Commonwealth Liberal Party

The Commonwealth Liberal Party (CLP, also known as the Deakin–Cook Party, The Fusion, or the Deakinite Liberal Party) was a political movement active in Australia from 1909 to 1917, shortly after Federation. The CLP came about as a result of a merger between the two non-Labor parties, the Protectionist Party and the Anti-Socialist Party (formerly Free Trade Party) which most of their MPs accepted. The CLP is the earliest direct ancestor of the current Liberal Party of Australia.

Commonwealth Liberal Party
Historic leadersAlfred Deakin,
Joseph Cook
Merger ofProtectionist Party,
Anti-Socialist Party
Merged intoNationalist Party of Australia
IdeologyLiberalism (Australian)
International affiliationNone


Rt. Hon. A. Deakin LCCN2014695989
Alfred Deakin, Prime Minister of Australia 1903–1904, 1905–1908 (Protectionist Party), 1909–1910 (CLP)
Joseph Cook - Crown Studios 03
Joseph Cook, Prime Minister of Australia 1913–1914

George Reid adopted a strategy of trying to reorient the party system along Labour vs non-Labour lines – prior to the 1906 election, he renamed his 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.[1]

The Commonwealth Liberal Party was formed in response to Labor forming its second government under Andrew Fisher in 1908. Under considerable pressure from middle- and upper-class interests, Alfred Deakin, the leader of the Protectionists, and Joseph Cook, leader of the Anti-Socialists, joined forces in order to counter Labor's growing popularity. In 1909, the two parties at a meeting in Melbourne's Parliament House agreed to merge into the CLP, based on a shared anti-Labor platform. Deakin was the new party's first leader, with Cook as deputy leader. The merger didn't sit well with several of the more liberal Protectionists, who defected to Labor or sat as independents.

Between them, the Protectionists and Anti-Socialists held a majority of seats on the floor of the House of Representatives. As a result, the newly merged party used its numbers to force Fisher to hand power to Deakin. However, the CLP was defeated by Labor at the 1910 election, which saw Labor with an elected majority in both houses, the first federal occurrence for a party.

Cook took over the leadership from Deakin shortly before the 1913 election and won government by a single seat. However, only a year later, Cook deliberately introduced a bill abolishing preferential treatment for public-service union members. Cook knew the Labor-controlled Senate would vote the bill down, giving him an excuse to call a double dissolution election, the first time one would be called. When the Senate rejected the bill twice, Cook called the 1914 election. The CLP was again defeated with Labor again winning a majority in both houses.

The CLP remained in opposition until November 1916, when it reached a confidence and supply agreement with Prime Minister Billy Hughes, who had recently been expelled from Labor for supporting conscription in World War I and organised his followers as the National Labor Party. In February 1917, the CLP and National Labor formally merged to form the Nationalist Party of Australia. Although the merged party was dominated by former Liberals, Hughes became its leader with Cook as his deputy. Hughes would stay on as Prime Minister until the 1922 election where the new Country Party of Australia (later The Nationals) stripped the Nationalists of their majority, and demanded his resignation in exchange for confidence and supply. Stanley Bruce subsequently became Prime Minister.

The Commonwealth Liberal Party is often referred to by the retronym "Deakinite Liberal Party" in order to distinguish it from the later Liberal Party of Australia, which was officially founded in 1945.

Electoral results

Parliament of Australia

House of Representatives
Election year # of
overall votes
% of
overall vote
# of
overall seats won
+/– Leader
1910 596,350 (#2) 45.09
31 / 75
Alfred Deakin
1913 930,076 (#1) 48.94
38 / 75
Increase 7
Joseph Cook
1914 796,397 (#2) 47.21
32 / 75
Decrease 6
Joseph Cook
Election year # of
overall votes
% of
overall vote
# of
overall seats won
+/– Leader
1910 1,830,353 (#2) 45.55
14 / 36
Alfred Deakin
1913 2,840,420 (#1) 49.38
7 / 36
Decrease 7
Joseph Cook
1914 5,605,305 (#2) 47.77
5 / 36
Increase 2
Joseph Cook


See also


  1. ^ Fusion: The Party System We Had To Have? - by Charles Richardson CIS 25 January 2009

External links

Albert Palmer (Australian politician)

Albert Clayton Palmer (1859 – 14 August 1919) was an Australian politician. Born in Melbourne, he received a primary education before becoming a bank clerk and later a flour-miller and grazier. He sat on Euroa Shire Council and was the leader of the Kyabram Reform Movement, a conservative rural group that aimed to reduce the number of state parliamentarians. In 1906 he was elected to the Australian House of Representatives for the seat of Echuca, defeating the sitting member for the abolished Moira, Thomas Kennedy, by just 32 votes. This election was declared void by the Court of Disputed Returns, and Palmer won the subsequent by-election more comfortably. Palmer joined the Commonwealth Liberal Party in 1909 and the Nationalist Party in 1917, and held Echuca until his death in 1919.

Alfred Conroy

Alfred Hugh Beresford Conroy (7 April 1864 – 28 November 1920) was an Australian politician. Born in Winchelsea, Victoria, he was educated at Hawthorn Grammar School in Melbourne. Becoming a bank clerk and surveyor, he moved to Goulburn in New South Wales in 1883. In 1893 he became a barrister, and he was an alderman on Goulburn Council. In 1901, he was elected to the Australian House of Representatives as the inaugural member for Werriwa, representing the Free Trade Party. In 1906, he was defeated by Labor candidate David Hall, but in 1913 he was returned to the Parliament, again as the member for Werriwa but this time representing the Commonwealth Liberal Party. He was defeated again in 1914, and retired, dying in 1920.

Alfred Deakin

Alfred Deakin (3 August 1856 – 7 October 1919) was an Australian politician who served as the second Prime Minister of Australia, in office for three separate terms – 1903 to 1904, 1905 to 1908, and 1909 to 1910. Before entering office, he was a leader of the movement for Australian federation.Deakin was born in Melbourne, and attended the University of Melbourne before training as a barrister. He was elected to the Victorian Legislative Assembly in 1879, aged 22, and became a government minister in 1883. Deakin was a major contributor to the establishment of liberal reforms in the colony, including pro-worker industrial reforms. He also played a major part in developing irrigation in Australia.

Throughout the 1890s Deakin was a participant in conferences of representatives of the Australian colonies that were established to draft a constitution for the proposed federation. He played an important role in ensuring that the draft was liberal and democratic and in achieving compromises to enable its eventual success. Between conferences, he worked to popularise the concept of federation and campaigned for its acceptance in colonial referenda. He then fought hard to ensure acceptance of the proposed constitution by the Government of the United Kingdom. After Federation, Deakin was Attorney-General in the Barton Government from 1901 to 1903. He was one of the chief architects of the White Australia policy, overseeing the drafting of the Immigration Restriction Act 1901.

As Prime Minister, Deakin completed a significant legislative program that makes him, with Labor's Andrew Fisher, the founder of an effective Commonwealth government. He expanded the High Court, provided major funding for the purchase of ships, leading to the establishment of the Royal Australian Navy as a significant force under the Fisher government, and established Australian control of Papua. Confronted by the rising Australian Labor Party in 1909, he merged his Protectionist Party with Joseph Cook's Anti-Socialist Party to create the Commonwealth Liberal Party (known commonly as the Fusion), the main ancestor of the modern Liberal Party of Australia. The Deakin-led Liberal Party government lost to Fisher Labor at the 1910 election, which saw the first time a federal political party had been elected with a majority in either house in Federal Parliament. Deakin resigned from Parliament prior to the 1913 election, with Joseph Cook winning the Liberal Party leadership ballot.

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First Fisher Ministry

The First Fisher Ministry (Labour) was the 7th ministry of the Government of Australia. It was led by the country's 5th Prime Minister, Andrew Fisher. The First Fisher Ministry succeeded the Third Deakin Ministry, which dissolved on 13 November 1908 after Labour withdrew their support and Alfred Deakin was forced to resign. The ministry was replaced by the Fourth Deakin Ministry on 2 June 1909 after the Protectionist Party and the Anti-Socialist Party merged into the Commonwealth Liberal Party "fusion" and withdrew their support in order to form what became the first majority government in federal Australian history.

Fourth Deakin Ministry

The Fourth Deakin Ministry (Commonwealth Liberal) was the 8th ministry of the Government of Australia. It was led by the country's 2nd Prime Minister, Alfred Deakin. The Fourth Deakin Ministry succeeded the First Fisher Ministry, which dissolved on 2 June 1909 after the Protectionist Party and the Anti-Socialist Party merged into the Commonwealth Liberal Party "fusion" and withdrew their support in order to form what became the first majority government in federal Australian history. The ministry was replaced by the Second Fisher Ministry on 29 April 1910 following the federal election that took place on 13 April which saw the Labour Party defeat the Commonwealth Liberals.

George Fuller (Australian politician)

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Sir Joseph Cook, (7 December 1860 – 30 July 1947) was an Australian politician who served as the sixth Prime Minister of Australia, in office from 1913 to 1914. He was the leader of the Commonwealth Liberal Party from 1913 to 1917, after earlier serving as the leader of the Anti-Socialist Party from 1908 to 1909.Cook was born in Silverdale, Staffordshire, England, and began working in the local coal mines at the age of nine. He emigrated to Australia in 1885, settling in Lithgow, New South Wales. He continued to work as a miner, becoming involved with the local labour movement as a union official. In 1891, Cook was elected to the New South Wales Legislative Assembly as a representative of the Labor Party, becoming one of its first members of parliament. He was elected party leader in 1893, but the following year left Labor due to a disagreement over party discipline. He was then invited to become a government minister under George Reid, and joined Reid's Free Trade Party.

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Cook replaced Deakin as leader of the Liberals in January 1913, and a few months later won a one-seat majority over Andrew Fisher's Labor Party at the 1913 election. His party failed to secure a majority in the Senate, making governing difficult, and as a result he engineered the first double dissolution. A new election was called for September 1914, at which the Liberals lost their majority; Fisher returned as prime minister. Cook was unable to pass much legislation during his time in office, but did oversee the early stages of Australia's involvement in World War I. He subsequently became Leader of the Opposition for a third time.

In 1917, Cook was involved in a second party merger, joining the Liberals with Billy Hughes's National Labor Party to form the Nationalist Party. He became the de facto deputy prime minister under Hughes, serving as Minister for the Navy (1917–1920) and Treasurer (1920–1921). He was a delegate to the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, where he was a member of the committee that determined the borders of Czechoslovakia, and along with Hughes was one of two Australians to sign the Treaty of Versailles. After leaving politics, Cook served as High Commissioner to the United Kingdom from 1921 to 1927. He died at the age of 86 as one of the last survivors of the first federal parliament.

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Liberalism in Australia dates back to the earliest pioneers of the area, and has maintained a strong foothold to this day. Liberalism in the country is primarily represented by the centre-right Liberal Party. The Liberal Party is a fusion of liberal and conservative forces and are affiliated with the conservative centre-right International Democrat Union. The term "little-l liberal" is often used to distinguish philosophical liberals from members of the Liberal Party.

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Members of the Australian House of Representatives, 1906–1910

This is a list of the members of the Australian House of Representatives in the Third Australian Parliament, which was elected on 12 December 1906.

In 1909 the Anti-Socialist Party (previously Free Trade) and most of the Protectionist Party merged to become the Commonwealth Liberal Party.

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Sir Walter Massy-Greene KCMG (6 November 1874 – 16 November 1952) was an Australian politician and businessman.

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