History

History of the Democratic Labour Party

The Democratic Labour Party (DLP) formally began in 1955 but was a part of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) before that date. We count the members of the ALP prior to 1955, including Prime Minister Ben Chifley, as part of our party’s history.

During 1941-49, the Communist Party almost subverted the Australian Labor Party by infiltrating ALP-affiliated unions. By 1945-48, rank-and-file “industrial groups” were organised and trained to defeat the communists in trade union elections.

While the industrial groups had almost completely curbed communist power in the unions, the success was reversed under the leadership of Herbert V. Evatt. Following his failed 1954 election campaign, he attacked the industrial groups. The ALP began supporting the communists, sponsoring “unity tickets” in trade union ballots.

Affiliated unions coming again under Communist Party control were then able to dictate ALP policy in critical areas, including foreign affairs and defence.

 

This led to the birth of the Democratic Labour Party.

 

The founders of the DLP were eminent parliamentarians, trade unionists, ALP officials and ordinary ALP members. They were unlawfully expelled from the ALP in the immediately-preceding crisis that became known as “the Split”. The majority of ALP members and ALP branches in Victoria, where the Split began, joined with the expelled anti-communists.

They knew what was at stake. Labour movement traditions of democracy, justice and fairness had been subverted.  The rule book had effectively been torn up. The policies of the ALP – the alternative government – were beginning to reflect the views of the extremist union bosses with reckless economic agendas and allegiances to hostile communist regimes. Australian democracy was in danger. National security was threatened. Social justice priorities for the families of Australian workers were at risk.

The expelled anti-communists formed the Australian Labor Party (Anti-Communist). In 1957 it became the Australian Democratic Labor Party, then the Democratic Labor Party of Australia, and in 2013 it became the Democratic Labour Party.

 

No other political party in Australia can boast that its parliamentary founders (51 in total, including 14 ministers and a State Premier), were prepared to sacrifice promising political careers to uphold a principle: in their case, anti-communism.

 

All were to lose their seats in elections following the Split. This was the outcome of a media campaign orchestrated by the communists and the pro-communist left to undermine public sympathy and to impute a sectarian motivation for the DLP stand.

Between the ‘split’ of 1955 and 1974 the DLP held the balance of power in the Senate, scrutinising and approving vital legislation before it could be passed into law. The Democratic Labour Party offered a distinct alternative to the other political parties. It was an alternative based on two essential ends: bolstering the family and defending the nation.

 

The DLP was the first Australian political party to promote many policies. Some of these were:

  • The vote for 18 year olds
  • Equal pay for equal work
  • Equity in education funding
  • An end to the White Australia policy
  • Decentralisation of government
  • Industrial democracy
  • Responsible environmental protection
  • Family tax splitting
  • Support for life
  • Capital Grants for family homes
  • Portability of superannuation
  • Diversification in trade
  • Low interest loans for small business
  • Enterprise profit sharing
  • Producer/worker cooperatives

 

The double dissolution election of 18 May 1974 polarised the electorate. As a result, all DLP Senators lost their seats.

Since 1974, the DLP contested every election but success did not come until 2006, when Peter Kavanagh was elected as a Member of the Legislative Council for Western Victoria. Since then, the DLP has grown and has been re-established in every State in the Commonwealth of Australia.

With the re-emergence of extremist political groups and the basic rights of Australian workers and families under threat, it is not surprising that the DLP has regained its popularity.

In 2011, in a result that no political pundit predicted, John Madigan was elected to represent Victoria in the Senate. A blacksmith and railway worker, like Ben Chifley and his family, John epitomised everything that the labour movement stood for and was determined to bring the voice of the average Australian back to the Senate.

In 2014, Dr Rachel Carling-Jenkins was elected to represent Western Metropolitan in the Victorian state upper house. Rachel is the 55th parliamentarian of the Democratic Labour Party (at state or federal level) and is the Party’s first female parliamentarian. Dr Carling-Jenkins has a PhD in Social Science and has worked extensively as an academic and social worker.