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Liberal Party of Australia

The Liberal Party of Australia was founded on August 31, 1945, after Robert Menzies had called a conference in 1944 of conservative parties opposed to the ALP. The Liberal Party absorbed several former conservative parties, including the Nationalist Party of Australia and the United Australia Party.

Throughout their history, they have been the party of the middle-class, though such class-based voting patterns are no longer so clear.

Stridently anti-communist, a political position ruthlessly exploited through the 1950s and 1960s by Robert Menzies to keep the Liberals in power throughout those decades, they nevertheless presided over a paternalistic state in which utilities were publicly owned, and commercial activity was highly regulated through centralised wage-fixing, high tariff protection, and extensive other regulation. It was not until the late 1970s and through their period out of power federally in the 1980s that the party came to be dominated by what was known as the "New Right" - a Thatcher-inspired group who advocated sweeping deregulation, privatization of public utilities, and reductions in the size of government programs and thus tax cuts.

Socially, the party has wavered between what is termed "small-l liberalism", and Calvinist moral conservatism. The current Howard Liberal government is in many respects extremely socially conservative. Other Liberal state and federal governments have been much less so, usually determined by the views and personality of the leader of the time.

The party's organisation is dominated by the six state branches, reflecting the party's commitment to a federalised system of government (perhaps their most strongly held policy and certainly one of the few that has remained since the party's creation).

As of early 2003, the Liberal party holds government federally, but does not hold power in any States or Territories. It does not officially contest local government elections (though many members do run for office in local government).

Liberal Prime Ministers and their years of office are as follows:

In addition, Joseph Cook[?] , Australian Prime Minister briefly in 1913, is listed as a Liberal Prime Minister. However, he was a member of a different and short-lived conservative political party with the same name.

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