Don Chipp

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The Honourable
Don Chipp
AO
DonChipp1964.jpg
1st Leader of the Australian Democrats
In office
9 May 1977 – 18 August 1986
DeputyJack Evans
Janine Haines
Preceded byParty established
Succeeded byJanine Haines
Minister for Health
In office
11 November 1975 – 22 December 1975
Prime MinisterMalcolm Fraser
Preceded byDoug Everingham
Succeeded byRalph Hunt
Minister for Repatriation and Compensation
In office
11 November 1975 – 22 December 1975
Prime MinisterMalcolm Fraser
Preceded byJohn Wheeldon
Succeeded byKevin Newman
Minister for Social Security
In office
11 November 1975 – 22 December 1975
Prime MinisterMalcolm Fraser
Preceded byJohn Wheeldon
Succeeded byMargaret Guilfoyle
Minister for Customs and Excise
In office
12 November 1969 – 5 December 1972
Prime MinisterJohn Gorton
William McMahon
Preceded byMalcolm Scott
Succeeded byGough Whitlam
Minister-in-charge of Tourist Activities
In office
14 December 1966 – 28 February 1968
Prime MinisterHarold Holt
John McEwen
John Gorton
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byReg Wright
Minister for Defence
Minister for the Navy
In office
14 December 1966 – 28 February 1968
Prime MinisterHarold Holt
John McEwen
John Gorton
Preceded byFred Chaney
Succeeded byBert Kelly
Senator for Victoria
In office
1 July 1978 – 18 August 1986
Succeeded byJanet Powell
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Hotham
In office
25 October 1969 – 10 November 1977
Preceded byConstituency created
Succeeded byRoger Johnston
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Higinbotham
In office
10 December 1960 – 25 October 1969
Preceded byFrank Timson
Succeeded byConstituency abolished
Personal details
BornDonald Leslie Chipp
(1925-08-21)21 August 1925
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Died28 August 2006(2006-08-28) (aged 81)
Richmond, Victoria, Australia
Political partyDemocrat (after 1977)
Other political
affiliations
Independent (1955–1958; 1977)
Liberal (1958–1977)
Spouse(s)
Monica Lalor
(m. 1951; div. 1979)

Idun Welz
(m. 1979; wid. 2006)
Childrenwith Lalor: 4
with Welz: 2
EducationNorthcote High School
Alma materUniversity of Melbourne
OccupationConsultancy company chairman
(Donald L. Chipp & Co.)
Chief executive officer
(CPA Australia)
ProfessionBusinessman
Politician
Military service
AllegianceCommonwealth of Australia
Service/branchRoyal Australian Air Force
Years of service1943–1945
Battles/warsWorld War II

Donald Leslie Chipp, AO (21 August 1925 – 28 August 2006) was an Australian politician who was the first leader of the Australian Democrats.

Early life[edit]

Born in Melbourne and educated at Northcote High School and the University of Melbourne, he graduated in commerce. After playing Australian rules football for Heidelberg in the Victorian Football Association, he played briefly in the (higher-grade) Victorian Football League with the Fitzroy Football Club (playing three games in 1947, for one goal). He also played for Prahran in the VFA and was a member of their 1951 Premiership side. He was also a finalist in the important Stawell Gift annual foot race.

After serving in the Royal Australian Air Force in World War II, Chipp worked as registrar of the Commonwealth Institute of Accountants from 1950 to 1955. In 1955, he was appointed chief executive officer of the Olympic Civic Committee, which was involved in organising the 1956 Summer Olympics, in Melbourne. Later, he worked as manager of the Victorian Promotion Committee, and he also ran his own management consultancy. From 1958 to 1961, he was a member of the Kew City Council.

Early parliamentary career[edit]

Don Chipp; The Third Man, by Don Chipp and John Larkin

Chipp entered federal politics in 1960 as the Liberal member for Higinbotham in Melbourne's southern bayside suburbs. After a redistribution in 1968, he transferred to the less safe seat of Hotham. He was given the Navy and Tourism portfolios by Prime Minister Harold Holt in 1967. After Holt's sudden disappearance in December 1967, Chipp retained those portfolios in the brief interim government of Country Party leader John McEwen, but he was dropped from the ministry by the new Liberal Prime Minister, John Gorton. That was partly because Chipp had supported another candidate, Billy Snedden, in the Liberal leadership ballot and partly because Chipp did not support a second Royal Commission into the 1964 Voyager disaster, which Gorton felt reflected badly on the Royal Australian Navy.[1] Commonwealth Parliamentary Hansards; Commonwealth Parliamentary debates 16 and 17 May 1967

After the 1969 election, Gorton appointed Chipp as Minister for Customs and Excise. In that portfolio, he gained national attention by largely abolishing the censorship of printed material, unbanning many novels, including Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer, as well as allowing the sale of Playboy magazine. He also oversaw the introduction of the R certificate for films in 1970, which allowed previously banned films to be rerated and shown to adults. The actions made him popular but also placed him at odds with many of his fellow party members, who considered such decisions as too liberal. Chipp became identified as part of a "small-l liberal" faction of the Liberal Party, along with Snedden and Andrew Peacock.

Following the Liberal Party's defeat at the 1972 election by the Labor Party's Gough Whitlam, Chipp served as Shadow Minister for Social Security. He was a strong supporter of Snedden, who had become party leader following the 1972 defeat but lost the 1974 election against Whitlam. When Malcolm Fraser displaced Snedden as leader in March 1975, Chipp retained his position, but it was no secret that the two men did not get on. When Fraser was appointed Prime Minister following the dismissal of Gough Whitlam on 11 November 1975, he gave Chipp three portfolios in his caretaker ministry: Social Security, Health, and Repatriation and Compensation. However, when Fraser won the election the next month, Chipp was not included in the ministry.

Resignation from Liberal Party[edit]

In his book The Third Man, Chipp considered the effects of a "whispering campaign" to discredit him within the Liberal Party. That came to a head when he spoke at a heavily attended Citizens for Democracy meeting at the Sydney Town Hall with other controversial speakers, including Frank Hardy, Patrick White and Faith Bandler. He writes "Liberals thought it was intolerable that any member of the party should appear with 'those people'".[2] The rebellious image was heightened by the fact that Chipp omitted to attend a Parliament House reception for Queen Elizabeth II. He had decided to honour his prior speaking engagement, which had been widely publicised. Chipp concluded: "It was then, I believe, that I concluded I could not stay in such a party any longer. I resented the tag of 'rebel' which was being applied to me by my own colleagues."

Chipp decided to resign from the Liberal Party on 24 March 1977 and concluded his speech that day with the following:

I have become disenchanted with party politics as they are practised in this country and with the pressure groups which have an undue influence on the major political parties. The parties seem to polarise on almost every issue, sometimes seemingly just for the sake of it, and I wonder if the ordinary voter is not becoming sick and tired of the vested interests which unduly influence political parties and yearns for the emergence of a third political force, representing middle-of-the-road policies which would owe allegiance to no outside pressure group. Perhaps it may be the right time to test that proposition.[3]

Leadership of Democrats[edit]

Janine Haines and Chipp in 1977

Even before the resignation, he received an invitation to join the amalgamated Centre-Line Party, which predated the Australian Democrats.[4] He resolutely turned down a series of such leadership offers until, on 9 May 1977, he was accorded an overwhelming standing ovation by a 3,000-strong audience at the Melbourne Town Hall and concluded, "... I was committed ... and it was a good feeling".

At the December 1977 election, he was elected to the Australian Senate, with one colleague (Colin Mason of New South Wales). As Democrats leader, Chipp was involved in various high-profile environmental and social-justice causes, including playing an important role in stopping the Franklin Dam Project.

At the 1980 election, the Democrats gained three more senators, giving them a total of five. They held a potential balance of power, which they retained until 1 July 2005, after a total lack of success at the 2004 election. Their theoretical ability to reject or amend government legislation was seldom applied, as it was dependent on rare support from other non-government senators. It was, however, a useful avenue for publicity and effective Senate committee dealings outside the chamber.

Later life[edit]

Chipp resigned from the Senate on 18 August 1986, being succeeded as leader by Janine Haines and replaced as a senator by Janet Powell. He ran unsuccessfully for election as the Lord Mayor of Melbourne in 2001. In his later years, he suffered from Parkinson's disease, but he still made a number of public appearances, most notably on the ABC chat show Enough Rope with Andrew Denton. He also gave an opening address to the Democrats' national conference in Melbourne in May 2006.

Chipp died of pneumonia in August 2006 at Epworth Hospital in Melbourne. A state funeral service was held on 2 September 2006 for him. Australian flags were flown at half-mast all day in Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory in his honour.

Personal life[edit]

Chipp was married twice.

On 27 October 1951 he married Monica Lalor. With her support, Chipp stood and won a seat on the Kew City Council which he held from 1955 to 1961, and was encouraged- at that time – to become an active member of the Liberal Party. They had four children.

Chipp and Lalor divorced in 1979, and Chipp married Idun Welz later that same year. They had two children.

His eldest son, Greg Chipp, established Drug Law Reform Australia, a political party focused on the decriminalisation of illegal drugs, and contested the 2013 and 2016 federal elections. Don Chipp's youngest daughter, Laura Chipp, contested the 2017 by-election in the Victorian electorate of Northcote, representing the Reason Party (formerly known as the Australian Sex Party).

References[edit]

  1. ^ Alan Reid, The Gorton Experiment, 36–37
  2. ^ Chipp D and Larkin J Don Chipp: The Third Man, Rigby 1978, ISBN 0-7270-0827-7, p 185
  3. ^ As cited in The Third Man, pp 179–80
  4. ^ The invitation came from John Siddons, Robin Millhouse and other executives of the Australia Party and the New Liberal Movement, as described in The Third Man, p 179

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Fred Chaney
Minister for the Navy
1966–1968
Succeeded by
Bert Kelly
New title Minister in charge of Tourist Activities
1966–1968
Succeeded by
Reg Wright
Preceded by
Malcolm Scott
Minister for Customs and Excise
1969–1972
Succeeded by
Gough Whitlam
Preceded by
John Wheeldon
Minister for Social Security
1975
Succeeded by
Margaret Guilfoyle
Minister for Repatriation and Compensation
1975
Succeeded by
Kevin Newman
Preceded by
Doug Everingham
Minister for Health
1975
Succeeded by
Ralph Hunt
Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
Frank Timson
Member for Higinbotham
1960–1969
Division abolished
New division Member for Hotham
1969–1977
Succeeded by
Roger Johnston
Preceded by
No party precursor
Senator for Victoria
1978–1986
Succeeded by
Janet Powell
Party political offices
New political party Leader of the Australian Democrats
1977–1986
Succeeded by
Janine Haines