The Kernot-Lees
Political Ambush

of the original and genuine
West Australian Democrats

Other official sources confirm leaders' unlawful actions

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Background/bio details on the main players

Cheryl Kernot
Senate Parliamentary Leader 1993-97
(Defected 1997 to join the Labor Party-- while secretly having a Labor senator as a sexual partner and mentor.)

Meg Lees
Deputy Senate Leader, 1990-97;Leader 1997- 2001 (Sacked by members after GST deals with the Liberals. Defected in July 2002)

"The Australian Democrats were formed in 1977 from a group of small business people, environmentalists, civil libertarians and former activists from the Liberal Movement and the Australia Party.

"They wanted a party that was internally and genuinely democratic, that stood by its principles, that would provide an alternative to the fossilised Labor Party and the ideologically driven Liberal Party. And that is how we have remained." --Meg Lees, 1998

 

This is a key episode in the history of how the Australian Democrats' 1993 National Executive established top-down control over the party which had practised participatory democracy since 1977 and which boasted the watchwords "honesty, tolerance and compassion".

A generation of officers of the party's Western Australian division was purged in two stages--by prohibiting selected persons from nominating for party office, then by a mass expulsion (in July 1994), resulting in wasting of the statewide membership to fewer than 50 individuals. [In 1993, WA Democrats had fielded 55 State-election (6 February) and 16 Federal-election (13 March) candidates.]

The turncoat party leader Cheryl Kernot defected to the Labor Party in December 1997, but the backroom architects of the betrayal of the Australian Democrats' founding principles retained positions of power. All are named in this revealing record of how Keith Lees (ex-husband of Meg Lees) came to Perth to explain how and why WA members were not allowed to conduct a constitutional annual election of officers.

 

   

 

Australian Democrats WA Division

MINUTES OF A SPECIAL MEETING OF THE DIVISIONAL COUNCIL

Held 29 JULY, 1993 at the Peninsula Centre, 219 Railway Pde, Maylands, 7 pm

ACTION OF THE AD NATIONAL EXECUTIVE SEEKING TO
PROHIBIT WA MEMBERS FROM ELECTION TO OFFICE
AND TO ASSUME CONTROL OF THE WA ANNUAL ELECTION.

PRESENT: P Nettleton (President), R Carlton (Snr Vice-pres), D Giles (News Ed), B Jenkins (Sec & Nat Exec Rep), B Jones (Ord Mem/Ret Offr), R Jeffreys (Policy Co-ord), M Hercock (Jnr Vice-pres), P Heath (Campn Dir), H Hodgson (Treas), Ord Members: J Searcy, W Bouwer, S Godden, J Massam, K Dunstan.

APOLOGY: D Gray (Memb Sec)

IN ATTENDANCE: Keith Lees (Nat Jnr Vice-pres)

OBSERVERS: G Edwards, J Jenkins, D Churches, J Samuel, P Lambert, A Needham,
J Malloch, H Grossmith, S & G Churches, D Bagster,
J Evans, G Curtis, P Mullins.

The President invited the National Executive's delegated representative, Keith Lees to speak.

Keith LEES advised the meeting that he was in attendance to provide information and background to the action of the National Executive in seeking to abrogate the election of WA officers and ban certain members from nominating.
  At a National Executive meeting in January, 1989, there was a move to provide for the exercise of some central control over people whose activities were seen to be counterproductive. There needed to be options in addition to that of expulsion from the Party.
  The process set in train was slow but led to the "guidelines" presented to the meeting in Brisbane, 25.7.93. It was stressed that there was a need to "stop the undesirable actions of individuals."
  It is the National Executive's perception that there have been continuing difficulties in WA. In the context of a fear that the next election will take place in 18-24 months, it is believed that something needs to happen very quickly. Ballot process is seen as too slow to authorise quick action.
  The enabling regulation, Regulation (6.7.1) was seen as an interim measure but the action was taken immediately against selected WA members because the next National Executive meeting (November) was seen as too late and involving "too much risk", including risk of upsetting the South Australian elections.
  WA was now represented by two Greens senators. It was believed that at least one should have been an Australian Democrat.
  The treatment of the selected five WA members was seen as a half-way house to expulsion. However, the regulation should be seen as non-judgmental and constructive. The purpose of providing a "circuit-break" is explained in the letter sent to members by Heather Southcott.
  The action was intended as the minimum force necessary to achieve a satisfactory outcome, one in which people could work together with a common aim, with a view to winning elections. There was a perception that WA needed outside help. The National Appeals Convenor (Margaret Ann Williams) had expressed frustration at not being able to achieve a satisfactory outcome.
Ross CARLTON On whose information has the National Executive formed the view that there were "continuing difficulties" in WA?
Keith LEES The view is essentially a perception, contributed to by a number of people whom I am unable to identify.
Ross CARLTON Will this decision be ratified by a members' ballot?
Keith LEES No. A regulation does not have to be balloted.
Ross CARLTON Referring to your claim that the National Appeals Convenor had expressed frustration--Surely, if a dispute or appeal had been in progress, there would have been some consultation with at least some members of the Divisional Council?
Keith LEES I do not know much about this aspect, since I spoke only briefly with the National Appeals Convenor.
Gordon EDWARDS I am very concerned that this seems to be a very strange way of approaching a dying dispute which was just about to be resolved by the annual election of officebearers. Is it a fact that an alleged appeal by David Churches was investigated? 1
Helen HODGSON [Clarifying, from her recollection of the National Executive meeting, that the report of the National Appeals Convener did not support any claim that an appeal had been instituted nor that there had been any "frustration" relating to inability to achieve a satisfactory outcome.]
Brian JENKINS [Confirming that the report of the National Appeals Convener indicated that the Churches "appeal" was a non-event and had been abandoned without any investigation when David Churches had failed to respond to Margaret Ann's telephone enquiries.]
Willem BOUWER Given that the National Executive's action against WA was a hasty resolution and that the people affected include the hardest-working members of the Division, how do you believe that this will strengthen the WA Division?
Keith LEES There has been a continuing interest in the WA Division and visits by people to the January National Executive meeting and by parliamentarians and staff have contributed to perceptions of the way things are. It is immaterial that the regulation was passed in haste. The important thing is its significance to the Party. We do not operate by participatory democracy--we have representative democracy. The National Executive was exercising that responsibility in the best way they could. We are a national party with national goals.
John MASSAM May I please hear again the full text of the resolutions?
Helen HODGSON [reading] A. REGULATION 6.7.1--
  If the National Executive believes that it would be of significant benefit to the Party to do so, it may, without prejudice

(i) Prohibit a particular member from nominating for, or gaining election to, a Party office for a period not exceeding two years

  (ii) Re-open nominations for a ballot which is under way
  (iii) Take control of such a ballot
  B. RESOLUTION PROSCRIBING MEMBERS FROM OFFICE FOR TWO YEARS
  (i) That the National Executive requests David Churches, John Samuel, Huw Grossmith, Brian Jenkins and Jean Jenkins to withdraw any nomination they may have made for positions in the WA Division current ballot, and asks that they refrain from nominating or gaining party office for a period of two years, and that this undertaking be given within four days.
  (ii) That in the absence of their compliance, the National Executive take action as specified under Regulation 6.7.1. to implement this request.
Kingsley DUNSTAN The objective seems to have been to allow the Division to move forward by removing five key players. However, four of the selected five players are not on Divisional Council at present.
Keith LEES National Executive can't kick out people once they're elected.
Kingsley DUNSTAN If we accept this procedure, we will never get to know what the normal outcome might have been!
Keith LEES The procedure relates to the control which we must exercise over the Party. We have control over the entry of persons to the Party and we must continue this discipline right through. The South Australian Division has suspension provisions.
Kingsley DUNSTAN If members were to choose one or more of the banned five to be our representatives on the National Executive, what would the National Executive say?
Keith LEES The constitution says that the National Executive has power to make regulations and to act on those regulations.
Kingsley DUNSTAN But this regulation may contradict the constitution
Keith LEES If you want that point tested, you have to go to court. 2
Kingsley DUNSTAN Why has there been no contact or consultation with Council?
Keith LEES The action was not taken against the Divisional Council but against five individual members. [Uproar at this reply.]
Dion GILES The proposed model of a National Executive-controlled election has brushed aside the WA Division Returning Officer and is reminiscent of Indonesian elections. Please tell us who were the specific informants and who created the "perceptions".
Keith LEES The "perceptions" are a matter of the party's culture and how it reaches the newspapers. My perception is that WA Democrats' publicity is not real flash. The performance of the Australian Democrats in Western Australia is not as good as might be hoped for. There was nothing marginal about the National Executive's resolutions. Voting was 16-1 for the regulation. Only 2 voted against the action to be taken against WA (Hodgson and Wood).
Dion GILES I ask again--WHO provided the information?
Helen HODGSON I admit to being consulted and talking to national officers. 3
Keith LEES Several people have visited WA and provided information.
Dion GILES Did they ask questions of any of the people to be banned?
Keith LEES It is all based on perceptions.
Peter HEATH Has there been any legal advice on the resolutions?
The President I have received some advice from the Party's National Legal Advisor, Peter Finkelstein, which I now pass around the table. In part, this advice said
  "(a) No amendment to the National Constitution can of course be made save in the way specified in clause 1.4, namely a 70% majority of all members who, being entitled to vote, do so in a properly convened ballot. . . and
  "(b) . . the resolution may well have been validly enacted if the usual procedures were followed. . However, all such regulations must of course be consistent with the provisions in the Constitution itself; no regulation will be valid (even if all procedures are correctly followed) which would be inconsistent with or effectively contradicting a provision in the Constitution. In other words, the regulations must always be subordinate to the Constitution." [Also see text of the full 1993 National Legal Advice]
John MALLOCH I admit to having complained to national officers that some WA members are more concerned with applying rules than getting on with elections.
Keith LEES For a considerable time, Western Australia's electoral performance has not been good. [He adverted to "disputes going back to Jack Evans's time".]
Jennifer SEARCY When I was in Canberra, it was apparent to me that senators (with the exception of Sid Spindler) did not want to know about WA problems. Where, then, did the perceptions come from?
Keith LEES
[shrugging and declining to answer]
Peter LAMBERT This table (Council) should not be surprised at not being consulted because the Council has not acted democratically. Is Brian Jenkins a current member or not?
The President We will treat the matter of Brian Jenkins's resignation as unclear and give him the benefit of the doubt for the present.
Jean JENKINS The difference between the National Executive's present action and an expulsion motion is that in the latter a victim can cross-examine his or her accuser. If election performance is an issue, why was it not acknowledged that WA dropped by the least percentage (in the 1993 Senate election). Why is not Karen Sowada being blamed for her unsuccessful performance? If adverse publicity is an issue, I recall that Janine Haines always complained of the Party's poor press in South Australia. If the action has been based on "continuing disputes", where are the facts against the five people who have been named?
  [DELIVERY OF PREPARED STATEMENT]
  First I state my unreserved support for the principles and objectives of the Australian Democrats, notably that we are a member-driven party, albeit that there may be room for improvement.
  Next I state that at all times I endeavour always to act in what I believe is in the best interests of the party. I have always been a vehement proponent of social justice and human and civil rights, and devoted a major part of my energies in these directions while Australian Democrat Senator for WA.
  It is now ironic that I find myself in a situation in which I believe that my own personal rights to natural justice have been denied me and, more importantly, the democratic rights of members of the WA Division are being denied by a motion of our National Executive.
  WA members have the right to choose who they will have, or not have, to represent their interests on our Divisional Council. Our members have now been told that there are 5 people that they cannot choose or reject. They have already been rejected, not by WA members, but by a National Executive on which only 2 members from WA sit.
  Not only that, the mechanism of their rejection was given to the National Executive by a regulation voted in by that selfsame National Executive only hours before. It amazes me that there has been no prior consultation with Divisional Council on this matter.
  CHAIN OF EVENTS
  Let me lead you through the events, as I see it.
  First, National Executive had incomplete and distorted information. The National President, Heather Southcott and others have been submitted to a barrage of telephone calls, often threatening and offensive, which stated that there is a dispute in WA that can only be solved by the intervention of National Executive to dismiss this State Divisional Council.
(Jean JENKINS) A small group of people who call themselves the Democrat Reform group, (referred to as "the John Samuel Faction" by The West Australian), initiated a petition for a ballot of members to decide for the early removal of this Divisional Council. As we all know, members comprehensively rejected that.
  As I see it, this group has tried to get National Executive to do what our WA members refused to do.
  I've been informed that, about 2 weeks ago, there was a National Management meeting by telephone hook-up. Now before we go any further, let me tell you about the composition of the National Management Committee. It was composed of the elected President [Heather Southcott] and 2 elected Vice presidents [Sarah Briggs and Keith Lees] and the following appointed officers: National Secretary [Ms Sam Hudson], National Administrator [Brian Austen], National Policy Development Coordinator [Rod Bennison], National Treasurer [Helen Hodgson], National Journal Editor [Ms Sam Hudson] and the National Campaign Manager [Stephen Swift].
  Now, guess who appoints them. Why, the National Executive, of course. Some of those people are also voting members of National Executive in the role of State delegates.
  Anyway, to go back to where I was. I'm told that about 2 weeks ago there was a National Management Committee meeting, at which were presented the recommendations of the Constitutional Review Committee, and the following suggested regulation was specifically singled out
  "6.7.1. If the National Executive believes that it would be of significant benefit to the Party to do so, it may, without prejudice
 
  • prohibit a particular member from nominating for election to a Party office for a period not exceeding 2 years;
 
  • reopen nominations for a ballot which is under way;
 
  • take control of such a ballot."
  (Actually, the regulation did not exist with this wording, when presented to the national Executive. It was merely a statement of intent.)
  I'm told that at that stage the so-called dispute in WA was mentioned, and it was decided to single out 2 members from each "side". No names were mentioned.
  Helen Hodgson is a member of the National Management Committee. She was not present at this meeting as she was not available.
  Members of Divisional Council who were present at last week's meeting know that that particular motion was not listed on notice on the Agenda presented to them for discussion.
(Jean JENKINS) It was brought forward at the National Executive Meeting under the Agenda Item of Constitutional Reform. An amendment was made. After the words "Prohibit a particular member from nominating for election", were inserted the words "or gaining election", as it was pointed out that it may need to be applied in a State in which nominations had already closed.
  It was also mentioned that this clause would not have effect until ratified by a party ballot. Brian Jenkins actually believed that these words were part of the motion. So did former Senator Robert Wood, delegate for Victoria, who now believes he was conned. I've been told that others also believed that these words were either part of the motion, or that it was agreed that the clause would not have effect until ratified by a party ballot.
  In fact, this clause IS to have effect UNTIL it is ratified by a party ballot. But what if members DON'T ratify it? I guess that just means all of this is a total waste of time, energy etc.
  I'm told that Brian Jenkins was the only member of National Executive to vote against it, although I believe there were some abstentions.
  Robert Wood also asked whether they had any Division or particular members in mind. He was told "No".
  At 4.30 p.m., in the dying minutes of a two-day meeting, the following motions were proposed by Stephen Swift and seconded by Brian Austen "That the National Executive requests David Churches, John Samuel, Huw Grossmith, Brian Jenkins and Jean Jenkins to withdraw any nomination they may have made for positions in the WA Division current ballot, and asks that they refrain from nominating for or gaining party office for a period of 2 years, and that this undertaking be given within 4 days.
  "That in the absence of their compliance, the National Executive take action as specified under regulation 6.7.1 to implement this request.
  "That the National Executive directs the National Ballots Administrator and National Returning Officer to re-open nominations for and conduct the current WA Divisional ballot, with a result declared by the AGM on September 19."
  Actually, the "for a period of 2 years" had to be added, as was the name of Huw Grossmith—they were not part of the original motion. Some National Executive delegates were distressed by the motion and expressed concern about the lack of natural justice. But the numbers to pass it were obviously there. 4
(Jean JENKINS) Brian personally declared his readiness to stand down from the WA Division election if the motion was withdrawn and even tendered his resignation from the party on condition that the motion was amended to exclude his name. Both of these actions were ignored and I understand that Brian intends to expand on this extraordinary series of events this evening.
  The motion was passed. I don't know how Helen voted. Keith Lees voted for it.
  I believe this resolution may well be invalid, because of the understanding held by several people present that reg. 6.7.1. would not come into effect unless or until ratified by members. It obviously can become invalid. I certainly believe it is immoral, ill-advised and remarkably silly.
  It certainly conflicts with the important constitutional provision of section 5.1:-
  "The general membership of the Party in each division shall (a) elect a Division Executive constituted in such a manner as the membership of that State shall determine,"
  And, of course, the resolution and the conspiracy and deception which led to its adoption last weekend amount to an incredibly blatant abandonment of the most fundamental and cherished principles on which the Australian Democrats were founded, in attraction to which most of us became members of the Party.
  Speaking personally, I believe I have been denied natural justice. I can understand members of National Executive being fed up with threatening and abusive telephone calls. But I have not phoned anyone.
  I can understand that National Executive is fed up with being threatened with being reported to Corporate Affairs, the AEC and the Federal Police. But I haven't threatened any of these things.
  I can understand that National Executive is fed up with the negative publicity in John McGlue's Inside Cover during and after the Federal Election campaign. But it was not I who criticised other AD members and candidates to Inside Cover.
  Huw Grossmith has readily admitted that he did so and has no regrets. It was not I who gave copies of internal Party documents to Inside Cover.
(Jean JENKINS) I am not in dispute with anyone. I have always upheld members' ballots. It is true that Helen Hodgson and I did not stand down from the Senate ticket so that John Samuel could become No.1 candidate. But it is also true that we had been elected by members, that I was asked by David Churches to stand down after the election had been called, and John Samuel had not even nominated to fill a vacant position on the ticket. 12
  No-one, I repeat no-one has asked me for my side of the story.
  I stood down from Divisional Council immediately after the Federal election in order to allow other eager beavers to immediately be able to take up the reins and strains of administrative office.
  I don't know what I have been accused of. I feel as if the National Executive has acted as judge, jury and executioner, and I haven't been asked to make a single statement.
  Members have today received a letter from the National President. It's a good letter, but I must dispute some points
 
  • The decision may not have been reached lightly, but it was certainly reached without consultation, justification or warning, and with information from limited sources.
 
  • I cannot understand the reference to "the continuing efforts of the National Appeals Committee and members of the national Executive" as no-one has contacted me.
 
  • If National Executive believes we have "experienced difficulties" over the last few years, then why have they not tried to assist us?
 
  • Why do they believe that our Divisional election would not have produced a "workable" Divisional Council? As far as I am able to ascertain, Helen Hodgson is the only person to have advised the National Management Committee that a Divisional Council with certain people on it would be unworkable. The sad and sorry thing is, that there were so many nominations for the various positions, that the new Divisional Council would have contained a greater variety of people. Some experienced, and some new. I ask the question on whose authority did Helen give that advice? This is critical, as it appears that the National Management Committee has acted on that advice.
(Jean JENKINS) It is my belief that National Executive has an incomplete and distorted picture of the facts, and has not bothered to find out the truth.
  Stephen Swift proposed the motion bearing the 5 names and Brian Austen seconded it 5. Neither of those two people has attempted to talk to me. Brian Austen, former National Administrator, now National Policy Co-ordinator, then and now member of the National Management Committee and voting member of the National Executive as delegate for Tasmania, has been the adviser to the John Samuel group. Tony Walters, the member of Senator Cheryl Kernot's staff who was in WA last week has not asked me any questions on the matter. And yet I am given the choice of jumping or being pushed from my right to nominate for a party position.
  As it happens, I had not nominated for any administrative position in WA (thinking again of those eager beavers), but only as a delegate to National Executive. Ironically, I wanted to give my time and energy to working on the national constitution, especially with regard to the erosion of members' rights and non-elected officers having such power. I believe that such officers should be responsible to the members, and not feel their first loyalty is to the National Executive which appointed them.
  I also wanted to be in the unprecedented position of holding that office unencumbered by the responsibilities of another office. In that way I felt I could give more of my time and energy to truly represent members by consultation by way of members meetings and so on. Also, I felt that WA members have always been given inadequate information about National Management and National Executive business. I was also guilty on this score when I was previously a delegate, because I was also President and in a paid occupation at the time.
  Also I am concerned that the National Management Committee has come to the view that a delegate's job is not to represent State members on the National Executive, but rather to represent National Executive to members. I see this as a dangerous reversal, and am disappointed that Helen appears to have chosen to go in that direction.
  So where are we? If, as I believe, regulation 6.7.1. is out of order, then the implementation of that reg is also out of order and National Executive does not have the right to force people to stand down nor to conduct WA's election.
  Of course, they have every right to make a request. If I had been consulted openly and decently, I would have been most willing to consider standing down from the election if that was seen to be in the Party's best interests. I would, however, find it ironic that it was in the Party's best interests to overthrow the principle of free participation which is so basic to us!
  I am still willing to withdraw from this ballot, but I honestly don't know what I have done wrong. If it is because David Churches has criticised me, then surely everyone else he has criticised must stand down, and that includes National President Heather Southcott and Helen Hodgson.
  If the resolutions are found to be illegal, then our problem is how to shield National Executive and Cheryl Kernot from looking stupid - as that certainly is not in the best interests of the Party. I leave that in the capable hands of the Divisional Council.
  I believe in the principles of our party, but it seems the majority of our National Executive have chosen to abandon those principles on this occasion.
(Jean JENKINS) The National President, Heather Southcott, told me that they had no option because of threats by certain members of the WA Division to go to the Police, the State Corporate Affairs Commission and the AEC.
  As I understand it, the WA Divisional Council has also had to deal with those threats, and indeed the subsequent action, and it has done so quite properly and without need for any panic.
  This has come about because some WA members have telephoned interstate offices all day and every day, and driven them crazy. Those calls told of an unresolvable dispute in WA. Those same calls asked for National Executive intervention.
  But the victims are being punished for those crimes. There has been no checking on the matter. What a shame! for there is all the difference in the world between a dispute, which is 2-sided, and an attack, which is one-sided.
Keith LEES I will comment on the point raised that some members of the National Executive believed it was necessary for the new regulation to be ratified by a ballot. The question of ratification was not raised. The draft of provisions prepared by the Constitution Committee was to be put to a ballot.
  I accept that I knew it was proposed to use (Regulation 6.1.7) against WA. It is also true that Stephen Swift was asked whether any specific use was proposed for the regulation and he did not answer. He has the right not to answer a question.
  The claimed conflict between the national constitution and any regulation cannot be resolved outside a court. I emphasise that the decision (to ban WA members) was non-judgmental and that it will not be productive to fight this. The matter cannot be reconsidered by the National Executive until next November. There have already been three acceptances of the Executive's request. 6 I am advised that Brian Jenkins is no longer a member. It now only requires acceptance by Jean Jenkins.
Jean JENKINS I will await the comments and decisions of the Divisional Council before I make up my mind.
David CHURCHES If you are a team player, you automatically accept decisions made by the captain. I am therefore happy to accept the restriction placed upon me by the National Executive. 6 The present Divisional officebearers have not acted correctly and have "spoken evil" against me in the Divisional Newsletter, which was the subject of my attempted appeal to National.
  The Divisional Council was to blame for the poor State and Federal election results owing to lack of preparedness.
  People have pleaded with the Divisional Council to try and resolve things earlier. I believe the National Executive has acted as best as it could. We are now in a better position to go on and make preparations for the North Metro by-election which is far more important than any other matter before us.
Ross CARLTON I object to that statement. When I asked David Churches what he felt needed to be done, his only reply was to shake his head.
David CHURCHES [to R Carlton] How did you vote on the motions to censure the Junior Vice- president (Marion Hercock) and Lynda Somers?
Ross CARLTON I was in Melbourne when that meeting was held.
Helen HODGSON [to D Churches] As a "team player", would you also be prepared to undertake not to take our financial affairs to outside bodies? 7
David CHURCHES I cannot make that undertaking. It is a crime to conceal that which is an offence.
John MASSAM [to D Churches] Why could you not accept the Divisional umpire's decision?
David CHURCHES The Divisional Council does not take responsibility for tackling the problem but blames someone else. Recommendations of the candidates' meeting of 27.3.93 were not considered. 8
Stewart GODDEN I have seen people censured for asking questions which were not answered. If the questions had been answered, those members would not have had to go to the Press.
Brian JENKINS [to D Churches] You have criticised the Divisional Council for inadequate election preparation. Will you say how long before the State election you nominated as a candidate?
David CHURCHES OK, I nominated late this time but I have run on five occasions previously.
Peter LAMBERT The Divisional Council has no honour--it appointed its "own boys" to positions.
Huw GROSSMITH [agreeing that five people were appointed to casual vacancies during the year--Peter Lambert, John Massam, Willem Bouwer, Kingsley Dunstan and Don Millar.] 9
  Politics is a big boys' game. This decision proves that the National Executive is prepared to step in to Victoria, NSW, etc.
  I recall advising (a General Meeting of members) not to field Lower House candidates but run only Upper House candidates.
  The resolution does not stop the suspendees from running as a candidate or spokesperson.
Jean JENKINS Correction. When I enquired to Sam Hudson (National Secretary) about this, she said spokespersons were seen as holders of a party office. 10
Keith LEES You are bringing up things from the past, showing that there is a deep feeling of resentment. Our goal is to get on with the job--the Australian Democrats who represent people in parliaments. [Reading the "electoral objective" from the text of the AD national constitution.]
John SAMUEL I immediately told Keith Lees that I approved of the idea proposed. However, I do not understand why my name is on the list since I have consistently said I will not run for a Divisional position. 11
  It is time the national body gave itself some power and used it. The Divisional Council does not have the fortitude and intellect to fight it. I am disappointed that the letter from Heather Southcott did not include acknowledgment of my acceptance of the National Executive's request.
  If I am obsessed with one thing, it's getting people elected to Parliament. I was invited to join the Party. I then approached John Poynton 12. Since then I have been treated with treachery.
Brian JENKINS [DELIVERING PREPARED STATEMENT as forwarded to Cheryl Kernot]
  The National Executive's proposed abrogation of WA members' constitutional right to nominate and conduct autonomous elections for State representatives is the most radical and potentially damaging development in the Party's history.
  It is a premeditated plan authorised by senior people in the Party, including the National President and Vice-presidents, the National Parliamentary Leader and Deputy, and other members of the National Management Committee and Executive.
  The proposal, which contravenes both the letter and the spirit of the AD national constitution (Section 5), was adopted without prior consultation with the WA Division or the members named to be barred from nomination or election for two years.
  The relevant National Executive resolution was introduced in the final moments of the Brisbane meeting on 25.7.91 without notice and was "rubber-stamped" in the face of strong protest by some representatives from WA, NSW, the ACT, Victoria and Queensland. An enabling resolution, also presented without notice, was introduced and adopted earlier on the same day. Only one of WA's member-representatives, that is myself, voted against the enabling resolution. I was not present at the final vote, having tendered an ineffective resignation from the Party in an attempt to force amendment or withdrawal of the motion.
  The disputation orchestrated by so-called Democrat Reformers, traceable to no earlier than January 1993, was misrepresented to the National Executive as the continuation of earlier unrest in the WA Division, traced back to 1987 and possibly earlier. None of the information was made available for scrutiny.
  A WA member-representative, Helen Hodgson, was thanked for informing and advising a South Australian representative in a manner which promoted support for proposed WA intervention and, presumably, omission of Helen's name from a list of members deemed to be key participants in the Reformer dispute.
  Statements by the Party's incumbent leaders at the Brisbane meeting have provided evidence that the central concerns of the proposal's architects are
 

1. ALP complaints about WA Democrat preference decisions in the context of some senators' dependence on ALP preferences

 

2. WA's independent, "uncooperative", approach to earlier national designs for, eg, amalgamation with Greens, timing of endorsements and the deposing of Janet Powell in 1991.

  Negotiation, though not sought by the National Executive, needs to be initiated by the Division when rejecting the ultimatum.
(Brian JENKINS) OUTCOMES REQUIRED IN MEMBERS' INTERESTS
  The Divisional elections should proceed on schedule under the Division's constitution without external intervention.
  Unless specific defects are shown in the nomination process, the process should be upheld to be effective and valid.
  No member should be influenced or compelled to withdraw any nomination, though it is acceptable for any nomination to be withdrawn voluntarily before the ballot form is finalised.
  The National Executive's requests concerning the election should be refused in toto on the grounds that the relevant resolutions are constitutionally invalid and the process of their implementation is unacceptable to Democrats.
  The National Executive should be asked to mail to all WA members a letter to update and correct the information contained in the National President's letter dated 26.7.93.
  STATEMENTS REQUIRING EXAMINATION AND/OR CORRECTION
  "continuing problems in the West Australian Division"
  "the WA Division remains unproductively at stalemate"
  "the WA Division has experienced difficulties over the past few years, capped off with the State and Federal elections"
  "The action of requesting some members to stand aside is to provide a circuit breaker to allow a new and workable Divisional Council to get on with preparations to take the Senate seat."
  By what process were 4 members selected for disqualification? (See 5 ) Was it as arbitrary as the inclusion of Huw Grossmith's name simply because it was mentioned to the National Executive?
  Why was not, for instance, Helen Hodgson included in the list as a member of Divisional Council who was most persistently targeted by and who most actively responded to the Reformers?
(Brian JENKINS) Far from experiencing continuous problems or being in a state of paralysis, the Western Australian Division has a long and distinguished history of determination and independence. It is true that we have lacked electoral success, though I note there are two former WA Democrat senators in this room. Unlike all other Divisions, we have campaigned for 16 years and enjoyed parliamentary representation for only five of those years.
  Former senator Jack Evans will recall that, in 1980, he was unsuccessful with over 12 per cent of the vote while, for instance, NSW's Colin Mason was elected with 8 per cent. After being elected in March 1983, [Mr Evans] was unseated less than two years later by the phenomenon of Jo Vallentine who later spearheaded the Greens campaign in 1987 and barely survived after being outpolled by us when Jean Jenkins was elected.
  Jean's defeat in 1990 resulted not from problems or poor performance but from deliberate action by the ALP in exchanging their second preferences with the Greens--in return for Greens preferences in lower house seats. In fact, we again outpolled Jo Vallentine by some 10,000 votes. Our Senate seat was really sacrificed on the altar of national co-operation with Labor in all States except WA, which was no fault of our own.
  So we owe precisely nothing to Labor. Whereas in the 1986 State election we traded our Upper House preferences for much-needed electoral reforms, it was equally understandable that our members and candidates wanted Labor out of government in 1993. Keith Lees said at the National Executive meeting that there had been complaints from Labor about this, and I have no doubt that this is why five of us have been marked for liquidation. I also happen to believe that what happened to WA on Labor's initiative will also happen to Democrats in other States, and the only solution is to develop a fully independent tradition.
Helen HODGSON [referring to point 7 in B Jenkins's statement] I admit that I provided background information on WA to Sandra Kanck (a South Aust representative) but do not think the information was particularly damaging. Incidentally, though I did not vote against the enabling regulation, I did speak out against it and held a mistaken belief that it could be objected to and overturned by members writing to the National Journal. I later realised that this is a provision applying to WA regulations.
  I did vote against the final (WA) resolution after assessing both sides of the arguments and trying hard to be objective.
Stewart GODDEN This is going over the past, as Keith Lees said. We should proceed to making the decisions.
Peter HEATH When will Section 5 of the national constitution be discussed? Is this (the National Executive resolution) an effective vote of no confidence in the WA Divisional Council?
Marion HERCOCK Why cannot a decision be made within two hours?
John MALLOCH I did not appreciate the history lesson which was just given to us by Brian Jenkins. If this group goes on the way it is doing, it will split up and damage the national body. However, it is also my view that the action taken by the National Executive has not mediated effectively in the perceived dispute but has instead jammed it way out of hand.
Gordon EDWARDS The WA Greens' senators have nothing to do with the problems or shenanigans in this party, which amount to no more than a rapidly healing and little dispute. Keith Lees offered the possibility of an early Federal election as a justification of the National Executive's hasty action. In any event, we could not mount a decent campaign in such an election. We do not need control from the National Executive. Our last campaign was definitely not helped by some decisions of the National Executive and its officers. With regard to the Divisional election, the nominations from all sides were looked forward to by everyone as a part of the healing process. Surely the National Executive has enough intelligence to realise that you do not help the healing of a wound by ripping it open and kicking the shit out of it!
  My own nomination will lie with the Divisional Secretary. It will NOT be forwarded to the National Ballots Administrator as part of a process which is foreign to democracy.
  To Keith Lees, I say that I am not looking back. In a political party we expect dissension but this dispute was healing itself. I can only construe Keith Lees's remarks as laying down the law to this Divisional Council. I will lay down the law to you--I will not be a part of a Divisional Council elected by the National Executive.
Pat MULLINS Three people have already complied with the National Executive's request. Brian Jenkins has disputed the effect of his resignation and not decided; nor has Jean Jenkins. This is open rebellion. I urge the Divisional Council to accept the national proposal and I urge Brian and Jean Jenkins to comply.
 

[There was a 10-minute interval at this time]

John SAMUEL Mr Chairman, it is getting late and we are listening to too much talk without coming to the point. I ask that we proceed immediately to making some decisions.
Alan NEEDHAM I was very impressed with the huge number of nominations lodged for this year's Divisional Council election--the healthiest thing that has happened for years. It was clear to me that the election would resolve the dispute between current officers and the so-called Reformers. The numbers will automatically decide [since] the election is of a proportional-representation body.
  I was therefore staggered to hear of the National Executive decisions which have usurped that. If the proposed nationally controlled election proceeds, people will again be working behind the scenes against what the Divisional Council is doing.
  It must be stressed that the move is of doubtful legality and needs to be taken to a constitutional battle
  The National Executive's decisions need to be rescinded in November. A National Executive balloted Council will certainly be weaker than is the case at present. I blame the National Executive for the problem. A 2-year ban ensures disaster at the next election. I repeat--the decision needs to be rescinded.
Dion GILES As an incorporated body, I believe we have no ability to stop an annual officebearers' ballot which is already in progress. Since this situation has obviously arisen from manipulation and weakness of the National Executive, I believe we should attack the prime cause and get up a petition to change the way representation occurs and operates in the National Executive.
Jack EVANS_ In this situation, we could follow the style of the Liberals and emphasise State rights. Or we could act like Labor and cut off a toe in order to help the body. I recommend the latter. I have been invited by several people to come back into the affairs of the Division and I am now ready to do so. In 1987, I was in the "hot seat" that others are in tonight. 13 Despite what I thought then, the Party did not fall apart.
  Rescission (of the Divisional ballot process) or standing down would solve the problem. Five positions would be filled by new people coming in. Having served my time on the sideline, I am prepared to be one of those people.


93/104 Moved Carlton/Heath

That the meeting move into closed session.
CARRIED [B Jenkins abstaining, then departing by agreement].

93/105 Moved Carlton/Heath

That Keith Lees stay for the closed session.
CARRIED.

[The remainder of the meeting was separately minuted by the Acting Secretary--below.]

* * * * *

DIVISIONAL COUNCIL, WA, AUSTRALIAN DEMOCRATS 29 July, 1993

--MINUTES OF SPECIAL MEETING ON NATIONAL EXECUTIVE ACTION

Held at the Peninsula Centre, 219 Railway Pde, Maylands, 7 pm

1. PRESENT: P Nettleton (President), R Carlton (Snr Vice-pres), D Giles (NewsEd),
B Jones (OrdMem & RetOffr), R Jeffreys (Pol Co-ord), M Hercock (JnrVice-pres),
P Heath (CampDir), H Hodgson (Treas), Ord Members: J Searcy, W Bouwer,
S Godden, J Massam, K Dunstan. Present at open committee stage only: B Jenkins (Sec)

IN ATTENDANCE: Keith Lees (Nat Jnr Vice-pres)

OBSERVERS: Present at committee stage only: G Edwards, J Jenkins, D Churches, J Samuel, P Lambert, A Needham, J Malloch, H Grossmith, S & G Churches, D Bagster, J Evans (later:) G Curtis, P Mullins.

2. OPENING. The President took the chair and opened the meeting at 7.05 pm. He outline the proposed format of the meeting and introduced Keith Lees who opened reports and debate in open committee session.

3. COMMITTEE DEBATE (Refer to separate detailed minutes) [as above]

93/104. Moved Carlton/Heath
That the meeting move into closed session.
[CARRIED] (B Jenkins abstaining, then departing by agreement)

93/105. Moved Carlton/Heath
That Keith Lees stay for the closed session.
[CARRIED]

4. SPECIAL BUSINESS:

Response to Action of the National Executive in aborting WA Division annual election and banning 5 members.

There was laid on the table interim advice from the National Legal Adviser, Peter Finkelstein, which was discussed.

93/106. Moved Heath/Dunstan
That a firm legal opinion on the validity of the National Executive regulation (6.7.1) be obtained.
[CARRIED]

93/107. Moved Jones/Godden
That the WA Division ballot be abandoned and that the National Ballots Officer be allowed to conduct the ballot. [CARRIED] 14

93/108. Moved Hodgson/Giles
That the only authorised spokesperson on this matter be Peter Nettleton or his delegate. [CARRIED]

5. NEXT MEETING: Tuesday, 24 August, at the Peninsula Centre.

6. CLOSE: Business being concluded, the meeting closed at 11.06 pm

   

 

INDEXED TEXT ANNOTATIONS (added by Brian Jenkins)
With the exception of [4] (revised) and [14] (new), these notes are as written in 1993.

[1] This bears upon misleading statements made to media by National President Heather Southcott in an attempt to establish that an unmanageable dispute existed in WA and that all available remedies had been exhausted. But, on 22.6.93, the WA Divisional Council had received a report sourced to the National Appeals Convener saying that no dispute had been established and that no appeal process had been instituted.

[2] An extraordinary rejoinder which appears to ignore the option of an internal appeal or other process. Several appeals were eventually lodged against the regulation and its effects; and, on 24.8.93, the WA Divisional Council petitioned for a national ballot to limit the National Executive's regulation-making power. All were dismissed, as was the National Legal Advisor's opinion that Regulation 6.7.1 and its use against the Western Australian Division were "unconstitutional, undemocratic and illegal".

[3] Helen Hodgson held a position on the National Management Committee as proxy for the National Treasurer, Thomas Green. She was understood not to have participated in the telephone hook-up at which certain preparations are believed to have been discussed prior to the Brisbane National Executive meeting.

[4] Voting members present were: Heather Southcott of SA (Pres), Keith Lees of SA (Vice-pres), Meg Lees of SA (Dep Parl Ldr), Sarah Briggs of Tas (Vice-pres), Kevin Anderson (Tas), Cheryl Kernot of Qld (Nat. Parliamentary Leader), Gavin Kernot (Qld), Colin Parker (Qld), Robert Wood (Vic), Jonathan Melland (Vic), Andrew Larcos (NSW), Arthur Chesterfield-Evans (NSW), Sandra Kanck (SA), Stephen Swift (SA), Brian Austen (Tas), Roland Inman (ACT), Domenic Mico (ACT), Helen Hodgson (WA). [Brian Jenkins (WA) departed before the vote on the motion against WA.] A number of other drastic measures were voted on at the same meeting, including cessation of monthly publication of the National Journal and the axing of some key national officers including National Policy Co-ordinator (past vice-president Rod Bennison) and the National Membership Secretary. Dominic Mico was installed as National Administrator. [Revised February, 1999]

[5] In fact, as recorded in the subsequently issued minutes of the National Executive, the finally adopted resolution (naming 5 prohibited persons) was moved by Senator Cheryl Kernot. The original motion, naming 4 persons but not Huw Grossmith, was moved by Swift. Brian Jenkins was not aware that there were different proponents of the amended motion which was adopted after he left the meeting.

[6] John Samuel, David Churches and Huw Grossmith initially notified their immediate and unqualified acceptance. Samuel had previously made it plain that he would not be a candidate for any party office. However, all three, being members of the same faction, revoked their acceptance when they learned more of the circumstances of the National Executive's resolutions. Churches and Grossmith are understood to have lodged appeals and Samuel has said he is exploring possibilities for legal challenge to the resolutions. There is a documented private statement by Samuel that he initially persuaded his faction members to support the National Executive as a positioning tactic.

[7] Helen Hodgson and David Churches were involved in a dispute over members' right of access to Divisional financial records, resulting in May-June 1993 in threats by Churches and John Samuel to lodge complaints with the WA Office of State Corporate Affairs (Ministry of Fair Trading) and pursue legal action if necessary.

[8] A scheduled Campaign Council meeting on 27.3.93 was attended by a large group marshalled by David Churches and John Samuel which successfully moved for alternative standing orders and agenda, which involved loss of the meeting's Campaign Council status. When the recommendations came before the Divisional Council they were referred to a meeting of the Campaign Council. One of the Churches group's recommendations was that there should be maximum separation between political and administrative functions of the Division.

[9] The Divisional Council has 18 positions in all and it needs to make appointments to fill casual vacancies in the interests of obtaining quorums and maintaining activity. The small number of such appointments in 1992-93 included all members who had expressed interest in positions. Peter Lambert was offered the first appointment since he had been an unsuccessful candidate at the (1992) officebearers election. He and two others of the five appointees were associated at some time with the hostile "Reformers" group.

[10] There are firm grounds for disputing Sam Hudson's opinion which has questionable status. WA Division practice of appointing (not electing) spokespersons places such positions outside the ambit of the disputed regulation 6.7.1 which specifically refers to elected party offices (and also excludes parliamentary candidature).

[11] Incorrectly recorded in the handwritten record as "parliamentary office". John Samuel had frequently made it known that he was interested in being a parliamentary candidate but not in holding any other party position.

[12] John Poynton is the former principal of the stockbroker Hartley Poynton who (with other non-member investors) funded a bank account styled 'Friends of the Australian Democrats' and operated by John Samuel. Some funds were used to pay for an advertisement to attract new candidates. None of the funds entered the Division's bank account. Leakage of information to the West Australian's John McGlue and Paul McGeough about a 'business takeover' of the WA Division resulted in adverse publicity and disorder just before the 1993 consecutive Federal and State elections. McGeough understood that at least $250,000 would be made available for a campaign on the condition that Samuel was endorsed as the No 1 Senate candidate. [See also note 14 below]

[13] Jack Evans referred to expulsion action taken against him by the WA Division membership in 1988 in consequence of a bitter and protracted dispute which he initiated in January 1987 over Senate preselection and which was the subject of an exhaustive inquiry and series of reports by the AD National Ombudsman in May, 1988.

[14] The resolution to bow to the National Executive could not be implemented. A valid ballot of members of the WA Division overwhelmingly rejected the intervention, together with a purported nationally conducted election. The "national" faction headed by Jack Evans and Helen Hodgson was able to continue with the blessing of the Kernot-Lees executive, but never regained the former constitutional legitimacy nor the grass-root vitality of the membership which was detrited by non-renewal and expulsions during the following 12 months. Helen Hodgson served one term in a State upper-house seat and was defeated in Feb 2001. The Samuel-Churches faction, having obtained the Division's corporate shell by legalism, continues to hold itself out as the legitimate Australian Democrats in Western Australia. Legal conflict with the Evans-Hodgson/National camp was still in progress in 1998 and is understood to be continuing. The West Australian's gossip columnist John McGlue (a close associate of stockbroker John Poynton [See also 12 above]) was promoted to the post of finance editor but has since left and become a stockbroker himself. The West Australian's annual report for 1991-92 at page 33 discloses that Mr J H Poynton was a director of the paper for part of that year and that Poynton Corporate Limited was paid advisory and management fees of $217,000 and broker's handling fees of $1,981,136. (Soon after, John Samuel was introduced to WA Democrat membership by the daughter of a South Australian AD parliamentarian.)
[This final footnote was added in February, 1999 and some details revised in Feb 2001.]

 

* * * * *

NEW MATERIAL

Other contemporary reports of the ambush were circulated in editions of the WA Democrats' monthly newsletter and are now included because of the widespread interest in these events. A variety of authentic and revealing documents are available to serious students on request.

 

Published in the cause of elusive democracy, and as a reminder that news media do not always present the truth and nothing but the truth!

Enquiries, email Brian Jenkins

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Updated 28 Feb 1999