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Liberal Party of Australia

In 1944, the Liberal Party of Australia was founded after a three-day meeting held in a small hall not far from Parliament House in Canberra. The meeting was called by the then Leader of the Opposition (United Australia Party) Robert Menzies. Robert Menzies had already served as Prime Minister of Australia (1939-41), but he believed that the non-Labor parties should unite to present a strong alternative government to the Australian people.

Eighty men and women from 18 non-Labor political parties and organisations attended the first Canberra conference. They shared a common belief that Australians should have greater personal freedom and choice than that offered under Labor's post-war socialist plans.

Robert Menzies believed the time was right for a new political force in Australia - one which fought for the freedom of the individual and produced enlightened liberal policies. In his opening address at that meeting, he said : "...what we must look for, and it is a matter of desperate importance to our society, is a true revival of liberal thought which will work for social justice and security, for national power and national progress, and for the full development of the individual citizen, though not through the dull and deadening process of socialism."

It is often said that Robert Menzies stood for the 'forgotten people' of Australia; those mainstream Australians whose goals, needs and aspirations had been ignored by Government. On October 16, 1944, the name The Liberal Party of Australia was adopted, uniting the many different political organisations. Two months later, at the Albury Conference, the Party's organisational and constitutional framework was drawn up.

The name Liberal was chosen deliberately for its associations with progressive nineteenth century free enterprise and social equality. By May 1945 membership of the Liberal Party had swelled to 40,000. It fought its first election in 1946 with some success and in 1947, the Liberal Party won State Government in Western Australia, South Australia and Victoria. In 1949 the Liberals, in coalition with the Country Party, were first elected to national government.

Sir Robert Menzies went on to lead Australia and the Liberal Party for 17 years, before he retired from politics in 1966.

The Liberal Party has become Australia's most successful postwar party; it was elected to Government for 23 years from 1949 to 1972, and for another term of more than seven years from 1975 to 1983. In 1996, the Australian people again re-elected the Liberal Party, in Coalition with the National Party of Australia, to govern Australia in a landslide win, and in 1998, 2001 & 2004 that government was re-elected.

The November 2007 election loss created unprecedented momentum for a merger between the Liberal and National parties (who were in coalition at the federal level). The departure of former Prime Minister and Liberal Party leader John Howard, who opposed a merger, and the situation of being in opposition nationally and in every state and territory in Australia have emboldened Coalition MPs to push for a union. Supporters argue that the National Party is in irrevocable decline due to demographic changes; and that one brand name, a pooling of resources and decreased administration costs would enable the conservative parties to better compete financially with the Australian Labor Party (ALP) and the unions. Opponents of the merger believe a combination with the Nationals would drag the Liberal Party too far to the Right and leave a vacuum for another country-based party to fill.



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