Democrats fighting to emerge

THEY are out of Federal Parliament and out of the media spotlight, but the Australian Democrats are a long way from dead, the party’s national president and Page candidate Julia Melland has said.

The Democrats were once seen as the third force in Australian politics, ahead of the Greens.

But the party fell into decline after negotiating a deal that allowed the former Howard Government to pass the Goods and Services Tax in its second term. That decline turned into a collapse after infighting broke out among the party’s senators.

After the 2007 election the party was left without a seat in Parliament and appeared to be finished.

However, Ms Melland, standing in her fourth election in a row for the Democrats – not including local government elections – said the party had been busy rebuilding over the past three years. Its membership base was up to about 1000, roughly the same level it had been at five years ago, and the party had been actively involved in campaigns, such as the one against the Government’s planned internet filter.

Ms Melland said the Democrats had been helped in its rebuilding by issues such as the failed emissions trading scheme and what she described as The Greens’ ‘it’s perfect or nothing’ refusal to negotiate with the Government to put it in place.

“That was a really important piece of legislation for the country to start making some moves on emission controls ... and we (Australia) got nowhere, we took no steps at all,” she said.

“That’s why we keep going, because it’s too bloody obvious how necessary it is. We can’t say that our role has been taken over and we’re not required any more.”

Ms Melland said this election was the Democrats’ first step in returning to Parliament.

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