Free Trade Party

former Australian political party

The Free Trade Party was an Australian political party from 1889 to 1909. It was officially known as the Australian Free Trade and Liberal Association. It was also called the Revenue Tariff Party in some states and renamed the Anti-Socialist Party in 1906. It wanted to remove tariffs (taxes on imports and exports) as well as other restrictions on trade. It argued that free trade would benefit everyone. However, many members also supported some tariffs to raise money for the government.

Free Trade Party
LeaderGeorge Reid
Succeeded byCommonwealth Liberal Party
IdeologyFree Trade

The party was based in New South Wales, where its leaders were Sir Henry Parkes and Sir George Reid. It was the main party in New South Wales politics before federation.

After the elections for the first Commonwealth Parliament, the Free Traders were the second largest group in the Australian House of Representatives, with 25 seats. Reid became the Parliament's first leader of the Opposition. He later became Prime Minister in 1904-05. The deputy leader of the Free Trade Party was Willima McMillan. Joseph Cook became deputy leader of the party when McMillan retired in 1903.

A separate Tasmanian Revenue Tariff Party took part in the 1903 federal election in Tasmania and won two seats. It joined with the Free Trade Party in federal parliament.

After the question of tariffs had largely been settled, Reid looked around for another cause for his party. He settled on opposition to socialism. He criticised both the Australian Labor Party and the Protectionist Party, led by Alfred Deakin. The Free Trade Party was renamed the Anti-Socialist Party (ASP) before the 1906 federal election. The Labor Party and the FTP/ASP continued to grow in electoral strength. Some Protectionists left the party to join Labor and the ASP.

George Reid, Prime Minister of Australia 1904-1905

Reid retired in 1908, and the party leadership passed to Joseph Cook. He agreed to merge with the Protectionists to become the Commonwealth Liberal Party in 1909.


  • McMinn, W. G. (1998). "Reid, Sir George Houstoun (1845–1918)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Melbourne University Press. ISSN 1833-7538. Retrieved 19 July 2012 – via National Centre of Biography, Australian National University.