Labor Left

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Labor Left
National convenorsPat Conroy and
Andrew Giles[1]
Student wingNational Labor Students
Youth wingYoung Labor Left
IdeologySocial democracy
Political positionCentre-left
National affiliationAustralian Labor Party
Colours     Red
House of Representatives
31 / 150
14 / 76
Federal Caucus
45 / 94

The Labor Left, also known as the Socialist Left and Progressive Left, is an organised Left faction of the Australian Labor Party. It competes with the more economically liberal Labor Right faction.

The Labor Left operates autonomously in each State and Territory of Australia, and organises as a broad alliance at the national level. Its policy positions include party democratisation, economic interventionism, progressive tax reform, refugee rights, gender equality and gay marriage.[2]

Factional activity[edit]

Most political parties contain informal factions of members who work towards common goals. However the Australian Labor Party is noted for having highly structured and organised factions across the ideological spectrum.[3]

Labor Left is a membership-based organisation which has internal office bearers, publications, and policy positions.[3] The faction coordinates political activity and policy development across different hierarchical levels and organisational components of the party,[4] negotiates with other factions on political strategy and policy, and uses party processes to try and defeat other groups if consensus cannot be reached.[5]

Many members of parliament and trade union leaders are formally aligned with the Left and Right factions, and party positions and ministerial allocations are negotiated and divided between the factions based on the proportion of Labor caucus aligned with that faction.[3][5]


Labor Party split of 1955[edit]

The modern Labor Left emerged from the Labor Party split of 1955, in which anti-Communist activists associated with B. A. Santamaria and the Industrial Groups formed the Democratic Labor Party while left-wing parliamentarians and unions loyal to H. V. Evatt and Arthur Calwell remained in the Australian Labor Party.[6]

The split played out differently across the country, with anti-Communists leaving the party in Victoria and Queensland but remaining within in most other states. This created a power vacuum which allowed the Left to take control of the Federal Executive and Victorian state branch, while its opponents were preserved elsewhere.[6]

From 1965 organised internal groups emerged to challenge the control of the Left, supported by figures such as John Button and Gough Whitlam. After the Victorian branch lost the 1970 state election in the midst of a public dispute with Whitlam over state aid for private schools, the South Australian Left, led by Clyde Cameron, and New South Wales Left, led by Arthur Gietzelt, agreed to support an intervention which saw the Victorian state branch abolished and subsequently reconstructed without Left control.[6]

Labor Left split in the 1980s[edit]

During the 1980s, after a prolonged dispute over ideological and tactical issues a split occurred within the South Wales Labor Left creating two fractions; the 'Hard Left' and the 'Soft Left'.[7] A significant event which caused the split was the election of the Secretary Assistant of the New South Wales Labor Party, where the Hard Left faction supported Anthony Albanese while the Soft Left faction supported Jan Burnswoods.[7] The Hard Left faction aligned itself and gained support from grassroots movements, maintaining "closer links with broader left-wing groups, such as the Communist Party of Australia, People for Nuclear Disarmament and the African National Congress" as well as the wider trade union movement.[7] The Soft Left was aligned with the Labor Right faction and rank and file party branches.[7] The fractions had significantly different views on policy. The Soft Left supported Keating's privatisation of the Commonwealth Bank and Qantas, as well as the Gulf War, while the Hard Left members were more often against these.[7]

Labor Left factions from all jurisdictions[edit]

Jurisdiction Major Left Grouping Conference Floor Percentage 2015 Majority
New South Wales NSW Socialist Left 40%[8] No
Victoria Victorian Socialist Left 42%[8] Stability Pact with Centre Unity and NUW
Western Australia Broad Left 65%[8] Yes
Queensland The Left 54% Yes
ACT Left Caucus 51%[8] Yes
South Australia Progressive Left Unions and Sub-Branches (PLUS) 35%[8] No
Tasmania The Left 70%[8] Yes
Northern Territory The Left 60%[8] Yes
National National Left 48%[8] No

Federal Members of the Labor Left[edit]

Name Office
Anthony Albanese Member for Grayndler, Leader of the Opposition
Tanya Plibersek Member For Sydney
Doug Cameron Senator for New South Wales
Stephen Jones Member for Whitlam, NSW
Jenny McAllister Senator for New South Wales
Julie Owens Member for Parramatta, NSW
Sharon Claydon Member for Newcastle, NSW
Susan Templeman Member for Macquarie, NSW
Pat Conroy Member for Shortland, NSW
Anne Stanley Member for Werriwa, NSW
Linda Burney Member for Barton, NSW; Shadow Minister for Human Services
Catherine King Member for Ballarat, VIC
Jenny Macklin Member for Jagajaga, VIC
Brendan O'Connor Member for Gorton, VIC
Andrew Giles Member for Scullin, VIC
Julian Hill Member for Bruce, VIC
Kim Carr Senator for Victoria
Gavin Marshall Senator for Victoria
Maria Vamvakinou Member for Calwell, VIC
Lisa Chesters Member for Bendigo, VIC
Terri Butler Member for Griffith, QLD
Claire Moore Senator for Queensland
Graham Perrett Member for Moreton, QLD
Murray Watt Senator for Queensland
Susan Lamb Member for Longman, QLD
Cathy O'Toole Member for Herbert, QLD
Sue Lines Senator for Western Australia
Louise Pratt Senator for Western Australia
Josh Wilson Member for Fremantle, WA
Patrick Gorman Member for Perth, WA
Anne Aly Member for Cowan, WA
Mark Butler Member for Hindmarsh, SA
Tony Zappia Member for Makin, SA
Penny Wong Senator for South Australia; Leader of the Opposition in the Senate
Julie Collins Member for Franklin, TAS
Carol Brown Senator for Tasmania
Anne Urquhart Senator for Tasmania
Ross Hart Member for Bass, TAS
Justine Keay Member for Braddon, TAS
Brian Mitchell Member for Lyons, TAS
Katy Gallagher Senator for the Australian Capital Territory
Warren Snowdon Member for Lingiari, NT
Malarndirri McCarthy Senator for the Northern Territory

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Crowe, David. "New trade tensions inside Labor as Left faction pushes for greater labour restrictions". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  2. ^ "Labor faction chiefs lose control, leaving way open for left-wing issues such as gay marriage". The Sydney Morning Herald. 17 June 2015. Retrieved 31 December 2015.
  3. ^ a b c Leigh, Andrew (9 June 2010). "Factions and Fractions: A Case Study of Power Politics in the Australian Labor Party". Australian Journal of Political Science. 35 (3): 427–448. doi:10.1080/713649348.
  4. ^ Parkin, Andrew (1983). Machine Politics in the Australian Labor Party. George Allen and Unwin. p. 23.
  5. ^ a b Faulkner, Xandra Madeleine (2006). The Spirit of Accommodation: The Influence of the ALP's National Factions on Party Policy, 1996-2004 (Thesis). Griffith University. Retrieved 18 January 2019.
  6. ^ a b c Oakley, Corey (Winter 2012). "The rise and fall of the ALP left in Victoria and NSW". Marxist Left Review. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  7. ^ a b c d e Leigh, Andrew. "Factions and Fractions: A Case Study of Power Politics in the Australian Labor Party" (PDF). Australian Journal of Political Science. 35 (3): 427–448.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h "agitate, educate, opine" (2 September 2014). "What is the factional breakdown at Labor Conferences?". Retrieved 22 January 2016.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]