The Australian Labor Party (also ALP and Labor, was Labour before 1912) is an Australian political party. It has governed the Commonwealth of Australia since the 2007 federal election. Julia Gillard is the party's federal parliamentary leader and Prime Minister of Australia. In the state and territory parliaments, Labor governs in South Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory. The party competes against the Liberal/National Coalition for political office at the federal and state (and sometimes local) level.
Labor's constitution states: "The Australian Labor Party is a democratic socialist party and has the objective of the democratic socialisation of industry, production, distribution and exchange, to the extent necessary to eliminate exploitation and other anti-social features in these fields." This "socialist objective" was introduced in 1921, but has always been heavily qualified by wording which makes it clear that Labor supports private property. It has been a dead letter since the 1940s, when the Chifley government failed to nationalise the private banks. Today Labor defines itself as "a coalition that includes reformers, radicals, progressives, social democrats and democratic socialists united by a critique of the inequalities in society, a commitment to a more just and equal society, and the achieving of this aim by democratic means."
The ALP was founded as a federal party prior to the first sitting of the Australian Parliament in 1901, but is descended from labour parties founded in the various Australian colonies by the emerging labour movement in Australia, formally beginning in 1891. Labor is thus the country's oldest political party. Colonial labour parties contested seats from 1891, and federal seats following the Federation at the 1901 federal election. Labor was the first party in Australia to win a majority in either house of the Australian Parliament, at the 1910 federal election. The ALP pre-dates both the British Labour Party and New Zealand Labour Party in party formation, government, and policy implementation.
The ALP is descended from Labour parties founded in the 1890s in the Australian colonial parliaments prior to federation. Labor tradition ascribes the founding of Queensland Labour to a meeting of striking pastoral workers under a ghost gum tree (the "Tree of Knowledge") in Barcaldine, Queensland in 1891. The Balmain, New South Wales branch of the party claims to be the oldest in Australia.