|Vice President(s)||Tim Burrow, Andrew Castrique, Craig Hill|
|Founded||1977(re-registered in 2019),|
|Youth wing||Young Democrats|
|Slogan||Keep the bastards honest.|
|House of Representatives|
0 / 150
0 / 76
|Part of a series on|
| Liberalism |
The Australian Democrats is a centristpolitical party in Australia. Founded in 1977 from a merger of the Australia Party and the New Liberal Movement, both of which were descended from Liberal Party dissenting splinter groups, it was Australia's largest minor party from its formation in 1977 through to 2004 and frequently held the balance of power in the Senate during that time.
The Democrats' inaugural leader was Don Chipp, a former Liberal cabinet minister, who famously promised to "keep the bastards honest". At the 1977 federal election, the Democrats polled 11.1 percent of the Senate vote and secured two seats. The party would retain a presence in the Senate for the next 30 years, at its peak (between 1999 and 2002) holding nine out of 76 seats, though never securing a seat in the lower house. The party's share of the vote collapsed at the 2004 election and was further diminished in 2007 with the last senators leaving office in 2008.
Due to the party's numbers in the Senate, both Liberal and Labor governments required the assistance of the Democrats to pass contentious legislation, most notably in the case of the Howard Government's goods and services tax. Ideologically, the Democrats were usually regarded as centrists, occupying the political middle ground between the Liberal Party and the Labor Party.
Over three decades, the Australian Democrats achieved representation in the legislatures of the ACT, South Australia, New South Wales, Western Australia and Tasmania as well as Senate seats in all six states. However, at the 2004 and 2007 federal elections, all seven of its Senate seats were lost.The last remaining State parliamentarian, David Winderlich, left the party and was defeated as an independent in 2010.
The party was formally deregistered in 2016 for not having the required 500 members.In 2018 the Australian Democrats merged with Country Minded, an Australian political party seeking accountable regional and agricultural representation. On 7 April 2019 the merged entity regained registration of the name "Australian Democrats" with the Australian Electoral Commission.
As of 2020, the National President of the party is former Parliamentary Leader and Senator, Lyn Allison.
The Australian Democrats were formed in May 1977 from an amalgamation of the Australia Party and the New Liberal Movement.
The two groups found a common basis for a new political movement in the widespread discontent with the two major parties. In the former Liberal Government Minister, Don Chipp, the two groups found their leader.
The party's broad aim was to achieve a balance of power in one or more parliaments and to exercise it responsibly in line with policies determined by membership.
The first Australian Democrat parliamentarian was Robin Millhouse, the sole New LM member of the South Australian House of Assembly, who joined the Democrats in 1977. Millhouse held his seat (Mitcham) at the 1977 and 1979 state elections. In 1982, Millhouse resigned to take up a senior judicial appointment, and Heather Southcott won the by-election for the Democrats, but lost the seat to the Liberals later that year at the 1982 state election. Mitcham was the only single-member lower-house seat anywhere in Australia to be won by the Democrats.
The first Democrat federal parliamentarian was Senator Janine Haines, who in 1977 was nominated by the South Australian Parliament to fill the casual vacancy caused by the resignation of Liberal Senator Steele Hall. Hall had been elected as a Liberal Movement senator, before rejoining the Liberal Party in 1976, and South Australian premier Don Dunstan nominated Haines on the basis that the Democrats was the successor party to the Liberal Movement.
At the 1977 election, the Australian Democrats secured two seats in the Senate with the election of Colin Mason (NSW) and Don Chipp (VIC), though Haines lost her seat in South Australia. At the 1980 election, this increased to five seats with the election of Michael Macklin (QLD) and John Siddons (VIC) and the return of Janine Haines (SA). Thereafter they frequently held enough seats to give them the balance of power in the upper chamber.
At a Melbourne media conference on 19 September 1980, in the midst of the 1980 election campaign, Chipp described his party's aim as to "keep the bastards honest"—the "bastards" being the major parties and/or politicians in general. This became a long-lived slogan for the Democrats.
Don Chipp resigned from the Senate on 18 August 1986, being succeeded as party leader by Janine Haines and replaced as a senator for Victoria by Janet Powell.
At the 1987 election following a double dissolution, the reduced quota of 7.7% necessary to win a seat assisted the election of three new senators. 6-year terms were won by Paul McLean (NSW) and incumbents Janine Haines (South Australia) and Janet Powell (Victoria). In South Australia, a second senator, John Coulter, was elected for a 3-year term, as were incumbent Michael Macklin (Queensland) and Jean Jenkins (Western Australia). 1990 saw the voluntary departure from the Senate of Janine Haines (a step with which not all Democrats agreed) and the failure of her strategic goal of winning the House of Representatives seat of Kingston.
The casual vacancy was filled by Meg Lees several months before the election of Cheryl Kernot in place of retired deputy leader Michael Macklin. The ambitious Kernot immediately contested the party's national parliamentary deputy leadership. Being unemployed at the time, she requested and obtained party funds to pay for her travel to address members in all seven divisions.In the event, Victorian Janet Powell was elected as leader and John Coulter was chosen as deputy leader.
Despite the loss of Haines and the WA Senate seat (through an inconsistent national preference agreement with the ALP), the 1990 federal election heralded something of a rebirth for the party, with a dramatic rise in primary vote. This was at the same time as an economic recession was building, and events such as the Gulf War in Kuwait were beginning to shepherd issues of globalisation and transnational trade on to national government agendas.
^NSW, SA and VIC Only
The Australian Democrats had a long-standing policy to oppose war and so opposed Australia's support of, and participation in, the Gulf War. Whereas the House of Representatives was able to avoid any debate about the war and Australia's participation,the Democrats took full advantage of the opportunity to move for a debate in the Senate.
Because of the party's pacifist-based opposition to the Gulf War, there was mass-media antipathy and negative publicity which some construed as poor media performance by Janet Powell, the party's standing having stalled at about 10%. Before 12 months of her leadership had passed, the South Australian and Queensland divisions were circulating the party's first-ever petition to criticise and oust the parliamentary leader. The explicit grounds related to Powell's alleged responsibility for poor AD ratings in Gallup and other media surveys of potential voting support. When this charge was deemed insufficient, interested party officers and senators reinforced it with negative media 'leaks' concerning her openly established relationship with Sid Spindlerand exposure of administrative failings resulting in excessive overtime to a staff member. With National Executive blessing, the party room pre-empted the ballot by replacing the leader with deputy John Coulter. In the process, severe internal divisions were generated. One major collateral casualty was the party whip Paul McLean who resigned and quit the Senate in disgust at what he perceived as in-fighting between close friends. The casual NSW vacancy created by his resignation was filled by Karin Sowada. Powell duly left the party, along with many leading figures of the Victorian branch of the party, and unsuccessfully stood as an Independent candidate when her term expired. In later years, she campaigned for the Australian Greens.
The party's parliamentary influence was weakened in 1996 after the Howard Government was elected, and a Labor senator, Mal Colston, resigned from the Labor Party. Since the Democrats now shared the parliamentary balance of power with two Independent senators, the Coalition government was able on occasion to pass legislation by negotiating with Colston and Brian Harradine.
In October 1997, party leader Cheryl Kernot resigned, announcing that she would be joining the Australian Labor Party.(Five years later it was revealed that she had been in a sexual relationship with Labor deputy leader Gareth Evans). Kernot resigned from the Senate and was replaced by Andrew Bartlett, while deputy Meg Lees became the new party leader.
Under Lees' leadership, in the 1998 federal election, the Democrats' candidate John Schumann came within 2 per cent of taking Liberal Foreign Minister Alexander Downer's seat of Mayo in the Adelaide Hills under Australia's preferential voting system. The party's representation increased to nine senators, and they regained the balance of power, holding it until the Coalition gained a Senate majority at the 2004 election.
Internal conflict and leadership tensions from 2000 to 2002, blamed on the party's support for the Government's Goods and Services Tax, was damaging to the Democrats. Opposed by the Labor Party, the Australian Greens and independent Senator Harradine, the tax required Democrat support to pass. In an election fought on tax, the Democrats publicly stated that they liked neither the Liberal's nor the Labor's tax packages, but pledged to work with whichever party was elected to make theirs better. They campaigned with the slogan "No Goods and Services Tax on Food".
In 1999, after negotiations with Prime Minister Howard, Meg Lees, Andrew Murray and the party room senators agreed to support the A New Tax System legislationwith exemptions from goods and services tax for most food and some medicines, as well as many environmental and social concessions. Five Australian Democrats senators voted in favour. However, two dissident senators on the party's left Natasha Stott Despoja and Andrew Bartlett voted against the goods and services tax.
In 2001, a leadership spill saw Meg Lees replaced as leaderby Natasha Stott Despoja after a very public and bitter leadership battle. Despite criticism of Stott Despoja's youth and lack of experience, the 2001 election saw the Democrats receive similar media coverage to the previous election. Despite the internal divisions, the Australian Democrats' election result in 2001 was quite good. However, it was not enough to prevent the loss of Vicki Bourne's Senate seat in NSW.
The 2002 South Australian election was the last time an Australian Democrat would be elected to an Australian parliament. Sandra Kanck was re-elected to a second eight-year term from an upper house primary vote of 7.3 percent.
Resulting tensions between Stott Despoja and Lees led to Meg Lees leaving the party in 2002, becoming an independent and forming the Australian Progressive Alliance. Stott Despoja stood down from the leadership following a loss of confidence by her party room colleagues.It led to a protracted leadership battle in 2002, which eventually led to the election of Senator Andrew Bartlett as leader. While the public fighting stopped, the public support for the party remained at record lows.
On 6 December 2003, Bartlett stepped aside temporarily as leader of the party, after an incident in which he swore at Liberal Senator Jeannie Ferris on the floor of Parliament while intoxicated.The party issued a statement stating that deputy leader Lyn Allison would serve as the acting leader of the party. Bartlett apologised to the Democrats, Jeannie Ferris and the Australian public for his behaviour and assured all concerned that it would never happen again. On 29 January 2004, after seeking medical treatment, Bartlett returned to the Australian Democrats leadership, vowing to abstain from alcohol.
Following internal conflict over the goods and services tax and resultant leadership changes, a dramatic decline occurred in the Democrats' membership and voting support in all states. Simultaneously, an increase was recorded in support for the Australian Greens who, by 2004, were supplanting the Democrats as a substantial third party. The trend was noted that year by political scientists Dean Jaensch et al.
Support for the Australian Democrats fell significantly at the 2004 federal election in which they achieved only 2.4 per cent of the national vote. Nowhere was this more noticeable than in their key support base of suburban Adelaide in South Australia, where they received between 1 and 4 percent of the lower house vote; by comparison, they tallied between 7 and 31 per cent of the vote in 2001. No Democrat senators were elected, though four kept their seats due to being elected in 2001, thus their representation fell from eight senators to four. Three incumbent senators were defeated: Aden Ridgeway (NSW), Brian Greig (WA) and John Cherry (Qld). Following the loss, the customary post-election leadership ballot installed Allison as leader, with Bartlett as her deputy. From 1 July 2005 the Australian Democrats lost official parliamentary party status, being represented by only four senators while the governing Liberal-National Coalition gained a majority and potential control of the Senate—the first time this advantage had been enjoyed by any government since 1980.
On 28 August 2006, the founder of the Australian Democrats, Don Chipp, died. Former prime minister Bob Hawke said: "... there is a coincidental timing almost between the passing of Don Chipp and what I think is the death throes of the Democrats."In November 2006, the Australian Democrats fared very poorly in the Victorian state election, receiving a Legislative Council vote tally of only 0.83%, less than half of the party's result in 2002 (1.79 per cent).
The Democrats again had no success at the 2007 federal election, and lost all four of their remaining Senate seats. Two incumbent senators, Lyn Allison (Victoria) and Andrew Bartlett (Queensland), were defeated, their seats both reverting to major parties. Their two remaining colleagues, Andrew Murray (WA) and Natasha Stott Despoja (SA), retired. All four senators' terms expired on 30 June 2008—leaving the Australian Democrats with no federal representation for the first time since its founding in 1977.Later, in 2009, Jaensch suggested it was possible the Democrats could make a political comeback at the 2010 South Australian election, but this did not occur.
The Tasmanian division of the party was deregistered for having insufficient members in January 2006.
At the 2006 South Australian election, the Australian Democrats were reduced to 1.7 per cent of the Legislative Council (upper house) vote. Their sole councillor up for re-election, Kate Reynolds, was defeated. In July 2006, Richard Pascoe, national and South Australian party president, resigned, citing slumping opinion polls and the poor result in the 2006 South Australian election as well as South Australian parliamentary leader Sandra Kanck's comments regarding the drug MDMA which he saw as damaging to the party.
In the New South Wales state election of March 2007, the Australian Democrats lost their last remaining NSW Upper House representative, Arthur Chesterfield-Evans. The party fared poorly, gaining only 1.8 per cent of the Legislative Council vote.
On 13 September 2007, the ACT Democrats (Australian Capital Territory Division of the party) was deregisteredby the ACT Electoral Commissioner, being unable to demonstrate a minimum membership of 100 electors.
These losses left Sandra Kanck, in South Australia, as the party's only parliamentarian. She retired in 2009 and was replaced by David Winderlich, making him (as of 2020) the last Democrat to sit in any Australian parliament. The Democrats lost all representation when Winderlich resigned from the party in October 2009.He sat the remainder of his term as an independent, and lost his seat at the 2010 South Australian election.
On 16 April 2015, the Australian Electoral Commission deregistered the Australian Democrats as a political party for failure to demonstrate the requisite 500 members to maintain registration.However, the party did run candidates and remain registered for a period of time thereafter in the New South Wales Democrats and Queensland Democrat divisions.
In November 2018 there was a report that CountryMinded, a de-registered microparty, would merge with the Australian Democrats in a new bid to seek membership growth, electoral re-registration and financial support.In February 2019, application for registration was submitted to the AEC and was upheld on 7 April 2019, despite an objection from the Australian Democrats (Queensland Division).
The party unsuccessfully contested the lower-house seat of Adelaide and a total of six Senate seats (two in each state of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia)at the 2019 federal election.
The party was founded on principles of honesty, tolerance, compassion and direct democracy through postal ballots of all members, so that "there should be no hierarchical structure ... by which a carefully engineered elite could make decisions for the members." p187 From the outset, members' participation was fiercely protected in national and divisional constitutions prescribing internal elections, regular meeting protocols, annual conferences—and monthly journals for open discussion and balloting. Dispute resolution procedures were established, with final recourse to a party ombudsman and membership ballot.:
Policies determined by the unique participatory method promoted environmental awareness and sustainability, opposition to the primacy of economic rationalism (Australian neoliberalism), preventative approaches to human health and welfare, animal rights, rejection of nuclear technology and weapons.
The Australian Democrats were the first representatives of green politics at the federal level in Australia. They "were in the vanguard of environmentalism in Australia. From the early 1980s they were unequivocally opposed to the building of the Franklin Dam in Tasmania and they opposed the mining and export of uranium and the development of nuclear power plants in Australia."In particular, leader Don Chipp, and Tasmanian state Democrat Norm Sanders, played crucial legislative roles in protecting the Franklin Dam.
The party's centrist role made it subject to criticism from both the right and left of the political spectrum. In particular, Chipp's former conservative affiliation was frequently recalled by opponents on the left.This problem was to torment later leaders and strategists who, by 1991, were proclaiming "the electoral objective" as a higher priority than the rigorous participatory democracy espoused by the party's founders.
Because of their numbers on the cross benches during the Hawke and Keating governments, the Democrats were sometimes regarded as exercising a balance of power—which attracted electoral support from a significant sector of the electorate which had been alienated by both Labor and Coalition policies and practices.
|Election year||# of|
| % of|
2 / 34
2 / 64
3 / 34
5 / 64
|2||Shared balance of power|
| 1983 |
5 / 64
5 / 64
|0||Sole balance of power|
5 / 46
7 / 76
|2||Sole balance of power|
| 1987 |
7 / 76
7 / 76
|0||Sole balance of power|
5 / 40
8 / 76
|1||Sole balance of power|
2 / 40
7 / 76
|1||Shared balance of power|
5 / 40
7 / 76
|0||Shared balance of power|
4 / 40
9 / 76
|2||Sole balance of power|
4 / 40
8 / 76
|1||Shared balance of power|
0 / 40
4 / 76
0 / 40
0 / 76
0 / 40
0 / 76
0 / 40
0 / 76
| 2016 |
0 / 76
0 / 76
|0||Did not contest|
0 / 40
0 / 76
|#||Leader||State||Start||End||Time in office||Election(s)|
|1||Don Chipp||VIC||9 May 1977||18 August 1986||9 years, 101 days||1977, 1980, 1983, 1984|
|2||Janine Haines||SA||18 August 1986||24 March 1990||3 years, 218 days||1987, 1990|
|–||Michael Macklin||QLD||24 March 1990||30 June 1990||0 years, 98 days||none|
|3||Janet Powell||VIC||1 July 1990||19 August 1991||1 year, 49 days||none|
|4||John Coulter||SA||19 August 1991||29 April 1993||1 year, 209 days||1993|
|5||Cheryl Kernot||QLD||29 April 1993||15 October 1997||4 years, 169 days||1996|
|6||Meg Lees||SA||15 October 1997||6 April 2001||3 years, 173 days||1998|
|7||Natasha Stott Despoja||SA||6 April 2001||21 August 2002||1 year, 137 days||2001|
|–||Brian Greig||WA||23 August 2002||5 October 2002||0 years, 43 days||none|
|8||Andrew Bartlett||QLD||5 October 2002||3 November 2004||2 years, 29 days||2004|
|9||Lyn Allison||VIC||3 November 2004||30 June 2008||3 years, 240 days||2007|
|Janine Haines||South Australia||1977–1978; 1981–1990|
|Colin Mason||New South Wales||1978–1987|
|John Siddons||Victoria||1981–1983; 1985–1986 (1987)|
|Jack Evans||Western Australia||1983–1985|
|David Vigor||South Australia||1985–1987|
|Janet Powell||Victoria||1986–1992 (1993)|
|John Coulter||South Australia||1987–1995|
|Paul McLean||New South Wales||1987–1991|
|Jean Jenkins||Western Australia||1987–1990|
|Vicki Bourne||New South Wales||1990–2002|
|Karin Sowada||New South Wales||1991–1993|
|Meg Lees||South Australia||1990–2002 (2005)|
|Natasha Stott Despoja||South Australia||1995–2008|
|Andrew Murray||Western Australia||1996–2008|
|Aden Ridgeway||New South Wales||1999–2005|
|Brian Greig||Western Australia||1999–2005|
Natasha Jessica Stott Despoja AO is an Australian politician, diplomat, advocate and author. She is the founding Chair of the Board of Our Watch, the national foundation to prevent violence against women and their children, and was previously the Australian Ambassador for Women and Girls at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade from 2013 to 2016. She was also a Member of the World Bank Gender Advisory Council from 2015 to 2017 and a Member of the United Nations High Level Working Group on the Health and Human Rights of Women, Children and Adolescents in 2017. She is a member of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.
Andrew John Julian Bartlett is an Australian politician, academic, and social campaigner who served as a Senator for Queensland from 1997 to 2008 and from 2017 to 2018. He represented the Australian Democrats in his first stint in the Senate, including as party leader from 2002 to 2004 and deputy leader from 2004 to 2008. In November 2017, he returned to the Senate as a member of the Australian Greens, replacing Larissa Waters after her disqualification during the parliamentary eligibility crisis. He resigned in August 2018 to allow Waters to return.
Aden Derek Ridgeway is a former Australian politician. He was a member of the Australian Senate for New South Wales from 1999 to 2005, representing the Australian Democrats. During his term he was the only Aboriginal member of the Australian Parliament. He is currently a spokesperson for Recognise, the movement to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait peoples in the Australian Constitution.
Lynette Fay Allison is an Australian politician. She was a member of the Australian Senate from 1996 to 2008, representing the state of Victoria. As of October 2019 she is the national president of the Australian Democrats, and was instrumental in the resurrection of the party.
Cheryl Zena Kernot is an Australian politician, academic, and political activist. She was a member of the Australian Senate representing Queensland for the Australian Democrats from 1990 to 1997, and the fifth leader of the Australian Democrats from 1993 to 1997. In 1997, she resigned from the Australian Democrats, joined the Australian Labor Party, and won the seat of Dickson at the 1998 federal election. She was defeated at the 2001 federal election. Kernot was an unsuccessful independent candidate to represent New South Wales in the Australian Senate in the 2010 federal election.
The Australian Progressive Alliance (APA) was a minor "small-l-liberal" party in Australia, formed by Meg Lees, an independent senator and former leader of the Australian Democrats, in April 2003. The party ceased to operate and was deregistered in June 2005 following Senator Lees's defeat at the 2004 election and the expiry of her term.
Liberalism in Australia dates back to the earliest pioneers of the area, and has maintained a strong foothold to this day. Liberalism in the country is primarily represented by the centre-right Liberal Party. The Liberal Party is a fusion of liberal and conservative forces and are affiliated with the conservative centre-right International Democrat Union. Philosophical liberals are often called a "small-l liberal" to distinguish them from members of the Liberal Party.
Meg Heather Lees is a former member of the Australian Senate from 1990 to 2005, representing the state of South Australia. She represented the Australian Democrats from 1990 to 2002, and was her party's leader from 1997 – 2001. After being deposed by Natasha Stott Despoja, she quit the party to sit as an independent senator in 2002, adopting the party designation Australian Progressive Alliance from 2003 until her electoral defeat in 2005. As party leader, she controversially facilitated passage of the Howard Government's Goods and Services Tax (GST).
Brian Andrew Greig OAM, Australian politician, was an Australian Democrats member of the Australian Senate from 1999 to 2005, representing the state of Western Australia.
Donald Leslie Chipp, AO was an Australian politician who was the inaugural leader of the Australian Democrats, leading the party from 1977 to 1986. He began his career as a member of the Liberal Party, winning election to the House of Representatives in 1960 and serving as a government minister for a cumulative total of six years. Chipp left the Liberals in 1977 and was soon persuaded to lead a new party, the Democrats who, he famously proclaimed in 1980, would "keep the bastards honest". He was elected to the Senate on 10 December 1977 and led the party at four federal elections. From 1983 it held the sole balance of power in the Senate.
Janine Winton Haines, AM was an Australian politician who was a Senator for South Australia from 1977 to 1978 and again from 1981 to 1990. She represented the Australian Democrats, and served as the party's leader from 1986 to 1990, becoming the first female federal parliamentary leader of an Australian political party. She was pivotal in "shaping the Australian Democrats into a powerful political entity that held the balance of power in the Senate".
John Richard Coulter is an Australian medical researcher and former politician. He was the fourth elected parliamentary Senate leader of the Australian Democrats, serving from 2 October 1991 to 29 April 1993. His understanding of conservation and environment principles was exceptional for the time, though his concern about Australian immigration and population growth occasionally brought him into conflict with the party's non-discriminatory humanitarian and human-rights platforms and got him nicknamed "Doctor Who" by the Australian media.
Raymond Steele Hall is a former Australian politician who served as the 36th Premier of South Australia from 1968 to 1970. He also served in the federal Parliament as a senator for South Australia from 1974 to 1977 and federal member for the Division of Boothby from 1981 to 1996.
This is a list of members of the Australian Senate from 1993 to 1996. Half of the state senators had been elected at the March 1990 election and had terms due to finish on 30 June 1996; the other half of the state senators were elected at the March 1993 election and had terms due to finish on 30 June 1999. The territory senators were elected at the March 1993 election and their terms ended at the next federal election, which was March 1996.
This is a list of members of the Australian Senate from 1987 to 1990. It consisted of twelve senators for each of the six states of Australia and two senators representing each of the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. All members were elected at the 1987 election following a double dissolution of both houses of parliament, rather than the normal case of only half of the state senators facing election.
Karin Nicole Sowada is an Australian archaeologist and former politician. She served two years as an Australian Democrats senator for New South Wales between 1991 and 1993. In 1998, she was a republican delegate to the Constitutional Convention. From 1996–2005, she was the assistant curator of the Nicholson Museum at the University of Sydney. From 2008–2015, she was Chief Executive Officer of the Anglican Deaconess Institution Sydney.
John Woodley is an ordained Methodist minister and was a Senator representing the state of Queensland, Australia, in the Australian Senate.
The 1977 Australian federal election was held in Australia on 10 December 1977. All 124 seats in the House of Representatives and 34 of the 64 seats in the Senate were up for election.
This article provides details on candidates who stood for the 2004 Australian federal election. The election was held on 9 October 2004.
This article provides information on candidates who stood for the 1998 Australian federal election. The election was held on 3 October 1998.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Australian Democrats .|