Free Trade Party

From Academic Kids

The Free Trade Party, later known as the Anti-Socialist Party, was a political party in Australia from the 1880s until 1909. It favoured the abolition of protective tariffs and other restrictions on trade, arguing that this would create greater prosperity for all. It was centred in New South Wales, where its leaders were Sir Henry Parkes and Sir George Reid. It dominated New South Wales colonial politics before federation.

In the elections for the first Commonwealth Parliament, the Free Traders formed the second largest group in the House of Representatives, with 25 seats. Reid became the Parliament's first Opposition Leader, later becoming Prime Minister in 1904-05.

After the question of tarrifs had largely been settled, Reid cast around for another cause to justify his party's existence. He settled on opposition to socialism, criticising both the Australian Labor Party and the support offered to it by the Protectionist Party, led by Alfred Deakin. The Free Trade party eventually was renamed the Anti-Socialist Party. The Labor party nonetheless continued to grow in electoral strength, and Reid gained the support of several Protectionists who were antipathetic to Labor.

Eventually Reid convinced Deakin that their two parties' future lay in a merger, and the Free Trade Party merged with the Protectionists to become the Commonwealth Liberal Party in 1909.

See also

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