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Nuclear Disarmament Party
The NDP was founded by a Canberra doctor and peace activist, Dr Michael Denborough , in response to the world political situation in the early 1980s, particularly the arms race between the United States under Ronald Reagan and the Soviet Union. Such activists were disappointed that the Australian Labor Party government of Bob Hawke, elected in 1983, had not taken a stronger stance against the policies of the U.S.
At the December 1984 federal elections, the NDP recruited high-profile candidates to stand for the Australian Senate, which is elected by proportional representation. The best known of these was Peter Garrett, lead singer of the rock band Midnight Oil, who polled 9.6 percent of the vote in New South Wales. Former Labor Senator Jean Melzer polled 7.3 percent in Victoria.
Because of the adverse distribution of preferences (see Australian electoral system), neither Garrett nor Melzer was elected. But a little known peace activist, Jo Vallentine , was elected to the Senate from Western Australia with 6.7 percent of the vote.
In April 1985, however, Vallentine, Garrett and Melzer, along with about 80 other members, resigned from the NDP, claiming that the party had been taken over by the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), a Trotskyist group.
Vallentine said she had resigned because the NDP's party conference had been: "dominated by members of SWP, who attended in order to block a proposal that would have barred members of other parties from membership of the NDP." Valentine sat as an independent Senator until 1990, when she joined the Greens.
Garrett said: "We have left behind the Achilles heel. We have left the wrangles of a small left-wing group who came into our organisation piggy-back fashion. The structure of the NDP was dominated and co-opted by the SWP, and it became impossible to work on peace and disarmament." Garrett did not join another political party until June 2004, when he joined the Labor Party and became a candidate at the 2004 federal election.
After this split the NDP consisted only of a small group of activists led by Denborough. At the July 1987 federal election, the party's Senate vote in New South Wales fell from 9.6 percent to 1.5 percent. But because of the peculiarities of the Australian electoral system the NDP's Robert Wood was elected after receiving preferences from other parties.
In May 1988, however, Wood was disqualified from membership of the Senate on the grounds that he had not been an Australian citizen at the time of the election. His seat was awarded to the second candidate on the NDP ticket, Irina Dunn . When Wood became eligible for Senate membership, the NDP asked Dunn to resign so that Wood could reclaim his seat. Dunn refused, and was expelled from the NDP. She sat as an independent until being defeated at the 1990 election.
Since 1987 the NDP has continued to exist, but has not contested federal elections for several elections. At the 1998 election and the 2001 election the NDP was a registered political party with the Australian Electoral Commission, but did not present candidates. Most of the anti-war and left-wing constituency which initially supported the NDP now supports the Australian Greens.
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