Media Release: 19 May 2017

The Victorian Division of the Australian Democrats is celebrating 40 years since a public meeting called by the late Don Chipp MHR on 9 May 1977 at the Melbourne Town Hall, led to the formation of the Party. The celebrations will continue as regional areas mark their first meetings, as will the interstate Divisions.

Victorian President, Clive Jackson, invited some former key figures to speak about their roles in shaping the party and its influence. Lesley Vick and Tony Siddons have recorded their experiences.

Lesley Vick 

“I was a speaker at the 1977 Melbourne Town Hall meeting, and in the years following
, became a legal researcher for Don Chipp and Chief of Staff to former leaders, Senator Janine Haines and Senator Janet Powell.”

“The night of the 1977 meeting was remarkable. Thousands of people turned up and many could not fit into the town hall. The mood was exhilarating. Most of those attending came from backgrounds of community activism, and they were looking for a new and better way of doing politics. Don Chipp had articulated a new way, community support was very strong and the ADs were formed in response to this. This was followed by parliamentary representation over many years, during which significant and durable contributions were made to improving countless pieces of legislation, policy directions and the processes of parliament itself.”

“That this was achieved, was a tribute to the hard work of our Senators and their staff. Unlike the major parties, where front-benchers have responsibility for only one Portfolio, the few AD Senators and staff had to cover several portfolio areas each. The quality of their work has led to lasting benefits.”

Tony Siddons 

Tony is a son of late John Siddons, former Senator for Victoria. Tony recalls about his late father’s early campaigns to promote Australian-made products, and his timely warnings about the risk of Australia losing its ‘value add’ manufacturers.

“Today, 40 years on, the problems my father warned about are now upon us. Our once proud and vibrant product innovation and manufacturing sector has largely been replaced by a culture of housing speculation, buoyed by government overheating the housing market through unsustainable levels of immigration. Housing is not a lead income-generating sector. Housing is a follower.”

“The shift from a nation of originators to a nation of speculators has put sovereignty, the very foundation of Australia, at risk. If we can’t sustain our economy from the prime income generating sectors of primary and secondary industry, then our governments will continue the practice of selling off public assets as the means to pay for services. Alarmingly, in 2016 alone, we as a nation sold vital and strategically importance assets such as Melbourne Port and Darwin Port to a foreign power. There was little or no political opposition to this.”

“I ask myself, why continue investing in product and manufacturing innovation, when today the easier and far safer way to make money is to negatively gear property? Yep – Toorak looks good.”

Australia is at a crossroads. The Australian public knows it intuitively and knows it deeply. Yet no major political party is willing to tell it as it is. If ever there was a time to (try to) “keep the bastards honest” the time is now.

Contact: Clive Jackson Victorian State President Mobile 0466 601 741