The Protectionist Party was an Australian political party, formally organised from 1889 until 1909, with policies centred on protectionism. It argued that Australia needed protective tariffs to allow Australian industry to grow and provide employment. It had its greatest strength in Victoria and in the rural areas of New South Wales. Its most prominent leaders were Sir Edmund Barton and Alfred Deakin, who were the first and second Prime Ministers of Australia.
In the main, the Protectionists formed government with the support of the Labor Party, on the understanding that they would implement social reforms desired by Labor. Labor's program, however, was frequently too radical for the Protectionists, and compromises had to be made. Several changes of minority governments occurred.
The Protectionist vote had declined considerably by the 1906 federal election, and with Labor already having formed a minority government in 1904 under Chris Watson, Labor had formed another in 1908 under Andrew Fisher. A scandalised establishment pressured the two non-Labor parties to form an anti-socialist alliance, which saw Deakin and Free Trade leader Joseph Cook believe a merger was needed to counter Labor's increasing electoral dominance. The Protectionist Party ended up splitting, with the more liberal Protectionists, such as Isaac Isaacs and H. B. Higgins, supporting Labor while Deakin and his supporters merged with the Free Trade Party to become the Commonwealth Liberal Party, who would form another minority government, before Fisher and Labor reigned in the first majority government, and the first Senate majority, at the 1910 federal election.
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