Event History Summary

Towards the Democrats


In the following years, Chipp grew further and further from his fellow members. In Chipp's book The Third Man, he considered that there may be an internal 'whispering campaign' within the Liberal Party designed to defame him. His colleagues in the Liberal Party had already appeared to have labelled him the 'rebel' in their party. The height of his 'rebellion' came when Chipp declined to attend a Parliament House reception for Queen Elizabeth II by deciding to honour a prior speaking engagement. This affair with dishonouring the Queen was widely publicised. Chipp had begun to receive several leadership offers in the period before his resignation. After 17 years in the Liberal Party, Chipp could no longer suppress his disapproval to the Liberal Party.

Chipp's resignation speech to the House of Representatives outlined his time in the Liberal Party and criticisms that he had for the Liberal Party.

Don Chipp's Resignation speech

"In Conclusion may I say that I have become disenchanted with party policies as they are practised in this country and with the pressure groups which have an undue influence on the major parties. The National Party properly represents the interests of a small sectional group – some of the rural community – but improperly in my view, and unduly, influences national policies quite out of proportion with the small group it represents.
The Labor Party is dominated by the vested interests of trade unions. The Liberal Party, although properly concerned with the vital role of private enterprise seems too preoccupied with the wants of what is euphemistically known as 'big business' to the sacrifice and detriment of medium and small-size businesses who form the backbone of our industrial and commercial sectors.
The parties seem to polarise on almost every issue, sometimes seemingly just for the sake of it, and I wonder whether the ordinary voter is not becoming sick and tired of the vested interests which unduly influence the present political patterns and yearn for the emergence of a third political force, representing the middle of the road policies which would owe allegiance to no outside pressure group.
Perhaps it may be the right time to test that proposition. That move will have to come from those people in Australia who believe in the encouragement of free enterprise, who believe it has not had a 'fair go' from interfering Governments who regularly change, without warning, the conditions under which they operate. It must come from people who believe in true justice for the workforce and compassion for those in need but who believe that actions must be taken to prevent social problems from occurring rather than trying to cure them and hide them once they have arrived. But above all, it may come from those people who are disgusted with those politicians and political parties who indulge mainly in cheap political point scoring in the endless pursuit of votes at any price and from people who want their government to identify the real significant problems of the future and to take action now which will make the country a good, safe, sound, place for future generations."

The whole PDF file of the speech can be found here.

The Democrats political Involvement


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. He concluded his famous acceptance speech with the words "… I was committed… and it was a good feeling"

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. In 1986, Don Chipp retired as leader of the Democrats and decided that this would end his political career altogether.


After the resignation of Don Chipp, the Democrats huge influential power appeared to begin to diminish. Janine Haines succeeded Chipp and became the leader of the Democrats for the following three years. By 1990, Janine Haines also retired from the Senate and the Democrats after her failed attempt to win the House of Representatives seat of Kingston. This triggered the new leadership of Janine Haines being replaced by Janet Powell and John Coulter replacing Michael Macklin as Deputy Leader. Although Haines had retired as well as the WA Senate seat, in the 1990 election, the Democrats had somehow once again became a powerful influence in the Senate with a huge 12.6% influence and was the peak of the Democrat's power in the Senate. This election was occurring at the same time as the economic recession and the Gulf War.

However, in this period, Janet Powell attacked both the government and opposition which were both in support of the Gulf War. The Democrats took advantage of this by raising a debate in the Senate. At this time, the media was also in support of the war and the media fiercely attacked generating negative publicity for the entire Democrats party. Janet Powell was unable to avoid the negative publicity as she had begun the Gulf War debate. Before her leadership ended, the South Australian and Queenslander divisions had begun internal petitions to criticise and remove the party leader. Powell was accused with poor AD ratings in media surveys that could potentially generate support and administrative failings that resulted in excessive overtime of a staff member. Swiftly, the party room acted by initiating a leadership ballot which saw Powell removed and replaced by deputy John Coulter. Sadly, in this process, Paul McLean, a Senate seat holder and a major member of the party resigned in disgust of what he believed to be a feud between close friends.

After 1996, the Australian Democrats began to decline into constant internal debates and arguments. The Democrats begin to lose its influence in the Senate. In the last election, 2007, the Democrats had declined to a mere 1.3% of the senate. Currently, David Winderlich is the only Democrat representative in any Government in Australia and has indicated he will resign and run as an independent in the 2010 election if there aren't a 1000 new Democrat members. The Democrats have initiated the rebuilding project this year with the intentions of restoring the middle ground in Australian politics.

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