A term for a political alliance, it is the shorthand for the Liberal-National party coalition at the Federal level and in several States. The National Party has worked in formal Coalition or separately, but generally in co-operation with the Liberal Party and its predecessors, the United Australia Party. It was encouraged by politicians of both parties in the 1960's to game the proportional system to defeat Labor. The coalition has been much better for Liberal than the Nationals, who did not get a good deal at Federal level and have suffered a catastrophic collapse of their vote, ironically to the advantage of their Liberal colleagues who took major rural seats in the vacuum.
The Liberal Party of Australia is one of the two major Australian political parties. Founded in 1945 to replace the United Australia Party (UAP) and its predecessors, the centre-right Liberal Party competes with the centre-left Labor Party.
The National Party of Australia traditionally represents graziers, farmers and rural voters generally, it began as the Australian Country Party, and then adopted the name the National Country Party in 1975. The party's name was changed to the National Party of Australia in 1982. The party is commonly referred to as "The Nationals". Federally, in New South Wales, and to an extent Victoria, it has generally been the minor party in a centre-right Coalition with the Liberal Party of Australia in government. It was the major coalition party in Queensland between 1924 and 2008, when it merged with the junior Queensland Division of the Liberal Party of Australia to form the Liberal National Party of Queensland (LNP)
Party founder Robert Menzies, UAP Prime Minister from 1939–41 and Liberal Prime Minister from 1949–66, and John Howard, Liberal Prime Minister from 1996–2007, were Australia's two longest serving Prime Ministers. Despite its late establishment in comparison to the older Australian Labor Party, the Liberal Party has spent more time in government than any other federal Australian political party.
Federally, the Liberal Party runs in a Coalition with the National Party, the Northern Territory Country Liberal Party, and Queensland Liberal branch the Liberal National Party. Except for a few short periods, the Liberal Party and its predecessors have operated in similar coalitions since the 1920s.
In Australia, the term Liberalism refers to centre-right economic liberalism. Party ideology has therefore been referred to as Liberalism, distinct from its meaning in some countries, but also as conservatism, which features strongly in party ideology. There have however long been party members who practice economic or classical liberalism without features of social conservatism, often referred to as 'small-l liberals'.
Despite their imminent political demise, the Nationals have been mostly unwilling to desert the Coalition since their threats to leave have left the balance of power essentially unchanged. It is possible a protest vote surge may keep them alive for another electoral cycle, but the trend towards independents in rural seats is seen as increasingly popular, and thus both parties are likely to suffer. If their votes implode, both parties may implode, but it remains to be seen whether this will be a slow death or a violent one. The chances of the coalition surviving in its present form beyond another couple of elections are slim indeed.