Liberal Democratic Party (New South Wales)

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The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) was an Australian political party that contested the 1943 federal election and the 1944 New South Wales state election.

Divisions in UAP[edit]

In 1931 Joseph Lyons resigned from the Australian Labor Party and together with the opposition Nationalist Party, five dissident Labor MPs and three conservative independent MPs formed the United Australia Party (UAP). This unified the mainstream urban conservative forces in Australia but, in substance, it was largely a continuation of the Nationalists under a new name.

The UAP, in coalition with the Country Party was in power federally and in New South Wales throughout much of the thirties. However, ideological and leadership issues resulted in severe fissures occurring within the conservative political forces towards the end of the decade. These tensions resulted in the party deposing both the NSW Premier Bertram Stevens in 1939 and the Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, in 1941.The party also had difficulty endorsing single candidates in safe seats at the 1941 New South Wales state election.

Formation of party[edit]

Menzies was succeeded as leader of the UAP by Billy Hughes, and the party began to disintegrate prior to the 1943 federal election. The Liberal Democratic Party was one of the first of many groups that split from the UAP and its formal launch was at a public meeting in Sydney on 16 April 1943. This meeting was co-chaired by a former Lord Mayor of Sydney, Stanley S. Crick, and the party's founder and President of the Australian-American Co-operation Movement, Ernest White. White was a wealthy Sydney timber merchant and businessman and it was soon apparent that he was the party's chief benefactor and driving force. Predating Menzies' appeal to The Forgotten People, White said that his party stood for "the little people who have so far been inarticulate". He believed that the two major parties were hampering Australia's effort in World War II by promoting class divisions rather than co-operation. The party platform included equal education opportunities for all, full-time permanent employment for all men, reduced taxation, tough action against striking unions and the gradual abolition of tariffs and industry subsidies.[1]

Prominent party members[edit]

White's party attracted a number of young conservative activists who would later be prominent in Australian public life or have political careers in the Liberal Party. They included Bill Wentworth, Norman Thomas (a former member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly for the seat of Bondi), Roden Cutler, Brice Mutton and Eileen Furley, the first conservative female member of the New South Wales Legislative Council. However, White's over-bearing manner and his insistence that the party have a free trade platform soon caused many of its members to leave.[2] The party gained significant publicity prior to the 1943 federal election, particularly through a weekly broadcast by White over Radio Station 2CH.[3]

Election results[edit]

The party stood a number of candidates in New South Wales electorates at the 1943 federal election. However, with the exception of Brigadier Denzil Macarthur-Onslow, who gained 21% of the primary vote to come second in Eden-Monaro, and Wing Commander Nigel Love, who polled 19% in Parkes, the party performed poorly. The UAP's results at the election were also poor. Its national primary vote was halved to 16% and it lost 11 of its 21 seats. As a result, the UAP was wound up and in New South Wales a number of small conservative parties were formed, including the Democratic Party and the Commonwealth Party. In the lead-up to the 1944 state elections, intense efforts were made to unify these groups and most joined the Democratic Party under the leadership of Reginald Weaver. However, agreement with White and the LDP was not possible and the party ran its own candidates at that election.[4] The party again generated publicity disproportionate to its size and the Sydney Morning Herald commented that the Liberal Democratic Party was a mouse attempting to swallow the Democratic Party lion.[5] The results of the election, in which the party received less than 4% of the primary vote and did not win a seat, confirmed that it was of minor political importance.

Merger with Democratic Party[edit]

The party eventually fused with the Democratic Party in August 1944 and the unified party was briefly known as the United Democratic Party before it became the New South Wales division of the Liberal Party the next year.[6] White remained a disruptive element within the Liberal party and contested the seat of Warringah against the party's endorsed candidate at the 1954 federal election. In his old age, White would claim that he, rather than Menzies, had been the founder of the Liberal Party.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "New party formed". Sydney Morning Herald 17 April 1943 p11. Australian National Library. Retrieved 2009-01-11. 
  2. ^ "Split with Mr Cutler". Sydney Morning Herald 25 May 1943 p7. Australian National Library. Retrieved 2009-01-11. 
  3. ^ "Building a better world". Sydney Morning Herald 20 May 1943 p9. Australian National Library. Retrieved 2009-01-11. 
  4. ^ "Non-labor Unity talks collapse: Liberal Democrats withdraw from conference". Sydney Morning Herald 25 November 1943 p4. Australian National Library. Retrieved 2009-01-11. 
  5. ^ "Election prospects: Discord in opposition". Sydney Morning Herald 24 May 1944 p2. Australian National Library. Retrieved 2009-01-11. 
  6. ^ "Parties will unite". Sydney Morning Herald 26 August 1944 p4. Australian National Library. Retrieved 2009-01-11. 
  7. ^ Evan Whitton (1 August 1981). "Did Menzies found the Liberals?". The Sydney Morning Herald. p. 32.