Vale to a political hero

I pay tribute to an Australian hero, Don Chipp, who died last week. His role in founding the Australian Democrats has changed the face of Australian politics by bringing democracy to our parliaments.

In the early 1970s our voting choice was generally between two opposite parties, both dogma-driven from the top. In 1975 we were powerless when our elected government was financially throttled by the Senate and sacked by the Governor General.

In 1977 Don Chipp stood up, rejected this unrepresentative system and with others successfully formed something completely different: a democratic political party where the members were the leaders. That change towards political diversity has continued since and now we rarely have less than five candidates to choose from.

Interestingly, all commentators in 1977 said this new party was doomed and would never work. They said it again when Don Chipp resigned as the parliamentary leader in 1986 and at every change in leadership since (missing the point about the partys leadership model), yet the Democrats countless achievements continued.

Don Chipp believed in the inclusive decision making of diverse people. He was a visionary and a man of conscience. He was passionate and honest and straight forward. We owe him a lot. He shines as an example of the kind of politician we can have, if we choose, putting to shame the lying, spin-doctoring politicians many voters seem resigned to.

Thank you, Don.

Julia Melland


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