Commonwealth Liberal Party

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For the modern Liberal Party of Australia, see Liberal Party of Australia.
Commonwealth Liberal Party
Leader Joseph Cook
Founded 1909
Dissolved 1916
Preceded by Free Trade Party
Protectionist Party
Succeeded by Nationalist Party of Australia
Ideology Liberalism
Political position Centre-right
Politics of Australia
Political parties

The Commonwealth Liberal Party (CLP, also known as the Deakin–Cook Party, The Fusion, or the Deakinite Liberal Party) was a political movement active in Australia from 1909 to 1917, shortly after Federation. It was the earliest direct ancestor of the current Liberal Party of Australia.


Alfred Deakin, Prime Minister of Australia 1903–1904, 1905–1908 (Protectionist Party), 1909–1910 (CLP)
Joseph Cook, Prime Minister of Australia 1913–1914

The Commonwealth Liberal Party was formed in response to the Australian Labor Party forming its second government, in 1908. Under considerable pressure from middle- and upper-class interests, Alfred Deakin, the leader of the Protectionist Party, and Joseph Cook, leader of the Anti-Socialist Party, joined forces in order to counter Labor's growing popularity. In 1909, the Protectionists and Anti-Socialists, at a meeting in Melbourne's Parliament House, agreed to merge into the CLP, based on a shared anti-Labor platform. Deakin was the new party's first leader, with Cook as deputy leader. The merger didn't sit well with several of the more liberal Protectionists, who defected to Labor.

Between them, the Protectionists and Anti-Socialists held a majority of seats in the House of Representatives. As a result, the newly merged party used its numbers to force Prime Minister Andrew Fisher to hand power to Deakin. However, the CLP was defeated by Labor at its first election, held less than a year later in 1910, which saw Labor win a majority in both houses.

Cook took over the leadership from Deakin shortly before the 1913 election and won government by a single seat. However, only a year later, Cook deliberately introduced a bill abolishing preferential treatment for public-service union members. Cook knew the Labor-controlled Senate would vote it down, giving him an excuse to call a double dissolution election. When the Senate rejected it twice, Cook called an election for 5 September, the first double dissolution election since Federation. The CLP was soundly defeated, and Labor again won a majority in both houses.

The CLP remained in opposition until November 1916, when it reached a confidence and supply agreement with Prime Minister Billy Hughes, who had recently been expelled from Labor for supporting conscription in World War I and organised his followers as the National Labor Party. In February 1917, the CLP and National Labor formally merged to form the Nationalist Party of Australia. Although the merged party was dominated by former Liberals, Hughes became its leader with Cook as his deputy.

The Commonwealth Liberal Party is often referred to by the retronym "Deakinite Liberal Party" in order to distinguish it from the later Liberal Party of Australia, which was officially founded in 1945.


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