A few bits of history as SA Upper House results declared

The fascination with the still unresolved post-election situation in Tasmania has drawn some attention away from the somewhat more run of the mill situation in South Australia.  With the Rann Labor government gaining a clear, albeit slightly unexpected, victory in the South Australian election, and the Liberals in that state quickly reverting to type and engaging in internal squabbles, it is fair enough that the curious Tasmanian situation – where it seems both major parties are shying away from trying to gain government – has gained much more attention.

But today saw the final result from the South Australian declared – the contest for 11 seats in the Legislative Council (or Upper House) – and there were a few bits of history involved in the result. Most notably, the result has seen 21 year old Kelly Vincent become the youngest female ever electedto an Australian Parliament, taking that mantle from the Democrats Ros Dundas, who was elected to the ACT Assembly at the age of 23. To some extent, Ms Vincent can be added to the category of what might be called ‘accidental’ MPs, as she only became lead candidate for her Dignity for Disability party when the party’s lead candidate, Dr Paul Collier, died during the election campaign.  But there is no reason to suggest she will not do a good job (just as Ros Dundas did in the ACT) and certainly her own experience with disability will bring some valuable life experience not otherwise present in the Parliament.

The Greens had a steady result, increasing their Upper House vote to 6.6% and gaining a second MP in the SA Upper House for the first time with the election of Tammy Jennings. While that’s the best the Greens have ever achieved in South Australia, it is still below what the Australian Democrats used to regularly achieve in that state before their decline started during 2002, suggesting there is still room for more growth in their vote.  Ms Jennings is a former member of the Australian Democrats, and stood as a Senate candidate for that party in SA in 2004.  Having a former Democrat elected for the Greens to bring about their highest ever representation provides some symmetry with the other historical aspect of the SA Upper House result, as the Greens in effect have gained the seat which was the last parliamentary seat ever won by the Democrats.

The Democrats won that Upper House seat at the 2002 election– a time when Natasha Stott Despoja led the party federally and Mike Elliott was the party’s leader in South Australia.  It was the last time the party was to win a seat at any level of government in Australia.  The Democrats lost their hold on that seat when David Winderlich – the man elected by Democrat members to take on the seat when Sandra Kanck retired – resigned from the party last year to become an Independent.  Both the Democrats and Mr Winderlich failed in their efforts to regain it.  Even combining the 0.9% the Democrats polled with the 0.6% David Winderlich polled produces a figure which is down on their 2006 result of 1.8%, which had previously been their lowest result. A sad way to end up, but a final end to the terminal decline which took hold all the way back in 2002.

Whilst I don’t think David Winderlich should have kept the seat when he resigned from the party, I thought he was a good community activist MP, and I know Jeanie Walker, the Democrats’ lead candidate at this election, would have been effective, especially in campaigning for animal rights issues.  But I know Tammy will also do a good job, especially in the human services/social justice type portfolios which she will take on for the Greens in the Parliament.

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11 Comments

  1. Thanks Andrew…

    I fundamentally agree with your analysis here, especially the parts relating to the terminal position of the Australian Democrats and their 0.9% vote, with or without David Winderlich at 0.6%.

    I agree that the Greens in SA have not yet lived up to their fullest potential as a progressive 3rd party alternative to Labor & Liberal – although they continue to slowly improve their core vote.

    It seems very obvious to me that the notional high watermark 30% of the total progressive electorate are not being inspired or motivated by electoral choices on offer.

    The myriad of candidates (single issue, independent, and other minor party) who stood in SA were all talking about the same types of policy responses to issues, at the same time. This fragmentation, led to minimal positive results at the ballot box as the base progressive vote was spread too thinly to make a major difference.

    Don’t get me wrong – the election of Tammy Jennings (Green) and Kelly Vincent (D4D) were positive developments for progressive voters – although way below fullest potential.

    I am concerned that the progressive voice in the SA election was so fractured, that it tended to drown itself out – and did not provide voters with a clear choice to confront the two major parties.

    In particular, the remnant Democrats seem to be the biggest problem here.

    Unfortunately, the Democrat powers that be, seem to be in something of a ‘denialist state’ about 3rd force politics. Clearly, they have become a negative distraction in the progressive political body politic.

    The once salient Australian Democrats name is now being mis-used to attract well meaning people, money, volunteers and policy voices – but is wasting these valuable resources on an electorate which stopped listening some time ago – leading to further disillusionment for progressives generally – and huge “burn out”.

    IMO their hostility towards the Greens & progressive independents needs to be addressed and resolved soon.

  2. Andrew O:

    Don’t worry, it’s only a matter of time before Australian Democrats amalgamate with Greens.

    Sandra Kanck! She’s one of those female extremists from Sustainable Population Australia, who wants to take us down a communist track with her One Child Policy and desire to cut Australia’s population down to 9 million.

  3. Mainly agree with Andrew Os comments altho I think he’s being a little harsh on the Democrats- its a proud if short tradition and Adelaide is a foundational heart for the Democrats.
    My inner Western electorate very much fits into Andrews picture- here friction between development, and heritage and conservation, finally erupting over the
    St Clair parks issue which pitted rightwing Labor against a rainbow cluster of small l liberals, left laborites, Greens, Democrats and even some with a scientific interest in the Cheltenham site for natural recycling of run-off water.
    Two things come to mind, firstly the difficulty for an indie or David Wintulich type to make headway, in the form of the cumbersome, complex, finally deterrent upper house voting sheet.
    Secondly, the deafening silence concerning the confirmation of the second Green.
    whoo-hoo.

  4. Thanks L & P,

    L: There are actually more former Democrats in the Greens Party than currently in the Democrats today! Its true. What’s left in the Democrats have spent their time purging progressive social & small ‘l’ liberal elements, in favor of a Christian Left ideology… The Greens should be very wary before merging with that – they may as well merge with the home of the Christian Left in the ALP!

    P: I agree that SA was a bastian for the Democrats, mainly because of it’s small ‘l’ liberal past and the New Liberal Movement… but Victoria was foundational heartland for the Democrats – Don Chipp and his progressive small ‘l’ libs, the Liberal Reform Group as well as the Australia Party heirarchy. Today, what passes for the Democrats – passes in name only. Less than 1% of South Australians have voted for them, and in Victoria, they are having trouble getting the 500 members needed to maintain registration as a political party.

    Whilst the current people who control the Democrats identity hang on… unfortunately, they will divide and fracture progressive politics.

    The Greens are evolving into the whole of government progressive alternative needed by Australia IMO. The founding environmental left & principled Labor left, have been joined by the progressive social liberals, and now by their progressive small ‘l’ liberal cousins.

    This combination has just shown us what progressives working together can achieve in Tasmania. The same combination is about to make history in Melbourne, by breaking into the House of Reps in Canberra… an achievement which not even the great progressive, Janine Haines was able to manage.

  5. Andrew O:

    I’m not sure what you mean by the Christian Left. There was always a fairly strong Christian strand in the Democrats – but I would have described them as mostly progressive and/or small ‘l’ liberal anyway, so I’m not sure how you feel these people may be different.

    In any case, the time for formal merges or closer alliances between Democrats and Greens was around 20 years ago – it came reasonably close in the eraly 90s, but for various reasons didn’t happen. Given how difficult formal mergers can be even just from an administrative point of view, let alone culturally, etc, there’s not really much point in pursuing these days.

    It doesn’t worry greatly if some people want to keep the Democrats going – even though personally I think the party’s strong legacy would look better if it wound up. Others are free to disagree, although I feel it is a waste of good peoples’ energy trying to keep a vehicle functioning when it has little capacity left to achieve very much. But the Greens have the chance to build further on the Democrats’ legacy in any case, and hopefully avoid making a few of the same mistakes. It’s up to each individual as to whether being part of the Greens or doing other things best suits them – who knows, I might still decide down the track it doesn’t best suit where I’m at in my life, but for the moment I feel I can help expand a strong and positive alternative voice to the major parties.

  6. Lorikeet, for many years Sandra Kank was “the only honest man”, in a Place crammed with zombie careerists and bent neoliberals.
    She paid the price for speaking her not inconsiderable mind, but she was almost exceptional in not lying, but simply putting propositions forward for discussion that she honestly felt deserved discussion, in plain English.

  7. Andrew,

    What I am referring to is the formal Christian Left political movement – rather than progressive christian people (of which I am one).

    The Christian Left is an organised body of opinion which seeks to promote public policy which is in line with things like the “Consistent Life Ethic”. In the Democrats – the political consultant guiding them is a self identified “expert” on the Christian Left. The predominant political home of this movement in Australian politics is within the ALP.

    Her advice to the NE (accepted by the majority) was that the Democrats position themselves to align with the Christian Left movement. They formally adopted a new strategy and positioning statement outlining this position. This of course, led to many resignations of progressives.

    In practical terms this meant moving away from using the term “progressive” to describe the Democrats – soft peddling on policy like voluntary euthanasia, de-criminalisation of abortion etc…

    It led to the separation of church & state and religious influence on politics contents being removed from the National website – and of course – exhortations on the website for supporters to say “30 prayers for the Democrats” in the campaigns section.

    I may be a christian myself – but as a progressive, I still consider myself a secular humanist in public policy terms, and have no desire to support a party who view the world through the lense of any particular religion.

    In terms of political merger between the Democrats and Greens – in practical terms, it’s already happened as former Democrats have joined the Greens in large numbers. They have voted with their feet – and I think the Greens have improved greatly by their presence.

    The people who control the Democrats name today are Democrats in name only IMO.

    But don’t take my word for all of this… Crikey explains the Democrat hijacking a lot better than I can.

    http://www.crikey.com.au/2009/09/21/democrats-brave-foray-into-21st-century-hits-a-sna

  8. Paul Walter:

    I’m not questioning Sandra Kanck’s methods of debate, but her ideas on Population are extreme, and seem to accord with the UN publication “Agenda 21”.

    I think Jesus belonged to the Christian Left, which would be all well and good in the modern society, if it were not for the massive greed and power of the banks.

    If Kevin Rudd takes over Aged Care and gives service providers low interest loans, the corporations will continue to rip off our frail elderly people, and will have more money at their disposal to increase their holdings and power base.

    I’m afraid there is a huge difference between “biblical communism” and the “corporate communism” which is the main driving force of Agenda 21.

    It will cut the population by 65-75%, with 50% of the land turned over to wilderness, extensive buffer zones, with only 25% left for the people to live in.

    The remaining population will be accommodated in small high rise accommodation along the railway lines.

  9. I find it interesting that no current Dems Executives have commented on any of this & certainly not Hon Sandra Kanck … someone who’s opinion or view I’d really like to see after all those http://www.sa.democrats.org.au March 2010 Policy Platforms produced without (SA Division) Inc fellow Financial National Members balloting? Let alone being actively invited or encouraged to contribute writing eg “Reconciliation” had nothing in it about Pre-eminent enduring Sovereignty & Sovereign Rights & seriously where are the 1stNations people in SA being actively encouraged, positively emotionally engaged, supported by we Dems other than me seeing our then MLC Lead Candidate Jeanie Walker walk around Warriparinga Living Kaurna Culture Centre Grounds handing out flyers saying she’d written to HM as a South Australia Company Buffalo Descendent. Buck House wrote back but seriously where are we going with that other than Jeanie back working with homeless 1stNations children who seriously could all be asserting their Pre-eminent enduring Sovereignty & Sovereign Rights!?

    Wake up sheeples, we whitefellas have no real Sovereign Right to be here on this island continent … so how many of you will be coming to this May7-8 “New Way” Sovereignty Summit Sydney? Cheers, M

  10. I read that Jeanie Walker has resigned from the Democrats in SA – it was in Crikey I think… don’t ask me when, but recently.

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