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Robert Wood

In office
11 July 1987 – 12 May 1988

Born 13 November 1949 (1949-11-13) (age 60)
Gateshead, England
Nationality Australian
Political party Nuclear Disarmament Party
Occupation Social worker

(William) Robert Wood (born 13 November 1949) was a UK-born Australian elected to the Australian Parliament in the 1987 elections as Senator for New South Wales.



Robert Wood was born at Gateshead in England. His father was an English steelworker; his mother was Italian.[1] The family emigrated to Australia in 1963 as assisted passage migrants.[2] Wood studied social work in both Sydney and Melbourne, and had a career as a youth and social worker prior to becoming a member of parliament.[3] However, he was unemployed at the time of his election, with one newspaper suggesting he was 'probably the only Member of Parliament to have been elected while on the dole'.[4] Wood has two children.[5]

Wood and the Nuclear Disarmament Party

Wood was a member of the Nuclear Disarmament Party (NDP), and was its candidate at the NSW Vaucluse by-election in 1986.[6] The NDP had failed narrowly to win a Senate seat in the 1984 federal election, when Midnight Oil singer Peter Garrett had stood under the party's banner. In 1987, the party had a lower profile, and Wood was at the head of its NSW Senate ticket. Though the party received only 1.53 per cent of the vote, Wood was elected as a result of preference flows from other parties, and the quota being nearly halved due to a double dissolution election for all Senate seats.[7] This was the lowest primary vote ever received by a successful minor party or independent candidate in an Australian Senate election.

Wood took his place in the Senate in August 1987. He immediately faced a court challenge from one of the unsuccessful candidates in the election, the Call to Australia party's Elaine Nile.[8] This case was dismissed in December that year.[9] However when Wood applied for a passport some months after entering parliament, it transpired that he had never taken out Australian citizenship and was thus ineligible to sit as a member of parliament.[10] A High Court case resulted in his disqualification, his term ending on 12 May 1988. A recount of the ballot resulted in the election in his place of Irina Dunn, who had been second on the ticket of the NDP.

Further controversy occurred when the NDP asked Dunn to resign so that Wood could reclaim his seat, following his taking out of Australian citizenship in 1988. Dunn refused, resulting in her expulsion from the party, and she remained in parliament as an independent until her defeat in the 1990 election. Wood contested that election as the first-ranked candidate for the Nuclear Disarmament Party in New South Wales, polling just over 1 per cent of the vote - more than his former running-mate Dunn, but nowhere near enough to be competitive for a Senate spot.[11]

Wood and the Australian Democrats

Wood then moved to Victoria and joined the Australian Democrats in 1990.[12] Internal disagreements within the Australian Democrats resulted in the departure of Victorian Senator Janet Powell from the party leadership in August 1991, and she resigned from the party altogether in 1992, contesting the 1993 Senate election under her own party banner, the Janet Powell Independents' Network.[13] Wood became the Democrats' lead candidate for the Victorian Senate in the 1993 federal election. He polled 3.93 per cent of the vote, but preferences were unable to get him elected.[14]

Extra-parliamentary activism

Wood campaigned on various peace and justice issues throughout his life. Wood was arrested and jailed in 1972 for refusing to be conscripted to fight in the Vietnam War.[15] He was a founding member of Sydney-based disarmament protest groups, Paddlers for Peace and Sydney Peace Squadron. He was arrested as a result of disarmament protest activities both before and after his term as a Senator.[16] Wood was also active in numerous community-based organisations that assisted people to overcome social and economic disadvantage. During his brief Senate career he had been a member of the Joint Parliamentary Liaison Group on AIDS, and launched the Democrats' policy on AIDS during the 1993 campaign.[17]


  1. ^ Paul Willoughby, 'A splash of colour in a grey world', The Advertiser (Adelaide), 23 Jan 1988
  2. ^ David Solomon, 'Doubt on Senator may force new poll', The Australian, 13 February 1988
  3. ^ Parliamentary Handbook, 1987 edition, Canberra
  4. ^ Keith Scott, 'Robert Wood: a man committed to peace', Canberra Times, 12 November 1987.
  5. ^ 'Parenthood is No. 1 for anti-nuclear Senator', The West-Australian, 26 Aug 1987
  6. ^ Be Bonham, 'Nine face charges in N-protest', Sydney Morning Herald, 15 Jun 1986, p. 7
  7. ^ Australian Government and Politics Database, Commonwealth Parliament, Senate election in New South Wales, 1987, retrieved July 2007
  8. ^ 'Nile will challenge activist's election', Canberra Times, 25 Aug 1987
  9. ^ Elaine Nile v. Robert Wood and Another F.C. 87/063 (1987) HCA 62
  10. ^ Holland, I., Section 44 of the Constitution, Department of the Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2004,
  11. ^ Department of the Parliamentary Library, Parliamentary Handbook, 1991, p. 439
  12. ^ Sally Gibson, '"Three way fight" for sixth senator', The Sunday Age, 14 March 1993
  13. ^ Margaret Easterbrook, 'Powell takes an independent gamble', The Age, 12 Feb 1993
  14. ^ Department of the Parliamentary Library, Parliamentary Handbook, 1993, p. 501. The figure of 3.93 per cent comprises the 3.46 per cent Democrat list vote plus 0.47 per cent of votes cast for him individually (ie. 'below the line')
  15. ^ Keith Scott, 'Robert Wood: A man committed to peace', Canberra Times, 12 Nov 1987
  16. ^ 'Parenthood is No. 1 for anti-nuclear Senator', The West-Australian, 26 Aug 1987
  17. ^ Australian Democrats, Democrats Launch AIDS Policy, Media Release, 23 February 1993


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