United Australia Party


United Australia Party

Infobox Australian Political Party
party_name = United Australia Party
party_
party_wikicolourid = UAP
leader = Billy Hughes
deputy =
foundation = 1931
predecessor = Nationalist Party of Australia
disbanded = 1945
successor = Liberal Party of Australia
ideology = Conservatism
position = Centre-right
international =
The United Australia Party or UAP was an Australian political party that was the political successor to the Nationalist Party of Australia (1931) and the predecessor to the Liberal Party of Australia (1945). It was formed after Joseph Lyons and James Fenton, two Labor ministers, and three other MPs on the right-wing of the Labor Party left the Labor Party in opposition to the economic policies which the Scullin Labor Government and its Treasurer, Ted Theodore, were embracing in response to the Great Depression in Australia. The Nationalist opposition (hitherto led by John Latham), the five Labor dissidents (who had formed the "All for Australia League"), and three conservative independent MPs who had previously been Nationalists (including former Prime Minister Billy Hughes) but had been expelled for crossing the floor and bringing down Stanley Bruce's Nationalist government in 1929 (and now called themselves the Australian Party), all united to form a new party, the UAP, under Lyons' leadership, to oppose what was seen as the Labor government's financial incapacity. Its slogan was "All for Australia and the Empire", and it offered traditional deflationary economic policies in response to Australia's economic crisis. Though the bulk of its parliamentary membership were middle and upper-class ex-Nationalists, the presence of ex-Labor MPs with working-class backgrounds, most obviously the party leader, Lyons, allowed the party to present a convincing image of national unity transcending class barriers.

The Scullin government fell later in 1931. A further split (this time of left-wing NSW Labor MPs who supported the unorthodox economic policies of NSW Premier Jack Lang) had deprived it of its parliamentary majority, and near the end of the year the Langites voted with the UAP for a motion of no confidence in the Scullin Government, forcing an early election. With the Labor Party split between Scullin's supporters and Langites, and with a very popular leader (Lyons had a genial manner and the common touch), the UAP won the subsequent parliamentary elections in December 1931 in a massive landslide, winning a majority in its own right, and Lyons became Prime Minister. After 1934 the UAP lost its majority in its own right, governing in the traditional conservative coalition with the Country Party of Earle Page. The government followed the conservative economic policies it had promised in opposition, and benefited politically from the gradual worldwide economic recovery as the 1930s went on.

By 1939, serious leadership ructions had begun to emerge in the UAP. The ambitious Deputy Leader Robert Menzies sought to keep Lyons to his promise to resign in his favour. Menzies did not have widespread support, and was particularly disliked by the Country Party and its leader Earle Page. Various plots were made to advance former Prime Ministers Billy Hughes or Stanley Bruce to the leadership of the UAP. Menzies resigned as Deputy Leader, and less than a month later, in April, Lyons died.

When Menzies narrowly defeated Hughes to be elected as UAP leader following Lyons' death in April 1939, Page withdrew the Country Party from the Coalition, and Menzies became Prime Minister of a UAP minority government. The coalition was re-established when Archie Cameron replaced Earle Page as Country Party leader in March 1940. However, the Government had lost much of its popularity, and many thought Menzies' leadership in the first year of World War II had been mediocre. At the general election in September 1940, there was a large swing to Labor and the UAP-Country Party coalition lost its majority, continuing in office only because of the support of two independent MPs.

Continuing problems with the administration of the war effort and the undermining of his leadership by a group that were described by Arthur Coles, one of the independent MPs, as "the UAP lynch-mob", led Menzies to resign as Prime Minister in August 1941. The UAP was so bereft of leadership that it allowed the Country Party leader Arthur Fadden to become Prime Minister (although the Country Party was the smaller of the two conservative parties), while Robert Menzies remained UAP leader and a minister. The UAP-Country Party government by this stage was looking tired, and UAP ministers' disloyalty to Menzies had angered the independent MPs. Thus the two independents decided to vote against the Government's budget and to switch their support to the Labor Party. This occurred in October 1941; Labor leader John Curtin became Prime Minister, and the UAP (with the Country Party) went into opposition.

There was a dispute within the UAP immediately after going into Opposition about who should be the official Leader of the Opposition. Menzies, as leader of the UAP, the larger opposition party, thought it should be him, but the majority of the UAP MPs thought Fadden and the Country Party should keep overall leadership of the conservative forces. Contemptuous of his party's timidity, Menzies resigned the leadership, and Billy Hughes, the frail 79-year old former Prime Minister, became party leader.

Curtin proved a popular leader, rallying the nation in the face of the danger of invasion by the Japanese after Japan's entry into the war in December 1941. The Labor government seemed more effective than its predecessor, and the UAP and the Country Party, in opposition, made little political mileage against it. In the 1943 Federal election, Opposition Leader Arthur Fadden led the coalition of his Country Party and the UAP, led by Billy Hughes, to a massive defeat by Labor.

After this election defeat Menzies returned to the UAP leadership, but the party and its organisation now seemed moribund. Menzies was convinced that a new anti-Labor party needed to be formed to replace it. The UAP was absorbed into the new Liberal Party of Australia (with Menzies as leader) at the founding of the latter organization on 31 August 1945. The Liberal Party of Australia went on to become the dominant right wing party in Australian politics.

Leaders

*Joseph Lyons 1931-1939
*Robert Menzies 1939-1941
*Billy Hughes 1941-1943
*Robert Menzies 1943-1945

References

* [http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A100181b.htm Australian Dictionary of Biography - Joseph Lyons]
* [http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A150416b.htm Australian Dictionary of Biography - Robert Menzies]
* [http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A090395b.htm Australian Dictionary of Biography - Billy Hughes]


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