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History of the Liberal Party


    The Liberal Party has been in Government for 36 of the past 52 years in Australia. The history of the Party still appears to be towered over by Sir Robert Menzies. Every leader since Menzies has been comprehensively swept aside. The achievements of these people often scoffed at by Liberals themselves.

    In Chris Puplick's (1994) Is the Party over?, he comments (page 152) on the contrast between the ALP and Liberals on examining its own history. John Curtin and Ben Chifley are revered as folk heroes, and Whitlam is God-like. The Liberals however have allowed myths of under achievement to flourish that Menzies was a "British Bootlicker" who did not do much at all; Fraser was "wasted opportunity".

    Puplick notes that some of Fraser's biggest critics served alongside him, but did not have the courage to say anything when they could have made a difference.

    Malcolm Fraser said himself in a 1994 documentary The Liberals narrated by Pru Goward, that he had seen Menzies whom had won seven elections distanced from the Party, then he did not expect as well of himself given he had only won three elections and lost one.

    Liberals.Net encourages contributions of Essays to this section highlighting achievements of Liberals.


    A Very Brief History of the Liberal Party of Australia

    On 18 April 1939, Robert Menzies was elected the leader of the United Australia Party and becomes Prime Minster. On 21 September 1940, Menzies Government wins same amount of seats as ALP at Federal Election. They govern with two independents.

    Menzies resigns as leader on 28 August 1941, allowing Arthur Fadden to take over as leader. Menzies time in the wilderness begins.

    3 October 1941, ALP gain the support of two key independents and John Curtin becomes Prime Minister. Curtin wins the 21 August 1943 elections in a landslide.

    On 22 May, 1942, Sir Robert Menzies gave his famous The Forgotten People speech. This summed up Menzies vision of a Party which represented the vast mainstream of Australian society. This outlines his philosophy which would help shape the future Liberal Party.

    Menzies becomes the opposition leader on 23 September 1943.

    Over the 14-16 December 1944, Non Labor people meet at Albury to form a new non-Labor Party - The Liberal Party of Australia. This was formally announced to House of Representatives on 21 February 1945.

    The 1946 Elections saw Prime Minister Ben Chifley returned. However, on 10 December 1949, Robert Menzies leads the Liberal Party to power - Coalition: 74 seats to ALP: 47 seats.

    Robert Menzies Liberal-Country Coalition wins six more elections: 1951, 1954, 1955, 1958, 1961, 1963. Menzies towers over the Post WWII ear in Australia like a Colossus, until resigns on 20 January 1966.

    Harold Holt becomes the Prime Minister on 26 January 1966, and wins at the time, a record majority in the House of Representatives on 14 December. One year later on 14 December 1967, Holt drowns.

    Country Party leader John McEwen is sworn in as a caretaker Prime Minister, and refuses to work with Billy McMahon. Senator John Gorton is elected by the Liberals as successor on 9 Janaury 1968, and becomes Prime Minister the next day.

    Gorton retains Government on 25 October 1969 against the ALP's Gough Whitlam. Gorton is eventually drawn into a ballot with William McMahon, after a Minister Malcolm Fraser's resignation on 8 March 1971. Two days later, Gorton draws even 36 votes all with McMahon and uses his casting vote to step down.

    McMahon leads a tired Government of 23 years into the 2 December 1972 Election, which sees the Coalition swept from office.

    Billy Snedden later becomes opposition leader, and leads the Party to defeat again at the 1974 Elections, on 18 May. Malcolm Fraser challenges Snedden twice for the leadership and wins on 21 March 1975.

    Fraser uses the Coalition's power in the Senate to block the Governments Money Supply, unless they call an early election. Fraser cites "reprehensible" circumstances.

    Governor-General, Sir John Kerr dismisses the Whitlam Government from office in 11 November 1975, and places Malcolm Fraser as caretaker Prime Minister on the basis he can guarantee the Money Bills, will pass through the Senate.

    On 13 December 1975, Malcolm Fraser wins the biggest Parliamentary majority ever in the history of Australia's parliament. The landslide 55 seat majority, is reduced to 40 seats two years later on 10 December 1977.

    Fraser is re-elected on 18 October 1980, with majority reduced. He later loses to Bob Hawke on 5 March 1983.

    The Liberals lose the 1984, 1987, 1990, 1993 Elections - a period of 13 years from 1983 to 1996. It is a period of division of personalities, and factions in regard to the "wets" and the "drys".

    A succession of opposition leaders from 1983 to 1995 falter against the difficult to beat Bob Hawke and Paul Keating. Andrew Peacock from 1983; until John Howard on 5 September 1985; until Andrew Peacock on 9 May 1989; until John Hewson on 3 April 1990; until Alexander Downer on 23 May 1994.

    In 1995, John Howard makes a Lazarus like recovery from the Political wilderness and becomes the Liberal leader.

    In March 1996, Howard leads the Coalition to a landslide victory. They retain Government in October 1998.


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Written and Authorised by A.Molloy, PO Box 669, Double Bay, 2028.
Responsibility for Election Commentary taken by A.Molloy, PO Box 669, Double Bay, 2028.
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