Quick Hit: Australian Democrats dead in WA.

dems.fightback Western Australian branch of the Australian Democrats, which failed to field a single candidate in the last election, has decided not to contest the electoral commission’s challenge to prove that they have 500 paid-up members.

I wonder how membership numbers are running in other states?

WA Today: “Kiss of death for Democrats in WA”

That will mean the party will cease to exist as an electoral entity when the electoral commission officially considers the matter on Monday.

Ms Lewin said today the state Democrats would be taking a “wait and see” approach, as the national party continued to work out its future.

But she said she thought that, despite the lack of members, the principles of the Democrats still struck a chord with many.

“The principles of keeping the bastards honest, there is still room for that,” Ms Lewin said.

The national Democrats are now using “Fightback” as a slogan – an, erm, interesting choice.

Vale WA Dems. Long live the Greens.



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42 replies

  1. Dems are gone in Victoria too from what I know. They managed to contest the Albert Park by-election last year (and polled a decent 5% where the main contest was ALP vs Greens), but I don’t think they have more than a couple of hundred members – certainly not enough to meet the challenge of the Victorian Electoral Commission.
    No branch in the Northern Territory or Tasmania, and if I recall correctly the ACT branch is gone too – this year was the first time they didn’t the territory elections since self-government.
    And with SA’s Sandra Kanck MLC retiring next year after 15 years in parliament, you’d think it could be all over even in their stronghold state.

  2. Sorry, should be “first time they didn’t contest the territory elections …”

  3. The South Australian Democrats having stood in the recent Mayo By-election is currently accepting nominations for the SA Parliament MLC casual vacancy. http://www.sa.democrats.org.au which gives 12months for the new Parliamentarian to promote and campaign for 2010.

  4. When I was conjecturing the cause of the Democrats demise at a recent Greens meeting (disclaimer: I am a member) it was pointed out to me that the Democrats never had in place a significant grass-roots level of their party. It was basically built from the top-down.
    This has made their demise all the more rapid. It is hard to build that neccesary base when you are already losing popularity. The Greens on the other hand has grown out of that foundation into elected positions and continue to grow their base and their representation.
    Unlike the Democrats, The Greens do not exist as a “watchdog” party, they are there to promote their principles and form governments when possible. The limited role that the Democrats gave themselves restricted their ability to expand their representation and to do anything truly useful.
    The “Fightback” slogan is pure irony. Is there no-one left in the party who remembers which straw broke the camel’s back?

  5. interesting perspective and potentially ill informed opinion? This camel’s back is still unbroken. We have two Dem members running for local council in Victoria this weekend.
    Visiting the Australian Democrats Victorian Division Website at http://vic.democrats.org.au/ will demonstrate that they have a backbone too. Equally I’ve been told that the Greens 10 years ago were in discussion with the Dems with the view to merging then when the Dems handed over their Policies and Procedures the Greens walked away. Naturally as a new Dems member I am not exactly aware of what really happened however it is an interesting anecdote to corporate or community memory along with other Greens revisionist history claiming a lot of Dems wins for themselves as can be read at http://www.democrats.org.au. Naturally in terms of the political pragmatism for example the immediate past 2007 Kingston Campaign Greens Candidate Bill Weller was an Australian Democrat. For me the ins and outs or detailitus of the cross-benches do not really matter. For me it is all in the name of the Australian people rule hence Australian Democrats … it always comes down to the will of the people of the day and how they may feel eg voting to perpetuate the Howard Regime with children overboard and Alexander Downer as our former Foreign Affairs Minister having to find somewhere to send them on Naura whereas NZ resettled their group very quickly.

  6. To view the creative winning advert from the Gruen Transfer Created by Euro RSCG Worldwide click on this link, or copy and paste into a browser window.

    http://vic.democrats.org.au/videos/Australian_Democrats.wmv

  7. Well I dispute Sam’s interpretation. From my experience at one time there was indeed a vibrant rank and file level of the ADs. I also recall sitting in first yr poli sci class in 1995 listening to how the Dems were clearly the legitimate third party now in oz politics, since the Nats were obviously spent and would shortly disappear. Things change quickly sometimes and we forget entirely what was before. Leadership positions and policy were decided by a postal ballot of all members — hardly top down. Whether it was effective or not is one thing, but it can hardly be argued that grassroots participation was not a priority.
    The Greens should not be complacent that their current possie at the top-ish of the wheel will last forever either. Or last even five or ten years.

  8. Matthew, a lot of former Democrats have joined the Greens (disclaimer: I am a Greens member too). I don’t know what point you’re trying to make, but it only adds weight to the argument that the Democrats and done and dusted as a viable force in Australian politics. The most well-known example is former Democrat leader Janet Powell, who joined the Greens in 2004. If you’ll take a look at your own history, Powell was dumped in favour of Cheryl Kernot. Many commentators, including one of Powell’s former staff members (source: http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2002/07/04/1025667033717.html) believe this was because Powell was well on her way to striking a merger deal with the Greens, and Kernot did not want this to happen so she resorted to some rather low tactics to remove Powell from the leadership.
    I have no problem with you championing the Democrats or criticising the Greens, but you would do well to read up on the history of the Democrats. The events of the 1990s and 2000s makes for some unpleasant reading.
    Oh, and who are those two Democrats running for council in Victoria? (The Greens are running almost 100 candidates across over 30 councils.)

  9. @Matthew
    “Equally I’ve been told that the Greens 10 years ago were in discussion with the Dems with the view to merging then when the Dems handed over their Policies and Procedures the Greens walked away.”
    Is the implication here that The Greens stole the Australian Democrats policies and procedures?
    Policies and procedures aren’t political trade secrets, and considering the divergent structure of the two parties I don’t see how any procedure that could be taken from the Democrats would be remotely applicable to The Greens. A great deal of the Democrats constitution deals with the conduct and powers of the party executive. The Greens don’t have a party leader, let alone an executive. If what you say is true, then it is probably for this reason that a merger never occurred and not for some nefarious reason.
    The Democrats’ top heavy structure is reflected in their representation, with historically more representatives at the federal level than at local level. The inverse is the case for the Greens in most cases but particularly in NSW where local representation comprises of 76 local councillors. I honestly hope that Democrat candidates do well in Victoria but my original point was that the lack of grassroots structure and support has been an achilles heal for the Democrats. There are numerous other organisational failings of the Democrats over successive elections, too many to list here, but this struck me as being fundamental to it’s rapid drop in popularity.
    I’m not happy about the demise of the Democrats by the way. I’m just continually baffled by their ability to trip over themselves.
    @Amanda
    Allowing your members to vote does not make for a grass-roots oriented organisation in and of itself. You should read the Democrats constitution with a focus on how much power is surrendered to the executive committee through that voting process.
    The Greens operate in a very different manner to that which tends to baffle those who are used to usual democratic methods.

  10. Implications can be drawn but I really can only write what I’ve been told Sam & I’ve heard more than once so something must have happened 10ya regarding the Greens-Dems merger initiative that could be better explained or expressed for historical interest and posterity. I have no idea. All I can say is that a commitment to co-ordinated compassionate community communication that is positive emotionally engaging like the UKLibDems seems to me to be the way to go with democracy. Look at where the UKLibDems were in the 1980s & where they are now? As I wrote previously it is all about the Australian people ruling hence all in the name of Australian Democrats.
    Given for example that the South Australian Finniss Branch had a lot of Australian Democrats Members I do not know why they were not represented in local government or Council more although I understand that the late Kangaroo Island Cr Mike Hobbs’s wife Cherry was Branch Sec during KI Development Board’s Chair John Lavers stood for Finniss in March 2006. I stood for KI Council Mayor in Nov 2006 with 15% votes after only 2.5y in the community.
    We all can do better if we be the change as Ghandhi said over 60ya.

  11. Just a reminder to everyone – and I’m not singling anyone out here, nor am I ordering the entire conversation to shut down – to please consider going easy on gossip and rumour, particularly ancient gossip and rumour if it’s neither substantive nor productive. Thanks.

  12. Essentially the answers to the Australian Democrats Victorian Division Members standing in local government or council elections this Saturday can be seen at http://www.vic.democrats.org.au/vic-events.html

    The Victorian Branch Quarterly Newsletter to follow is at: http://www.vic.democrats.org.au/vic-newsletters.html

  13. For what it’s worth (not much really), I believe merger talks have been initiated or discussed more than once. I don’t have specific knowledge here, but of course I do know that it never went ahead. Going back to my original point, there is indeed much policy overlap between the parties but that is about the only commonality. The Greens copying anything en-masse from the Democrats is a dubious notion. I’m not entirely sure of the protocol here, but if it did happen it would have to be approved by the members of the party at the national level via the regular national conference, which is a highly, highly, highly unlikely scenario. Something like that just would not fly in The Greens due to it’s consensus decision making model. Besides, policies don’t make the party in the eyes of the electorate. The Greens have simply positioned their identity quite effectively over the past decade or so and their actions and points of difference have proved compelling to a number of voters despite (or maybe because of) their lack of branding finesse.
    I can only guess as to why the Dems have lost popularity (“death of a thousand cuts” may be an apt metaphor), but ultimately I suspect that when you build a party structure around exclusivity of power you may just disenfranchise what little you have of your base and leave them feeling left out.

  14. “The Greens don’t have a party leader, let alone an executive.”
    Yep, and that’s what the people in charge of the Greens want you to think 🙂

  15. @coconaut
    Speaking as an ordinary member, one of those that is “in charge” of The Greens, I completely agree.

  16. Bob Brown is the official party leader, Christine Milne was just “appointed” official deputy leader a few weeks ago (look it up). All the winnable seats the Greens have contested recently in Victoria (Melbourne, Senate, Mayoral) have all been Green insiders … there is definitely a party elite running the Greens. If it looks like a duck, quacks like duck, etc.
    The problem with the consensus model is that it always eventually means insiders getting what they want, with regular members either not knowing about it or being marginalised. There is even a name for this: “The Iron Law of Oligarchy”.
    I feel very confident saying history has shown democratic 1 vote 1 value systems are far superiour to consensus driven models at staving off the iron law of oligarchy. But hey, ignore history at your peril, guys. 🙂

  17. Being the official leadership of the federal Parliamentary party is not the same thing as being the official leadership of the party’s National Council, and the Australian Greens do not have a formal executive at the National Council level (look it up).
    Obviously the party has charismatic figures who lead by persuasion and form an elite thereby. Organisations cannot function without such figures. I suspect that your average Greens member is highly aware of the perils of oligarchy and keeping an eagle eye on it.

    All the winnable seats the Greens have contested recently in Victoria (Melbourne, Senate, Mayoral) have all been Green insiders

    How very different from the home life of our own dear [insert any other political party here]. Political parties pre-selecting only dedicated party members (aka insiders) to stand for office under their banners – whodathunkit?

  18. Yep, so the hair splitting begins. They not the leaders of the party, just leaders of the parliamentary party. Every party functions the same, but our members are keeping an eye on ours. They’re not insiders, just elite charismatic figures who lead by persuasion.
    I understand it happens to all parties. I was just pointing out that the Greens are sadly nothing special when it comes to politics. Indeed, their consensus model contains nothing new in politics going back thousands of years, whereas the 1 vote 1 value used by the Australian Democrats is functionally only 100 years old.
    While the good times are here the Greens should be reforming and becoming more democratic, because when the party hits a difficult patch the consensus model will quickly break down, and you’ll lose your members.

  19. As Tigtog says, Senator Brown is the Parliamentary Leader of the Australian Greens – he does not lead the party. Simple as that. The Australian Greens is a federation of state-based parties, but the national organisation has no power over the states.
    The state parties have Convenors, which are most certainly not leaders. Where Greens MPs in state parliaments are concerned, only the Tasmanian MPs have a leader (Nick McKim).
    I’d like to know what you mean by “Greens insiders”. If you mean active party members with a community profile like Greg Barber, Colleen Hartland, Richard Di Natale, Kathleen Maltzahn, etc. … then I don’t see what the problem is. The Greens certainly don’t do what the ALP and Libs do constantly – that is, parachute candidates (as a result of factional deals) into seats far from their actual residence (i.e. Marlene Kairouz in Kororoit).

  20. Yep, so the hair splitting begins. They not the leaders of the party, just leaders of the parliamentary party.

    This is not hair splitting, this is basic constitutional stuff. You do understand that all the other parties have a national party officers leading the party proper, distinct from their parliamentary party officers that only lead their party’s MPs?
    The Greens are the only party in Australia who do not have a formal national executive. This is not a difference that does not matter, this is a core difference.

  21. For example, Kevin Rudd is not the national leader of the Australian Labor Party. He is the leader of the Federal Parliamentary ALP, and cannot tell anyone in the ALP what to do other than the Federal MPs directly under his leadership. Malcolm Turnbull likewise is only the leader of the Liberal Federal MPs, and has no party authority over any other members of the national Liberal Party of Australia.
    The fact that the media often report as if Parliamentary Party Leaders are also their party’s National Executive Leaders only exposes them as sloppy with the facts. You don’t want to be like that, do you?

  22. @coconaut
    As tigtog says, Bob Brown is the federal parliamentary leader of The Greens. This is an official position that is granted to a party by parliament once a party’s representation reaches five parliamentarians. The parliamentary leader of The Greens is decided by a vote of the sitting parliamentarians. That model was agreed to by each local and state group and eventually the national conference. I distinctly recall the conversation that took place at my local group on that matter.
    It is true that those who are deeply involved in the work of The Greens tend to be nominated by members (by popular vote). But that’s pretty obvious isn’t it?
    As for “insiders getting what they want”, my recent, personal and direct experience within The Greens has been absolutely contrary to that stance, and your correlation between consensus decision making and oligarchy is completely unsubstantiated. If you could actually cite some examples from history I may be able to agree with you, but I guess it is up to me to look those up too.
    There are no hairs being split here, you have shown a fundamental misunderstanding of the structure and processes of The Greens and it is difficult for those who do understand to swallow your rhetoric.

  23. I guess I’m coming from it from the perspective as a historian, and as a member of the Australian Democrats.
    All I’m proposing is that the Greens members directly elect with 1 vote 1 value their leaders (not via a conference), including their parliamentary leaders (which the members don’t have the right to do at the moment).
    Is this your consensus model at work – no criticism of the existing system accepted?

  24. But it’s not that straightforward. There is, and always has been, a lot of internal debate in the Greens about what we mean by “leadership” and to what degree we feel “leaders” are necessary in our party.

  25. Arctic Firefox is right, in fact The Greens in NSW are set to achieve “party” status in NSW Parliament after the next state election. So the leadership discussion is currently underway in preparation for it. The solution that is settled on may or may not be the same as is used federally as the states are independent in that regard amongst others.
    I’m part of those discussions in fact, and I’m an regular member, not part of some elite, I hold no position within my local group let alone the NSW organisation.
    I will acknowledge that there are those that are more deeply involved than others and they can form an “interest” group who have influence by merit of their experience and out of respect for their commitment, but the suggestion that these people are somehow bound to act immorally by ignoring the spirit of their principles or circumventing the proper process of their party’s constitution is insulting to a whole bunch of people.
    Further, it is especially bewildering to me that a member of the Democrats, a party with a constitutionally defined executive, is accusing The Greens of creating some sort of informal oligarchy based on a misinformed view of that party’s processes.

  26. You’ll get no argument from me that the Democrats are over-administered.
    But one thing we generally get right is that all members get one vote of equal value in deciding policy, leaders and pre-selections. The Greens are almost as good, but just not quite there yet.
    I recommend the report “Australian Political Parties in the Spotlight” by the independent Democratic Audit of Australia for ideas on reform and also on the differences in political parties.

  27. The debate here is interesting.
    The problem with the Greens is that their brand is limited to environmental politics. The Democrats brand is also somewhat limited (to being a balance of power, or party of accountability.)
    I have been reading up on some research and books about marketing and branding. What I have found interesting is that when brands try to broaden beyond their limits, people see that the brand has betrayed its founding or original principles and is becoming desperate for relevance.
    The Greens are going to have a tough time trying to be seen as a party to replace the Democrats, as the Greens have a very different purpose and are perceived as having only one issue to grab on to and be known for. Despite the fact that the Greens have a broad policy base, they will struggle to be known for anything but their environmental politics because it is very difficult to break perceptions. Perception these days = reality.
    The Democrats on the other hand, always had a broader approach than the Greens and were known for this. The deal breaker for many people voting Democrat however was when they abandoned their “keep them honest” mantra and tried to become a major party. The Dems became complacent about grassroots politics. The Greens should not fall into the same trap as the Democrats.
    There is still a future for the Dems in South Australia and I in fact argue that with Sandra Kanck now retiring, this presents an opportunity for the Democrats to embark on an exciting new journey and also for them to return to their original core values and grassroots style politics.
    People are quick to write the Democrats off, but with Mike Rann wanting to abolish the Upper House and the Democrats being the best party able to promote a message to save the Upper House and also with no Nick Xenophon standing next time, we may see a Democrat elected in 2010 in SA.
    There is no doubt that the Democrats are going through the toughest period in their 30 year history, but the Greens will soon face the very same challenges and decisions that the Democrats did. The key will be as to how they handle these challenges. That will determine the destiny of the party. Things will become extremely tough for the Greens when Senator Bob Brown retires because he is very much the heart and soul of the Greens.

  28. yes, thank you Max especially now that the South Australian CAC or Candidate Assessment Committee has completed its Applicant Interviews by Monday eve’s Divisional Council, we Dems Members will be able to vote for the nominating Candidate we believe will make the most for the people of South Australia, Parliament and thus the Party.
    I think Hon Sandra Kanck MLC’s TV interview on your website http://maxbaumann.id.au/ shows some of what we have been discussing here for anyone serious about what they have said to see a real evidence base over Dems speculation.
    Thus I invite anyone potentially interested in being a part of the change for 2010 to actually join the next generation of the Dems at http://www.democrats.org.au/join you are guaranteed to meet some interesting people and be intellectually and socially stimulated!

  29. sigh…..
    Perceptions of Greens, perceptions of Democrats – some fair, some not – all still perceptions and as the tiresome but none the less very true cliche goes, ‘in politics perception is reality’.
    So the challenge is to change perceptions.
    meanwhile, the major parties have as strong a hold as they did 20 years ago – even stronger in fact, if you are assessing things at a federal level.
    The first time I ran as a Democrat endorsed candidate was in 1991, when I stood in the Brisbane City Council ward of Taringa as part of a broader team of candidates who all ran under the label of the Green Alliance – the ‘leader’ was the Lord Mayoral Candidate Drew Hutton (whose name would be familiar to most green aficionados and most Queenslanders).
    This was before the Green Party in Qld formally formed with an aim of being part of national Green Party. There were talks around that time at various levels about whether the Green Party and the Democrats should merge – it didn’t happen for a bunch of reasons, including key people on both sides who didn’t want it to happen – but it hardly matters now why it didn’t happen then.
    What matters now (in my view) is what the best way is to get far greater political energy being put into ecologically sustainable economics combined with a real commitment to human rights.
    ……………..
    (but seeing I’m here and have read all the comments, I will make one small comment on that tedious green v democrat thing)

    The parliamentary leader of The Greens is decided by a vote of the sitting parliamentarians. That model was agreed to by each local and state group and eventually the national conference.

    obviously not very democratic compared to the way the Democrats used to do things (or the way all 3 major parties in the UK do it). I reckon the Australian Greens really should follow the Democrats’ lead in this area.
    ………..
    OK, and a second additional comment, heartless as it may sound…
    I really think its time to give it away with all the Democrat boosting comments, guys. I really do admire your commitment, but It’s over. It would have been way better all round if the Greens had got together with the Dems in 1991/2 rather then spend way too many years and dollars and words competing for the same seats so we could all end up later with less now than we had then – but it didn’t happen (see above). There is no point making the same mistake in reverse.
    If you genuinely think the Greens don’t suit you, join another party. Or try being politically active outside a party – there’s a wonderful non-partisan free thinking world out there where you don’t have to feel like you’re auditioning for cheerleaders.
    (which in my view was by far the best thing about the Democrats – the notion you could be part of a political party without having to put your soul/heart/mind/brain in a safety deposit box in the process. Australia’s political culture could do with much more of that from all parties – large and small.)

  30. Well Andrew,
    All I was advocating was ” that the Greens members directly elect with 1 vote 1 value their leaders (not via a conference), including their parliamentary leaders (which the members don’t have the right to do at the moment).”
    This was neither Democrats-boosterism or anti-Greens. I felt it was a fairly interesting, non-partisan debate about the structure of political parties.
    I’m not sure why you felt the need to swoop in, pontificate at us for a while, then regurgitate my own point back at me by saying “I reckon the Australian Greens really should follow the Democrats’ lead in this area.”
    Having said that, you raise an interesting point about is there any point to the democrats continuing. I would leave the Democrats if I thought it was no longer offering anything different or interesting to the other parties. However, as a micro-party it can now afford to be a bit more experimental with regards to online activism and participatory democracy (online ballots for policies anyone?).
    Personally, I find this type of online project very exciting. I never joined a party to just to change laws, I joined one to change the way politics is done. Maybe I’m a dreamer that way, we’ll know in the next 12 months I think.

  31. I’m not sure why you felt the need to swoop in, pontificate at us for a while, then regurgitate my own point back at me by saying “I reckon the Australian Greens really should follow the Democrats’ lead in this area.”

    It’s called expressing an opinion, coconaut.
    It was directed at the topic not at any individual. In doing so I supported / reinforced one of the points you made. I am not sure why you feel that’s a bad thing, but whatever. I’ll swoop out again and leave you to it.

  32. And a very informed and considered opinion, one which I am always delighted to read. I particularly like your point about non-partisan thinking.

  33. amusing to see someone advocating democracy describing a known online bloging former Australian Democrats Senator as “swooping in” … that could be said of all of us in cyberspace?? 😉
    the Australian Democrats are actually looking at and betatesting a new Dems website which in fact may actually do exactly what coincidently you are suggesting?
    as for the Dems whatever is the will of the people is the will of the ppl…
    sadly though the numbers not voting like in the recent Mayo By-election is a worry as to how healthy our democracy really is?
    equally there seems to be a rise in Independent Democrat oriented people like MrX, SA Senator Nick Xenophon now occupying former Senator Natasha Stott Despoja’s Adelaide Office and he supported Di Bell http://vote4di.com/ who did well in the recent Mayo By-election.

  34. I’m not sure why you felt the need to swoop in, pontificate at us for a while, then regurgitate my own point back at me

    Coconaut, Andrew is a regular here (unlike the other Dems in this thread). His appearance cannot be accurately characterised as “swooping in”. Andrew, you’re more than welcome here, and I appreciated your thoughtful message.
    Mod note: This thread has stayed respectful and non-personal up until now; please keep it that way.
    Second mod note: I’d also appreciate those with party roles not slipping into a PR spiel. Matthew, I’m looking at you. Readers here know how to join a political party. Please don’t advertise at them.

  35. I also appreciate Andrew’s comments here. I’m fine with people “cheer-leading” their own party, it’s the incorrect information and bizarre accusations of impropriety that I don’t like. I’m probably perceived as a cheer-leader in all this, so can I just restate that I seriously hope that the Democrats do make a come back. I realise that there are some voters or members of the Dems and The Greens who could easily align with either party, but I honestly believe that the overlap is smaller than generally thought.
    So, further to the conversation (and hopefully in the spirit of toning down the cheer-leading), some comments…
    The idea of online ballots is great but there are serious accessibility issues around the method which can limit it’s fairness or usage. Many people are not inclined to participate in that way for whatever reason, so you potentially have a new form of disenfranchisement at play. Resolving those issues would probably require some other slower system which limits the ability to have full suffrage on every vote. So you either go with the limited democratic model of all-online voting or you slow down your decision making processes. If The Democrats work out these inherent conflicts in a way that can scale to larger membership bases it will be quite an achievement. It’s encouraging to see a party tackle that problem. I’d seriously like to see someone work it out, so I hope it’s a success.
    On the issue of parliamentary leadership, a big part of the reason that decision was deferred to the parliamentarians by my local groups is that the role in the eyes of many is generally not that important. The separation between leader in parliament and leader of the party is understood and accepted internally (without any lobbying from “elites”). Those in parliament now who might vie for the position have also been well vetted through party preselection voting (often several times) and by the electorate at large. To put them and the party through another vote has dubious value in my mind and in fact could be detrimental by attaching too much honorific value to the role, which may lead to an extension of real value (or power) to the role as well. If we hand a parliamentary leader a “mandate” to lead via a vote, it may just get to their head, and without trying to troll, that has indeed happened within other parties.
    The notion that majority voting is somehow more democratic is also debatable. The Greens have their model and those in the party tend to feel it works well for them on the whole for the majority of decision making. Greens meetings need to be seen in action for the model to be fully comprehended. It has certain traits, some negative (chiefly the officiousness and slowness it seems to require), but overwhelmingly I find that it creates a positive and – importantly – non-adversarial environment. In The Greens situation it is also important that the states with larger membership (usually merely due to the accident of having larger populations) aren’t able to overwhelm the smaller states with sheer numbers. There is more to fairness than simple majority rule.

  36. I strongly disagree with Andrew Bartlett’s assertion that the Democrats are dead and buried. At the same time I can understand his feelings. Andrew put so much effort into the party and standing up for those Australians and people worldwide who needed help, and in return he was dealt a cruel blow by being voted out.
    My previous comment highlighted just how tough minor parties will have it in the coming years, be they Greens or Democrats. I am actually good friends with people in the Greens and have had the pleasure of working with the Greens on many local and even international issues at a grassroots level.
    There always seems to be a love-hate relationship between the Democrats and Greens which is a real shame given both parties fight for very similar things.
    The challenge for the Democrats will be to win back credibility, trust and votes. Whether this is acheivable is debatable, but nevertheless, never rule out a Democrat comeback. Canada’s NDP have done it and the Liberal Democrats have done it. Nothing can be ruled in and out because politics is something that is uncertain and volatile and could change at any moment.

  37. In my view one of the biggest achievements of the Democrats was to promote and try various ways of putting into practice the ideal of real participation and input of all members into key decisions – whether policy or pre-selection. Every system has it pros and cons, and Sam B has mentioned some of those. Efforts by any party to explore how to enable maxium member (and public) input and participation should be encouraged.
    I think I also understand the reasoning behind Sam’s suggestion that the position of Parliamentary Leader “is generally not that important.” Many Democrat members said similar things – that it’s just a position leading the parliamentarians not the party. It would be nice if that was the case, but I’m afraid it’s not.
    The Greens will have a big choice to make when Bob Brown retires about who will be their leader, and regardless of the method used to determine who holds that position, their subsequent performance will be crucial to the party’s future prospects. That is not to devalue the importance of what every other member does – parliamentary or otherwise – but most people only pay a small amount of attention to politics, and even political journalists only have a very limited attention span, especially when it comes to smaller party. The person (or persons, if you go for a joint leader model as the Greens and the Moari Party have done in NZ) who holds the leader position/s will be ‘the face of the party’ to most of the public, whether you think it is important or not. Personally I think its better for all party members to have a say in who that person is, but whatever method is used to decide the position, don’t kid yourself that it is “generally not that important”. It is crucial – unfortunate in many ways that it should be that way, but that’s politics (and human nature I suspect).

  38. Andrew is right in saying that public perception is that the Parliamentary leader is also the leader of the party as an organisation.

    One of the key problems with the Democrats is the ease with which the party membership could topple a leader (even if that leader had party room support.)

    Secondly, the party needs to get back to the centre and focus on issues that affect everyday Australians. Issues like law and order, health and education.

  39. Second mod note: I’d also appreciate those with party roles not slipping into a PR spiel. Matthew, I’m looking at you. Readers here know how to join a political party. Please don’t advertise at them.

    Apologies to anyone who feels I am advertising at them. My goal in fact is not to preach to the converted or rusted on Members but to posterity thus those that come after me & we…
    I am in fact simply responding to the original line of:

    Quick Hit: Australian Democrats dead in WA. by Lauredhel on November 21, 2008

    I wonder how membership numbers are running in other states?
    WA Today: “Kiss of death for Democrats in WA”

    But she said she thought that, despite the lack of members, the principles of the Democrats still struck a chord with many.
    “The principles of keeping the bastards honest, there is still room for that,” Ms Lewin said.
    The national Democrats are now using “Fightback” as a slogan – an, erm, interesting choice.
    Vale WA Dems. Long live the Greens.

    I struck a chord in response demonstrating what is actually happening in other states like SA & Victoria which includes National Executive meeting next week to discuss a whole range of Agenda Items. Essentially I have sought to refute erroneous or spurious claims and what I perceived to be a Greens bias …
    Today a meeting merging Mayo-Kingston-Boothby Branches resulted in a SA Division Council Motion for ratification tomorrow evening which means that in combination with the recently revised and ratified Div Council Job Descriptions and the SA Constitution being revised for balloting things will be as cemented for the new SA MLC Parliamentarian and the Party to stabilise and rebuild for 2010 SA Council, State & Australian elections. Obviously any election costs money with $450 being the cost to stand for SA Parliament thus fund raising for costings is essential. This and these are the price of Australian democracy and capitalist civilization as we know it.
    Personally I disagree with Max on the law & order issues, we have had more than enough of that for decades and that in SA has reduced itself to pack em, rack em & stack em by our Treasurer & recent Prison riots. The underlying issues simply are our now 15yo National Mental Health Strategy http://www.mentalhealth.gov.au not being effectively communicated with our communities and societies. There are very clear process and outcome indicators in our Promotion, Prevention and Early Intervention (PPEI) National Action Plan that was launched 8ya yet most are unaware let alone conversant and actually implimenting them! 😀 Hence co-ordinated compassionate communication is required.

  40. Outcomes and indicators, measurement tools and databases for the National Action Plan for Promotion, Prevention and Early Intervention for Mental Health 2000
    This publication is a support and resource document for the National Action Plan for Promotion, Prevention and Early Intervention for Mental Health 2000. It includes indicators, measurement tools and databases relevant to assessing the implementation of the outcomes and strategies identified in the action plan. see for yourself at: [link]

  41. While I appreciate the idea that the parliamentary leader is a sort of de-facto leader of the party to the media and in turn the public, but that is generally not going to sway how The Greens treat the position. There are many in the party with strong feelings about hierarchical leadership systems. I have actually argued in the past that there is some sense in pandering to some aspects of that mainstream notion, but I do always agree with the principle of using flat organisational models.
    The concept of political leaders is extremely simplistic and doesn’t really account for spontaneous organisational notions which we see in the modern world. I believe that ultimately the next decade is going to see an emergence of community leadership, i.e. communities leading themselves in a self-organising fashion. The primary example being the internet community and it’s many spontaneous sub-movements, e.g. the spontaneous anti-war movement before the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the anti-internet-censorship movement forming right now.
    Focusing on “leaders” undercuts the achievements of the many people behind movements. Disenchantment ensues and the blogging and twittering begins. Focusing on leaders also creates a great big target for those that oppose your movement to focus on and undermine. Through history this has led to many setbacks for progressive movements by literally mowing down the “leader” and extinguishing the beacon of hope.
    So while I appreciate the focus on the importance of Bob Brown is for a reason, I don’t think his departure would initiate great upheavals for The Greens at all, and the idea of some fantastic day of reckoning seems well off the mark to me. Even discussing his particular importance here invites us to create our own self-fulfilling prophecy based on the dated notion of leadership I am trying to describe.
    Now trying to tie this all up a little, if I go back to my (much) earlier point about grass-roots, if Bob Brown left tomorrow, The Greens would still have Federal Senators, State Parliamentarians and more importantly over 100 local government representatives. If we are talking about The Greens leadership “brand”, these are the people who will be the most important face of The Greens into the next decade. Many people vote for the Greens now because of their experiences with the Greens at this local level, or because of a track-record of commitment at this level, or just their plain presence at this level at all. This is the main reason I feel it is unlikely that The Greens will go through the same sort of decline as The Democrats at some similar point in it’s growth in the future, with or without Bob Brown. I think the real challenges lie elsewhere.

  42. Further to the title being about the Dems dead in WA & asking or speculating about other State or Territory Divisions:
    Democrats to re-register in the ACT

    Posted Fri Oct 24, 2008 12:22pm AEDT
    Updated Fri Oct 24, 2008 12:39pm AEDT
    The ACT Democrats say they plan to re-register as a political party after their poor showing in last week’s election.
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/10/24/2400241.htm

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