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No fishnets please - we’re Democrats

By Lyn Allison - posted Friday, 28 September 2007

The last time Fairfax ran a feature involving the Democrats the reporter said he had nightmares that one day he would be kidnapped by anti-GM lefties, bundled into a kombi van and spirited away to a place where there were giant pictures of me on the walls.

This week the same reporter’s take on the Democrats includes a caricature in which I am dressed in a Liza Minnelli-esque Cabaret style outfit straddling a chair.

Apart from sometimes strange understandings about who the Democrats are, the latest offering at least makes some legitimate points.


It is true the Australian Democrats do not pride themselves in being flashy showmen. It is true we spend a lot of time actually scrutinising legislation, talking to constituents and stakeholders, doing long hours of committee work, putting up amendments, and generally trying to make the laws which govern Australia fairer and better for everyone.

Call us crazy, but that is what we think legislators are actually there to do.

This month we’ve introduced Sam Sex Same Entitlements legislation insisting on an end to financial discrimination against gay couples which contaminates so many of our nation’s laws. I have recently forced an investigation into the abhorrent practice of sexualising children in advertising. We are pushing for an end to the practice of advertising junk food to kids during TV viewing times. I personally spearheaded crucial changes to ensure Australian women could get access to RU486. I have recently appeared on all the television news services highlighting the dangers of selling uranium to a country like Russia with its failed nuclear record and its corrupted regulatory regimes. I initiated and chaired a Mental Health Inquiry which resulted in a $1.9 billion increased in federal funding.

Senator Andrew Bartlett relentlessly pursues justice for Indigenous people and refugees. With Pauline Hanson knocking at the door again, you may have seen him on his feet for hours in the Senate this sitting, highlighting the dangers of racist “citizenship tests”.

Senator Natasha Stott Despoja has brought the issue of paid maternity leave to national attention again, while railing against excessive powers vested in so called “anti terror” laws. She has won breakthrough concessions on stem cell research which will ultimately save countless lives.

Senator Andrew Murray was responsible for an investigation into the abuse of child migrants and is internationally recognised for his expertise in making tax, IR and corporate laws fairer. Do voters know it was the Australian Democrats who stopped WorkChoices being introduced ten years ago? And we will happily oversee the dismantling of this grossly unfair IR regime if we are re-elected.


We were ringing the warning bells on climate change before the Greens got into the Parliament but the critical difference between us and the other parties is that we are not bankrolled by anybody - not the environmentalists, not business, not unions, not religious fundamentalists.

You have a problem - you come to us because we listen to your argument based on merit, not in which tribe you happen to inhabit. We are not shackled by extreme left or right wing ideology. We fight simply for what is just and fair. That is the proud history of the Democrats and what Australia needs more than ever.

It is true the media like a show but we trust the Australian people will understand how important we are in the Senate. We are still putting the spotlight on governments with too much power. We don’t care if they’re Labor or Liberal. We are still pulling apart legislation and revealing discrimination and injustice. We’re not interested in how much money or influence you’re throwing around. We’re interested in justice and empowerment for those who are being bulldozed.

In true Don Chipp fashion, we are still keeping the bastards honest. And we hope Australians will understand how critical that role is and support us on polling day, despite the absence of bowler hats and fishnet stockings.

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About the Author

Lyn Allison is a patron of the Peace Organisation of Australia and was leader of the Australian Democrats from 2004 to 2008.

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