Democratic Labour Party (Australia)

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This article is about the modern-day Australian political party founded after the dissolution of the original party of the same name. For the earlier party, see Democratic Labor Party (historical). For other uses, see Democratic Labour Party.
Democratic Labour Party
Leader John Madigan[1]
President Paul Funnell
Secretary-General Mark Farrell
Founded 1955
Headquarters Melbourne VIC 3001
Youth wing Young Democratic Labor Association (YDLA)
Ideology Anti-economic rationalism,
Social conservatism,
Colours orange
House of Representatives
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1 / 76
Politics of Australia
Political parties

The Democratic Labour Party[note 1] (DLP) is a political party in Australia of the labour tradition that espouses social conservatism and opposes neo-liberalism. The first DLP Senator in decades and a blacksmith by trade, John Madigan was elected for a six-year term to the Australian Senate with 2.3 per cent of the primary vote in Victoria at the 2010 federal election, serving since July 2011.

On 27 June 2013, the Australian Electoral Commission approved the party's name change from "Democratic Labor Party" to "Democratic Labour Party", reintroducing the modern Australian spelling of "Labour".[2][3]

Original DLP: 1955–1978[edit]

For more details on this topic, see Democratic Labor Party (historical).

The DLP has its origins in the historical Democratic Labor Party,[4] a conservative Catholic-based anti-communist political party which existed from the 1955 split in the Australian Labor Party (ALP) until the 1978 DLP vote for dissolution, and which until 1974 played an important role in Australian politics. The Australian Electoral Commission considers the current DLP to be legally the same as the earlier DLP, and so the party was not affected by laws from the John Howard era (1996–2007) which deregistered parties which had never had a parliamentary presence and prohibited party names that include words from another party's name.[5][6] A party named the Democratic Labor Party or Democratic Labour Party has competed in all elections since 1955.[7]

The original DLP resulted from the conservative Catholic National Civic Council's anti-communist entryist tactics within the ALP and Australian trade union movement in an effort to curb communist influence. Such action led to the then ALP leader H. V. Evatt publicly attacking the anti-communist "Groupers" and expelling them from the ALP, triggering the 1955 split. The expelled anti-communists, numbering 51 in total including 14 ministers and a State Premier, then formed the Australian Labor Party (Anti-Communist), which in 1957 became the Australian Democratic Labor Party and today is the Democratic Labour Party.[8] The DLP used the Alternative Vote electoral system to direct electoral preferences away from the ALP at state and federal levels, until its membership and party organisation declined sufficiently to render it electorally impotent in the early 1970s. Its primary interests were related to industrial relations and foreign policy, but the party was also a forerunner in campaigning to end the White Australia Policy, while supporting equal pay for equal work, the vote for 18-year olds and family income splitting for tax purposes among other things.[8] The party held the balance of power in the Australian Senate during the 1960s and 1970s, until it fell afoul of Australian resistance to that nation's involvement in the Vietnam War and suffered accordingly in terms of its electoral representation.[9]

In 1978, DLP branches in all states, including Victoria, voted to dissolve. In Victoria, the vote passed by a few votes and 14 voters were found to be concurrently members of other political parties. Three-quarters of the Victorian branch's executive rejected the vote and continued the party in that state. In 1986, unions affiliated with the DLP, which had been unaffiliated since 1978, re-affiliated with the ALP.

DLP comeback onto Australian political landscape[edit]

State member 2006–2010[edit]

At the 2006 Victorian election, the DLP won parliamentary representation for the first time since the 1970s when it won a seat in the Victorian Legislative Council, after fielding candidates in the eight regions of the reformed Council, where proportional representation gave the party the best chance of having members elected. The DLP received 2.7 per cent of the primary vote in the Western Victoria Region, enough to elect Peter Kavanagh on ALP preferences. They briefly looked set to have a second member elected, party leader John Mulholland, in the Northern Metropolitan Region on 5.1 per cent, but this result was overturned after a recount.[10]

Following the election of Peter Kavanagh, attention was given to the DLP platform of opposition to abortion and poker machines.[11]

The Labor government required an additional two non-Labor upper house members to pass legislation, which gave the balance of power to the Greens who held three seats. Kavanagh failed to retain his seat at the 2010 Victorian election.

Senator elected in 2010[edit]

Shortly after counting began in the aftermath of the 2010 federal election, DLP candidate, federal DLP vice-president, and state DLP president John Madigan looked likely to be elected as the sixth and final Senator for Victoria, which was confirmed a few weeks later. Preference counts indicated that the primary DLP vote of 2.33 per cent (75,145 votes) in Victoria reached the 14.3 per cent quota required by gaining One Nation, Christian Democratic and Building Australia preferences to edge out Steve Fielding of the Family First Party who received a primary vote of 2.64 per cent. The DLP received Family First preferences, and when the Australian Sex Party candidate was excluded, the DLP gained Liberal Democratic Party preferences, overtaking the third Liberal/National candidate and gaining their preferences to win the last seat.[12][13][14]

Elected for a six-year term from 1 July 2011, Madigan is the first Senator to be elected as a federal member of a party under the name of "Democratic Labor Party of Australia" since the 1970 Senate-only election. It is possible that Madigan will share in the balance of power following the 2013 Federal Election [15]

In his maiden speech to the Senate on 25 August 2011, Madigan denounced Victoria's "inhumane" abortion laws and committed to help restore Australia's dwindling manufacturing sector. He called for a "good Labor government that will bring something better to the people". He said that the DLP and ALP differed in a number of ways, however "We both came from the same lineage and however some members on both sides may dislike it, we are kin, of sorts. The ALP has a chance to reaffirm its commitment to that unchanging labour movement. The DLP intends to pursue that vision":

During my time here there will no doubt be a number of controversial bills proposed. I do not intend to be deliberately controversial simply for a few cheap headlines but on some issues I cannot be complicit by my silence.[16][17]

In December 2011, Madigan along with Senator Nick Xenophon and MP Bob Katter launched the Australian Manufacturing and Farming Program, which was the brainchild of Senator Madigan.[18] Also, Madigan has been outspoken on his concern for human rights in West Papua.[19][20]

Madigan takes an anti-abortion stance, describing himself as "unashamedly pro-life".[21] He has stated he would oppose gay marriage.[22] He is against the sale of public infrastructure.[22] Madigan indicated he is opposed to a carbon tax on behalf of the DLP, stating "We're not in favour of a carbon tax because we believe it's a tax on people and a tax on life."[22] Madigan is an advocate for shops closing at midday on Saturdays.[21] Madigan addressed the Inaugural Jack Kane Dinner in July 2011, where he advocated Chifley protectionist economics.[23]

Lyndhurst by-election 2013[edit]

The DLP received 11 per cent of the first preference vote at the 2013 Lyndhurst by-election in Victoria,[24] achieving double figures at the polls for the first time in many years.

Policies of the DLP[edit]

The party has a comprehensive policy platform, and Peter Kavanagh has referred to the heritage of the historic Democratic Labor Party, claiming that "The DLP remains the only political party in Australia which is pro-family, pro-life and genuinely pro-worker."[25]

The DLP website[26] claims to be not "left" or "right" but centre-"decentralist". The DLP’s stated principles are "democracy", "liberty" and "peace". Its policies include:

  1. opposition to abortion, euthanasia and the destruction of human embryos
  2. opposition to giving same-sex unions the same status as marriage
  3. the economic philosophy of Distributism as an alternative to both socialism and capitalism
  4. the decentralisation of power (the principle of subsidiarity)
  5. small business
  6. protection for Australian manufacturing and farming
  7. sovereignty over Australian land, resources and jobs
  8. human rights in West Papua
  9. student affairs
  10. regional development
  11. building up defensive capacity

Internal dissent[edit]

In late August 2009, Melbourne newspaper The Age reported that the DLP was facing several internal divisions between Kavanagh's faction, which also sought to include evangelical and fundamentalist Protestants within the party, and 'hardline' conservative Catholics. Right to Life Australia President Marcel White and a close associate, Peter McBroom, were reported to be emphasising Catholic doctrinal and devotional concerns, like Marian apparitions, Catholic prayer, praying the rosary and campaigns against the "evils of contraception". Kavanagh was reported as threatening to leave the organisation if the 'hardline' elements were to triumph within the Victorian DLP.[27] In the end, the minority 'hardline' group was expelled from the party.

Infighting and financial issues[edit]

It was reported in June 2010 that the party was on the brink of collapse, with rampant party infighting and less than $10,000 in the bank. Police were also investigating the disappearance of potentially tens of thousands of dollars, attributed to the Victorian DLP's former secretary, John Mulholland, who has lost cases before the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, Australian Electoral Commission and Victorian Supreme Court over his claims that he is still "party secretary", despite expulsion from the party in January 2010. Kavanagh and other DLP officials stated that Mulholland engaged in "poor receipt keeping" during his period as secretary, over the last twenty-five years.[28]

On 18 March 2011 the Victorian Supreme Court handed down a reserved judgment confirming Mulholland's valid removal as secretary.[29] This decision was subsequently reversed by the full bench of the Victorian Supreme Court however the Court also rejected Mulholland's claim that he was still the secretary of the DLP at the time the ruling was handed down.[30]

A Senate petition in August 2011 from Mulholland requested that current DLP Senator John Madigan be removed from the Senate, with the petition lodged using a residual standing order of the chamber that has not been deployed successfully by anyone for more than a century. In his petition, Mulholland says Madigan put himself forward in the 2010 election as a DLP candidate "although the DLP federal executive did not authorise or recognise his candidacy or have any part in his nomination".[31]

Party de-registration attempt[edit]

In 2001 the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) asked the DLP to provide names and details of at least 500 DLP members so it could check that they were valid members and also ensure there was no overlap with other parties' membership. DLP secretary John Mulholland refused to comply and the AEC gave notice, pursuant to section 137 of the Electoral Act, that it was considering de-registering the DLP as a political party.

The DLP initiated legal action to restrain the AEC from de-registering the party on grounds including that the requirement to name 500 members, and the no-overlap rule, were invalid. The High Court of Australia unanimously dismissed the appeal in May 2004.[32]

The DLP survived despite the court ruling. Its legal action had been funded by the McGauran family, so it was ironic that Liberal Party Senator Julian McGauran was defeated at the 2010 federal election by DLP candidate John Madigan.[33]


  • Ross Fitzgerald: The Popes Battalions: Santamaria, Catholicism and the Labor Split: St Lucia: University of Queensland Press: 2003.


  1. ^ Until 27 June 2013, known as the Democratic Labor Party.[2]


  1. ^ Senator John Madigan: Australian Parliament website
  2. ^ a b Australian Electoral Commission. (2013) Application for changed name and abbreviation approved - Democratic Labor Party (DLP) of Australia
  3. ^ Lyle Allan (2013), "Change of Spelling: the DLP." in Recorder (Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, Melbourne Branch), No. 278, December, p.3
  4. ^ "Red-leather day for the DLP". The Age (Melbourne). 12 September 2010. 
  5. ^ Kelly, Norm. (2007) What's in a name? Everything, apparently.
  6. ^ AEC (2008) Electoral funding and disclosure report: Federal election 2007
  7. ^ Commonwealth Parliament Library. (1998–1999). Federal election results, 1948–1998. Research Paper No. 8.
  8. ^ a b "History | Democratic Labour Party". 1974-05-18. Retrieved 2013-08-08. 
  9. ^ Ross Fitzgerald: The Popes Battalions: Santamaria, Catholicism and the Labor Split: Saint Lucia: University of Queensland Press: 2003
  10. ^ Melissa Fyfe (2010-06-20). "State DLP on brink of collapse: The Age 20 June 2010". Melbourne: Retrieved 2013-08-08. 
  11. ^ Taylor, Josie (13 December 2006). "Democratic Labor Party makes a comeback in Victoria". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 2006-12-14. 
  12. ^ "2010 election Victorian Senate preference flows: ABC Elections". Retrieved 7 September 2010. 
  13. ^ Victorian 2010 Senate results: AEC
  14. ^ Colebatch, Tim (18 September 2010). "Labor has edge in tightest race ever". The Age (Melbourne: Fairfax Media). Retrieved 7 October 2010. 
  15. ^ "John Madigan forges the heavy mettle of the DLP". The Australian. 1 June 2013. 
  16. ^ Gullifer, Brendan (2011-08-26). "Senator Madigan calls to bring something better to the people". Retrieved 2013-08-08. 
  17. ^ Maiden Senate speech (video + transcript) 25 August 2011: Australian Parliament website[dead link]
  18. ^ "About". Retrieved 2013-08-08. 
  19. ^ "Questions and Answers on West Papua". The Papua Daily. Retrieved 2013-08-08. 
  20. ^ "From the sublime to the shamefully ridiculous - West Papua, the Australian Senate and Vikki Riley". 2012-09-16. Retrieved 2013-08-08. 
  21. ^ a b Fyfe, Melissa (12 September 2010). "Red-leather day for the DLP". Sydney Morning Herald (Fairfax Media). Retrieved 16 September 2010. 
  22. ^ a b c Preiss, Benjamin (15 September 2010). "DLP stakes its position on issues". The Courier (Fairfax Media). Retrieved 16 September 2010. 
  23. ^ Gerard Henderson (2011-08-16). "Ex-blacksmith may be needed to hammer out Senate deals". Retrieved 2013-08-08. 
  24. ^ "Results: 2013 Lyndhurst by-election". 2013-05-09. Retrieved 2013-08-08. 
  25. ^ Kavanagh, Peter (27 May 2006). "DLP not eclipsed by Family First (letter)". National Civic Council (NCC). Retrieved 2006-12-17. 
  26. ^
  27. ^ Michael Bachelard: "Turning Hard Right: The Battle for Right to Life" The Age 23 August 2009
  28. ^ Fyfe, Melissa (20 June 2010). "State DLP on brink of collapse: The Age 20 June 2010". Melbourne: Retrieved 2010-07-02. 
  29. ^ "Mulholland v Victorian Electoral Commission & Anor [2011] VSC 89 (18 March 2011)". Retrieved 2013-08-08. 
  30. ^ Template:Url=
  31. ^ Katharine Murphy (2011-08-18). "It's my party: expelled DLP member". Melbourne: Retrieved 2013-08-08. 
  32. ^ "John Vincent Mulholland v Australian Electoral Commission". High Court of Australia. Retrieved 26 June 2013-06-26. 
  33. ^ Strong, Geoff (8 September 2011). "Ex-pollie takes a crack at being a class act". The Age (Melbourne). Retrieved 2013-06-26. 

External links[edit]