The Free Trade Party, officially known as the Free Trade and Liberal Association, and also referred to as the Revenue Tariff Party in some states, was an Australian political party, formally organised in 1887 in New South Wales, in time for the 1887 New South Wales colonial election, which the party won.

Free Trade Party[a]
Free Trade and Liberal Association
Leader
Deputy LeaderJoseph Cook (1904–1908)
FoundedApril 1889; 135 years ago (April 1889)[1]
DissolvedMay 1909; 115 years ago (May 1909)
Merger of
  • Liberal Political Association
  • Free Trade Association
Succeeded byLiberal
HeadquartersHunter Street, Sydney, New South Wales[1]
Ideology
Political positionCentre-right[4] to right-wing[3][5]
Colours  Yellow
House of Representatives
28 / 75
(1901–1903)
Senate
17 / 36
(1901–1903)
New South Wales Legislative Assembly
79 / 124
(1887–1889)

It advocated the abolition of protectionism, especially protective tariffs and other restrictions on trade, arguing that this would create greater prosperity for all. However, many members also advocated use of minimal tariffs for government revenue purposes only. Its most prominent leader was George Reid, who led the Reid government as the fourth Prime Minister of Australia (1904–1905).

In New South Wales, it was succeeded by the Liberal and Reform Association in 1902, and federally by the Anti-Socialist Party in 1906. In 1909, the Anti-Socialist Party merged with the Protectionist Party to form the Liberal Party.

History

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George Reid, Prime Minister of Australia 1904–1905

The party was centred on New South Wales, where its leaders were Sir Henry Parkes and Sir George Reid. It dominated New South Wales colonial politics before federation. It first contested the 1887 New South Wales election.

At the 1901 elections for the first Commonwealth Parliament, the Free Traders, who campaigned in some states as the Revenue Tariff Party, formed the second largest group in the Australian House of Representatives, with 25 seats. Reid became the Parliament's first Opposition Leader with William McMillan as his deputy, later becoming Prime Minister in 1904–05. Dugald Thomson became deputy leader of the party in early 1904 following McMillan's retirement. Thomson would himself hand over the Deputy position to Joseph Cook on 28 July 1905 following the fall of the Reid government.

A separate Tasmanian Revenue Tariff Party contested the 1903 federal election in Tasmania and won two seats. However, the Tasmanian party sat and merged with the Free Trade Party in federal Parliament.

After the question of tariffs had largely been settled, Reid cast around for another cause to justify his party's existence. He settled on opposition to socialism, criticising both the Australian Labour Party and the support offered by it to the Protectionist Party, led by Alfred Deakin. Reid adopted a strategy of trying to reorient the party system along Labour vs non-Labour lines – prior to the 1906 election, he renamed the Free Trade Party to the Anti-Socialist Party. Reid envisaged a spectrum running from socialist to anti-socialist, with the Protectionist Party in the middle. This attempt struck a chord with politicians who were steeped in the Westminster tradition and regarded a two-party system as very much the norm.[6]

The Labor Party and the FTP/ASP continued to grow in electoral strength at the expense of the Protectionist vote. Some Protectionists continued their exodus to Labor and the ASP.[citation needed]

When Deakin proposed the Commonwealth Liberal Party, a "Fusion" of the two non-Labour parties, Reid announced his intention to resign as party leader on 16 November 1908. Joseph Cook was elected leader unopposed on 26 November,[7] and he led the party until the merger with the Protectionists. No deputy leader was elected under Cook.[8]

Leaders

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New South Wales Parliament

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No. Leader
(birth–death)
Portrait Electorate Took office Left office Term Premier (term)
1 Henry Parkes
(1815–1896)
  St Leonards, NSW 1887 22 October 1891 4 years Parkes (1887–1889)
Dibbs (1889)
Parkes (1889–1891)
2 George Reid
(1860–1947)
  East Sydney, NSW 18 November 1891 17 July 1894 9 years, 131 days Dibbs (1891–1894)
Sydney-King, NSW 17 July 1894 29 March 1901 Reid (1894–1899)
Lyne (1899–1901)

Australian Parliament

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No. Leader
(birth–death)
Portrait Electorate Took office Left office Term Prime Minister (term)
(2) George Reid
(1860–1947)
  East Sydney, Aus 29 March 1901 16 November 1908 7 years, 232 days Barton (1901–1903)
Deakin (1903–1904)
Watson (1904)
Reid (1904–1905)
Deakin (1905–1908)
Fisher (1908–1909)
3 Joseph Cook
(1860–1947)
  Parramatta, Aus 26 November 1908 26 May 1909 181 days

Electoral results

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Parliament of New South Wales

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Legislative Assembly
Election year # of
overall votes
% of
overall vote
# of
overall seats won
+/– Leader
1887 78,238 (#1) 60.75
79 / 124
1889 73,348 (#1) 48.63
66 / 137
  13
1891 65,850 (#2) 36.49
44 / 141
  22
1894 60,966 (#1) 30.34
50 / 125
  6
1895 56,347 (#1) 37.15
58 / 125
  8
1898 58,214 (#2) 32.89
45 / 125
  13

Parliament of Australia

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House of Representatives
Election year # of
overall votes
% of
overall vote
# of
overall seats won
+/– Leader
1901 151,960 (#2) 30.03
28 / 75
1903 247,774 (#1) 34.37
24 / 75
  4
1906 363,257 (#1) 38.17
26 / 75
  2
Senate
Election year # of
overall votes
% of
overall vote
# of
overall seats won
+/– Leader
1901 1,053,012 (#2) 39.44
17 / 36
1903 986,030 (#1) 34.33
12 / 36
  5
1906 1,384,662 (#1) 46.53
14 / 36
  2

See also

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Notes

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  1. ^ From 1906 to 1909, when the party merged with the Protectionists to form the Liberal Party, the Free Trade Party changed its name to the Anti-Socialist Party.

References

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  1. ^ a b c d e Kemp, David (2019). A Free Country: Australians' Search for Utopia 1861–1901. Melbourne University Publishing. ISBN 9780522873498.
  2. ^ Brett, Judith (2012). Australian Liberals and the Moral Middle Class: From Alfred Deakin to John Howard. Cambridge University Press. p. 21. ISBN 978-0521536349.
  3. ^ a b Griffiths, Phil (January 1998). "Chapter 2: Reid's anti-socialist gamble". The Decline of Free Trade In Australian Politics, 1901–1909 (Thesis). Macquarie University. pp. 15–25. doi:10.13140/RG.2.2.12644.01927.
  4. ^ "Australian Free Trade and Liberal Association". oxfordreference.com. Oxford University Press.
  5. ^ Griffiths, Phil (2024). "White Australia and the Labour Movement" (PDF). The Queensland Journal of Labour History (37 ed.): 20.
  6. ^ Fusion: The Party System We Had To Have? - by Charles Richardson CIS 25 January 2009
  7. ^ "The Direct Opposition: Mr. J. Cook Chosen Leader". Argus. 27 November 1908.
  8. ^ "Federal Opposition: No Deputy-Leader To Be Appointed". Australian Star. December 1908.

Bibliography

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