The Australian Democrats is an Australian political party in existence since 1977. It was Australia's largest minor party from its formation in 1977 through to 2004 and frequently held the balance of power in the Senate during that time. It was formally deregistered in 2016 for not having sufficient members.
The party was formed as a merger of the Australia Party and the New Liberal Movement, both of which were descended from Liberal Party splinter groups. The party's inaugural leader was Don Chipp, a former Liberal cabinet minister, who famously promised to "keep the bastards honest". At the 1977 federal election, the Democrats polled 11.1 percent of the Senate vote and secured two seats. The party would retain a presence in the Senate for the next 30 years, at its peak (between 1999 and 2002) holding nine out of 76 seats, though never securing a seat in the lower house. Its share of the vote collapsed at the 2004 election and was further diminished in 2007; the party has not mounted a serious nationwide campaign since then, and its last senators left office in 2008. From time to time, Democrats were also elected to the parliaments of four states and the Northern Territory.
Due to the party's numbers in the Senate, both Liberal and Labor governments required the assistance of the Democrats to pass contentious legislation, most notably in the case of the Howard Government's goods and services tax (GST). Ideologically, the Democrats were usually regarded as centrists, occupying the political middle ground between the Liberal Party and the Labor Party....LESS