Starting from the left hand side of the paper tablecloth that we like to call a Senate Ballot paper, we have the Rise Up Australia Party, whose website has the cheery slogan “Keep Australia Australian!”.
Already, I am dubious. This is probably because I am un-Australian.
Their little flag-picture thingie adds a few more key words and slogans: Families, Education, Jobs, Business, Free Speech, alongside “Multi-Ethnic, One Culture”, which I’m not sure is grammatical, but I probably shouldn’t start insulting them before I’ve actually read their policies. I will note that I am always a little suspicious when “Free Speech” turns up on the front page of a party website, as in my experience this particular priority has a significant correlation with people wanting to say really nasty things and not have anyone complain about them.
Rise Up Australia’s Group Voting Ticket is rather fun, but that’s probably because it’s the first Group Voting Ticket I’ve looked at, and my, we have some interesting parties this year. They are giving their first few preferences to the Bank Reform Party, Bullet Train for Australia, No Carbon Tax Climate Sceptics and One Nation. (Am I allowed to be rude yet?) Heading down the list, they feed into the Liberal Party, but on the way they pass the Democratic Labour Party and Family First, so votes on this ticket could well stop there. The Australian Christian party is also high up the list, which completes the trifecta of right-wing Christian parties. Labor is about two thirds of the way down, and the Greens take the much coveted spot at the bottom of the list, with several independents and the Australian Sex Party also in the bottom 15 or so slots.
This voting ticket is, I would say, the portrait of a right-wing party with a yen for the more fundamentalist varieties of Christianity and just a soupçon of racism thrown in.
They also have a manifesto that seems to have spent some time in America, because it’s big on freedom of speech and religion, the right of individuals to pursue happiness and freedom, and lowering taxes. You’ll be reassured to know that they are fond of our Judeo-Christian heritage “which includes the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, the 1215 Magna Carta and the 1688 Bill of Rights”.
In other words, King John must now release all his Welsh hostages, or be deemed un-Australian.
Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. I used to have a copy of the Magna Carta on my wall, but I’m not convinced that it has much to do with Judeo-Christian heritage. There is also an affirmation that marriage has to be one man and one woman, and we are also informed “that socialism is to be avoided and that the free enterprise system is best, as long as it is constrained within the benevolent boundaries of Christian principles”.
While I don’t much like these people so far, I will say that they have a pretty clear and consistent vision, and are not trying to pretend to be anything they are not.
Also, they have a party song! And it tells us that they really are inclusive and really do like everyone (“We’ve embraced our ethnic cousins, they’re our mates”)! This is my favourite thing about the party so far. I think all political parties should be required to have songs, especially if they are written by people with no ear for poetry.
Over in policy-land, they are actually quite an interesting mix. On the one hand, they want to eliminate homelessness by making more low-cost housing, they want to establish fair wages, increase rural jobs, and ensure that banking policies serve the interests of Australians. On the other hand, I’m not entirely sure I know what it means when they say that Australia’s health system should be “people-focussed, positive and both curative and preventative, being based on the historic principles of Christian charity to all human beings in need regardless of creed, race, sexuality, socio-economic status etc and on freedom of conscience”. I think they are probably talking about strengthening the public health system, but the freedom of conscience bit does make me wonder if they want to allow healthcare service providers to refuse care to people whose lifestyles they disapprove of. Also, they want to get rid of the dole. Which is fine if they do manage to get full employment happening but not so much if they don’t.
And speaking of disapproving of lifestyles, they do, of course, have the classic right-wing Christian combo of being anti-abortion and anti gay marriage.
I’m not going to comment on their economic policies, because I do not understand economics well enough to be able to do so fairly. They are keen to keep Australian resources in Australian hands, and they also want to protect Austrailan manufacturers and such from competition with importers of goods. They also want transport, telephone and internet should have majority Australian ownership.
While their energy policy talks about conserving resources and encouraging energy efficiency, it is also entirely focused on coal and oil, and they don’t believe that humans have caused climate change. But they do want a very fast train between Melbourne and Sydney!
They “reject and resist Sharia law having any place within Australia”, and are against multiculturalism, “we rejoice that Australia is multi-ethnic, and that people who come here are free to celebrate (at their own, not taxpayers’ expense) their own diverse backgrounds, while respecting Australian culture and complying with Australian laws”, and they want to ban the Burka / face veil, because it oppresses women and also because pedophiles could use it as a disguise to get close to vulnerable young girls in a public toilet block (“How can we ensure as a society that this will not happen unless we enshrine it in law?”). Wow, that went from the faintly sensible to the over-the-top pretty fast.
I think it’s safe to say that the Rise Up Australia Party isn’t too keen on Muslims. They do support Israel, however.
Their education policy is actually quite good – they want to ensure that public schools are better funded and that quality of education is the same as that of private schools. They pay particular attention to country schools, and I quite like their idea of using the My School website to identify struggling schools and give them help to lift their results. They want to increase specialist teachers for special needs kids, raise teacher salaries, fight bullying, and have a nationally consistent curriculum which “includes the history of Western civilization (Greek, Roman and European), Aboriginal history, Magna Carta, Westminster democracy and the Judeo-Christian heritage that has come to us through for example the words of Henry Parkes, founding father, who said, ‘We are pre-eminently a Christian nation, as our laws, our whole system of jurisprudence, our constitution … are based upon and interwoven with our Christian beliefs’?”. Hmm. They want to increase funding for school chaplains, but also to assist indigenous students in going to university.
The overall mix of policies sounds as though they do want to level the playing field in a lot of ways, and make life easier for families and people in disadvantaged areas. They are, in fact, being fairly consistent in their right-wing Christian world-view, and their policies make sense from that perspective. But there is a signficiant touch of xenophobia, too, and I think the road they would like us all to travel down is going to be a bit too narrow for all Australians to fit on, which is a pity.
Also, I really don’t like the company they are keeping on the ballot paper – One Nation? Really?