Progress Party (Australia)

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The Progress Party was a minor Australian political party in the mid-to-late 1970s. Initially known as the Workers' Party, it was formed on Australia Day (26 January) 1975 as a free market libertarian and anti-socialist party by businessmen John Singleton and Sinclair Hill in reaction to the economic policies of Labor prime minister Gough Whitlam.[1] It operated and ran candidates in Western Australia, Northern Territory, South Australia, Queensland and New South Wales, but did not have a central federal structure and its Western Australian affiliate, which additionally advocated secession from the rest of Australia,[2][3] did particularly well in the area surrounding Geraldton in the State's Mid West. However the party failed to win seats at any level of government, and passed out of existence by 1981.

The party's first electoral contest was the Greenough state by-election which took place upon the retirement from politics of former Premier David Brand. The candidate, Geoffrey McNeil, surprised most observers by attaining 12.96% of valid votes cast (only 0.66% less than the Labor candidate).[4][5] Buoyed by their success, the Workers' Party ran three House and five Senate candidates at the 1975 election for Western Australia.[6] Subsequently to this, the New South Wales party ran for 1976 by-elections in the seats of Pittwater and The Hills.[7]

The party was renamed the Progress Party after objections to the name and constitution, and the "Westralian Progress Party" published its platform in 1977 ahead of the February state election, where it contested the seats of Greenough (16.81%), Geraldton (5.12%), Kalgoorlie (6.43%), Mundaring (3.95%) and Yilgarn-Dundas (3.63%). At the August 1977 Northern Territory assembly elections, the party picked up a territory-wide vote of 9.76%.

The defection of Tangney Liberal MHR Peter Richardson to the party in the final months of his term provided a morale boost, and at the 1977 federal election, Richardson attempted to transfer to the Senate, while the Progress Party contested every Western Australian seat in the Australian House of Representatives. However, the party only managed to collect 2.83% of the State vote and Tangney returned to the Liberal Party.

It went on to contest the 1980 state election, but with a significantly lower degree of success.[8] The party is believed to have disbanded after this time, but was credited by academic Marian Sawer for attracting publicity for neo-liberal, economic rationalist ideals.[3]


  1. ^ "CIS at Twenty-Five - Frank Devine talks to Greg Lindsay". Centre for Independent Studies. December 2001. Retrieved 2008-07-16. 
  2. ^ Westralian Progress Party (1977). Platform & policy and constitution.  Accessed at Battye Library, Perth.
  3. ^ a b Sawer, Marian (1982). Australia and the New Right. George Allen & Unwin. pp. 5–7. ISBN 0-86861-188-3. 
  4. ^ Penrose, Sandra (April 1976). "Australian Political Chronicle: July-December 1975". Australian Journal of Politics and History 22 (1): 112. ISSN 0004-9522. 
  5. ^ Black, David; Prescott, Valerie (1997). Election statistics : Legislative Assembly of Western Australia, 1890-1996. Western Australian Parliamentary History Project. p. 133. ISBN 0-7309-8409-5. 
  6. ^ Penrose, p.114.
  7. ^ National Library of Australia. "Records of the Workers Party (Australia), 1975-1981 (manuscript)". Retrieved 2008-07-16. 
  8. ^ "Political parties". Australian Government and Politics Database. University of Western Australia. Retrieved 2008-07-16. [dead link]