The Liberal Party of Australia was founded on October 16, 1944 after a three-day conference in Canberra. The conference was convened by Robert Menzies, the then leader of the United Australia Party (UAP).
Menzies sensed the need for a united political party offering an alternative to the Labor Government of the day and its socialist tendencies. In order to offer Australians a viable choice Menzies foresaw a political party based upon modern liberal political beliefs. Robert Menzies invited eighty delegates to meet in October 1944, a meeting often referred to as The Canberra Conference. The men and women present represented eighteen separate political and semi-political organisations who stood for "liberal, progressive policy" and were opposed to "socialism with its bureaucratic administration and restriction of personal freedom". (Sept. 1944, Delegate Invitation to The Canberra Conference)
At the conference, the broad objectives for a new Party were adopted and it was agreed that a Federal Organisation would be established with a branch (now called a division) in each State.
The delegates were unanimous in their support for the name of the new united party. The Liberal Party would be, in Menzies words, a "progressive party, willing to make experiments, in no sense reactionary but believing in the individual, his rights and his enterprise [sic]." (Menzies, R. Afternoon Light 1967)
In December 1944 a second conference was held in Albury. The meeting formally agreed on the structure of the Party, adopted a provisional Federal constitution and appointed an interim Federal Executive. Only five years later, on December 10, 1949 the Liberal Party, in coalition with the Country Party, was elected to govern the country. Robert Menzies (later Sir Robert) served more than 16 consecutive years as Prime Minister, the longest period to date.
The Liberal-Country Coalition remained in government until 1972 under Prime Ministers Harold Holt (1966-1967), John Gorton (1968-1971) and William McMahon (1971-1972). The Coalition again held office from 1975 to 1983,with Malcolm Fraser as Prime Minister. In 1996 the Liberal-National Coalition achieved a landslide victory under John Howard's leadership.
The South Australian Liberal Party had its origin in 1891 under the title of the National Defence League. The term 'Liberal' first entered the name in 1906 as the Liberal and Democratic Union. It underwent several name changes until, in 1932, it came to be known as the Liberal and Country League (LCL).
It held office from 1933-38 under Richard Butler then from 1938-65 with Thomas Playford as the Premier. The next term of office was from 1968-70 with Steele Hall as Premier. The next Liberal Government was that of David Tonkin from 1979-82. After a period in opposition, the Liberals were returned in 1993, with Dean Brown as Leader. John Olsen was elected Leader in 1996 and the Liberal Party won a second term of office in October 1997. Following Olsen's subsequent resignation in 2001, Rob Kerin was elected Leader.
With substantial periods in office at national and state levels, the Liberal Party has been Australia's most successful post-war political party.