Published by mojo on 3 September, 2013.

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They’re not registered for this year’s federal election and they have no candidates, but they still want voters’ attention. The party is on the campaign trail, and the issue is funding. 

By TONI BRIENT

Campaign funding. It’s a discussion that usually comes to the forefront at election time, focusing jointly on the notion of the taxpayer dollar, and the access to funding for minor party and independent candidates.

The payment rate for electoral candidates is in proportion to their share of the vote (in 2010 it was a little more than 231 cents for each primary vote), pegged against the Consumer Price Index.

In addition, the Australian Electoral Commission requires candidates to pay a deposit with their registration: $1000 for those contesting a seat in the House of Representatives candidates, and $2000 for Senate candidates.

According to Flinders University’s Dr Rob Manwarring, who lectures in politics, the system creates a cycle that all but guarantees success for larger parties. He says allocating funding according to votes means the major parties “mop up most of that taxpayer money”.

“That in itself means that niche parties have less money so their impact tends to be at low levels, and very specific around particular issues.”

For the Lamington Party, which is not even registered with the Australian Electoral Commission, campaign and election costs prevented them from running candidates in the 2013 federal election.

“The committee had a long discussion about this,” says party founder Jason McKenzie. “We basically said, ‘Are we better off being the 57th party to run candidatess on the Senate paper, or are we better off putting all funds and effort into a social media campaign, to start a public debate on the issues?’ ”

McKenzie says the party, which stands broadly for the modernisation of Australia, will be focusing its efforts on building support for the 2016 federal election. He intends to run candidates in any state elections and federal by-elections that occur before then.

The Lamington Party’s policy platform includes increasing transparency in government and promoting creativity, innovation, and sustainability. Its approach to policy reflects the history of the lamington itself.

“They’re made with ingredients that were available, they take a problem-solving approach and create something quite likeable. It represents ingenuity. It reflects a bit of the quirkiness that we’re trying to get in here.”

 

Posted
AuthorToni Brient

Published by mojo on 2 September, 2013.

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With a week to go to the federal election, 54 political parties are officially vying for your vote, with at least a third so new they’ve only been registered since July. Some have been profiled already in mojo, and here is a brief look at what the rest of the minor parties stand for*. 

By TONI BRIENT

Animal Justice Party

“Animal cruelty is an unfortunate and all-too-common feature of Australian society that must come to an end.” The Animal Justice Party seeks to raise awareness of animal protection through political campaigning. It is concerned with issues such as wildlife destruction, factory farming, animal transportation and the use of animals for sport and entertainment.

Australia First Party (NSW) Incorporated

“There is a growing resistance to the politics of New World Order liberal-globalist-capitalism throughout Australia and the rest of the world.” In what it calls a “new political generation”, the Australia First Party seeks to unite Australians and “reaffirm” the country’s identity, independence and freedom.

Australian Christians

“We believe that a party appealing to Australian Christians has the potential to be the third voice on the Australian political landscape.” They seek to draw on biblical teachings as a guide for political leadership. The Australian Christians advocate a stronger Judeo-Christian presence in Canberra, with values like honesty, integrity and hope.

Australian Democrats

“Keep the bastards honest!” reads the quote from Australian Democrats founder Don Chipp on the party’s homepage. The party promotes the broad values of freedom, equality, and environmental and economic sustainability. Its comprehensive range of policies support racial and sexual equality, gives immigration priority to refugees, and backs climate action.

Australian First Nations Political Party

“Remember the old ‘dogtag’ pass days? The chains around the necks of our forebears?” This party calls itself the first Aboriginal political party. It was launched as a response to  intervention into Aboriginal communities in the the Northern Territory.

Australian Fishing and Lifestyle Party

“Everywhere, lifestyle rights are at risk – Aussies are no longer allowed to enjoy unrestricted access to the ‘great Aussie outdoor lifestyle’.” This party supports minimal government, Australian sovereignty, and closed borders. However, it believes national transport systems are rendering internal state boundaries irrelevant. The party supports minimal environmental protection and increased marine farming, including on the Great Barrier Reef, which it says is not under any immediate danger.

Australian Independents

“All political representatives and parliamentarians should at all times demonstrate the capacity to shelve their own beliefs, views and policy priorities.” The Australian Independents seek to “properly” represent their constituents in Parliament. The party says it refuses financial donations from unions and corporations and avoids engaging in political slander and dramatics.

Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party

“We are not rebels tearing up the bitumen in a petrol-fueled frenzy. We are responsible individuals with a great deal of time and money invested in our passion.” As a spokesperson for the motoring community, this party was convened to ensure the freedom of Australian motorists’ lifestyles. It says it is primarily concerned with road safety, including the safety of its vehicles from damage by public roads.

Australian Protectionist Party

 “(We will) build our protectionist ideology and develop the Australian Protectionist Party into a broader social-political movement.” This party aims to protect what it says are the Australian way of life. Its policies include the promotion of free speech, high tariffs to protect Australian jobs and industries, a zero-net immigration policy, and the destruction of multiculturalism.

Australian Sex Party

“How we treat the worst off in our country is how we should be judged. Representing marginalised groups is an important part of representing a country.” Read mojo’s profile of the Australian Sex Party here.

Australian Sovereignty Party

“The Government has limited powers to act as our agent and servant. When people subjugate their personal rights for the greater good, tyranny ensues.” Its platform contains protectionist and libertarian elements. It is primarily concerned with eradicating national debt, proposing a debit tax of 1 per cent (on all payments) to replace all other taxes – including income tax and the GST – which it claims would result in a $235 billion budget surplus (timeframe not given). Customs and excise duties would remain.

Australian Sports Party

“Are you more interested in sports than politics?” its website asks. The Australian Sports Party promotes healthy living through sport and recreation, which it believes will promote strong communities. It advocates government spending on community recreation facilties.

Australian Stable Population Party

“Australia’s population is currently growing by over 1000 people per day. It’s no wonder Australia’s quality of life is being degraded.” This party says Liberal and Labor governments would grow the country from 23 million people today to 40 million by 2050. The Australian Stable Population Party plans to “stabilise” the population at 26 million by the same date to enable a fairer sharing of resources.

Australian Voice Party

“It’s time for reform and the only way that can happen is with a grassroots movement.” The party seeks to “solve” the problems it says  current politicians are incapable of solving: the “broken” health system, “spiraling” living costs, “out of control” crime, the “struggling” small business industry, “illegal” immigrants and food security.

Bank Reform Party

“A new non-aligned political party with one initial aim, reform the banks and the legal system to protect Australians from greedy and unfair banks.” According to the Bank Reform Party, the banks are incapable of self-regulation and the government should intervene. The party was convened by the lobby group Unhappy Banking, an assembly of former and disgruntled BankWest customers.

Building Australia Party

“Governments of all persuasions are not adhering to the principles of good business acumen when applying policies in all areas under government control.” United members of the building industry created the Building Australia Party to promote housing affordability and a stronger building sector. The party supports sustainable development, red tape reduction, and reduced land costs.

Bullet Train for Australia

“A new HSR (high-speed rail) system would cost less than a third of the billions of dollars spent maintaining degrading roads over the last 20 years.” The somewhat infamous party advocating a national rail network delivering 200+ kmphr speeds has no official position on any non-train issues. Elected politicians would be bound to abstain from voting on any other issue.

 Carers Alliance

“It was just the most isolating and crushing experience and I would hate to think that families are going through that experience.” Read mojo’s profile of the Carers Alliance here.

Christian Democratic Party (Fred Nile Group)

“Although CDP candidates are in total agreement with CDP aims and principles, they are free to vote on legislation according to their conscience under God’s guidance.” The party aims to “advance the glory of God” through political activism by promoting a public adherence to Christian values. It is led by the Rev Fred Nile, a member of the NSW Legislative Council.

Citizens Electoral Council of Australia

“The most pressing issue of our times, for both Australia and the world, is the accelerating onset of the new Great Depression.” In a tradition stretching back to the 1980s, the Citizens Electoral Council advocates broad economic reform to avoid a “New Dark Age” brought on by a “global financial oligarchy” of national governments, media corporations and international banks.

Coke in the Bubblers Party

“We’re a group of young Australians with a sugar-headache. We’re concerned for the future, frustrated by the unreasonableness in Canberra and we’ll move overseas if Clive Palmer gets control of the senate.” Ironically, the party was formed to protest against what it says are empty election promises, such as free cola drinking fountains. The party advocates transparency and accountability in government.

Country Alliance

“We have been let down by ill-informed policy advice from city-based bureaucrats whose only exposure to country life is watching McLeod’s Daughters.” The Country Alliance promotes equality between regional and metropolitan cities. It says there is a disparity in access to things like transport and amenities, and increased costs of living.

Democratic Labour Party (DLP)

 

“Unlike the ALP, it is not dictated to by unions and unlike the Liberal Party, it does not seek to serve the interests of big business.” The DLP considers itself in the centre of the political spectrum. It advocates onshore processing of asylum seekers, opposes same-sex marriage, and proposes to increase exploration for and development of new and traditional forms of power generation.

 

Drug Law Reform Party

“Why is it that some drugs are regulated, controlled, taxed and freely available to those over 18 years if age, and some aren’t?” This party seeks to raise awareness about what it says is ongoing harm from “outdated” drug laws. The party wants an overhaul of drug laws in Australia. Elected politicians would take conscience votes on other matters.

Family First Party

“We are interested in policies which strengthen families, strengthen values and strengthen Australia.” It describes itself as a conservative party with a Christian heritage, and is also a registered company with the Australian Security and Investment Commission (ASIC).  Family First advocates “safe” jobs, neighbourhoods, finances and retirement.

Future Party

“Quality of life is improved primarily through technological developments, sources through a scientific approach to knowledge in the context of democracy and peace.” The Future Party aims to discover long-term solutions for Australian society by making use of modern technology. Its sees innovation, education and economic reform as the key to national success.

Help End Marijuana Prohibition (HEMP) Party

“People are hungry for information on how to resist the everyday oppression of the ‘drug laws’ in our country.The party aims to decriminalise the personal use, possession and cultivation of cannabis, and establish industries to create food, fuel and other environmentally friendly resources from cannabis products. The party would also release individuals imprisoned for cannabis alone and erase the criminal records of cannabis convictions.

Katter’s Australian Party

“The problem is made worse by the fact the Liberal and Labor parties are largely funded by offshore-owned corporations and organisations whose agendas differ from that of most Australian-owned businesses.” Run by the Right-wing, Akubra-wearing Member for Kennedy, Bob Katter, this party seeks a return to what it calls traditional Australian values. It advocates deregulation, public ownership of assets, more support for the rural sector and economic protectionism.

Nick Xenophon Group

“I would rather go down fighting than still be standing because I stayed silent.” Independent SA senator Nick Xenophon, a key figure on pokies reform, is this one-man party. The party was established so Mr Xenophon could be listed above the line on the ballot paper.

No Carbon Tax Climate Sceptics

“I’m not sceptical the climate is changing. There’s always been change. What I am sceptical about is that there is a cause for climate change: it’s not human-induced.” Read mojo’s profile of the No Carbon Tax Climate Sceptics here.

Non-Custodial Parents Party (Equal Parenting)

“Fifty-50 joint custody is to be the first option when considering where children of separated families are to reside.” The Non-Custodial Parents Party supports shared custody arrangements in separated families with a focus on “equal” parenting. It advocates custodial arrangements that would primarily benefit the child by granting access to both parents.

One Nation

“Pauline Hanson dared to challenge the entrenched bureaucracy and the vested interests of the political ruling elite by stating the truth as she saw it.” The controversial far Right party was formed in the 1990s by Pauline Hanson, who was jailed for electoral corruption. It advocates closed borders, voluntary euthanasia, increased welfare payments for tertiary students and the abolition of taxes or policies relating to climate change in favour of a royal commission into climate science.

Outdoor Recreation Party (Stop The Greens)

“Public land should be accessible for recreational purposes and actively managed, not locked up and neglected.” Explicitly hostile toward current green policies, the party advocates a reverse of restrictions on what is currently classified as environmentally sensitive land. It says these areas should be open to the public because people are “integral and not alien to the land”.

Palmer United Party

“Not only are they boring, but neither Abbott or Rudd will debate the critical issues.” Mining magnate and billionaire Clive Palmer is running Palmer United Party candidates in electorates throughout the country. Mr Palmer started this party to push economic reform, including the abolition of the Carbon Tax and Fringe Benefits Tax, and abolition of Disability Care’s age limit.

Pirate Party Australia

“The digital age has provided stunning progress. Old-style media and government centralism have been recast or overthrown, creating space for citizen engagement and new voices.” The Pirate Party Australia is a civil libertarian party advocating what it calls the inalienable rights of free speech, privacy and liberty. The party promotes institutional transparency, and calls for a review of copyright and freedom of information laws.

Republican Party of Australia

“If we desire an end to the outmoded arrangements which obtain then we must act for the Australian Republic before the monarch dies.” With no links to the American Republican Party, the Republican Party of Australia calls itself a “futuristic, secular-humanist, free enterprise libertarian party.” It advocates the immediate break from the British monarchy, so Australia can become a sovereign republic.

Rise Up Australia Party

With a party tagline to “Keep Australia Australian”, the Rise Up Australia party advocates closed borders, cultural assimilation, and lower unemployment.

Secular Party of Australia

“We want women, minorities and the LGBTI community to be free of discrimination and the dictates of archaic superstition.” As its name suggests, the Secular Party supports a removal of religious influence from political life. The party advocates freedom from discrimination, the abolition of tax exemptions for religious institutions, voluntary euthanasia, and the use of scientific methods such as stem cell research.

Senator Online (Internet Voting Bills/Issues)

“Part of the ideal in this model is to allow people to be involved in government more than they have been.” Read mojo’s profile of Senator Online here.

Shooters and Fishers Party

“The voice of hunters, shooters, fishers, rural and regional Australia advocating for the politically incorrect, a voice of reason, science and conservation.” This party aims to promote the sustainable use of natural resources and freedom for the “lifestyle” choices of shooting and fishing groups. The party views its family values as conservative and calls for stronger border security and a review of foreign aid contributions.

 Smokers Rights Party

“Even the Greens used to be seen as the party against victimisation of smokers, but perhaps they were focused on people smoking things other than tobacco.” Read mojo’s profile of the Smokers Rights Partyhere.

 Socialist Alliance

“People before profits! Put the mines, banks and energy companies in the hands of the people!” The Socialist Alliance supports climate action, indigenous and refugee rights, marriage equality, and increased welfare funding for students, families, and people with disabilities.

 Socialist Equality Party

The Socialist Equality Party, although registered with the Australian Electoral Commission, is not contesting the 2013 election.

 Stop CSG Party

“The practice of fracturing the ground for coal seam gas can damage underground water reserves with toxic chemicals that are dangerous to humans, animals and plants.” The Stop CSG Party was formed in response to what it calls the “devastating affects (sic)” of “unconventional” gas mining such as coal seam gas (CSG) mining. The party seeks to pressure government to ban CSG mining.

 The 23 Million

“Twenty-three million is the current population of Australia. Each of those 23 million has a voice that deserves to be heard by government.” ‘The 23’ views itself as a group of ordinary citizens who are not career politicians. The party says its sole purpose is to overhaul Australian politics. Its candidates can only run for a single term, will refuse financial donations, form no political alliances, and make all communications a matter of public record.

 The Wikileaks Party

“Julian Assange is a world-famous dissident who has achieved more for the public record, and in the public interest, that all of the news media combined.” Whistleblower and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange formed the party to promote institutional transparency and accountability. It recently came under fire after Victorian senate candidate Leslie Cannold quit the party, claiming the party was failing to live up to its democratic aims.

 Uniting Australia Party

“Our aim is to bring back some common sense into politics. It is about real people and the real issues facing everyday Australians.” The Uniting Australia Party aims to abolish foreign ownership of Australian land, stop the “lifelong perks” granted to retired politicians, reform the legal and welfare systems, and promote climate action.

 Voluntary Euthanasia Party

“Over four in five Australians are in favour of new legislation and we wish to allow that sentiment to be clearly demonstrated at the ballot box.” The Voluntary Euthanasia Party supports the provision of medical procedures for the painless, assisted death of patients of a terminal or incurable illness who have expressed rational intentions to terminate their lives within appropriate legal safeguards.

 *This list does not include the major parties or their branches and subdivisions. 

 

Posted
AuthorToni Brient

Published by mojo on 1 September, 2013.  

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There is climate change, but human action is not the cause, and governments should know better, says the Climate Sceptics Party. For a start, the party wants all parliamentarians tested for maths and science knowledge.

By TONI BRIENT

“All this whole thing about climate change has highlighted a whole lot of things about the inefficiencies in the current state of our civilization,” says Chris Dawson, the No Carbon Tax Climate Sceptics party’s Victorian Senate candidate. 

Despite its name, the party, registered with the Australian Electoral Commission since June 2010, does not deny the existence of climate change.

“I’m not sceptical the climate is changing,” says Dawson, who has a Master’s degree in engineering from Swinburne University of Technology and founded the Lord Monckton Foundation, which promotes and supports Lord Monckton’s views.

“There’s always been change. What I am sceptical about is that there is a cause for climate change; it’s not human-induced. Or, to put it more accurately, the extent to which it is human-induced is immeasurable.”

According to Dawson, it is not a single-issue party, but rather one that views climate action as a catalyst for many of the world’s contemporary problems.

It calls for a review of all current scientific and economic policy (particularly environment and climate action policy), the eradication of many government departments (especially climate action departments), and the privatisation of bodies and projects such as the nation broadband network and NBN Co.

Dawson suggests Australia’s head of state should be a “sober, full-blood Aboriginal”.

The party holds other unconventional platforms, including that Australian membership of international bodies should be subject to referendum, and that parliamentarians undergo mandatory science and mathematics testing, since many are “illiterate” in those disciplines, Dawson says.

He has engaged in debate with many elected MPs, including Opposition climate spokesman Greg Hunt.

According to Dawson, the bigger parties’ climate policies are aimed at political ends, not scientific ones, with the result that “the facts” are silenced.

“There are a number of (politicians) who think the whole thing is a scam. They’ve only gone ahead and gone through with (climate action) because it’s popular: it got the votes.”

Dawson says “the sociopaths all joining together at the United Nations” fabricated human-induced climate change to manipulate the masses and gain power.

“There’s no evidence that there’s CO2 linked to any change in climate, and there’s plenty of evidence that there’s political machinations going on at the UN to try and gain control over the industrial development of the world,” he says.

He points to the notion of a global carbon market as an example of political manipulation.

“It’s designed to stop the Third World taking up cheap energy and encouraging them to take up sustainable energy. It’s all in line to control the world’s population, because the theory is that we can’t have a world population all living a Western lifestyle because we’ll be ‘polluting’.”

He says all climate action policy has a malevolent purpose.

“It’s basically a manifesto to send most of us into some sort of subservient subsistence. If you assume that there’s no such thing as people conspiring against you and against Australians, then you’ve got rocks in your head.”

 

Posted
AuthorToni Brient

Published by mojo on 27 August, 2013.

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People with disabilities are the main - but not the only – item on the agenda  for a party that thinks everyone is entitled to a fair go. 

 

 

By TONI BRIENT

“We just felt that we had to hit them where it hurt, and that’s at the ballot box,” says veteran campaigner Maree Buckwalter.

The lobbyist has spent decades campaigning for rights and services for people living with a disability. After years of lobbying, she became a founding member of Carers Alliance in an attempt to fight legislation from inside Parliament.“We just felt that we had to hit them where it hurt, and that’s at the ballot box,” says veteran campaigner  .

“We have a small chance, but the fact that we’re there has elevated the issue into the political arena,” she says.

Along with party secretary Mary Lou Carter, Buckwalter will be contesting senate seats in NSW. The party is fielding three Lower House candidates in NSW, along with Senate candidates in Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia.

“We’re not a single issue party,” says Carter. “The issue is broad. It’s part of neighbourhoods and communities. Very few of us have just one child, so issues that affect children who don’t have disabilities affect our children too.”

With diverse backgrounds in areas such as small business, health care and legal services, Carter suggests the party is equipped to represent all Australians.

“We want people to know that we are dedicated to the cause of getting a fair go. We have a very broad view of life.”

While the official party platform hinges around health and education services, Buckwalter and Carter toldmojo about their views on national security, asylum seeker policy, infrastructure and industry.

“We need to do something about protecting borders, with the amount of people coming here as economic refugees,” says Buckwalter. “Defence is very important, particuarly given we are so isolated. Funding needs to be adequate for that.”

Carter would like to see attention and protection at a local level.

“There is a massive neglect of infrastucture in our regions, and transport issues. Regional hospitals should be sourcing food locally to give jobs to local areas. A lot of that has been displaced.”

The official party platform – and the area both Buckwalter and Carter talk most passionately about – is disability support. Both Carter and Buckwalter have close family with disabilities.

Carers Alliance supports the rights of children, including those without a disability. Their policies propose regular mental, physical and emotional health assessments, as well as equal access to support services. Their education policy proposes equal access and funding for students of varying intellectual and physical abilities, including a “universal design for learning”, which aims to provide for the diverse learning needs of individual students, in terms of content, methods and motivation.

The party advocates for at-home aged care, aiming to support elderly people so they can remain at home, rather than have to move into a care facility.

Mental health reform is also on Carers Alliance policy platform, with a pledge of 12 per cent of its health budget for that area.

Carter suggests the party’s driving objective is to provide overarching support to those marginalised by disability in various forms, which families like hers know all too well.

“It was just the most isolating and crushing experience and I would hate to think that families are going through that experience.”

Next, mojo speaks to the No Carbon Tax Climate Sceptics

 

Posted
AuthorToni Brient

Published by Monash's mojo  on August 13, 2013.

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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.

Posted
AuthorToni Brient

Published on Monash's mojo on 2 August, 2013. 

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This article is the second in mojo‘s series about minor and niche parties running in the 2013 Federal Election. Senators Online will allow its constituents to have their say on issues debated in Parliament by voting online. The party says it will change the way Australia’s political system works.

by TONI BRIENT

“The government is the most important thing we’ve got,” says Senators Online founder Berge der Sarkissian. “I just thought there must be a way where we can use the internet to make government better.”

Senators Online (SOL), registered on the Australian Electoral Commission since 2007, is proposing to do just that. Its elected MPs and senators would adhere to a new model allowing the public to vote on Bills tabled in Parliament using the internet. The party says its model would increase transparency in government and promote “direct democracy”.

Senators Online's Karel Boele, explains his party’s proposal for grassroots voting on Bills. Photo: SOL.

 


“The party line is that you have to vote in accordance with your constituency,” says SOL NSW Senate candidate Karel Boele.

“People can log in and vote on any Bill. At the third reading (in Parliament), I will look at the vote. If the majority have voted in favour then I vote in favour.”

The party says voters will be able to access detailed information for each Bill they vote on, enabling them to make informed decisions.

“Part of the ideal in this model is to allow people to be involved in government more than they have been,” says Mr der Sarkissian.

Political commentator Malcolm Farnsworth suggests the idea is good in theory, but may not translate easily into practice.

“It’s unworkable to expect Parliament to operate this way.

“It’s a fantasy to think the electorate wants to do this, let alone that it would produce sensible legislation, stable government, or evidence-based public policy.”

But the party says voters would not be required to contribute their time to every Bill.

“Will we every get 100 per cent connectivity? I doubt it.

“You will always people who are apathetic.

“I could set a notification to say please notify me when there are Bills about superannuation because that’s what I’m interested in,” says Mr Boele.

In fact, SOL aims to make use of voters’ interests and expertise to collectively draft Bills online. Mr der Sarkissian suggests the process would be overseen by professionals employed by government and contracted specialists like university researchers. However, Mr Farnsworth suggests the model creates the potential for skewed results.

“These ideas would inevitably result in domination by small groups seeking to impose their will on the populace.

“Imagine giving the anti-abortionists, the anti-fluoridationists, and the shooters access to this kind of thing.”

SOL says its model will account for skewed results with a voting threshold of 20 per cent in each electoral division, or 100,000 nationally.

Flow chart showing how Senators Online’s proposal on Bill voting. Image: SOL.

“But really it’s other parties having to work with us, because we’re the people.

“If our vote in Parliament counts, then they’re going to have to look.

“One or many, we’d be using the Senators Online model.”

But, Mr Boele predicts that some of his potential parliamentary colleagues would be reluctant to adopt the model.

“Tony Abbott would not be where he is, he would lose power immediately,” he laughs.

“I don’t think you’ll get the major parties taking it up.”

Stay tuned for next week’s party profile, when mojo speaks with No Carbon Tax Climate Sceptics.

 

Posted
AuthorToni Brient
Publishedon Monash's mojo on July 24 as a prelude to my weekly 2013 election series.

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With Labor going back to the future with the reinstatement of Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister, attention will be almost firmly focused on the major political parties. However, it’s on the fringes that some of the more interesting battles – and candidates – will feature. From next week, mojo’s Toni Brient runs the magnifying glass over these parties, but firstly do they actually stand a chance in an election expected to sway heavily in favour of the Coalition?

by Toni Brient

Voters in the 2013 Federal election will potentially have a choice of representatives from over 50 political parties.

Some 37 parties are currently listed on the Australian Electoral Commission register (many of which are divided into state branches) with a further 17 awaiting approval to be registered.

Image: Flickr/Alex Hamilton.

Image: Flickr/Alex Hamilton.

The presence of minor and niche political parties are not a new phenomenon in Australia, but some say the groups are receiving renewed interest in the current political climate.

According to Flinders University School of Social and Policy Studies lecturer, Rob Manwaring, it does not signal a change in overall political participation.

“I don’t buy the argument that we’re more apathetic or more engaged,” says Dr Manwaring, who lectures in Australian politics, public policy, and political participation.

“The big trend is that trust is gone. People are far less trusting than they used to be.

“They’re not more disengaged though. They’re less likely to vote for the major parties.”

Political commentator and founder of AustralianPolitics.com, Malcolm Farnsworth, suggests the greatest impact of minor and niche parties will be shaping the political agenda and influencing preferences at election time.

“Recently, a new trend has emerged where micro parties combine to swap preferences.

“(This) helped DLP Senator John Madigan win in 2010 despite a very low primary vote.  It could assist Pauline Hanson in the 2013 election.”

Dr Manwaring suggests preference deals in recent years have caused a drop in the “overall share of votes” for larger parties, particularly in the Senate.

“They focus their campaigns there because that’s where they’re more likely to pick up their votes.”

Mr Farnsworth suggests a Senate presence is crucial to minor and niche parties gaining power.

“This is the only significant way the Greens, Democrats and the DLP were and are able to exercise power.”

Both Dr Manwaring and Mr Farnsworth expect to see a peripheral impact from minor and niche parties in the 2013 Federal Election.

“On the whole their influence is relatively fringe, almost like NGOs,” says Dr Manwaring.

“The media concentrates on the sparring between the main parties.

“It will be hard for minor parties to get a look in, let alone a niche one.”

Mr Farnsworth expects the Coalition to recover votes that have gone to minor parties like the Greens in recent years.

“Some people argue that Abbott is unpopular and this will encourage people to look for an alternative but I’m not at all convinced of that.

He said Kevin Rudd’s toppling of Julia Gillard could possibly, but not necessarily, blow the whole election wide open.

“In any event, I doubt that minor parties would have much influence.”

Dr Manwaring also expects the Greens’ vote to decline, with both he and Mr Farnsworth speculating that South Australian Senator Sarah Hanson-Young may lose her position.

But, because the Senate runs to a different electoral timetable than the House of Representatives, Dr Manwaring suggests the Greens will retain some power for a short time at least.

Dr Manwaring and Mr Farnsworth agree that the Family First party is likely to pick up seats.

Mr Farnsworth also predicts that the Australian Sex Party and Katter’s Australia Party will be popular in some areas.

Posted
AuthorToni Brient

Published on Monash University's mojo  on 28 May, 2012.

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With a federal election looming, journalists will again face the dilemma of whether casting a valid vote compromises their quest to maintain objective reporting.

By TONI BRIENT

In the United States, there is a significant movement of journalists abstaining from voting in the interests of objectivity.

Politico journalist, Mike Allen, has observed the practice since it first occurred to him as student journalist covering student body elections.

“You voted in a big barrel in the freshman quad and I started to walk over there but then realised that if I dropped in a slip of paper, the candidates I’d been covering — and the readers who trusted me — could see me and know that I wasn’t neutral in my heart,” he said in 2008.

With Australia’s mandatory and confidential voting system, the issue here is slightly different. For many Australian journalists, political influence does not begin or end at the ballot box.

Media reporter for The Australian, Sally Jackson, believes objectivity requires more than abstaining from voting.

“Stopping journalists voting to my mind doesn’t address the key issue, which is whether their reporting is fair and balanced,” she said

Media Watch’s Jonathan Holmes agrees.

“These issues are far more important than which way a journalist votes,” he said.

According to Jackson, journalists should possess the expertise to set aside their own political opinions.

“They should have the integrity and training not to let those beliefs influence their reporting.”

This view is gathering sway within the Australian news media landscape.

For the ABC’s Jonathan Green, “personal prejudice is a betrayal of professional practice”.

Holmes says professional decisions can also impact objectivity.

“It isn’t so much the way a reporter votes, as whom he is getting his information from, that can skew his coverage.”

He points to journalists like News Limited’s Dennis Shanahan, who he claims was “very close to John Howard” and is “uniformly hostile” towards current PM Julia Gillard, and Fairfax’s Peter Hartcher whose columns he believes ”are always running down Gillard and praising Rudd”.

“They get good stories by being closer to a particular source than their rivals,” Holmes said.

“But it can skew their coverage.”

Jackson points out that being too involved with one side of politics can also have the opposite effect.

“I have seen research that suggests journalists can sometimes be so afraid of being biased they end up being unfairly harsh on the side of politics they actually tend to favour,” she said.

According to Jackson, many Australian journalists exercise some form of resistance to voting (a “donkey vote”) in order to be seen as objective.

Former 3AW broadcaster Derryn Hinch admits he has never voted in an Australian election.

“I have looked at Prime Ministers and opposition leaders in the eye on the Monday after an election and they both know I did not vote for them or against them.”

Hinch appeared in Melbourne Magistrates Court last year for failing to vote in a 2010 Victorian state election, arguing that mandatory voting is undemocratic.

He also believes journalists should “divulge their political leanings” to their audience as “an ethical decision”.

But for a growing number of Australian journalists, like Jackson and Holmes, journalists should be judged on what they do outside the ballot box.

The Australian Electoral Commission will be glad to hear it, because it currently has no plans to excuse journalists from voting in the foreseeable future.

 

Source: http://artsonline.monash.edu.au/mojo/to-vo...
Posted
AuthorToni Brient