On 13 April 1910, Andrew Fisher led the Australian Labor Party to a sweeping victory at the fourth federal election held since federation. By virtue of its double majorities in the House of Representatives and in the Senate, Labor became the first party of its type to take office in its own right anywhere in the world.
According to the then Governor-General, the odds of the former Scottish child miner Fisher becoming prime minister were a “million to one against”. Yet just six years later the ALP violently split in two over the issue of military conscription and was subsequently exiled from power for a generation.
Why did early Labor enjoy such precocious success? And how could it all fall apart so rapidly? Heroes and Villains, a bold new interpretation of this formative phase in Australian Labor politics, explains why.
Nick Dyrenfurth is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Work and Organisational Studies at the University of Sydney, co-editor of Confusion: The Making of the Australian Two-Party System (MUP, 2009) and of All That’s Left: What Labor Should Stand For (UNSW Press, 2010) as well as the co-author of A Little History of the Australian Labor Party (UNSW Press, 2011).