The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Mourning The Democrats’ Passing? Blame The Party’s Women

Posted by Clem Bastow on July 1, 2008

According to this opinion piece – “Kernot factor rang the death knell” – by Dr Peter van Onselen, associate professor in politics and government at Edith Cowan University, in today’s Age and other Fairfax titles, if you’re looking for someone to blame for The Democrats’ recent demise, you’ve got plenty of people to choose from – provided they’re all women.

Van Onselen puts the boot into Meg Lees, Natasha Stott Despoja and Cheryl Kernot. He saves the worst for Kernot, who had the audacity to “defect” to Labor.

It’s true that all three made some potentially regrettable political decisions during their time in parliament, but the way van Onselen describes it feels less like a measured piece of political op-ed and more like a witch hunt. For example:

Stott Despoja failed her party, but not simply because she moved it to the left. She failed because having positioned the Democrats on the left she wasn’t able to compete in that territory with charismatic Greens leader Brown. With credibility built up fighting the proposed Franklin River Dam in Tasmania in the 1980s, Brown was a towering figure of the left.

God, the poor little girl – she couldn’t compete with the nasty man. It’s not the only time the piece has a decidedly unpleasant flavour:

Kernot’s actions reduced the Democrats to just another political party, its parliamentary members to just more politicians. She didn’t just diminish herself by shifting parties, she diminished the Democrat brand.

But the main reason Kernot bears the biggest responsibility for the demise of the Democrats is because the timing of her defection left the party without an obvious leader to take over. Lees did so, and did quite well at the 1998 election, but she was living on borrowed time. The high-profile Stott Despoja was too young to be leader when Kernot defected, but her time was fast approaching and Lees didn’t have the stature to hold her back. When Stott Despoja did take over the leadership, she had to do so in a coup. The decade of infighting that debilitated the Democrats was triggered by Kernot’s departure.

Damn, bitches, why you gotta waste that Democrat flava?


3 Responses to “Mourning The Democrats’ Passing? Blame The Party’s Women”

  1. edward o said

    I’m not sure what annoys me most about that article, the sexism or the warping of history. Peter van Onselen is one of my least favourite political opinionistas, no doubt still craving for the sweet man-teat of Howard!

  2. steven said

    I’m not a huge fan of the work, but given that the Superstar leaders of the Dems at the time were women, isn’t it a bit hard to NOT criticise the women? None of the points raised have any relation to gender, if a male leader did the same, you could level the same complaints at them.

  3. Clem Bastow said

    So what’s your point, Quickdry – you’ve only come on here to counter pretty much all the stories you’ve commented on.

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