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Nuclear Disarmament Party

Nuclear Disarmament Party
Founded June 1984 (1984-06)
Ideology Nuclear disarmament
Website (archive)

The Nuclear Disarmament Party (NDP) was a political party in Australia. The party was formed in 1984 and enjoyed considerable initial success.


  • Foundation, the 1984 election, and the split 1
  • Electoral controversy: the 1985 Nunawading Re-election 2
  • Electoral controversy: the 1987 election 3
  • Legacy 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7
  • Newsletter 8

Foundation, the 1984 election, and the split

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., and also that Hawke had overturned a long-standing ALP policy not to mine uranium, and had allowed mining in South Australia at Roxby Downs, which has since become one of the largest uranium mines in the world.

At the December 1984 federal election the NDP received 643,061 votes (7.23% of the total), and exceeded 4% in every state except Tasmania, where it received 3.9%. Amongst the NDP candidates were Peter Garrett, a rock singer, and Jean Melzer, a former Victorian ALP senator. Garrett polled 9.6% of the vote in NSW, and Melzer polled 7.3% in Victoria. Because of an adverse distribution of preferences (see Australian electoral system), neither Garrett nor Melzer was elected. However, Western Australian peace activist Jo Vallentine was elected to the Senate.

In April 1985, Vallentine, Garrett and Melzer, along with 30 other members, walked out of the national conference in Melbourne and resigned from the NDP, claiming that the party had been taken over by the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), a Trotskyist group.[1][2][3] In the wake of the split, Vallentine became an independent 'senator for nuclear disarmament' and went on to be re-elected as a "Vallentine Peace Group" candidate in the double dissolution election of 1987.

Electoral controversy: the 1985 Nunawading Re-election

Due to a tied vote in the upper house province of Nunawading, and having the winning vote drawn from a hat, a Labor government for the first time in its history had control of the Legislative Council. A fresh election was ordered by the Court of Disputed Returns after it was found that the Chief Electoral Officer drew a name from a hat rather than casting the deciding vote. The Liberals won re-election and Labor lost its slim majority. Within a week of polling day Mr Martin Peake, Chairman of the Victorian Nuclear Disarmament Party, lodged an official complaint with the Chief Electoral Officer of Victoria, about a deceptive NDP how to vote card handed out at the booths. In essence, the Victorian ALP state secretary organised forged NDP how-to-vote cards [4] and members of the Labor Party were recognised handing out this card and that the allocation of preferences to the ALP on the card damaged the NDP.[5] The government entered a cover-up to protect its state secretary Peter Batchelor and the Labor party.[6] As police investigated the case, the culprits blamed the SWP.[7]

Electoral controversy: the 1987 election

After this the NDP consisted of a 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% to 1.5%. However, after distribution of preferences from other minor parties, the NDP's Robert Wood received more than the 7.7% quota, and hence was duly elected. In May 1988, however, Wood, who was born in the United Kingdom, was disqualified from membership of the Senate on the grounds that he had not been an Australian citizen at the time of nomination.[8] Wood's seat was won on a recount of the ballots by the second candidate on the NDP ticket in NSW, Irina Dunn.[9]

When Wood was subsequently granted Australian citizenship he became eligible to be a member of parliament. The New South Wales Branch of the NDP asked Dunn to resign so they could seek to have Wood appointed to fill the casual vacancy. This might have allowed Wood to re-enter the Senate, however Dunn refused, citing various difficulties and risks with this scenario.[10] The New South Wales Branch of the NDP then expelled Dunn from the NDP.[11] Like Wood and Vallentine, Dunn described herself as a Senator for Nuclear Disarmament having already distanced herself from the NDP. She lost her Senate place at the 1990 election.


The NDP stood candidates at the 1998, 2001, 2004 and 2007 federal elections. The party was officially deregistered in December 2009.[12]

Jo Vallentine continued as a catalyst of the Australian Greens through her status as a WA Greens senator from 1990 until her resignation on health grounds in 1992.

See also


  1. ^ Nic MacLellan, 'The Election and Defection of the NDP', Peace Studies, July 1985, pp 18-19
  2. ^ Ken Mansell, 'Making Sense of the NDP Split', Peace Studies, July 1985, pp 19-20
  3. ^ Greg Adamson, 'The rise and undermining of anti-nuclear political action', Green Left Weekly issue 361, 19 May 1999.
  4. ^
  5. ^;db=CHAMBER;id=chamber%2Fhansardr%2F1992-10-14%2F0014;query=Id%3A%22chamber%2Fhansardr%2F1992-10-14%2F0080%22
  6. ^ Public debt and private pain, The Sun August 8, 1990
  7. ^
  8. ^ Holland, I., Section 44 of the Constitution, Department of the Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2004,
  9. ^ Keith Scott, 'Party brawling disarms the NDP's effectiveness', The Canberra Times, 23 Aug 1988
  10. ^ Kieth Scott, '"No games" on NDP seat: Greiner', Canberra Times, 9 June 1988
  11. ^ Chris Wallace, 'The Dunn-Wood war', The Herald (Melbourne), 17 August 1988
  12. ^ Nuclear Disarmament Party of Australia: Application for Voluntary Deregistration, Australian Electoral Commission, retrieved 23 January 2010

External links

  • Nuclear Disarmament Party website as at 7 March 2008, before organisation's webpage ceased to operate.


  • Newsletter (Nuclear Disarmament Party (Australia). A.C.T. Branch). ISSN 0815–4252. No. 1 ([1984])-no. 38 (Dec. 1991)
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