National Party of Australia

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Template:Infobox Political Party

The National Party of Australia is an Australian political party, originally called the Country Party, adopting the name of National Country Party in 1975 and adopting its present name in 1982. It has been the minor party in stable coalitions with the Liberal Party of Australia both federally and in most states, both in government and in opposition since the 1940s. In 2003 the party adopted the name The Nationals for campaigning purposes, reflecting common usage, but its legal name has not changed.



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John McEwen House, The National Party's headquarters in Canberra

The Country Party was formally founded in 1922, from a number of state-based parties such as the Victorian Farmers Union (VFU) and the Farmers and Settlers Party of New South Wales. It was formed by small farmers, particularly wheat-growers, who were dissatisfied with the economic policies of the Nationalist Party government of Billy Hughes. Many returned servicemen from World War I had been allocated land grants after the war, and some of these were former trade unionists who adopted union tactics to the cause of small farmers.

The VFU won a seat in the House of Representatives in 1918, and at the 1919 federal elections the state-based country parties won seats in NSW, Victoria and Western Australia. They also began to win seats in the state parliaments. At the 1922 election the Country Party was established as a national party led by Dr Earle Page of Grafton, NSW. It won enough seats to deny the Nationalists an overall majority. They demanded the resignation of Hughes as their price for supporting a Nationalist government. Page then became Treasurer in the government of Stanley Bruce.

Page remained dominant in the party until 1939, when his refusal to serve under Robert Menzies led to his resignation as leader. The coalition was re-formed under Archie Cameron in 1940. In 1949 Arthur Fadden became Treasurer in the second Menzies government, which held office until 1966. This was the period of the Country Party's greatest power. From 1957 to 1989 the Country Party under Frank Nicklin and Joh Bjelke-Petersen dominated governments in Queensland. It also took part in governments in New South Wales, Victoria, and Western Australia.

By the 1960s the Country Party was losing ground electorally to the Liberals as the rural population declined, and in 1975 it changed its name to the National Country Party as part of a strategy to expand into urban areas. This had some success in Queensland under Bjelke-Petersen, but nowhere else. The 1980s were dominated by the feud between Bjelke-Petersen and the national party leadership, which led to defeat at the 1987 federal election and the fall of the Nationals in Queensland in 1989. Since then the party has continued to decline electorally, losing formerly safe seats to the Liberals and to independents.

Political role

When a Liberal-National Coalition is in power in a particular parliament, the job of deputy Premier or Prime Minister is usually given to leader of the National Party in that parliament. For instance, the current federal leader, John Anderson, is deputy Prime Minister to John Howard. Therefore, when Liberal Prime Minister Harold Holt died in office, his Country Party deputy John McEwen was Prime Minister for a period of weeks while the Liberal Party elected a new leader. In the Queensland state parliament, the National Party has historically been the stronger coalition partner numerically so the converse arrangement applies whenever the two parties are in coalition (currently they are not).

The National Party's support base and membership are closely associated with the agricultural community. Historically anti-union, the party has vacillated between state support for primary industries ("agrarian socialism") and free agricultural trade and has opposed tariff protection for Australia's manufacturing and service industries. It is usually pro-mining, pro-development, and anti-environmentalist. On social issues, it is generally regarded as the most conservative of Australia's mainstream parties. It strongly supports the nuclear family (and thus opposes many measures recognising non-traditional relationships), opposes much of the agenda of many Aboriginal leaders (including treaties, land rights, and apologies over perceived government mistreatment), and is the only mainstream party that has an official policy opposing an Australian republic. (While John Howard, the current leader of the Liberal Party, opposes an Australian republic, there are many within the Liberal Party who support one).

The party's membership and support base have been under strain in recent years, being caught between the populist economic and cultural demands of the more socially conservative part of its rural electorate (attracted to the One Nation Party), rising rural support for independents, and the growing strength of the Liberal Party in country areas. Demographic changes have not helped, with fewer people living on the land and in small towns, the continued growth of the larger provincial centres, and in some cases the arrival of left-leaning "city refugees" to rural areas.


On June 23,2005, Anderson announced he would step down from the leadership. While no leadership ballot has taken place, it is generally assumed deputy leader Mark Vaile will become leader.

Past Premiers



External link

Template:Australian political parties


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