Democratic Labour Party (Australia)
The Democratic Labour Party (DLP) is a political party in Australia that espouses social conservatism and favours distributism. The first DLP Senator in decades, John Madigan was elected for a six-year term to the Australian Senate with 2.3 per cent of the primary vote in Victoria at the 2010 federal election, serving from July 2011 until the July 2016 double dissolution election. In September 2014, Madigan resigned from the party and served the rest of his term as an independent, citing long-term internal party tensions.
|Headquarters||Melbourne, Victoria, Australia|
|Youth wing||Young Democratic Labour Association (YDLA)|
|Political position||Social: Right-wing|
|Colours||Orange and charcoal|
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The DLP won a seat at the 2014 Victorian state election in the Legislative Council, with Dr Rachel Carling-Jenkins being elected in the Western Metropolitan Region. On 26 June 2017 it was revealed that Carling-Jenkins would be leaving the DLP to join Cory Bernardi's Australian Conservatives, resulting in the DLP once again being without any parliamentary representation in Australia.
On 27 June 2013, the Australian Electoral Commission approved a change in the spelling of the party's name from "Democratic Labor Party" to "Democratic Labour Party"—with the party stating that the change reflected the "correct Australian spelling" of the word 'labour', and also differentiated it from the Australian Labor Party.
On 23 April 2015 the party was deregistered by the Australian Electoral Commission for 'failure to demonstrate requisite 500 members to maintain registration'. On 1 March 2016, the Australian Electoral Commission upheld an appeal by the DLP against its deregistration and reregistered it. The DLP has proven it has at least 500 members in Victoria alone and is registered with the Victorian Electoral Commission.
Original DLP: 1955–1978
The DLP has its origins in the historical Democratic Labor Party, a conservative Catholic-based anti-communist political party which existed from the 1955 split in the Australian Labor Party (ALP) until the 1978 DLP vote for dissolution, and which until 1974 played an important role in Australian politics. The Australian Electoral Commission considers the current DLP to be legally the same as the earlier DLP, and so the party was not affected by laws from the John Howard era (1996–2007) which deregistered parties which had never had a parliamentary presence and prohibited party names that include words from another party's name. A party named the Democratic Labor Party or Democratic Labour Party has competed in all elections since 1955.
The original DLP resulted from the conservative Catholic National Civic Council's anti-communist entryist tactics within the ALP and Australian trade union movement in an effort to curb communist influence. Such action led to the then ALP leader H. V. Evatt publicly attacking the anti-communist "Groupers" and expelling them from the ALP, triggering the 1955 split. The expelled anti-communists, numbering 51 in total including 14 ministers and a State Premier, then formed the Australian Labor Party (Anti-Communist), which in 1957 became the Australian Democratic Labor Party and today is the Democratic Labour Party. By directing its second preferences away from the ALP at state and federal levels, the DLP exercised influence well beyond its numbers until its membership and party organisation declined sufficiently to render it electorally impotent in the early 1970s. Its primary interests were related to industrial relations and foreign policy, but the party was also a forerunner in campaigning to end the White Australia Policy, while supporting equal pay for equal work, the vote for 18-year-olds and family income splitting for tax purposes among other things. The party held the balance of power in the Australian Senate during the 1960s and 1970s, until it fell afoul of Australian resistance to that nation's involvement in the Vietnam War and suffered accordingly in terms of its electoral representation.
In 1978, DLP branches in all states, including Victoria, voted to dissolve. In Victoria, the vote passed by a few votes and 14 voters were found to be concurrently members of other political parties. The Victorian Central Executive of the DLP had 32 members. The minutes of 3/3/1978 show that the motion to disband the party was carried 16 votes to 11, with two members present not voting, one being the chairman. Some members of the Victorian branch's executive rejected the vote and continued the party in that state. In 1986, unions affiliated with the DLP, which had been unaffiliated since 1978, re-affiliated with the ALP.
DLP comeback onto Australian political landscape
Victorian state politics, since 2006
2006 State Election
At the 2006 Victorian election, the DLP won parliamentary representation for the first time since the 1970s when it won a seat in the Victorian Legislative Council, after fielding candidates in the eight regions of the reformed Council, where proportional representation gave the party the best chance of having members elected. The DLP received 2.7 per cent of the primary vote in the Western Victoria Region, enough to elect Peter Kavanagh on ALP preferences. They briefly looked set to have a second member elected, party leader John Mulholland, in the Northern Metropolitan Region on 5.1 per cent, but this result was overturned after a recount. Following the election of Kavanagh, attention was given to the DLP platform of opposition to abortion and poker machines.
The Labor government required an additional two non-ALP upper house members to pass legislation, which gave the balance of power to the Greens who held three seats. Kavanagh failed to retain his seat at the 2010 Victorian election.
2013 Lyndhurst by-election
The DLP received 11 per cent of the primary vote at the 2013 Lyndhurst by-election in Victoria, achieving double figures at the polls for the first time in many years.
2014 State Election
The DLP was elected to the upper house region of Western Metropolitan, with candidate Dr Rachel Carling-Jenkins winning 2.6% of the vote, despite suffering a 0.5% swing.
2015 Polwarth by-election
The DLP received the fourth-highest primary vote at the 2015 Polwarth by-election, with candidate Carmel Kavanagh winning 8.12% of the vote, ahead of candidates for the Australian Sex Party, the Australian Country Party, the Australian Christians and a local independent.
Federal politics, since 2010
Shortly after counting began in the aftermath of the 2010 federal election, DLP candidate, federal DLP vice-president, and state DLP president John Madigan looked likely to be elected as the sixth and final Senator for Victoria, which was confirmed a few weeks later. Preference counts indicated that the primary DLP vote of 2.33 per cent (75,145 votes) in Victoria reached the 14.3 per cent quota required by gaining One Nation, Christian Democratic and Building Australia preferences to edge out Steve Fielding of the Family First Party who received a primary vote of 2.64 per cent. The DLP received Family First preferences, and when the Australian Sex Party candidate was excluded, the DLP gained Liberal Democratic Party preferences, overtaking the third Liberal/National candidate and gaining their preferences to win the last seat.
Elected for a six-year term from 1 July 2011, Madigan was the first Senator to be elected as a federal member of a party under the name of "Democratic Labor Party of Australia" since the 1970 Senate-only election. Madigan was in a balance of power position following the 2013 election where an additional six non-government Senators were required to pass legislation.
In his maiden speech to the Senate, Madigan denounced Victoria's "inhumane" abortion laws and committed to help restore Australia's dwindling manufacturing sector. He called for a "good Labor government that will bring something better to the people". He said that the DLP and ALP differed in a number of ways, stating:
We both came from the same lineage and however some members on both sides may dislike it, we are kin, of sorts. The ALP has a chance to reaffirm its commitment to that unchanging labour movement. The DLP intends to pursue that vision.... During my time here there will no doubt be a number of controversial bills proposed. I do not intend to be deliberately controversial simply for a few cheap headlines but on some issues I cannot be complicit by my silence.— Senator John Madigan, first speech to the Australian Senate, 25 August 2011.
In December 2011, Madigan launched the Australian Manufacturing and Farming Program, with Senator Nick Xenophon and MP Bob Katter, an initiative to provide a forum for discussion of issues impacting manufacturers and farmers, together with politicians. As a representative of the DLP, Madigan took an anti-abortion stance, describing himself as "unashamedly pro-life". His additional publicly stated positions on behalf of the DLP included opposition to same-sex marriage; opposition to the sale of public infrastructure; opposition to a carbon tax, stating "We're not in favour of a carbon tax because we believe it's a tax on people and a tax on life"; an advocate for shops closing at midday on Saturdays; and at the Inaugural Jack Kane dinner in July 2011, Madigan advocated Chifley protectionist economics. Also, Madigan has publicly expressed his concern for human rights in West Papua.
In September 2014 Madigan resigned from the DLP and became an independent Senator, citing long-term internal party tensions and claiming he had been undermined by a member of his staff. DLP federal president Paul Funnell strongly rejected Madigan's claims and demanded that he resign from the Senate so that his seat could be taken by a DLP member.
Policies of the DLP
The party has a comprehensive policy platform, and Peter Kavanagh has referred to the heritage of the historic Democratic Labor Party, claiming that "The DLP remains the only political party in Australia which is pro-family, pro-life and genuinely pro-worker."
"A basic element of our philosophy is that the interests of Australians may be best served by preserving, protecting and building on the family. It is a fundamental policy of the DLP to support a responsible elected government that will promote social and economic justice, a fair and decent society for families and a sense of national direction that will help to make Australia prosperous, self-reliant and secure."
Some of its policies include:
- Opposition to abortion, euthanasia and the destruction of human embryos
- Opposition to giving same-sex unions the same status as marriage
- The economic philosophy of distributism as an alternative to both socialism and capitalism
- The establishment of a state development bank to fund infrastructure projects
- The decentralisation of power (the principle of subsidiarity)
- Support for small business against monopolization
- Strong support for the Australian manufacturing and farming sectors; Australian-owned
- Maintaining sovereignty over Australian land, resources and jobs
- Regional focus on foreign affairs, including human rights in West Papua
- An emphasis on student rights and higher education
- Regional development
- Building up defensive capacity
- Gambling reform; anti-poker machines
- Social justice approach to asylum seekers and refugees
- Opposition to privatisation
In late August 2009, Melbourne newspaper The Age reported that the DLP was facing several internal divisions between Kavanagh's faction, which also sought to include evangelical and fundamentalist Protestants within the party, and 'hardline' conservative Catholics. Right to Life Australia President Marcel White and a close associate, Peter McBroom, were reported to be emphasising Catholic doctrinal and devotional concerns, like Marian apparitions, Catholic prayer, praying the rosary and campaigns against the "evils of contraception". Kavanagh was reported as threatening to leave the organisation if the 'hardline' elements were to triumph within the Victorian DLP. In the end, the minority 'hardline' group was expelled from the party.
Infighting and financial issues
It was reported in June 2010 that the party was on the brink of collapse, with rampant party infighting and less than $10,000 in the bank. On 18 March 2011 the Victorian Supreme Court handed down a reserved judgment confirming Mr John Mulholland's valid removal as secretary. This decision was subsequently reversed by the full bench of the Victorian Supreme Court however the Court also rejected Mulholland's claim that he was still the secretary of the DLP at the time the ruling was handed down. A Senate petition in August 2011 from Mulholland requested that current DLP Senator John Madigan be removed from the Senate, with the petition lodged using a residual standing order of the chamber that has not been deployed successfully by anyone for more than a century. In his petition, Mulholland says Madigan put himself forward in the 2010 election as a DLP candidate "although the DLP federal executive did not authorise or recognise his candidacy or have any part in his nomination".
Party de-registration attempt
In 2001 the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) asked the DLP to provide names and details of at least 500 DLP members so it could check that they were valid members and also ensure there was no overlap with other parties' membership. DLP secretary John Mulholland refused to comply and the AEC gave notice, pursuant to section 137 of the Electoral Act, that it was considering de-registering the DLP as a political party. The DLP initiated legal action to restrain the AEC from de-registering the party on grounds including that the requirement to name 500 members, and the no-overlap rule, were invalid. The High Court of Australia unanimously dismissed the appeal in May 2004. The DLP survived despite the court ruling. Its legal action had been funded by the McGauran family, so it was ironic that Liberal Party Senator Julian McGauran was defeated at the 2010 federal election by DLP candidate John Madigan.
Party de-registration and re-registration
On 24 April 2015, the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) announced the de-registration of DLP citing "Reason: s.137(6) – failure to demonstrate requisite 500 members to maintain registration." On March 1, 2016 the Australian Electoral commission upheld an appeal by the DLP against its deregistration and reregistered it. The DLP has proven it has at least 500 members in Victoria alone and is registered with the Victorian Electoral Commission.
History of Party Federal Presidents
- Rosemary Lorrimar, October 2016 – Present
- Paul McCormack, July 2015 – October 2016
- Rosemary Lorrimar, December 2014 – July 2015
- Paul Funnell, August 2012 – December 2014
- David McCabe, November 2009 – August 2012
- Patrick Keelan, Unknown – November 2009
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- "Questions and Answers on West Papua". The Papua Daily. Archived from the original on 8 August 2013. Retrieved 8 August 2013.
- "From the sublime to the shamefully ridiculous – West Papua, the Australian Senate and Vikki Riley". Crikey. 16 September 2012. Retrieved 8 August 2013.
- Bourke, Latika (4 September 2014). "Give the seat back: Furious DLP officials slam John Madigan for quitting party". The Age. Fairfax Media. Archived from the original on 17 October 2015. Retrieved 4 September 2014.
- Kavanagh, Peter (27 May 2006). "DLP not eclipsed by Family First (letter)". National Civic Council (NCC). Archived from the original on 14 June 2006. Retrieved 17 December 2006.
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