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Democratic Labour Party (Australia)

Democratic Labour Party
President Paul McCormack[1]
Secretary Stephen Campbell[1]
Founded 1978
Headquarters Melbourne VIC 3001
Youth wing Young Democratic Labour Association (YDLA)
Ideology Social conservatism,
Political position Center
Colours orange
Victorian Legislative Council
1 / 40
Politics of Australia
Political parties

The Democratic Labour Party[note 1] (DLP) is a political party in Australia of the labour tradition that espouses social conservatism and opposes neo-liberalism. The first DLP Senator in decades and a blacksmith by trade, 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, who served from July 2011, before resigning from the party and becoming an independent in September 2014, citing long-term internal party tensions.[3]

In the 2014 Victorian state election the DLP won a seat in the Legislative Council, with Dr Rachel Carling-Jenkins being elected a member for Western Metropolitan.[4]

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".[2][5]

On 23 April 2015 the party was deregistered by the Australian Electoral Commission for 'failure to demonstrate requisite 500 members to maintain registration'.[6] However, the DLP has since proven it has at least 500 members in Victoria alone and is registered with the Victorian Electoral Commission.[7]


  • Original DLP: 1955–1978 1
  • DLP comeback onto Australian political landscape 2
    • Victorian state politics, since 2006 2.1
      • Lyndhurst by-election 2013 2.1.1
    • Federal politics, since 2010 2.2
  • Policies of the DLP 3
  • Internal dissent 4
    • Infighting and financial issues 4.1
    • Party de-registration attempt 4.2
    • Party de-registration 4.3
  • Bibliography 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Original DLP: 1955–1978

The DLP has its origins in the historical Democratic Labor Party,[8] 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.[9][10] A party named the Democratic Labor Party or Democratic Labour Party has competed in all elections since 1955.[11]

The original DLP resulted from the conservative Catholic [12] 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.[13]

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. Three-quarters 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

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.[14] Following the election of Kavanagh, attention was given to the DLP platform of opposition to abortion and poker machines.[15]

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.

In the 2014 Victorian state election Dr. Rachel Carling-Jenkins won a Western Metropolitan Region seat for the DLP in the Legislative Council with 2.6 per cent of the primary vote.

Lyndhurst by-election 2013

The DLP received 11 per cent of the primary vote at the 2013 Lyndhurst by-election in Victoria,[16] achieving double figures at the polls for the first time in many years.

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.[17][18][19]

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.[20] Madigan is in a balance of power position following the 2013 election where an additional six non-government Senators are 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:[21][22]

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.[23] As a representative of the DLP, Madigan took an anti-abortion stance, describing himself as "unashamedly pro-life".[24] His additional publicly stated positions on behalf of the DLP included opposition to same-sex marriage;[25] opposition to the sale of public infrastructure;[25] 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";[25] an advocate for shops closing at midday on Saturdays;[24] and at the Inaugural Jack Kane dinner in July 2011, Madigan advocated Chifley protectionist economics.[26] Also, Madigan has publicly expressed his concern for human rights in West Papua.[27][28]

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.[3] DLP national 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.[29]

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."[30]

The DLP website[31] claims to be not "left" or "right", but centre – "decentralist". The DLP’s stated principles are "democracy", "liberty" and "peace". Some of its policies include:

  1. Opposition to abortion, euthanasia and the destruction of human embryos
  2. Opposition to giving same-sex unions the same status as marriage
  3. The economic philosophy of distributism as an alternative to both socialism and capitalism
  4. The establishment of a state development bank to fund infrastructure projects
  5. The decentralisation of power (the principle of subsidiarity)
  6. Support for small business against monopolization
  7. Strong support for the Australian manufacturing and farming sectors; Australian-owned
  8. Maintaining sovereignty over Australian land, resources and jobs
  9. Regional focus on foreign affairs, including human rights in West Papua
  10. An emphasis on student rights and higher education
  11. Regional development
  12. Building up defensive capacity
  13. Gambling reform; anti-poker machines
  14. Social justice approach to asylum seekers and refugees

Internal dissent

In late August 2009, Melbourne newspaper

  • Official website

External links

  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ a b Australian Electoral Commission. (2013) Application for changed name and abbreviation approved - Democratic Labor Party (DLP) of Australia
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^
  5. ^ Allan, Lyle (2013), "Change of Spelling: the DLP." in Recorder (Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, Melbourne Branch), No. 278, December, p.3
  6. ^
  7. ^ a b
  8. ^
  9. ^ Kelly, Norm. (2007) What's in a name? Everything, apparently.
  10. ^ AEC (2008) Electoral funding and disclosure report: Federal election 2007
  11. ^ Commonwealth Parliament Library. (1998–1999). Federal election results, 1948–1998. Research Paper No. 8.
  12. ^ a b
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^ Maiden Senate speech (video + transcript) 25 August 2011: Australian Parliament website Archived 15 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^
  24. ^ a b
  25. ^ a b c
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^ Michael Bachelard: "Turning Hard Right: The Battle for Right to Life" The Age 23 August 2009
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^


  1. ^ Until 27 June 2013, known as the Democratic Labor Party.[2]


  • Ross Fitzgerald: The Popes Battalions: Santamaria, Catholicism and the Labor Split: St Lucia: University of Queensland Press: 2003.


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." [39] However, the DLP has since proven it has at least 500 members in Victoria alone.[7] The registration status of the party is currently under review.

Party de-registration

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.[37] 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.[38]

Party de-registration attempt

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. Police were also investigating the disappearance of potentially tens of thousands of dollars, attributed to the Victorian DLP's former secretary, John Mulholland, who has lost cases before the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, Australian Electoral Commission and Victorian Supreme Court over his claims that he is still "party secretary", despite expulsion from the party in January 2010. Kavanagh and other DLP officials stated that Mulholland engaged in "poor receipt keeping" during his period as secretary, over the last twenty-five years.[33] On 18 March 2011 the Victorian Supreme Court handed down a reserved judgment confirming Mulholland's valid removal as secretary.[34] 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.[35] 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".[36]

Infighting and financial issues

In the end, the minority 'hardline' group was expelled from the party. [32]

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