The Australian Voice Party is another party that is new, at least on the Victorian Election scene. After careful investigation of their website, I am forced to conclude that it is neither a political party for opera singers nor one for speech pathologists. It has nothing to do with the TV show of a very similar name. There will be no auditions, no power chords, no Eurovision key changes, and nobody being sent home. It’s all very disappointing.
OK, I’m done. Let us reluctantly leave the wild fanatsies of my overactive imagination for the admittedly duller, but probably more relevant, world of politics.
On second thoughts, let’s not. My little dreamworld is much more fun…
Oh, all right. We’ll start by looking at Australian Voice’s Group Voting Ticket, where we find, once again, an assortment of small single-issue (or small number of issue) parties at the top of the ballot paper. The first few are the Australian Sex Party, Stop CSG, Building Australia and HEMP, but lest you think that it’s all progressives, all the time, they then move on to the Climate Sceptics, and the first semi-major party they preference is One Nation followed eventually by Family First. Why is One Nation getting so many preferences? It’s a mystery. At the bottom of the ticket they have Liberals, Nationals, Labor and finally the Greens, but they have also chosen to amuse me by putting Stop the Greens at 76-77, which suggests a certain infirmity of purpose, at least to my mind. But then, we already know that my mind is a very silly mind just now.
On their homepage, I am informed that “Australian Voice stands for a free, open and fair society … the principles of democracy that our forefathers intended when they penned the Australian Constitution”. This sounds to me like an invitation to go off and read the constitution with intent to find mockable bits, but I am going to contain myself because so far Australian Voice has actually done nothing to merit my mockery. I don’t actually know a thing about them, and if I continue in this frivolous vein, I never will.
They also have a ‘State of the Nation’ header with the following bullet points:
- Broken health system
- Spiralling living costs
- Crime out of control
- Small business struggling
- Illegal Immigrants
- Food security concerns
OK, now I’m beginning to feel a little bit mocky again. Apparently, Australia is declining into chaos and I hadn’t even noticed. They inform me that they are a grass roots movement, and I’m beginning to think I should have started making a drinking game out of the whole grass roots thing, because it seems to be everyone’s favourite phrase this election. I’m sorry, I really am rambling a bit – it’s past my bedtime, but I’m determined to get this done today!
Looking at Australian Voice’s background page, I learn that:
The Australian Voice Party is structured on a 21st century model of Specialty Divisions where members and individuals who share common interests and skills can contribute more meaningfully to the political and social well-being of the country.
They don’t exactly explain what this means, but looking at the sidebar, which lists things like a Bank Reform Voice, an Education Voice, a Fishing Voice (again with the fishing!), a Nurses Voice and a Tribal Voice, among others, I think what they are saying is that they are dividing their party into different branches based on expertise and interest, with a common goal. At the end of the page they tell us:
We’ll keep working on fine tuning our party model. Inspiration and hindsight will be useful tools to allow us to contribute to all aspects of Australian life that we hold so dear.
That’s actually fairly endearing – it sounds like real people, people who know that they haven’t got all the answers yet, but are working on it.
Australian Voice has a pretty wide range of policies across a lot of platforms – they are definitely trying to position themselves from the start as a generalist party, not a single issue party. Indeed, one of their candidates started off in the Fishing and Lifestyle Party, but felt that a single-issue party wouldn’t get far, so he decided to help found Australian Voice and include his happy fishing policies as part of a broader package (in brief, he feels that our marine parks have been designated unscientifically and generated bureaucracy, and we should be allowed to fish more) (OK, it’s slightly more complicated than that, but I’m afraid I just do not share this pervasive passion for fishing).
They have quite a few ideas about how politics should work in Australia, in particular wanting to abolish a lot of the current benefits which MPs get, including the life pensions and travel passes, and prohibiting most donations. Australian Voice is, in fact, against the party system generally, and feels that MPs should be answerable to their electorate:
Australian Voice commits to never operating under a party whip system and sees this instrument as subversive of democracy. All elected representatives must undertake commitments that they must vote according to the views and consensus of their electorate, without influence of a party whip.
I would actually really like to see this system in action – I think we get some of our best laws when people cross the floor and vote for what they think is right, not what their party says.
They want to create a number of concessions for small businesses (with fewer than 20 employees, much more sensible than the 100-employee small businesses of the Howard era), and they want to apply penalties to corporations that provide services within Australia but off-shore jobs. They also want to legislate against anti-competitive behaviour, and in fact share most of the Bank Reform Party’s policies about banks.
Australian Voice is also very keen to look after farmers, and is particularly concerned about keeping existing farmers on the land and not selling to overseas corporations. One of their more interesting sets of ideas is to freeze all sales of mortgaged properties and establish a Federal Development Grant to provide financial assistance to farmers so that they could keep their properties. They are against coal seam gas, and want farmers to have greater autonomy over their freehold land, and they are in favour of food labelling, but want to ban GMOs. Good on them. And speaking of food, they want to tax imported food, not just to protect Australian farmers, but because apparently they don’t trust the Europeans not to send us dodgy food. Or possibly it’s just that we are taking Europe’s leavings?
Australian Voice is alarmed that food is being imported into Australia is sub-standard and potentially harmful, due to pesticides, pollutants and antibiotic residues and that many of these products that fail EU testing standards are being directed to Australia due to less stringent procedures here.
(and this is where we get back to fishing, because if we are allowed to fish in marine parks, we don’t have to import dodgy fish from overseas, you see.)
Interestingly, they have a ‘Tribal Voice’ (is that actually somewhat dodgy language to use? I’m not up to date on what people prefer to call themselves, but I did wonder about ‘tribal’ being used to describe Aboriginal communities – it sounds a bit old school, which means it might well carry unsightly baggage.), and their big policy there is to offer Aboriginal communities developmental priorities for aquaculture and hydroponics ventures, so that they can “provide Australia with a fully sustainable industry that can produce organic seafood and vegetables for domestic and export markets.”
I don’t know what I think of this. It sounds awfully ‘one size fits all’ to me, and I do wonder if any Aboriginal communities were consulted in coming up with this policy. It also seems rather… limiting, perhaps? As though this is all they can envisage people from Aboriginal communities doing? I may be being unfair, and I certainly have no expertise here, – it may turn out to be a brilliant idea that meshes really well with how the communities work – but with nothing else to go on, I do feel a bit uncomfortable with this.
Australian Voice seems to have a lot of medical professionals – they have a Nurses Voice and a Health Voice and I wish, wish, wish they would have an Apostrophe’s Voice, but apparently these are part of the two party political system and must be abolished. Anyway. They like the NDIS and want to roll it out faster, they want to restore the mental health system, have better services – especially mental health services – for veterans, and have dentistry on medicare. They are also worried about insufficient beds in hospitals, but paradoxically also want to encourage “Inbound medical treatment tourism to generate large revenue streams, by accepting patients from China, the USA, and Europe.” Isn’t this going to increase the pressure on hospitals?
They support the military, and want to regularise their benefits, and they support Seniors and want to increase their benefits by 30%, and also encourage them to stay in the workforce by reducing tax on jobs taken by seniors and providing incentives to businesses to employ seniors. They also want to stabilise superannuation rules. And speaking of superannuation, Australian Voice has quite an interesting idea for how to increase housing affordability:
Australian Voice proposes that Australian families have the opportunity to draw down superannuation amounts to reduce the mortgage on their principal place of residence. The draw down will be maintained by a registered mortgage. In the event of sale, the draw down will be returned to their superannuation account. The superannuation “nest egg” is preserved and home ownership achieved earlier.
I’m finding it interesting how many of these proposals for increasing housing affordability don’t actually make housing more affordable, they just shift costs around and delay when you pay for them. Is that really going to help?
On the environment, Australian Voice are a bit all over the place. They want high speed train services along the east coast, but also a second airport at Sydney. They want to remove the carbon tax, but they are really into biofuels and embrace the move to sustainable energy. They want to plant more trees, and design new buildings for sustainability. Basically, they “support practial and effective steps – not additional costs or bureaucracy”.
This sounds to me like a lot of people who really do want to do something about the environment but are terrified of sounding like the Greens or Labor. Or perhaps they just really dislike the Greens and Labor and have to distinguish themselves somehow. It’s a pity, because it leads to reinventing the wheel, and that wastes time that could be spend innovating things elsewhere.
Finally, and sadly, it seems that Australian Voice have drunk the illegal immigrant Kool-Aid (I wonder what flavour that is?). They inform us sternly that immigrants must learn English and integrate, and adopt our cultural values and traditions. What are those, exactly? Enquiring minds want to know. They also make lots of noise about economic refugees, despite all evidence to the contrary. And of course they remind us that “There are legitimate pathways for immigration. Unlawful violations of Australian sovereignty will be subjected to the full force of the law.”Oh, Australian Voice, did you have to? With so much to like, you just couldn’t get there on the environment and refugees?
Incidentally, while Australian Voice has an Education Voice, this voice is currently without policies. It’s impossible even to speculate on what their policies might be, because while this party has a lot of the blue-ribbon right boxes ticked (supporting the military and the aged, no carbon tax, tough on refugees, somewhat patronising attitude to indigenous Australians), it also has surprisingly good health policies, and their ideas about the parliamentary system are really fascinating. It’s hard to get a really coherent picture of how they work, and perhaps this is the disadvantage of having all these ‘special branches’; you wind up with a lot of disparate voices with different interests, each singing their own tune in a different key (you knew I’d get singing back into this, didn’t you…).It’s all very atonal and 20th century and not my cup of tea at all. And not an opera singer in sight!