Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Meg Lees

Meg Lees is the one who had the conflict with Natasha Stott Despoja. My initial reaction is to dislike Lees.  Well, because I DO like Despoja. Is it possible for me to like both of them even though they don't like each other?

We shall see.

Lord Wiki says Meg Lees was born on 19 October 1948. She's about a month older than my mom.

Birthday Website Time!

Lees is a Libra and her numerology number is 6. I picture this to be the type of person who spends her childhood and teen years fantasizing about her future husband and children.

Was Lees like that? Maybe. Maybe not.

Lord Wiki must not know. He skips her childhood all together. No school information here. He says she was born in Sydney and trained as a teacher. So much information is missing! This is quite mysterious and makes me suspicious. I THINK she's an alien who crashed here in her flying saucer. Here's a case for you, Mulder and Scully.

Lord Wiki says she trained as a teacher, but he doesn't say she actually taught at any time. He says she moved to South Australia and joined the newly formed Australian Democrat party. This was in the early 1980's. By the late 1980's, she was the president of the South Australian branch. She was making her way up in the world.

In 1990, Lees was chosen to replace Janine Haines in the senate. Soon after that she became deputy leader. And seven years later, she became the actual leader instead of just the deputy one. Her deputy became our beloved Natasha Stott Despoja. What went wrong in their relationship? Did the conflict appear in the beginning or slowly seep in?

Okay. It seems some of the conflict was related to the GST. Howard was not backed by Labor and the Greens regarding this. He needed to be backed by the Democrats for it to pass. Lees agreed to this as long as essential items such as fruit fruit and medicine were excluded. Despoja disagreed and voted against what Lees wanted. What drama! I think I recall reading that the reason Despoja was against the GST is they made election promises regarding it. She didn't want to break any promises. I'm pretty sure it's more complex than that though.

What happened next?

There was questioning regarding Lee's leadership. People weren't happy with her. Despoja challenged Lees for the leadership role and she won. Lees wasn't happy; and when Despoja was leader, she did a lot of bitching. She complained Despoja was bringing the party too much to the left. I like when parties lean to the left. So, there!

Lees left the party in 2002 and became an independent. A little while later, she formed a party called Australian Progressive Alliance. It looks like this wasn't too successful. The party is no more. It seems basically Lees and her small group of followers were trying to form a party that was slightly more left than the Liberals and more right than the Democrats.

Despite their disappearance in Australian politics, the party still does have a website.

Okay. I'm now pretty sure I don't like Lees. On the party website, she says, Voters who want to keep the senate working have only one option--the Australian progressive Alliance. I don't like pushy marketing like that.  

This is the only parenting book you need!  

This is the one and only diet that works. 

Read this self-help book and you'll never need to buy another self-help book again.

 There is NOT one option, and obviously Meg Lee's option was not exactly a viable one.

Oh no! Just as I was feeling comfortable despising Lees and her stupid party, they had to have something on their website that appeals to me. They care about animal welfare--including farm animals. Crap. My heart is warming to the woman a bit.

The Sydney Morning Herald has an article about a biography of Lees. They talk about how her childhood was mysterious and she wants to keep it that way.

The Sydney Morning Herald looks different today, by the way. Did they change the format...or maybe it's just the particular article that looks different.

The article has stuff about her childhood--stuff that Lord Wiki missed. It involved strict religion and restrictions on interactions with other children. She escaped eventually, and I guess she doesn't want to look back.

In the interview, the mother of Lees defends herself. She sounds like a nice woman. I really don't know who to believe here. The mother could be pure evil and good at faking niceness.

The article says that the family was part of an end-of-the-world religious group, but eventually moved onto the Anglican church. If I'm reading the article right, it seems Lees was the first in the family to switch churches. She was thirteen and refused to go to the end-of-the-world one (Catholic Apostolic Church).

It's a bit confusing and I can't tell who's at fault here. I'll just say Lees family isn't the only one in which parents and particular offspring disagree about what occurred in the past. Are Lees parents denying the extreme strictness that she remembers--or is Meg Lees a foolish daughter who doesn't appreciate the love of her family? It's really hard to know the truth in these situations. Who is lying? Who is truthful? Who is delusional? Who's in touch with reality?

Besides that though, from what I read the childhood doesn't seem to be one of horrific abuse. It doesn't seem like the type of childhood you'd want to run away from and never speak about. I suspect MAYBE there's more to the story. Maybe there was abuse and Lees is angry about it, but not angry enough to ruin the reputation of her parents. Or maybe she knows her parents are good liars and people will never believe her over them.

Before going into teaching, Lees worked as a lab assistant. She was eventually told by Australian National Industries that she couldn't go far in the industry because she was a woman. And this is when she started training to be a teacher--specifically a physical education teacher.

She worked at Ingleburn High and met her husband there. It seems the two of them were into car racing.

They moved to Mount Gambier in South Australia; bought a farmhouse and had kids. It sounds quite lovely. Lees said having children made her more political.  Her husband had been political before that. This sounds exactly like me. I had absolutely no interest in politics until I had a baby. Then I started reading stuff about breastfeeding and maternity leave. I slowly became more and more interested. Tim has been very political since I've known him. I think he influenced me a bit too.

Speaking of maternity leave.....

Lees had problems with this while teaching. The principal of the Mount Gambier school refused to let her work part-time after she returned from having a baby. He said the only option was for her to work full-time. She looked into childcare and was not happy about leaving her children in one. She ended up resigning from the school. She found other places to work part-time.

This editorial criticizes Lees. It talks about a Telstra issue that I don't really understand. What I'm getting though is the author of the editorial feels Lees is resentful/jealous that she lost the leadership role to Despoja.

All right. This other article has information about the Telstra thing. I'm getting that it was government owned and there was then talk of selling it. Lees was against selling it and then she supported it. She said her reasons were environmental. I guess the idea was the government would use the proceeds from the sale for the environment.

I'm pretty sure Telstra is what we used for our Aussie cell phones. I didn't know it had such an exciting story behind it.

Well, I found something else to warm my cold heart towards Lees. She supports the use of midwives and choice in childbirth. She also comes down on hospital births--calling them intervention prone models. She complains about the high cesarean rates.

There's a lot about hospital births that greatly bother me. I definitely think women need better choices.

It doesn't end there. Lees also worked on one of my favorite issues...breastfeeding. She wanted legislation to be passed that would make discrimination against breastfeeding mothers illegal. Good on her! The article about that was from 2000. I wonder what the current laws are.

This SMH article from 2007 says that in NSW, disallowing a woman to breastfeed could bring you a $40,000 fine. Awesome!

I'm not sure how I feel about Lees. I don't completely dislike her. There are aspects of her that I do like--at least some of her views about mothering and parenting. My feeling is she's someone who's had a difficult life and therefore has some ongoing personality problems. She probably means well for the most part, but isn't the easiest person to get along with or like.

Note: something weird is going on with my blog. Via Statcounter, I came to realize that certain blogs say this entry links to their blog. I have no idea why. It's really weird. Is anything like that happening to anyone else?

The way I noticed it is I saw I was getting traffic from other blogs. I went to check out those blogs and at the posts-that-link to this post (at bottom near comments) it lists this post.


  1. Meg Lees is political poison after she climbed into bed with Howard to push through the GST.

  2. What an interesting post - you've really done your reading on Meg.
    I met her a few times when I was a Democrats member. I was the Canberra newsletter editor and website manager during the GST negotiations, it was a very difficult time for the party.

    While Meg seemed like a nice person, I think she underestimated how important it was to the membership that the party did not support the GST. For a party whose line was "keep the bastards honest", the anti-GST members sure felt like we, as a party, were bastards for letting people think there wouldn't be a GST and then allowing it to happen.

    I think she also sometimes felt that the end justified the means - like allowing the sell-off of Telstra to pay for environment policies. The left-leaning membership were all for looking after the environment, but not at the expense of vital publicly owned communications infrastructure. They felt that it was another example of her lack of transparency and accountability to the party membership, principles on which the party was founded.

    So when it became clear that Meg Lees was no longer acceptable as a leader, we started looking for an alternative. And the only viable alternative was Natasha Stott Despoja. While I thought she was fantastic (I still think she's a hard-working, honest, and principled woman), she didn't last simply because the party was suffering major in-fighting over right vs left politics.

    I think the demise of the Democrats is a sad loss to Australian politics, but has taught us some important lessons. One of which is, it's not enough to be transparent and accountable. Because at some point, an issue like the GST or Telstra privatisation will come up, and everyone has to choose a side.

    If you want to check out an Australian political party that is all about social justice, nurturing the environment, birth choices and better education and strong women, have a look at What Women Want. For a party who only registered a few weeks before the 2007 election date was announced, they did very well - and with no funding.

  3. Jayne: It seems she was really in the wrong political party.

    Emma Davidson: Hi! Thanks. I think it's always a problem when politicians promise one thing and then go back on their word. Broken promises and infighting are definitely in the recipe of disaster and failure.

    I think I saw the What Women Want party mentioned when I was reading. It looks interesting. I definitely want to read more about it.

  4. I had a good laugh when Meg Lees started the Australian Progressive Aliance. My reaction was "How can one person be an alliance? That was on a par for silliness with some of her other ideas. Under our system you can create as many political parties as you like but the only ones that can have their names put on a ballot paper next to a candidate's name are those with a statutorily prescribed number of members or at least one member in a parliament. This varies between States and the Commonwealth as they have separate electoral laws and governing commissions. The Commonwealth requires a minimum of 500 members who are electors within the Commonwealth. As Meg held the seat she won as a Democrat she was able to cheat and avoid the membership threshold. I'm no fan of Cheryl Kernot but she, at least, had the decency to resign when she defected to the ALP and thereby allowed the Democrats to nominate a replacement. Not so with Meg.

    In the 2004 election she was tossed out and I suspect that those mugs who offered themselves as candidates under her APA banner all lost their deposits.

    Meg and Andrew Murray were the traitors who put the finishing touches on what Kernot began in the sorry tale of the demise of the Democrats.

    The trouble with naifs like Meg is that they allow the flattery they receive when they have something to sell to turn their heads. When the democrats held the balance of power and could make or break the GST and Telstra plans of the Howard government there was a torrent of sucking up from the Coalition. This apparently sent her a bit mad and led her to think that she could be a player in her own right. Of course, once the '04 election gave Howard control of the Senate, she was on the rubbish heap. In the seven months between the election and the swearing in of the new Senate, the Coalition failed to notice her existence. As I said to someone just after the election, "Why should they give her something for something when they only have to wait a few months and they can have everything for nothing?" Howard and Costello apparently figured that out too. :) (Goes off laughing evilly..)

    Yep, I'm a bitter, twisted former Democrat supporter. Like all the others now. Former.

  5. Retaruius,

    So, what are you now? Have you picked a new party yet?

    I wonder how many members she had in her alliance? Do you know? I never realized she didn't have the required number.

  6. I call myself a pragmatic socialist. I've never belonged to any party. I usually vote Green now for want of anything better.

    The AEC's website has a Google search box that you can search their site with. It produced some links that showed that APA ran 13 candidates for the Senate in 2004. (They apparently had no House candidates.)I imagine the candidates were a few personal contacts of Meg Lees.

    Here's a taut little history of APA at this link:


    This link shows the whole range of parties at the 2004 election:


    Have a look at the names on the list of parties contesting the elections. Some of them are quite odd. Things were once stranger. Until the law was changed a few years ago (prior to 2004) it was (amazingly) possible to register weird or offensive party names or personal names created by deed poll. People thus used their new name to identify their cause when they didn't have enough members to register a party. When Pauline Hanson was firing people up a couple of men(?) changed their names and registered as candidates, callling themselves David Mouldfield and Pauline Handsome Handpuppet. About the same time some character unhappy with the Family court ran for Howard's seat, Bennelong, using the name "Mr Prime Minister John PISS THE FAMILY COURT AND LEGAL AID". Like-minded candidates apparently ran in each State for the Senate using variants of the name. We had one in WA. The word "surreal" is overused; the surreal is a rare thing in most peoples' lives. However, I can attest that it produced a genuinely strange sensation to stand at the carrel in the polling station and read a ballot paper with that printed on it!

  7. Retarius,

    I think it's hard to take parties seriously when there name is so specific.

    Australians against further immigration.

    Ex-Service, service, and veterans party

    Help End Marijuana possession

    Outdoor Recreation party.

    Are they really serious?

    It's like me starting a party called Be Nice to Farm Animals. It would be better to make it more general--like humane treatment for all. Well, you know something with a catchier title, but like that. I guess I could call it the HTA party. But it would be foolish to make a party that just catered to saving farm animals. It would be better to have a party that tried to end ALL types of suffering. That way I think I'd have more people interested.

    As for not fitting in with any political parties, I'm like that with religion. I don't really fit into any category. No religious group or label satisfies me.

    In terms of politics, I DO really like the Australian Greens. But since I'm not Australian, well....

    We do have a green party and candidates that fit my ideals, but they're powerless in our type of government.