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Meg Heather LEES

member of the Australian Senate

Meg Heather Lees was a member of the Australian Senate from 1990 to 2005, representing the state of South Australia.

Background

LEES, Meg Heather was born on October 19, 1948 in Burwood, New South Wales.

Education

Adelaide CAE, Bachelor of Education. Sydney Teacher’s College, Dip.

Career

She represented the Australian Democrats from 1990 to 2002, and was an independent senator between 2002 and 2005, adopting the party designation from 2003 to 2005. Between them they have six children. She was elected to the Senate in 1990.

Cheryl Kernot defected to the Australian Labor Party in October 1997, and Lees was called upon to stand in as acting leader. She was officially chosen as Kernot's replacement in December, with Natasha Stott Despoja becoming her deputy. During her time as leader, the Democrats strengthened the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act, improved the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, negotiated the GST tax reform and maintained the general oversight role of the Democrats in the Senate through a number of Senate inquiries.

In 1999, Prime Minister John Howard proposed the idea of a Goods and Services Tax. It was opposed by the Labor Party, the Australian Greens and independent Senator Brian Harradine, which meant that it required Democrat support to pass. In an election fought on tax, the Democrats publicly stated that they liked neither the Liberal (GST) tax package or the Labor package, but pledged to work with whichever party was elected to make their tax package better.

They campaigned with the slogan "No GST on food". A majority of the senators in the party room agreed to pass the bill if some amendments were made, mostly to exclude fresh food and essential items such as basic medicines. Stott Despoja stated that she was unhappy with the outcome, particularly the GST on books.

Both Stott Despoja and Queensland Senator Andrew Bartlett would ultimately cross the floor to vote against the GST package. However, a significant number of Democrat members remained unhappy with the GST deal, and began to agitate for a change in leadership. Under the Democrat constitution, a petition of 100 members can trigger a leadership ballot of all the members.

On the initial ballot, Meg Lees was returned unchallenged. Subsequently the Democrats faced a decline in the polls which, by April 2001, were indicating that several senators would lose their seats at the elections due for later that year. The members agitated again for a leadership ballot and, this time, Stott Despoja announced her intention to challenge Lees for the leadership, and was successful, replacing her on 6 April 2001.

In mid-2002, Lees began vocally opposing Stott Despoja's leadership, claiming that it had moved the party too far to the left. This culminated in Lees leaving the party to sit as an independent in July 2002. In April 2003 Lees announced the founding of the , which she claimed would have a more centrist view than the Democrats.

However, she was defeated at the October 2004 election and her term expired on 30 June 2005.