Published by Monash's mojo on August 13, 2013.
The Australian Sex Party is attracting a rising number of voters disenchanted with the major parties’ views on civil liberties and human rights issues such as drug use, sex education, homosexuality and asylum seekers. This article continues mojo’s series about minor and niche parties running in the 2013 Federal Election.
It’s a polarising name that has both attracted and repelled voters.
“People find it difficult at times,” admits Australian Sex Party convener Fiona Patten. But, with more than 20 years’ experience in the adult industry and as a civil rights lobbyist, she is not one to shy away from controversy.
“How we treat the worst off in our country is how we should be judged,” she says. “Certainly representing marginalised groups is an important part of representing a country.”
Since being registered with the Australian Electoral Commission in 2009, the Australian Sex Party has grown to include more than 6000 members. It will be running more than 30 candidates in the federal election, most of them contesting Lower House seats in Victoria.
The party believes voter support was evident in a recent state by-election in the Victorian seat of Lyndhurst, where the party gained 8.4 per cent of votes.
“It’s a really solid result,” says Patten, who will be running for a Victorian Senate seat. “I think that means that our policies are resonating with the community.”
However, she fears the preferencing system, which has traditionally allowed minor and niche parties to pick up seats, could work against the Sex Party.
“So many of smaller parties are from the Right: the Rise Up Australia Party, the Democratic Labor Party. There are many socially conservative parties and not so many progressive parties. For us to win on preferences, it’s going to be a challenge.”
According to Patten, it’s precisely this lack of diversity in political representation that created a need for parties like hers in parliament.
“I certainly think that the two-party system does this country a disservice. If you look at how you get preselected in the ALP and the Liberal Party, it comes from a very small gene pool. You get very similar people almost cloned to each other.”
It’s evident from its policies that the Sex Party is not a clone of the major parties. Its civil liberty-driven policies are controversial: discouraging what it sees are the “over-reflection” of Judeo-Christianity in public life and the decriminalisation of recreational drugs.
Patten suggests public education about drugs and alcohol would decrease substance abuse and misuse.
“The data is there to say the decriminalisation of drugs saves lives,” she says, pointing to Portugal’s rehabilitation program as a model. “It changes the way young people see drug use: it’s something sick people do, not something cool or bad people do.”
She says similar awareness programs in sex education could prove just as effective.
“I do not want kids getting their sex education from hustler.com. If we started talking to children about their sexuality from a young age, that would help in things like child sexual abuse, when kids know what’s right, and know that adults touching them certain ways is not.”
The Sex Party aims to create policies that respond to technological changes in recent years.
“In the 21st century, young people have access to a much wider range of info and material than they did in the last century. We need to prepare young children for that,” Patten says.
She thinks smaller parties are gathering popularity because the major parties are yet to acknowledge these changes taking place in society – from medical changes such as abortion drugs to human rights issues such as asylum seekers and homosexuality.
“People are moving away from major political parties because they don’t recognise their voice: it’s not (the public’s) voice anymore. I think the smaller parties are reflecting the new voices.”
The next instalment in mojo’s The Minors series will feature a party that was only formally registered with the AEC last month: The Smokers’ Rights Party.