A Quick Guide to Australian Political Parties

Major parties

There are only two political groups that have a serious chance of forming government in Australia. Both believe in social democracy.

The Australian Labor Party (ALP) has been traditionally seen as "centre-left" and has historic ties with the union movement. However, it was the ALP that introduced free-market reform in the 1980s and is sometimes now considered more "centre" than "left".

The Coalition is an alliance between the urban-based Liberal Party and the rural-based National Party. These two parties have been traditionally seen as "conservative" or "centre-right" and have historic ties with the business and farming communities.

Minor parties

There are three other parties with federal representation in the Senate.

The largest "minor" party over the last 20 years has been the Australian Democrats, which was originally a centrist party but drifted to the left over time. The Democrats shrank from 8 to 4 Senators in the 2004 election and then lost their remaining Senators at the 2007 election.

In their place, the Greens have become the third force in Australian politics. They are the most left-wing party in parliament and promote social freedoms and government intervention in the economy. They currently have five Senators.

The other minor party in Parliament is Family First, who had their first Senator elected in 2004. Family First combines social conservatism with economic centrism and generally supports the Coalition.

The independent Senator from SA, Nick Xenophon, is also a social conservative and economic centrist.

Micro parties

Australia has about a dozen other political parties that represent various other groups.

The conservative right is represented by the Christian Democrats, One Nation, the Shooters and Fishers Party, the Democratic Labour Party and the Fishing & Lifestyle Party. These parties generally support Family First and the Coalition.

The radical left is represented by the Socialist Alliance and the Socialist Equality Party. These parties generally support the Greens and the ALP.

Libertarians and classical liberals are represented by the Liberal Democratic Party, which supports neither major party.

There are also a range of single issue parties such as the Non-custodial Parents Party, Carers Alliance and the Sex Party.

A complete list of registered federal political parties is available at the AEC website.

Find out which party best suits you!

Take the Australian Political Quiz to find out where your views stand relative to the Australian political parties.