Oct 19, 2012

Bell tolls for the Democrats: bastards got the better of them?

In a textbook case of what happens when party politics goes wrong, the Australian Democrats appear to be on their last legs. Is this it for those who would keep the bastards honest?

Cathy Alexander — Freelance journalist and PhD candidate in politics at the University of Melbourne

Cathy Alexander

Freelance journalist and PhD candidate in politics at the University of Melbourne

The Australian Democrats — which narrowly survived an attempt to shut them down earlier this year — appear to be on the brink of oblivion once more.

The party has no national president, is paralysed by a nasty internal split, and has not commenced preselections for the federal election. It has dwindling membership, less money, no MPs, and is fielding what critics say may be a fake candidate in tomorrow’s ACT election.

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11 thoughts on “Bell tolls for the Democrats: bastards got the better of them?

  1. beachcomber

    How long before the same is written about The Greens? The replacement of the charismatic founder and leader Bob Brown with the Christine Milne will see the start of serious decline. The Democrats managed some capable, and a few quirky, female leaders before ripping themselves apart over policy. The Greens already have difficulty keeping their policy differences inside the tent. As their vote declines the argument over whether to swing left or right to gain support will be ugly.

  2. Alfie St. Bourke

    What a lot of Hogswash!

    People have been saying every time the Australian Democrats run a candidate in an election it is their last chance – but they seem to continue running candidates.

    And as for no Federal candidates endorsed, I believe their is a gentleman in QLD by the name of Dr. Paul Stevenson who has been endorsed.

    It doesn’t surprise me this Churchill bloke is being dumped, have you seen the Media Releases he has put out of the past 12 months – absolutely ridiculous. Not one of them have had any relevance to the issues of the day.

    I am an Australian Democrats fan from a far and always vote for them and I say move this Churchill person on and let a new and enthusiastic breed come through.

    It is a shame you write a piece like this in today’s political climate when really the voting public need to be reminded there are other options out there.

  3. Edward James

    The idea that any individual or group of politicians will return to keeping the bastards honest, has like the old style backbone owning politicians, begun to disappear into a black hole of voter apathy. Edward James

  4. David R

    I don’t think the Democrats will be missed. The Greens have risen to assume the balance of power role in the Senate and also have seats in most state parliaments. There are also other parties like the Sex Party and Liberal Democratic Party which will have absorbed many former Democrats.

  5. Norman Hanscombe

    Few seem to recall Don Chipp was a hawk in Fraser’s Cabinet and his miraculous conversion to opposing the Viet Nam War began only AFTER he left that Cabinet. So that was keeping the bastards honest? True the Democrats “decision to pass the Howard government’s GST in 1999, under leader Meg Lees, was controversial.” I recall a poll of rank and file Democrats at that time supporting the GST, and most economists (not to mention Paul Keating et al) believed it was in Australia’s best interests to introduce it) so the Democrats learnt the dangers of being too honest when the bastards are after you — especially if it’s articulate ambitious careerists in your own Party?
    Perhaps that was when they realised the dangers of too much honesty?

    Beachcomber is correct in asking, “How long before the same is written about The Greens?” Bob Brown’s charisma certainly enabled him to get away with condemning President Bush Senior for not finishing off Iraq’s Hussein in Gulf War I, followed by condemning President Bush Junior for finishing off Hussein in Gulf War II.
    Only Bob Brown had the agility to advocate dirty brown coal power generation when it suited his political goals but reverse (and ‘forget’) that stand when he belatedly realised that now he was in Canberra, “greenhouse gas” had such effective voter cachet.
    Sadly Milne lacks the gift Cheryl Keane showed when she attacked Labor so vigorously in a South Australian State Election campaign at the very time she was negotiating behind very closed doors with a close friend to be given a safe Labor seat in Federal Parliament.

  6. Alexander Alison

    Great article, and it must have been interesting writing it. Sad, but what could you expect, after Meg Lees broke that promise? Greens, don’t go down that line!
    Alison A

  7. floorer

    Stuff the Greens, I have no time for them they are too twisted for average joes like me. The Democrats I miss, somewhere to put my vote when Labour were getting above themselves but that wretched person Meg Lees screwed that.

  8. Were Rat

    Meg Lees said her decision to support the GST despite an election problem did not lead to the Democrats voters abandoning them. She is wrong. I used to vote for them, but breaking this promise disgusted me and so I stopped voting for them.

  9. Steve777

    The Democrats couldn’t make up their minds whether they were a centrist ‘liberal’ party or a left wing environmentalist group. It swayed between these two forms and eventually the tension tore it apart. Towards the end it was veering to the left into territory covered by the Greens and lost its way. A pity – with the so-called ‘Liberal’ party a party of the hard right even in Howard’s day and now starting on the route taken by the US Republicans, we could do with a genuine liberal party to keep the ‘ex nuptials’ of the left and right honest.

  10. Steve777

    Dylan, I’m sure you’re right about cycling, although it’s not for everyone. I’d as soon take some blankets and sheets down to the Parramatta Road and sleep on it as ride a bicycle on it. However, better cycling infrastructure (including showers and lockers at destinations) would make cycling more attractive to many.

    And you’re right about public transport. I noticed over a number of years how the time advantage in my commute by car from the North Shore to Parramatta (35 minutes versus 70 each way door to door in the mid 1990’s) was gradually whittled away by increasing congestion and parking restrictions. I would probably have switched to public transport had I worked there much longer. However, when I worked in the City my daily commute by train (35 minutes door to door each way) was dead time because the train was packed unless I left before 7:30. I would have driven if I could. But I didn’t have a hand-holdable mobile device in those days, so maybe the time would be more productive now.

    But in Sydney, even close to the City, unless your starting and finishing points are close to the direct route into the City or along the main Berowra to Penrith railways, public transport is barely faster than walking. In fact, I expect cyclic would be good for cross-suburban journeys if you’re willing to brave the traffic.

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