Natasha Stott Despoja

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Natasha Jessica Stott Despoja (born 9 September 1969) is an Australian former politician and former leader of the Australian Democrats. She was a Democrats senator for South Australia from 1995 to 2008. Appointed to the Senate at the age of 26, she was the youngest woman ever to become a member of the Parliament of Australia,[1] until Sarah Hanson-Young was elected in 2007.


Early life

Stott Despoja was born in Adelaide, the daughter of Shirley Stott, an Australian-born journalist with English heritage, and Mario Despoja, an immigrant from Croatia. She was educated at Stradbroke Primary and Pembroke School and, later, the University of Adelaide where she graduated B.A.. She was active in student politics, becoming president of the Students' Association of the University of Adelaide (SAUA) and serving as state women's officer for the National Union of Students in South Australia. She then worked as a political adviser to Democrat senators John Coulter (SA) and Cheryl Kernot (Qld).


On 29 November 1995, Stott Despoja was appointed to the casual vacancy created by the resignation of Senator Coulter due to ill-health. She completed the remainder of Coulter's term, was returned at the 1996 election and re-elected in 2001.

Stott Despoja was elected to the party's deputy leadership in 1997, under Meg Lees. At the time, she was party spokesperson for parliamentary portfolios including Science and Technology, Attorney General, Higher Education, IT, Employment and Youth Affairs.

During the passage of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) legislation in 1999, Stott Despoja, along with Andrew Bartlett, split from the party's other senators by opposing the package, which had been negotiated by Lees and prime minister John Howard. She said that she refused to break promises made by the party during the election. The party had gone to the election stating that they would work with whichever party formed government to improve their tax package. The Australian Democrats traditionally permitted parliamentary representatives to cast a conscience vote on any issue but, on this occasion, close numbers in the Senate placed greater pressure than usual on the dissenters.

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