendum, the ACT House of Assembly was created which had similar advisory powers to the old Legislative Assembly. In the 1979 and 1982 elections Labor won 8 of the 18 positions.
The House of Assembly was abolished in 1987 to make way for a self-governing body. A fully autonomous Legislative Assembly was finally established in 1989 and the ALP captured 5 of the 17 positions. As the ALP was the largest party, Rosemary Follett, the ALP Assembly Leader, was able to form the first government. Rosemary Follett held office for 7 months until a coalition of Liberals and others organised a spill.
The ALP re-took power in June 1991 after a successful no-confidence motion was moved against the Alliance Government. ACT Elections were held in February 1992 and Labor was returned to power with the number of MLAs increased from five to eight, only one short of majority Government. After the 1995 and 1998 elections the ALP formed the Opposition to a minority Liberal Government. Labor won back Government in October 2001