Free Trade Party

The Free Trade Party which was officially known as the Australian Free Trade and Liberal Association, 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 colony election, which the party won. 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 (1904-5) . 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 Commonwealth Liberal Party.

Free Trade Party
Historic leadersHenry Parkes,
George Reid,
Joseph Cook
Merged intoCommonwealth Liberal Party
IdeologyEconomic liberalism
Free trade
Political positionCentre-right
International affiliationNone


George Reid cph.3c31684
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. Joseph Cook became deputy leader of the party on McMillan's retirement in 1903.

A separate Tasmanian Revenue Tariff Party contested the 1903 federal election in Tasmania and won two seats but also 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.[1]

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.

When Deakin proposed the Commonwealth Liberal Party, a "Fusion" of the two non-Labour parties, Reid resigned as party leader on 16 November 1908. The following day, Joseph Cook was made leader until the parties merged.[2]

Electoral results

Parliament of Australia

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

Parliament of New South Wales

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

See also


  1. ^ Fusion: The Party System We Had To Have? - by Charles Richardson CIS 25 January 2009
  2. ^ Leader of the Opposition: Parliamentary Education Office


  • McMinn, W. G. (1998). "Reid, Sir George Houstoun (1845–1918)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: Australian National University. Retrieved 19 July 2012.
1903 Australian federal election

Federal elections were held in Australia on 16 December 1903. All 75 seats in the House of Representatives, and 19 of the 36 seats in the Senate were up for election. The incumbent Protectionist Party minority government led by Prime Minister Alfred Deakin retained the most House of Representatives seats of the three parties and retained government with the parliamentary support of the Labour Party led by Chris Watson. The Free Trade Party led by George Reid remained in opposition.

The election outcome saw a finely balanced House of Representatives, with the three parties each holding around a third of seats − the Protectionists on 26 (−5), the Free Traders on 24 (−4) and Labour on 22 (+7). This term of parliament saw no changes in any party leadership but did see very significant and prolonged debates on contentious issues − the Protectionist minority government fell in April 1904 to Labour, while the Labour minority government fell in August 1904 to the Free Traders, while the Free Trader minority government fell in July 1905 back to the Protectionists, which continued until the 1906 election and beyond. The Free Traders remained in opposition throughout this eventful period with the exception of Labour forming the opposition for the first time during the period of the Free Trader minority government. Additionally, the Watson government was the world's first Labour Party government at a national level.

Despite a break in prime ministerships in 1904-05 and 1908-09, this is the first of three consecutive elections in which Deakin was the sitting prime minister.

Alexander Poynton

Alexander Poynton, OBE, (8 August 1853 – 9 January 1935) was an Australian politician. He was a member of the South Australian House of Assembly from 1893 to 1901, representing Flinders. He was an inaugural member of the Australian House of Representatives from 1901, representing South Australia until 1903 and Grey thereafter until his defeat in 1922.

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.

Anti Common Market and Free Trade Party

The Anti Common Market and Free Trade Party was a British political party that opposed Britain's membership of the European Union and fought a number of by-elections in the 1970s and 1980s. It was also known as the Free Trade Liberal Party and All Party Anti-Common Market. Among its members were Arthur Seldon and Oliver Smedley. It saw itself in the Liberal Party tradition and its members were often involved with the free market Institute of Economic Affairs.

By-elections contested included:

Walthamstow West by-election, 1967

Saffron Walden by-election, 1977

Southend East by-election, 1980

South West Hertfordshire by-election, 1979

Croydon North West by-election, 1981

Bermondsey by-election, 1983

Kensington by-election, 1988

Bruce Smith (Australian politician)

Arthur Bruce Smith KC (28 June 1851 – 14 August 1937) was a long serving Australian politician and leading political opponent of the White Australia policy.

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.

Electoral district of Moruya

Moruya was an electoral district of the Legislative Assembly in the Australian state of New South Wales from 1894 to 1904, named after Moruya. Its only member was William Millard, who held it for the Free Trade Party. It was replaced by Clyde.

George Reid

Sir George Houston Reid (25 February 1845 – 12 September 1918) was an Australian politician who led the Reid Government as the fourth Prime Minister of Australia from 1904 to 1905, having previously been Premier of New South Wales from 1894 to 1899. He led the Free Trade Party from 1891 to 1908.Reid was born in Johnstone, Renfrewshire, Scotland. He and his family immigrated to Australia when he was young. They initially settled in Melbourne, but moved to Sydney when Reid was 13, at which point he left school and began working as a clerk. He later joined the New South Wales civil service, and rose through the ranks to become secretary of the Attorney-General's Department. Reid was also something of a public intellectual, publishing several works in defence of liberalism and free trade. He began studying law in 1876 and was admitted to the bar in 1879. In 1880, he resigned from the civil service to run for parliament, winning election to the New South Wales Legislative Assembly.

From 1883 to 1884, Reid served as Minister for Public Instruction in the government of Alexander Stuart. He joined the Free Trade Party of Henry Parkes in 1887, but refused to serve in Parkes' governments due to personal enmity. When Parkes resigned as party leader in 1891, Reid was elected in his place. He became premier after the 1894 election and remained in office for just over five years. Despite never winning majority government, Reid was able to pass a number of domestic reforms concerning the civil service and public finances. He was an advocate of federation and played a part in drafting the new constitution, where he became known as a strong defender of his colony's interests. In 1901, he was elected to the new federal parliament representing the Division of East Sydney.

Reid retained the leadership of the Free Trade Party after federation, and consequently became Australia's first Leader of the Opposition. For the first few years, the Protectionist Party governed with the support of the Labour Party. Alfred Deakin's Protectionist minority government collapsed in April 1904, and he was briefly succeeded by Labour's Chris Watson, who proved unable to govern and resigned after four months. As a result, Reid became prime minister in August 1904, heading yet another minority government. He included four Protectionists in his cabinet, but was unable to achieve much before his government was brought down in July 1905. One notable exception was the passage of the landmark Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration ACT, which dealt with industrial relations.

At the 1906 election, Reid secured the most votes in the House of Representatives and the equal-most seats, but was well short of a majority and could not form government. He resigned as party leader in 1908, after opposing the formation of the Commonwealth Liberal Party (a merger with the Protectionists). Reid accepted an appointment as Australia's first High Commissioner to the United Kingdom in 1910, and remained in the position until 1916. He subsequently won election to the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, serving until his sudden death two years later.

Henry Dobson

Henry Dobson (24 December 1841 – 10 October 1918), was an Australian politician, who served as a member of the Tasmanian House of Assembly and later of the Australian Senate. He was the 17th Premier of Tasmania from 17 August 1892 to 14 April 1894.

John Fitzpatrick (New South Wales politician)

John Charles Lucas Fitzpatrick (15 February 1862 – 7 August 1932) was an Australian politician and journalist.

Fitzpatrick was born in Moama in the Riverina region of New South Wales, but his family moved to Windsor in 1869. He was educated at a catholic school and he was apprenticed to the former Australian newspaper's Windsor office at 14. He was a compositor on the former Melbourne Punch at 18 and subsequently worked on papers in Gunnedah, Narrabri, Walgett and Parramatta and Goulburn. In January 1886 he married Agnes Clare Kelly. In about 1888, he established the Windsor and Richmond Gazette and in 1905 he bought the Molong Argus, which he sold in 1907.

John Kirwan (politician)

Sir John Waters Kirwan, KCMG (2 December 1869 – 9 September 1949) was the President of the Western Australian Legislative Council and first Federal member for Kalgoorlie in the Australian House of Representatives.

Joseph Cook

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.

In 1901, Cook was elected to the new federal parliament representing the Division of Parramatta. He became deputy leader of the federal Free Trade Party (later renamed the Anti-Socialist Party), again under George Reid, and in 1908 replaced Reid as party leader and Leader of the Opposition. In what became known as "the fusion", Cook agreed to merge his party with Alfred Deakin's Protectionist Party in 1909, forming a unified anti-Labor party for the first time. He became deputy leader of the new Commonwealth Liberal Party, allowing Deakin to become prime minister again, and served as Minister for Defence until the government's defeat at the 1910 election.

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.

List of New South Wales state elections

This article provides a summary of results for elections to the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, the lower house in New South Wales's bicameral state legislative body, the Parliament of New South Wales, which came into being in 1856 when New South Wales achieved responsible government. New South Wales politics were initially non-partisan, with individual Members of Parliament choosing to align either with the Government or the Opposition. This changed at the 1887 election where, for the first time, candidates were members of official political parties. The first two major parties to form were the Free Trade Party and the Protectionist Party. The 1887 election saw the 79 members of the Free Trade Party elected form the government with the 37 elected Protectionist Party members form the opposition. The next election saw the Free Trade Party retain government but with a reduced majority. The 1891 saw the Labor Party for the first time. These three parties then fought out the next two elections through to 1898. After Federation in 1901, the Free Trade Party changed their name to the Liberal Reform Party with the Protectionists becoming the Progressive Party.

The 1904 election saw a massive defeat of the Progressive government and for the first time Labor became the major opposition party. Most of the Progressive members stood as the Liberals at the next election and the party folded not long after that. Labor won an outright majority for the first time at the 1910 election and increased it further in 1913. The Liberal Reform Party became the Nationalist Party of Australia in 1917 and Labor's main opposition through to 1932 when the conservatives became the United Australia Party and then the Liberal Party in 1945.

Llewellyn Atkinson

Llewellyn Atkinson (18 December 1867 – 1 November 1945) was an Australian politician.

Atkinson was born in Launceston, Tasmania. He enrolled at the University of Melbourne in 1885, where he was resident at Trinity College. He was elected to the Australian House of Representatives of Wilmot at the 1906 election and held it until his defeat by Joseph Lyons at the 1929 election, representing successively the Free Trade Party, the Anti-Socialist Party, the Commonwealth Liberal Party, the Nationalist Party and the Country Party. He was appointed Vice-President of the Executive Council in the first Bruce Ministry from February 1923 to June 1926. In 1931, he was elected as a Nationalist to the Tasmanian Legislative Council seat of Wilmot, but was defeated for re-election in 1934. He died in Latrobe.

Norman Cameron (politician)

Donald Norman Cameron (3 November 1851 – 17 February 1931) was an Australian politician.

Progressive Party (1901)

The Progressive Party was an Australian political party, active in New South Wales state politics. The question of tariff policy which, had created and divided the Free Trade Party and Protectionist Party in New South Wales in the 1890s, became a federal issue at the time of federation. Deprived of their main ideological difference, the two parties were recreated as the Liberal Reform Party aligned with the federal Free Trade Party and the Progressive Party aligned with the federal Protectionist Party. The Progressive Party collapsed in 1907, leaving the Liberal Reform Party as the main anti-Labor Party.

In 1919, the Farmers' and Settlers' Association and the Graziers' Association founded a new Progressive Party, which won metropolitan and rural seats in the 1920 election.

Sydney Smith (Australian politician)

Sydney Smith (11 April 1856 – 21 February 1934) was an early Australian politician.

William Irvine (Australian politician)

Sir William Hill Irvine, GCMG (6 July 1858 – 20 August 1943), Irish born-Australian politician and judge, was the 21st Premier of Victoria. Irvine was born in Newry in County Down, Ireland, into a Scottish-Presbyterian family; he was the nephew of Irish revolutionary John Mitchel. He was educated at the Royal School, Armagh and Trinity College, Dublin, graduating in law in 1879 before migrating to Melbourne, where he taught in Presbyterian schools and read law at Melbourne University, gaining a master's degree in arts and law. He soon became a leading Melbourne barrister.

William McMillan (Australian politician)

Sir William McMillan (14 November 1850 – 21 December 1926) was a businessman and deputy leader of the Free Trade Party in the first Australian federal parliament. Alfred Deakin described him as a "thoughtful, educated businessman, narrow and cold after the manner of the Manchester School … business-like in manner and incisive in debate".

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