Background History

Donald Leslie Chipp History 1925-2006

Early Life

Donald Leslie Chipp, also known as Don Chipp was an Australian politician born on the 21st August 1925 in a working class suburb of Northcote, Melbourne and grew up during the Depression. During his youth, Don Chipp was a dedicated runner and keen cricketer. As a result, he ended up playing Australian rules football for Heidelberg in the Victorian Football Association, before also playing briefly for the Fitzroy Football Club in the Victorian Football League. Not only this, but he was also a finalist of the Stawell Gift Annual Foot race.


Don Chipp was educated at Northcote High School before joining the RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force) during World War II. Graduating from Melbourne University with a Bachelor of Commerce Degree, Don Chipp played football before qualifying for an accountant and worked as a registrar of the Commonwealth Institute of Accountants from 1950-1955.

Before entering the life of a politician, Don Chipp also served as a councillor for Kew City from 1955-1961. During this time, he was appointed chief executive officer of the Olympic Civic Committee, which was involved with the organisation of the 1956 Olympic games in Melbourne and also appointed chairman of Victoria's first doorknock cancer appeal. When the games ended, he worked as a manager of the Victorian Promotion Committee and finally running his own management consultancy.

Political Career

With such dedication to serve for his community and country during his early life, it was logical for Don Chipp to enter politics. As a result, Don Chipp entered his lengthy but distinguished political career in 1960, where he was elected in a by-election into the House of Representatives and became the Liberal Member for the seat of Higinbotham. After a redistribution in 1968 however, moved Chipp into a less safe seat of Hotham.


Don Chipp was reknowned for his establishment of the Democrats Party and his involvement with the serving in politics under serveral prime ministers including, Harold Holt, John Gorton and William McMahon.

With the sudden death of Harold Holt in December 1967, although he had retained the Navy and Tourism portfolios presented to him before by Harold Holt, he was dropped from the ministry by the new liberal prime minister, John Gorton. This was partly due to the fact that Chipp supported another candidate of the liberal membership, Billy Snedden.

It was until after the 1969 election that John Gorton appointed Chipp as the Minister for Customs and Excise. As a result, the portfolio brought he into great attention due to his actions of the abolishing the censorship of printed material such as Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer and also Playboy magazines. But this also had negative affects to party members as they thought of his actions to be 'too liberal'.

After the defeat of the Liberal Party during the 1972 federal election by the Labor party's Gough Whitlam, Chipp was appointed as the Shadow Minister for Social Security. He was still a strong supporter of Snedden, who became the party leader following the 1972 defeat but lost the election in 1974 against Whitlam. Though in March 1975, Snedden was displaced by Malcolm Fraser but although Chipp had retained his position, it was dead obvious these two did not get along. However, after Malcolm Fraser's victory following the dismissal of Gough Whitlam on 11th November 1975, he gave Chipp three portfolios- Social Security, Health and Repatriation and Compensation. But this changed when Fraser won the December 1975 election, Chipp was not included in the ministry at all.

Liberal to Democrats

The Australian Democrats' policies formed by the unique method of participation of all members encouraged environmental awareness and sustainability, preventative approaches to human health and welfare, animal rights, reconciliation with the indigenous population and the rejection of nuclear weapons through the means of pacifist approaches to foreign affairs, open government, constitutional reform and progressive approaches to social issues in the community such as sexuality, drugs and alcohol. The Australian Democrats were the first representatives of green politics in Federal Parliament.

At the 1977 election, Chipp was elected into the Senate. At this election, he famously promised to Australia that he would do his job to “Keep the bastards honest”.
He now represented the Democrats as their leader and in his time, involved himself in multiple high profile environmental and social justice causes and especially in stopping the Franklin Dam Project. At the 1980 election, the Democrats gained a potential balance of power which they retained until 2005. This power allowed the Democrats and Chipp to gave a greater say in the passing of government legislation.

Donald Leslie Chipp played the central role in the Australian Democrats bringing it glory and social power in the first nine years of the party's entry to Federal politics. Chipp had originally firmly declined to join the new Australian Democrats party but later decided to accept the offer to lead the Australian Democrats, receiving a standing ovation from over 3,000 people at the Melbourne Town Hall.


In a 1980 media conference, Chipp spoke out and described that he and his party's aim was “to keep the bastards honest”, referring to the major parties and high profile politicians that are more concerned with political point scoring than the issues of everyday people. This became the long standing slogan for the Australian Democrats. In the election that year, the Democrats achieved 9.25% of the Senate's power holding a total of five seats. While conditions looked good in the upper house, the lower house had only one Democrat seat and failed to win any more. Chipp retired as the leader of the Democrats in 1986 for eight years being succeeded by Janine Haines. He still made multiple public appearances despite his deteriorating health from suffering from Parkinson's Disease. An example of this was on the 13th of May 2005 where Don Chipp appeared on the show of 'Talking Heads' with Peter Thompson in which the audio interview can be found here

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