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Press Release by Dr. Michael Macklin Announcing Results of Australian Democrats Leadership Ballot

April 7, 2001

Following the counting of the ballot of Australian Democrats members tonight, the Acting National Returning Officer has declared the following results:

  • Senator Natasha Stott Despoja elected as Leader
  • Senator Aden Ridgeway elected Deputy Leader

Both were elected by a considerable margin. The breakdown of the vote will available tomorrow.

Unique among political parties in Australia, the Australian Democrats Federal Parliamentary Leader and Deputy Leader are elected by the national party membership in a secret postal ballot.

Democrats’ National President, Dr Michael Macklin, in making the announcement of the ballot’s results said that the change of leadership within a political party are always a difficult exercise and undoubtedly cause tensions.

"This has been a hard decision for the members," said Dr Macklin. "It is extraordinary that in a party with only a small parliamentary representation, our members have been able to choose between four excellent candidates.

"Ours is not a meeting at night of the ‘chosen’ few as has just occurred with Cowen being replaced in WA as leader of the National Party. Ours is a transparent, accountable and democratic expression of the members who do the hard work to put representatives into Parliament. This is in keeping with spirit of the new century."

Dr Macklin said "In electing Senator Natasha Stott Despoja to the leadership of the party, the members had continued a radical tradition. The Democrats were the first to elect a woman, Senator Janine Haines, also a South Australian, to lead a political party in Australia.

"This capacity to take risks and to put into leadership positions people who would not be acceptable to the staid approaches of the other parties including the Greens, demonstrates yet again the strength of the democratic methods utilised solely by the Democrats.

"Constantly and consistently the Democrats have been able to move with the times and promote talent and capacity regardless of age, gender or cultural background."

"Ours is a party for the modern world. This is the strength of movement for reform."

Dr Macklin said "In electing Senator Aden Ridgeway as Deputy Leader, the Democrats have become the first political party in Australia to elect an Indigenous person to a leadership position."

Dr Macklin concluded "I wish, on behalf of the members, to thank Senator Lees for the extraordinary service to the party. As the longest serving Senator in the party’s history, Meg has toiled day in and day out to bring Democrat policies to the attention of the people of Australia. I hope on behalf of the party that she will want to continue on in the Senate to provide the party with the benefit of her experience and wisdom."

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