The Democratic Labor Party - an Oral History

Interview conducted: 21st April 2003.

This interview uses specific colours to identify different participants:
JL: Jack Lloyd CC: Chris Curtis DB: David Bennett
Different computer systems will display colours differently. If the colours are difficult to read on your screen, or if you find any other problems with the page, we would be grateful if you would e-mail the webmaster at
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All other text beyond this point by David Bennett, except footnotes, by Trevor Stanley.


Introduction
The Democratic Labor Party (DLP) fulfilled an important role in Australian political history. Unfortunately the nature of the DLP's contribution is generally misunderstood, as were the circumstances that gave rise to the party and what its actual purpose was. Far from being the anti-union and narrow-minded reactionary party that it has been unfairly caricatured as, the DLP in fact operated according to social democratic principles which enabled it to make a positive and constructive contribution to Australian public policy in the period of its existence between 1955 and 1978. The DLP's historic roots went back to the Labor Party and the Australian union movement and the party's viability in part depended upon the principled support and commitment that it received from its membership. The following interview with two former DLP Victorian office bearers, Jack Lloyd and Chris Curtis provides a perspective on that party's history and its subsequent contribution to Australian political history.
Jack Lloyd
Jack Lloyd was an Australian Labor Party (ALP) member and activist in the ALP industrial groups in the 1940s and 1950s. The ALP industrial groups fought against Communist activity in the Australian union movement up until the 1950s. Mr. Lloyd subsequently committed himself to the Labor Party which, following the ALP Split of 1955 eventually became the DLP. As a DLP member who held various party office-bearing positions, including Victorian DLP President in the 1960s, Mr. Lloyd can speak authoritatively about the DLP's fundamental purpose and its impact.
Chris Curtis
Chris Curtis as a university student in the early 1970s availed himself of the opportunity that the DLP's Victorian Branch structure offered him to become involved in the party's administration and policy making. As a party office bearer in the 1970s, Mr. Curtis observed first hand the support that the DLP garnered in the early 1970s as a progressive political force and the strategic mistakes that the DLP made which he believes precipitated the party's demise. Mr. Curtis's perspective is all the more interesting in the light of the Australian Democrats' travails considering that he was the DLP's candidate in the 1977 Greensborough state by-election in which the Australian Democrats made their debut displacing the DLP as Australia's third political force.1
1 For more information on the history of the Australian Democrats, see the article Discord in the Democrats.

DB: Jack would you please provide an overview of the ALP industrial groups, which were the precursor to the Democratic Labor Party (DLP).
JL: The ALP industrial groups were not the precursor to the Democratic Labor Party.

The DLP was formed from the Split in the 1950s, in the State Branches of the Labor Party, that is Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. Yes, the industrial groups were part of the power struggle in the unions and the Labor Party, and this triggered the Split through the success in gaining control of many of the major unions, but all the elements for a split were present before the formation of the industrial groups. See Robert Murray's book, "The Split".2

The industrial groups were formed after various conferences of the ALP. The industrial group organisation was first agreed to at the NSW ALP Conference in 1945, followed by the approval for them at the Vic Conference in 1946. They were then accepted as a legitimate part of the Labor Party organisation.

But you should go back earlier than that. In 1938 small informal groups started to organise against Communist factions in the Boilermakers Society, Amalgamated Engineering Union (AEU) and the Australian Railways Union (ARU). These informal groups were also active in the Newport and Ballarat railway workshops. I remember the group in Ballarat; they were led by Tom Williams, who was a member of the AEU. I think that Tom is still alive, he would be over ninety-five years of age. Another the chap that I knew was Jack Moroney. He was a signalman, who was active in the ARU. I became friendly with Jack and subsequently developed an interest in his union activities.

I was seventeen years of age and that was my first introduction to unionism. The first union I joined was the Felt and Textile Union in 1940 and I worked at Myers Woollen Mill in Ballarat. Then I joined the Postmaster General's Department (PMG) as a trainee linesman in 1941. I then joined the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union (APWU). My employment was then interrupted by my army service during the war, and I returned to the workforce in July 1946 as a PMG employee.

During the Second World War, up in the Northern Territory, there was an enormous amount of civil construction. The Curtin government was worried about the effect that the communists were having on the production of roads and airfields. The government managed to get Dave Woodhouse to become a full time organiser, to try and counter the effects of the communist unions in that area. Dave was a carpenter, and he later helped form the Amalgamated Carpenters and Joiners Union (ACJU), when it was split away from the Communist-led Builders Industrial Workers Union (BIWU). He became the ACJU's first secretary.

It was very important for the ALP to establish groups that were prepared to fight against the Communists in the unions because during the period between 1935 and 1945 the Communist Party had great success in gaining control of the union movement. This was particularly the case in the major unions, which covered the areas of coal, steel, engineering and the Waterfront. Through their control in these areas of industry, the Communists were able to cause a great deal of disruption to the war effort, particularly in the period from 1939 to 1941.

Consequently the communists dominated the 1945 ACTU Congress with their left supporters they had a majority of ninety votes. The industrial groups were then introduced to the various unions. After the Second World War, I returned to the Postmaster General's Department. The section I belonged to, is now Telstra. I was a linesman.

On returning to work I re-joined the APWU and I also joined the Clifton Hill Branch of the ALP. I became active in the APWU and I was also invited to join the ALP industrial group in the union. Jack Moloney and myself were nominated to stand for the APWU executive as part of the linesman's group. In the period between 1945 and 1947 the Communists lost control of the APWU. Consequently Jack and I easily won our election to the APWU's executive with the ALP's industrial group's support! I attended yearly ALP State Conferences as a union delegate, the last one being 1954. After that the Split occurred.

When the (1955) Split occurred we lost control of the union. We still ran in union elections, but unfortunately we lost, except for Ken Cahill, who represented the 'posties' group on the executive. He always succeeded in winning because he had a large personal following.
2 See Robert Murray's July 2003 talk for PWHCE, A History of Labor Splits.
DB: Were the ALP industrial groups started on a loose basis?
JL:'Trying to organise' was the term. That was just the groups of people who were about in the early days in the 1930s as we came up to the Second World War. The communists were trying to sabotage the war effort up until Russia entered the war in 1941.

The ALP industrial groups were officially started just after the 1946 ACTU Congress. Before the ALP industrial groups officially started, there were many ALP politicians, such as Curtin, Chifley and in the case, of Victoria, Bert Cremean who were very concerned about the effects that the communist led unions were having on Australia's political structure. Bert Cremean did approach the Catholic Secretariat to see what Santamaria could do.

Certain chaps we knew who were in the ALP and in our union decided to form the industrial group. When the Movement set up their parish groups, they recorded people's different occupations and they forwarded on the names of likely candidates to come in as members.

The way we operated; we met monthly, like the communists, a cell, within the union. You had a president and a secretary. When the Split occurred, a chap named Alec Stewart was the president of the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union Industrial Group. It was always said that the Catholics were running the show. But Alec wasn't a Catholic and I remember that after the Hobart Conference at our meeting he gave a talk. Alec said that, "We must not let them split us on the sectarian issue." He said 'we must stay together' but at the next meeting he was missing. Alec was a member of the Masonic Lodge and apparently the word went out within that organisation, 'get yourself away from this mob!'

The Postal Workers' Industrial Group meetings were held monthly prior to the union meetings, where the union meeting agenda was discussed, and what decisions the group would make at the union meeting. The same would apply to the delegates attending the Trades Hall Council meeting.

The leader of our group was Dan Minogue, Dan was many years older than us, and had been an ALP member for many years, and was also well known as he had played League football for Richmond in his young days. He was a great debater and could certainly handle any opposition at the union meetings from the Communists and their left wing supporters. When the Split occurred, we subsequently lost our executive positions and our influence. We still battled on however, unsuccessfully running candidates every time there was a union election.
DB:What was your relationship with the Catholic Social Studies Movement?
JL:I was invited to their various meetings, but I didn't really become involved with them. In other words, I could walk in and I knew who was who. I did meet Bob Santamaria many times and he would say 'good day Jack' but I don't mean that I went into conference with him. I might have seen him at a meeting or a rally which he addressed.
DB:So the industrial groups were separate from the Catholic Social Studies Movement?
JL:Yes. They (the Catholic Social Studies Movement) did set up various groups; some of them were within the union movement, sort of a cell. That's not the industrial group's cell I'm talking about - that's a separate thing altogether.
DB:Were the industrial groups ad hoc? Did you have your own paid secretarial staff?
JL:No. We were chaps that worked! You had your secretary, your treasurer and your committee.
DB:You had your own committee structure?
JL:Yes.
DB:Was it the same as the ALP?
JL:To be a member of the industrial group you had to be a member of the ALP. Otherwise you could not join the industrial group.
DB:Even though you were ALP members, your industrial groups were separate from ALP branches?
JL:The Victorian Secretary of the ALP, Dinny Lovegrove and the Assistant Secretary, Frank McManus, were in charge of the ALP industrial groups, which were treated as ALP branches, but were not entitled to send their own delegates to ALP conferences.
DB:This was up until 1954?
JL:Yes. Up until the Split. Then of course, any unions that still had industrial groups then, they had to be members of the DLP, after the Split. Frank Dowling and Jim Brosnan knew who we were. We met in the DLP office, which had been the meeting room for industrial groups.
DB:I would like to move onto the broad issue of the Split within the ALP in 1955. It has been said that The Split was not a 'split' but a 'purge'. In your opinion, what caused the Split and/or the purge?
JL:In my opinion, Dr. Evatt was in big trouble. In the 1954 election he got caught up in the Petrov problem.3 Then he also proposed that there be no means test for the pension, which upset the ALP, which felt that they could not win on it. He'd really 'lost the plot'.

The federal election was held in 1954 and Evatt got clobbered. Then the caucus started to move on him and he knew that he had a lot of trouble. The 1954 state (Victorian) ALP conference, which I attended, always opened on Friday evening. The conference then took notices of motions. Pat Kennelly proposed one motion, seconded by Frank Crean, which was an attack on Evatt's conduct of the election. Pat Kennelly at the time had the flu, as this was only a notice of motion, it would not have been discussed on Friday night. So Kennelly went home and he arrived back Sunday morning.

Kennelly moved his motion and spoke to it. Frank Crean seconded the motion. Dinny Lovegrove opposed the motion and spoke very effectively. Frank McManus also opposed the motion. Then the motion was put to the vote. The motion was overwhelmingly defeated by the members he eventually attacked as being disloyal to him.

In the ALP minutes they had a policy of sometimes not recording anything they felt was controversial. I've searched those minutes and there is no mention of that motion. In the afternoon at 4 o'clock, Evatt then addressed the conference and thanked the delegates for their support in defeating the Kennelly/Crean motion.

However, later on in October of that year, Evatt startled us Groupers when he used the old sectarian issue by alleging that extremist Catholics were trying to hijack the Victorian ALP.

The question is why did Evatt use the sectarian issue? First of all, you must appreciate Evatt's background. Evatt entered politics in about 1927 when he won for the seat of Balmain, in Sydney. He was subsequently defeated for ALP pre-selection the next time, but he still ran for the seat and won it. Consequently he was expelled from the New South Wales branch of the ALP. He then wrote a book, called The Labor Leader. In it, he canvassed the sectarian strategy, that if you lost the predominately Catholic support of the ALP, by giving the effect that it is not a Catholic party, that you would win two Protestant votes for every Catholic vote lost. That's the theory he worked on, when he split the ALP in 1954/55 and of course it did not work.
3 The defection of Soviet diplomats Vladimir and Evdokia Petrov from the Soviet Embassy, and the subsequent revelation that Evatt's own office contained communist agents, was poorly handled by Evatt, who became personally involved in the matter and developed conspiracy theories in connexion with it.
The definitive text is:
Robert Manne, The Petrov Affair, Pergamon, Sydney, 1987.
DB:Which is why Evatt attacked the industrial groups in October 1954?
JL:In late 1954, which was only two or three months after the state conference, he claimed that the Victorian ALP was dominated by the Catholic Church and B A Santamaria.
DB:Between October 1954 and March 1955 the industrial groups had to fight to stay within the ALP?
JL:That's right. It was a case of keeping the groups together.
DB:Why did you keep your groups going?
JL:If you're going to win union elections and have any effect on the monthly debate, you had to have an organisation.
DB:So you kept the industrial groups going to keep the communists out of the unions?
JL:That's right.
CC:They were still ALP industrial groups, they weren't DLP. The DLP name did not exist.
JL:That's correct.
DB:What happened at the March 1955 ALP federal conference at Hobart, which voted to proscribe the industrial groups?
JL:It appears there was a faction. Kim Beazley Senior, was on 'our side', which gave us a majority of one on the ALP federal executive. Now Kim was overseas at a Moral Re-Armament Conference. The West Australian branch then sent Webb as the replacement delegate to take Beazley's place, which changed the vote and so the decision was made to sack the Victorian ALP Executive. Joe Chamberlain, who was a pro-communist ALP delegate from West Australia, subsequently became a very dominating force on the ALP federal executive.
DB:Why did Chamberlain and Evatt want to cause this split?
JL:Evatt had a problem which he thought he could cure by splitting the party.

As for Chamberlain, if you go back to the old Victorian communist papers, when the ALP industrial groups were so successful, the communists had big problems. You can get a copy of this if you go to the State Library. The communist papers said that they must destroy the ALP industrial groups and split the right wing Labor away from the Left. They realised that this was going to take a number of years to do. The communists realised that they had to destroy the right's credibility. Suddenly, Evatt produced a lay down way of doing it. The communists thought that it would take years to split the two wings apart.
DB:Was Chamberlain a part of a pro-communist left?
JL:Yes. You can call it a pro-communist left. Suddenly the communists had what they wanted. Evatt was not in cahoots with them. He was just running his own agenda, to save his own skin.

You must remember, that in the communists' minds, they thought that if they split the two groups, that the right wing would still be the Australian Labor Party and that the left wing would be the 'Australian Socialist Party' or whatever they might have created. That's how the Split occurred.
DB:After the motion was passed at the Hobart Conference, did you have to decide whether you stayed in the Labor Party or were you expelled?
JL:Yes. We were expelled. I have a list of the expulsions. Our portion of the executive was expelled. Incidentally, Frank McManus claimed that he was never actually expelled from the ALP.
DB:There have also been questions about the legality of the Hobart Conference.
JL:That's right.
DB:You still considered yourselves, as industrial groups, to be the legitimate ALP? You didn't consider yourselves as splitting from the ALP?
JL:That's right. The delegates from New South Wales and Queensland walked out. New South Wales remained firmly with us. They had not been dealt with at that stage. There was a big meeting in the Melbourne Town Hall after the Hobart Conference, and you can say that the Movement helped do the numbers there. It was a packed meeting.

One of the speakers was Laurie Short. Laurie said, "If they move up into New South Wales, then they're up for a fight! We'll fix 'em!"
DB:Who was 'they'?
JL:I mean the ALP federal executive. What happened? They moved in. They expelled Kane, Rooney and others.
CC:The Hobart Conference had two delegations from Victoria. The federal executive let in the new delegation and not the old one. That's how they got the numbers at the federal conference. They didn't actually have the numbers at all.
JL:The Federal President at the 1955 ALP Conference, instead of excluding both sets of delegates from the conference, thereby following the precedent that was set at 1931 Federal ALP conference in which Prime Minister Scullin, who was then Federal President, excluded the two NSW delegations that were competing for accreditation (i.e. Lang Labor and NSW Labor) until a decision was made as to which delegation should be recognised.
DB:It is also important to mention that the industrial groups were rank and file based and represented the ALP rank and file's preference.
CC:In Victoria, the majority of ALP branches went with what became the DLP.
JL:Two hundred out of the three hundred branches in Victoria went with the DLP. Also, I don't think that I mentioned that the unions had delegates to ALP conferences, which still happens, and of course the ALP industrial groups made sure that they were the delegates to conference, up until the Split.
DB:Why if you were the legitimate ALP, did you run under the label 'Labor Party (Anti-Communist)' in the 1955 Victorian state election?
JL:Actually, from memory, the media gave us that name. Would that be right Chris?
CC:I didn't know that. I thought that Bill Barry and Les Coleman said they were the leaders of the Anti-Communist ALP.
JL:There were two ALPs running.
DB:What was the role of the Electoral Commission, or its equivalent in deciding the issue?
CC:There was no registration of political parties at that time.
JL:I'm not sure, I was only a rank and file at the time.
CC:It might have been the greatest mistake that you ever made.
DB:So in 1957 you formally established yourself as the DLP?
JL:That's right. In New South Wales of course, a bloke named Manning, (I'm not sure where he came from) suggested the name DLP, Democratic Labor Party. Then New South Wales branch adopted that and then later on we adopted the name also. Although the industrial groups were important, gradually with various unions they dropped away. The strongest ones were in the Clerks of course.
DB:So the industrial groups became DLP branches?
CC:There were only five unions in the end that stayed with the DLP, the Clerks, the Iron Workers, the Carpenters and Joiners, the Shop Assistants and the Affiliated Teachers Union.
JL:I'm not saying that they were not important, but gradually in the struggle after that period the industrial groups became of no consequence to me. I was still in them, but I became very involved in my DLP branch.
DB:What was the purpose of the DLP? Was it to become an alternative ALP?
JL:We would have liked it to be. It was a roadblock type of thing, to try and split the Left or the communist elements, the union steering committee. To split that group away from the ALP.
DB:The purpose of DLP Roadblock strategy was to eventually re-unite with the ALP by denying them office?
JL:Yes that's right.
CC:The DLP was an accident. It was not as if somebody said we are going to create this body with this purpose. It was created and then it had to make up a purpose.
JL:I became very active in the DLP. I was secretary of my local branch and I was on state and federal electoral councils. At the time of the Split, there had been another electoral re-distribution, which created the federal electorate of Bruce, where I lived. Up until that time, I was in the seat of Flinders. That's how sparse the population was distributed at the time.
DB:You were setting up party branches, did you set up a paid secretariat?
JL:No, we didn't have to establish a new paid secretariat because we carried over from the staff from the ALP Victorian branch after the Split occurred. You have to remember Melbourne was not as big as it is now. In other words there were a lot areas without ALP branches. The DLP in Victoria retained everything; they retained Room Two in the Trades Hall, the structure, the finance, the bank account and everything like that. There were two court cases over that. The ALP, the 'left wing crowd' were going to try and take over Room Two, while the staff and organisers were there. Frank McManus was the Secretary and Frank Dowling was the Assistant Secretary.

While the staff was occupying the room during the day, the ALP was working on the basis that when the room was unoccupied that they had the right to break in and take it over. Right through the two court cases the room was manned by 'Room Two' volunteers who acted as guards. These volunteers took over from the time when the staff knocked off until they returned the next morning. Both court cases ruled that we were the legitimate ALP.
DB:Was that in about 1960?
JL:No, it was in the 1950s, 1955/56, I can't remember now. If you are ever researching for these court cases they are in our (ALP/DLP) records in the State Library. News about these court cases was in the newspapers of the day. In the finalisation, we won both court cases, which ruled that we were the legitimate central executive of the ALP.
DB:Was that a Victorian Supreme Court decision?
JL:Yes. In the time before the court gave its ruling, a truck driver came into the office (Room Two) and said to Frank McManus "I've got a load of building material and various steel plates and other things to be delivered to the Trades Hall Council office which is next door." In the mean time our people had started to shift things out, records, the tables, everything.

When the court's decision was given, within half an hour the builders' labourers had smashed the wall down between the ALP office and the Trades Hall Council. Frank Dowling and Frank McManus were in there! There were windows that you could lift up which go out to Lygon Street and they (McManus and Dowling) hopped out. When the media wrote it up, they said all that was left were the two telephones that were on the floor.
DB:I would like to talk about the DLP in the 1960s and how it became an established party.
JL:First of all you have to remember it continued as an established party. It did not sort of close and then start again. The only person that was missing from the old ALP staff was Dinny Lovegrove. All the rest of the staff was there, the office girls, Frank McManus, the (ALP) Assistant Secretary. He became the (DLP) Secretary and Frank Dowling was brought in from the Clerks Union as the (DLP) Assistant Secretary.
CC:The ALP just kept going and as far as Jack's people were concerned the others just pretended to expel them.
JL:We just kept functioning in our own way. We took 200 out of the 300 ALP Victorian branches with us. I'm not saying that if you had thirty members that all of them stayed with us, but the majority did. For instance, believe it or not, the Healesville branch was made up of timber workers and they came with us. But eventually there was movement within that branch and of course they left us. But that is one branch which was a unionised type of ALP branch. Then we created other branches, like my own. It was called Box Hill South.
DB:At what point was the 'DLP' label adopted?
JL:In about 1960.
CC:It would have been an amendment to a clause. They would not have had to change anything else.
JL:It would have been a conference motion. I reckon it was about 1959 because when we set up the fund raising project called the 'Golden Circle'. First of all, I should go back: where did we get our funds from? We had bank accounts as we were the ALP; the Supreme Court ruled that was our money. We had other small fund raising means. Then, I'm sure it was 1959, when we changed over to the name, DLP.
DB:I'd like to ask about the DLP branches in the 1960s. How were they run/administered?
JL:You had your branches and the electoral councils and that sort of thing. As far as I'm concerned our branch was well run and the same with the state electoral council. We had six branches in our state electoral council and then we had the state Dandenong electorate, which made up the federal electorate. The branches of course were busy and we also got caught up in fund raising.
DB:In what way were the branches well run? Did members turn up regularly? Did members participate?
JL:Yes, you had to organise your party structure in order to prepare for state and federal elections and you had to send delegates to party conferences, you also put up motions for conferences.
DB:Was there a special role for women in the DLP?
JL:Yes. In the early days, very early days, Leone Lloyd, the Clerks Union delegate, was on the state executive and she later became state president.
DB:Were there special women's policies? Was there a women's division?
JL:Yes. There was the Women's Central Organising Committee, which was run by Mrs. Barry. I reckon because you were away from the structure of the ALP with the domination of the unions as it was I think women in the DLP had more say than in the old ALP. Chris may disagree with me.
CC:I don't know. I wasn't in the old ALP.
JL:The ALP was a 'man's show'.
DB:What was the DLP's relationship with the unions that were affiliated to it?
JL:They were very much involved with the Central Executive and with the party's permanent officials, such as Frank Dowling and Jim Brosnan.
DB:In what capacity did the union members serve on party committees? Did they serve on the committees as rank and file members?
JL:The unions sent delegates to conference and they had their industrial group meetings in the DLP office.
DB:I would like to ask you about the 'Roadblock' strategy because it was an important purpose of your continuing in the 1960s.
JL:The main purpose of Roadblock was to prevent the ALP from winning seats until they did something about the communist left wing influence in their party.
DB:There is a lot of bitterness today in the ALP toward the DLP because it was perceived as a party that only existed to keep the ALP out of office. But the Roadblock strategy was pursued so that the DLP could re-enter the ALP.
JL:That's right.
DB:There was an attempt to re-unite the two parties in 1965 that was initiated by ALP Senator Pat Kennelly. What do you know about that?
JL:I knew a little about that. There were two attempts to re-unite the parties. I can tell you about the second attempt, which involved Whitlam. When Gough Whitlam replaced Arthur Calwell as Leader of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party, he knew if he was to win Government, action had to be taken in Victoria. This would require the Federal executive to sack the left wing executive of the Victorian Labor Party and make further approaches to the DLP in Victoria to gain their support.

In November 1967 the DLP in Victoria won an additional Senate seat with the election of Jack Little. In early 1968 a meeting was arranged with the DLP State Secretary Frank Dowling and Assistant State Secretary Jim Brosnan. Representing the ALP was Senator Pat Kennelly, well known as the ALP kingmaker or numbers man, with the Deputy Leader of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party, Lance Barnard.

The proposal put to the DLP was to get the Federal executive of the ALP to sack the Victorian executive and to restructure the executive with suitable Labor members and eventually to merge the two parties together. Further to this the federal seats held by the Liberal Party that could be won by a combined ALP/DLP vote, the DLP would be given a quota to contest.

As the State President I was given a private briefing after the meeting took place by Frank Dowling. As this was a very confidential meeting no other executive members were told about the meeting and the proposal.

As Frank said, we do not have to do anything, it is up to the ALP to bring it off. Unfortunately the proposal fell through; it was a long shot anyway. On the 17th of April 1968 a row blew up in the ALP Federal Executive over the appointment of Brian Harradine as the Tasmanian delegate to the executive. He was eventually expelled, so the grand plan to fix up the Labor Split fell through.
DB:Why did people commit to a party, which was not one of the two major parties? Is there a theme as to why people got involved in the DLP?
JL:They felt that if they could succeed at doing this, they could bring back a party, which represented the workers, the unions and the people of Australia. In other words, the Westminster system operates on two strong parties. One of course is the government and the other is the official opposition. We wanted to become a part of one of the two major parties.
DB:It wasn't to become an alternative third party or an alternative ALP?
JL:No. It would not succeed. The Democrats have had tremendous assistance from the media but they have not become a major party.
DB:What do you say to the contention that the DLP was a 'Catholic' sectarian party?
JL:I'll put it this way, according to Evatt, the ALP was a 'Catholic party' and most people thought that the ALP was a 'Catholic party'.
DB:Up until 1955?
JL:Yes. As I said about Evatt's book, (The) Labor Leader had the same thinking. The DLP was the same because of its Irish background, unionism, and labour politics. They came from that same area.
DB:Would you like to speak about your recollections of the DLP's success in obtaining state aid for private schools in 1967?
JL:I was the Senior Vice-President of the party and due to be elected president at the state conference that year. There had been a re-distribution of the state electorates in Victoria. The research that our party office had done found that areas in the country, seats held by the Liberal Party, could be in danger from the Country Party. The Country Party was not in coalition with the Liberals. We latched onto this and floated this story to the papers.

Frank Dowling told me that Santamaria said that he had met Bolte in Sir Michael Chamberlain's home. Sir Michael was a great supporter of the DLP. He was from memory in insurance, he was a businessman. Santamaria said that he put it up to Bolte that if the DLP would give their preferences to the government they would then fund a Catholic education college, for teacher training, for a figure of about $80,000.

Frank said, "I can't believe it. What's that going to do for the party?" Frank said, "I'll put it up to the executive to get per capita payments for the independent schools." He said that will be something at least for the electors of Victoria. It was discussed by the executive officers and then put up to the central executive. I reckon Santamaria asked for a meeting with Bolte because Bolte knew that he had to deal with Frank Dowling and Jim Brosnan.

After Frank made his report to the executive, Jack Little shot up and did he pay out on Santamaria!
DB:Who was Jack Little?
JL:He was Senator Little.
CC:He wasn't a catholic.
JL:He (Senator Little) said, "Since when has he (Santamaria) been running the party?" Another speaker, Bert Jones, really got stuck into Santa. Anyway after talk around the executive, Frank put up the proposal to seek a meeting with Bolte to put up this proposal for per capita payments to independent schools.

What Frank told me is that they had a number of meetings with Bolte. Bolte more or less said, 'you must be joking'. Now Santa kept saying that Bolte had said 'I'll give you that money' because he (Santamaria) was claiming that he got the per capita payments. But that was running into millions. If you stop and think, it was $10 a week for primary school children and $20 a week for secondary school children. I know that wasn't 52 weeks a year, it was for the school year. Bolte said that was big money because it was running into millions.

According to Frank (Dowling) and Jim (Brosnan) it was backwards and forward when it came to negotiating with Bolte. They didn't march up to the front door of the premier's office. They had to be snuck in through the back door. Bolte realised that if the DLP carried out its threat to re-direct preferences to the Country Party over the issue of per capita payments that his government would have to rely on Country Party support to survive. Bolte said to Frank and Jim, "Well alright, if you blokes are for giving your preference to the Country Party candidate then my seat is in dire trouble and it is back to the farm for me."
DB:So the threat of DLP preferences being re-directed to the Country Party helped induce the Victorian Government to grant state aid to independent schools?
JL:Yes. That's the story. In recent years Santamaria in a newspaper article claimed credit for obtaining the per capita payment policy from Bolte. I had a go at Santamaria in letters to the editor of that paper for making that claim. There were only two men in that conference with Bolte. That's what Frank and Jim told me.
DB:If the ALP would not allow the DLP back in, was it worthwhile trying to obtain policy concessions from the Liberals?
JL:Yes. We got many concessions. For example we were able to win the dental mechanics concession, where dental mechanics could operate independently of a dentist.
DB:As a political party the DLP were able to obtain social concessions that the Liberals normally would not make?
JL:Yes we got many concessions, I'd have to look back. They did not necessarily cost the government that much, they were quality of life issues.
DB:Chris, I would like to ask about your involvement in the DLP. As someone from the post 1955 generation of the party, why did you get involved in the DLP, particularly as it was not one of the two major parties?
CC:They appealed to me in the advertisements when I was a teenager. In 1968 I wrote a letter to the DLP and told them what they were doing wrong. They didn't listen. But a fellow called Keith Reily came and saw me and told me that they were setting up a Young Democratic Labor Association Branch in Diamond Valley and would I like to come along. So that was the start of my involvement. They appealed to me as a fresh new party and I never thought of them as the Roadblock strategy. I didn't see it that way and I guess a lot of my age didn't see it that way either. The DLP represented a radical social alternative.
DB:To many people the DLP represented, and it is now stereotyped as, a reactionary type of party. The DLP did not come across to you, as a young person, in the 1960s as a reactionary party?
CC:Not at all. I understand that politically it was useful for people who were against the DLP to label it that way. But I simply think that it's not true.
DB:Why not?
CC:A reactionary party is one that reacts to attempts to make social change. There were many DLP policies which were quite definite in their desire for social change to do with pensions, industrial relations, and education. There was a whole decentralist philosophy in the DLP, which appealed to me.
DB:What about rank and file involvement as a young person and the stereotype that the DLP was a top-heavy party?
CC:No. There weren't factions as such. There were different tendencies and disagreements but there were no organised factions and so if you wanted to get involved, you could. If you wanted to stand for Parliament you could because there were not that many who wanted to. You could go to conference, you could get elected to executive and so forth and you could put up motions and there would be a good chance that they would actually get debated at conference from the branches. It was very open in the way that it worked.
DB:Many people today become involved in a party so that they can be elected to Parliament or to obtain paid employment. Why did young people such as yourself put time and effort into a party when there was such limited scope for career advancement?
CC:Just through belief. I think that still must be the case, because you can't have everyone in the Liberal Party or the Labor Party thinking that they are going to be pre-selected or that they are going to get a paid job somewhere. People did it because they believed in it.
DB:When you joined, was the DLP's orientation still towards re-uniting with the ALP?
CC:No. I never saw it like that. There was certainly a belief that the worst thing in the world would be a Labor government and we must do anything to stop it getting elected, obviously, until the Labor Party changed. That was certainly there, but not everyone in the DLP believed that was the right way to go.
DB:Was there discussion in the DLP about the party's direction and how it could survive in the long term, even after it almost won a third Senate seat in Victoria in 1970?
CC:There was a lot of enthusiasm in 1970 because that was the peak year. One in five Victorians voted DLP. If people had voted DLP, they would not admit it today. There was talk then that the DLP could win Lower House seats up on the Murray, Wills, where we were just a percentage point below the Liberals and we could get in on Liberal preferences. There was a belief that we could go somewhere, but then it all fell apart.
DB:Did you ever think that you could go into government?
CC:No, I don't think anyone really thought that we were ever going to be the government, but that we thought we could be a permanent third party, with Senate seats and maybe a couple of Lower House seats. We almost won Warrnambool in 1967. We would have won, except Labor preferenced the Liberals, which put Ian Smith in.
DB:After doing so well in 1970, what went wrong between the 1970 and the 1974 election, when the DLP lost all of its Senate seats?
CC:My interpretation is this, some of which I actually put in writing at the time. The 1972 election defeated the Roadblock strategy. So the idea that DLP preferences could keep Labor out forever was simply not so. In the 1972 election I was embarrassed handing out DLP literature in people's letterboxes because there was supposed to be this permissiveness everywhere and collapse of society. It was if the anti-communist line did not work anymore and there had to be another 'anti-line'. In a sense that was a break with the movement of the times. Labor got in, and then my view of the DLP in the Senate was that the Senators could not operate as an independent party. They became too identified with the Coalition, as part of this blocking of what Labor wants to do; we'll stop Medibank, we'll stop this and we'll stop the other thing and their separate identity disappeared. So it became a Liberal versus Labor contest, so that the other identity wasn't there.

In the 1973 state election the DLP did very badly in Victoria, which was the top state, getting about seven percent of the vote. The writing was on the wall and the party was not able to adjust to the new social realities. When it came to the 1974 double dissolution election, I remember at the DLP Executive, which I was now on, talking about the 1974 election and the deferment of supply. I said to the executive and to Frank McManus that (I didn't put it quite as bluntly as I would today) but what I was saying was if you think the Liberals are going to put you on the joint Senate ticket, then you're mad, its not going to happen - and it didn't happen!

The DLP should not have blocked, or deferred supply in 1974, it committed suicide. We still would have had Frank McManus there until 1976 and there would have been a breathing space bought. I don't think that they were thinking clearly. They were so anti-Labor that they couldn't look to the interests of the DLP itself and that led to the defeat of our Senators. When you lose your Senators you lose an avenue for publicity and it just became impossible to make up that ground.
DB:There was a lot of hostility toward the Whitlam government. Didn't that provide the DLP with a potential niche to consolidate their base?
CC:No. Because being anti-Whitlam was just what the Liberals were. The only way that the DLP had established an individual identity earlier was controlling the balance of power in the Senate, which let some things through and not others. Under Labor the DLP still let some things through but it lost its independence. It had to make a middle way. Now Whitlam probably would have lost in 1975 anyway had there been no double dissolution in 1974. But we still would have been there and there would have been a Liberal government back in, and there still would have been DLP Senators.
DB:Was there actually a deal in 1974 for a joint Liberal/DLP Senate ticket?
CC:I don't have first hand knowledge of this, but apparently Billy Snedden told Frank McManus that there would be a joint ticket.
JL:McManus spoke at a DLP Conference at the time and he said that the Liberals had guaranteed that there would be a joint Senate ticket and that it was official. Now whether Gair would have gone along with that, I don't know.
CC:Gair was ambassador to Ireland.
DB:When the DLP Senators voted to defer supply in 1974 was that on the understanding that there would be a joint Senate ticket in Victoria?
JL:That's correct.
CC:What about the other states?
JL:As I understand it, that was the arrangement in the other states too. Unfortunately I can't remember.
DB:Why weren't there procedures in place to verify the deal?
CC:I don't know. It was an unrealistic thing and it would then come to "where are you on the joint ticket?" Number four, number five or number six? And what are you? You've lost your own identity completely and another aspect of the decline of the DLP was the nonsense of it joining with the Country Party, which was Santamaria's idea. That was never a goer, yet it diverted energy and helped the party lose identity in Western Australia, where they actually did it.
DB:Was the DLP a more progressive party than the Country Party?
CC:Absolutely. I reckon most of our members would have quit had we joined with the Country Party. My reading in Victoria was that it was never going to happen. A party conference voted for it.
DB:What year was that?
CC:It was 1974. Frank McManus was one side and Jim Brosnan was on the other, for it and the motion was carried. My impression was even though Jim voted for it, he had no intention of carrying it out.
DB:Wasn't this amalgamation strategy pursued in order to save the DLP tradition?
CC:It would have been an organisation that was together but there would not have been any principle to it. What would it stand for?
DB:Was there a realisation that the DLP was finished after it lost its Senate seats in 1974?
CC:No. It was fight back! There was a lot of activity that was organised by the party officers in Victoria with meetings all throughout the state to see what we could do to rebuild the DLP and get back into action.
DB:How did the party staff members feel now that the party they were attached to no longer had parliamentary representation?
CC:They were disappointed but I didn't see any attitude that this was the end of the world.
DB:Was the DLP an expensive party to run? Did you have paid party organisers?
CC:Yes. Was it about $100, 000 to keep the door open? Or $200,000? Jack would know. There were a Secretary, an Assistant Secretary, four organisers and four secretarial staff.
JL:That was another thing about the decision in 1978 to close up. We had done our calculations about how much it would cost to keep the door open. It was getting to around a quarter of a million.
CC:We had 'the gift', which was a fund raising thing and it raised around $200,000. Then we had another separate election fund raising giving which may have raised another $100,000 or $200,000.
DB:Did you try and scale back expenses after the loss of the Senate seats in 1974, so that the party could adapt?
JL:No. The official line was and you can even hear Jim Brosnan speaking at the 1978 Conference. There are two ways that you can run the party; full steam, the way we're running it, or from somebody's back veranda, which is the way that Mulholland is running it. 4 So it was a case that we just couldn't scale the party back.4 John Mulholland continued to run a 'DLP' after the vote to close up; this is the 'DLP' which appears on ballot papers to this day.
CC:To me, it was a very brave decision for Jim Brosnan and others to say 'fold up.' If you had let the DLP decline it would have been like the lingering death of the Democrats. It was a much more honourable thing. Both ways would have been honourable, but it was a brave thing to say that we cannot go on because we don't have the people to go out and raise the money. It wasn't the manning the 'how to vote cards', it wasn't that there were not enough people to give to the party: There were not enough people to raise the money to keep the party going. If there was public funding of elections, it would have been a different story. Had Dick Hamer kept his 1973 election promise to reform the Upper House we would have had Upper House seats in Victoria.
DB:The DLP didn't get a Senate seat back in 1975 because of a lack of media coverage?
JL:Yeah. The media killed us.
DB:The period of 1976 and 1977 must have been very challenging for the DLP.
CC:In 1976 there was a state election and because Hamer had broken the promise of electoral reform, the DLP strategy was to run candidates in about half of the seats. Because the DLP could not bring itself to recommend preferences to the ALP, the strategy was not to run in half the seats, so that the Liberals would lose seats, and would be forced into coalition with the Country Party, in the hope that we would then get electoral reform. It didn't work; Hamer still got back with a majority in his own right. It also meant that half the state could not vote DLP. To me, it is always a bad strategy not to let your supporters to have someone to vote for.
JL:That's correct.
CC:I did a study, electorate by electorate. In Labor seats our vote went back to the Labor Party and in Liberal seats, where we didn't run, it went to the Liberals.
DB:I would like to ask about Jim Brosnan's campaign for the Senate in 1977. Was his candidacy just to placate those in the DLP who wanted to keep the party going?
CC:No. He was the best known candidate. He was the state leader, the state spokesman and the main character. Frank McManus was seventy-two and if he had run he would have been seventy-eight at the end of his term; his time was past. Jim was the natural candidate to run. If you look at the figures you will notice that Paul McManus (Frank's son) was on the ticket and he got quite a lot more votes than someone lower down on the ticket should. A number of people voted for him because they thought it was Frank.
DB:1977 was also the year of the Democrats' emergence. As a party of review in the Senate, did the DLP set a precedent for the Democrats' subsequent emergence?
CC:If there had been no DLP, I still think that the circumstances of the founding of the Democrats would have led to their success.
DB:In the period between 1974 and 1977 what role did your post-Split generation fulfil in keeping the DLP going?
CC:There were a few of us around. I don't think we had a special role. We were probably less affected by the Split and the Roadblock strategy. We hadn't joined because we had been Labor Party people; we joined because we liked the DLP. In my case I did not come from a DLP family or a political family at all. Others were similar, some would have come from families whose parents had been in the ALP. There was a different attitude to things.
DB:What were your personal feelings about the Greensborough state by-election in the context of the Australian Democrats' electoral debut and you being the DLP candidate, as your party approached its end?
CC:You can't beat bad luck! It's fascinating. We worked extremely hard in that by-election. I guess some people would have said that we should not have contested it. But I certainly thought you always give your voters a chance to vote for you. I think that we pioneered hand-addressed envelopes. We hand addressed a letter to every voter in that electorate, not with computers, but with a biro in the hand and then manually sorted them. The letter I wrote went through about seven drafts. I read it, the party officers read it, and the PR person read it, and a mate of mine interested in the media read it, and we put a booklet in, which was a talk by a Dr Claire Isbister, that she gave at the DLP conference that year about families. We worked really hard and we lifted the vote, compared with the previous federal election (because we had not contested the previous state election). But the Democrats were there and it was right on the cusp. They had big meetings, it was Don Chipp, media darling, and they were getting the publicity and the coverage; they had a fresh approach.

When I did a television interview (I think it was This Day Tonight) they interviewed me in my lounge room but they interviewed the Democrat candidate out in his garden, so the whole background was "here is this nice leafy Eltham", while I'm sitting in a lounge chair. It all just conspired and they (the Democrats) went on and got about seventeen percent, and we got about five percent.
DB:Would you please describe the emotions and atmosphere at the 1978 Victorian DLP conference, when the vote was taken to close the party up.
JL:It was a long time ago. There were quite a few people there who were naturally upset and they voted to continue on. Frank McManus was one of course, he wanted to battle on and he took his group away and continued as the 'DLP', which Mulholland now runs. The majority of the conference however voted to close up the party.
CC:The conference voted by a margin of about 110 to 100 to close the party up. Some people said that wasn't fair because the party officers voted. It was a very close vote and people were very disappointed.
JL:Before that conference the party did have meetings of what were called the Federal Electorate Councils, and not only the councillors, but a meeting was called of all party members within the federal electorates, to outline the problems that we had facing up to the conference. It is not as though it was just the conference delegates who were informed about the problems that we were facing, but the whole party membership. We assumed that the delegates voted according to what their local branches wanted.
DB:Did you have a fund raising effort to pay out the party office bearers?
CC:We ended up with more money then we needed! It took us fifteen years to get rid of it all.
DB:As the DLP was being closed up there was no sentiment of trying to continue it as a secretariat or as a non-electoral political movement?
CC:No. You close the party or you don't. You can't say we're closing the party and then the officers say we're keeping it going anyway.
JL:They appointed trustees. The conference was in March 1978 and the party office and everything was closed up in May 1978.
DB:Was there a feeling in 1978 of contentment with respect to the DLP's past contribution to Australian politics?
CC:No. I didn't feel contentment, I felt disappointment.
JL:Yes, I felt disappointed. Well, I suppose in some ways it was a relief because I had had a lot of responsibility. It is like a bloke who has been in the war for six years and when the war ends you say 'thank God it's over'!
CC:You don't have to go out so often at night. I would say the majority of the members went on and did not do anything else political.
JL:I think you hit the nail on the head.
DB:What do you think is the DLP's legacy?
CC:State aid for a lot of people who didn't vote for us.
JL:The DLP shifted over a period of time the influence of the communist unions away from the ALP.
CC:Chou En Lai was asked what did he think the effect of the French Revolution had been. He said that it was too early to tell. However, it can be said that one legacy of the DLP is the growth in the role of the Senate with the establishment of the committee system and the government of the day having to make a case to get its legislation passed. In a way the DLP created a space that is now filled by the Democrats, the Greens and sundry others because the public appreciated the role of a third party in the Senate. Secondly, the DLP gave a political formation to many people who have used and continued to use that training in public affairs. Thirdly it won state aid for schools whose supporters didn't even vote for it. Fourthly its existence contributed to the reform of the ALP, because the ALP realised it could not win elections unless it changed. The DLP's legacy is very positive, though easily forgotten.

Postscript:All ALP records prior to the 1955 Split and the DLP records are catalogued and available for research from the manuscript section of the La Trobe State Library. The complete and official records for the pre-1955 ALP and the official DLP are contained in a catalogue entitled "Catalogue of MS 10389 DLP Records".


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