United Australia Party

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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 former Cabinet ministers Joseph Lyons and James Fenton, along withhree other MPs on the right-wing of the Labor Party, left the party in protest of 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 former Prime Minister Billy Hughes' Australian Party (a group of former Nationalists who had been expelled for crossing the floor and bringing down Stanley Bruce's Nationalist government in 1929), all united to form the new party. Lyons was chosen as the new party's leader, and thus became Leader of the Opposition).

Claiming that the Scullin government was incapable of managing the economy, 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. Its slogan was "All for Australia and the Empire."

A further split, this time of left-wing NSW Labor MPs who supported the unorthodox economic policies of NSW Premier Jack Lang, cost the Scullin government its parliamentary majority. Near the end of the year the Langites voted with the UAP for a motion of no confidence, bringing down the Scullin government and 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 Hughes or Bruce to the leadership of the UAP. Menzies resigned as Deputy Leader, and less than a month later, in April, Lyons died.

Menzies narrowly defeated Hughes to be elected as UAP leader following Lyons' death in April 1939. However, Page refused to serve under him, accusing him of cowardice (for not serving in World War I) and general incompetence. Menzies thus became Prime Minister of a UAP minority government. The coalition was re-established when Archie Cameron replaced 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, Arthur Coles and Alexander Wilson.

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