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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.




After the collapse of the Waihi strike in 1912, the Labour leaders of the day realised that, for as long as the various industrial organisations lacked unified direction, their strike policy was doomed to failure. Accordingly, in January 1913, the “Red” Federation of Labour invited representatives from all trade unions – as well as the United Labour Party, the Socialist Party, and the Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W.) – to a “unity” conference in Wellington. This conference recommended that the political and industrial wings should be separated and central organisations established for each. On 1 July 1913 the Unity Congress, which set up the United Federation of Labour and the Social Democratic Party, opened in Wellington. At this meeting the militant leaders made a concerted effort to conciliate the moderates, and showed themselves prepared to compromise on many fundamental issues. Among the aims of the Social Democratic Party were provisions that “strikes should be effective when used, and under central control”. A difference of opinion arose over this, and the right-wing moderates – including such notables as Sir George Fowlds, D. McLaren, M.P., Hon. J. T. Paul, and W. A. Veitch, M.P.– withdrew and continued the United Labour Party. Shortly after the congress, the United Federation of Labour and Social Democratic Party became involved in the 1913 strike and three Social Democratic Party leaders, including H. E. Holland, were gaoled. Despite this unpromising beginning, six “Labour” members were returned to Parliament in the 1914 general elections. These were J. McCombs and P. C. Webb (S.D.P.); A. H. Hindmarsh, W. A. Veitch, and A. Walker (U.L.P.); and J. Payne (Independent). At the same time “Labour” candidates polled nearly 10 per cent of the total votes cast.

Early in the 1915 session the “Labour” members of Parliament formed an organised group in the House under Hindmarsh's leadership. In August, when Massey formed his Liberal-Reform coalition, he invited Hindmarsh's group to join. The “Labour” members declined and, as a result, became the official Opposition in the House. In July 1916, on behalf of the Social Democratic Party, Peter Fraser invited representatives of the United Federation of Labour, the Labour Representation Committees, and the parliamentary group to the conference which formed the New Zealand Labour Party.

by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.

  • The Rise of New Zealand Labour, Brown, B. M. (1962)
  • Humanism in Politics, Paul, J. T. (1946)
  • Peter Fraser, Thorn, J. (1952)
  • Harry Holland – Militant Socialist, O'Farrell, P. J. (1964).