Ah, the Sex Party. Always good for a giggle. Always embarrassing to Google. Always impossible to write about without veering into innuendo.
I have mixed feelings about the Sex Party. I want to like them. For one thing, their ads are funny. For another, well, everyone else on the left of politics seems to like them. And yet… well, at least as of last time, I found I didn’t, quite. They tend to be a little to libertarian for my taste, and perhaps the trouble is that for all my lefty, feminist ways, I’m actually fairly conservative in some areas. Then again, they seem to re-invent themselves for every election. Perhaps we will get on better this time? (Get on, not get it on, come on, people! If we don’t at least start with our minds out of the gutter, we are going to be plumbing positively subterranean depths of the sewers before we’re done here. Speaking of dirty.)
The Sex Party has launched a whole new website for their Victorian campaign (I also do not recommend Googling ‘Victorian Sex Party’ any time soon), with the super-classy address wegiveafk.org.au . This goes with their tagline: The Sex Party – We Give a F**k.
Right away, you know that nobody here is trying for good taste. Which is nice, because it means you know where you stand. They probably all Googled Victorian Sex Party, too. Possibly in images. (No, I haven’t done that, nor am I recommending it, and if you do, the results are on your own head.)
Their front page makes the following bold announcement:
IN AN AUSTRALIAN STATE ELECTION FIRST, WE’RE ASKING YOU, THE VOTERS TO DECIDE A POLICY WE RUN ON.
We’re asking you, the voters, to decide a policy we run on. Why? Because, we realise that your vote is the most simple, yet powerful way to ensure your voice for change in Victoria is heard. So, we’ve put together three ideas for change, that would have an impact on Victoria. Vote daily for the change you want to see, when you vote the Australian Sex Party into the Upper House on November 29th. The winning policy will become an issue we raise in the Legislative Council in the first 100 days, all thanks to you. Read more about our other Victoria Policies.
I have to say, this is a very interesting tactic. Quite aside from the entertainment value, it sends the message that this is a party that wants to listen to its constituents. Very canny, especially in the current climate, where one all too frequently feels that none of the politicians are listening to anyone.
The three proposed policies are 3-hour tickets on public transport, bicycle helmet freedom, and motorcycle filtering in traffic, and yes, I voted – for the three hour tickets. Anyone who thinks that driving on the roads in Melbourne without a helmet is a good idea is misguided (there are some interesting discussions going on about whether bicycle helmets actually make people safer. So far as I can see, they don’t necessarily make you safer from accidents – people may take more risks when wearing them – but they mitigate the damage when you do crash. The best way to make people safe on bicycles is better roads and better driver education. Sorry, I seem to be obsessed with bicycles this election. Has anyone guessed my secret favourite one-issue party yet?), and I have no opinion about motorbikes, but I was not happy when Myki went to 2 hour tickets. I want my three-hour ticket back!
That was fun, wasn’t it? I have to give it to the Sex Party (I can’t believe I just wrote that), they understand marketing. Possibly because sex sells. (You saw that coming, didn’t you?)
Moving right along, let’s look at the Sex Party’s Group Voting Tickets. Like many parties, they are more consistent at the foot of the ticket than at the top. I suppose that if you are playing preferences footsie and trying to be strategic, you’re going to have some variation between electorates – whereas the people at the bottom of the ticket don’t like you and you don’t like them, so there’s no need to pussy-foot around. From their preferencing, one may conclude that the Sex Party doesn’t like the conservative Christian Parties. I know, it’s shocking, right? The Australian Christians the DLP, Family First and Rise Up Australia all hold court at the bottom of the ticket, with Family First beating Rise Up into the much coveted last place only in the Northern Metropolitan Region. It is notable that in the Western Metropolitan Region, Liberal Senator Bernie Finn sits in last place, separated from his party colleagues by seven political parties. Given that Bernie is rabidly homophobic, very vocally anti-abortion and is also highly unpleasant about Muslim people, it’s not hard to surmise how he ended up there.
At the top of their ticket, they have given good preferences to the Liberal Democrats, the Animal Justice Party, the Cyclists Party and the Voluntary Euthanasia Party. Voice for the West, Rock ‘n’Roll, People Power and – weirdly – the Shooters also do quite well (I love the whiplash of going from the AJP to the shooters within two places on a preference ticket). The LDP and the Cyclists seem to do best overall. They preferences then flow to the Greens, followed by Labor and Liberal / Nationals. It’s a ticket for libertarians and hippies, but more for libertarians.
So, let’s take a peek at their policies, shall we? They have quite a good range to choose from,
Drugs, Environment, Equality and Privacy and data Retention, Sex Work, Transport
The Sex Party would like to reform Australia’s Constitution by abolishing the monarchy, creating a bill of rights, recognising Indigenous Australians as the traditional custodians of the land, and abolishing States and Territories so that the same educational, health, communications and transport systems apply across Australia (these would still be administered locally). Speaking as someone who swapped states and schools twice in high school, I am *fervently* in favour of a nationalised education system. Moving interstate was a complete mess. The Sex Party also emphasises the recognition of Australia as an independent and secular nation.
On the subject of education, the Sex Party has some rather good ideas:
We believe that education should include political literacy, age-appropriate sex and relationships education, Internet safety, and comparative religion and ethics education. Qualified and accredited counsellors, social workers or mental health professionals should provide pastoral care in public schools. Private schools should not be exempted from anti-discrimination laws.
I agree with absolutely all of this. The Sex Party also advocates optional voting for 16 to 18 year olds, which I also think is a good idea, even knowing what I would have voted for at 16. (Let’s not talk about that here.)
In the area of health, the Sex Party has an extensive policy on Sexual Health (nobody is surprised by this), which emphasises confidentiality, peer-involved education and reduction of stigma. They also want to provide needle exchange program and condoms in prisons, which made me blink a bit. I’m not sure if this is a case of being realistic about how prisons are or what. I think I’ll leave that one alone, actually.
Also in the area of health, the Sex Party is, unsurprisingly, strongly in favour of keeping abortion legal (and enacting buffer-zone laws to prevent harrassment of patients by protesters), requiring doctors with a conscientious objection to refer people on, and even to perform abortions if the situation is an emergency. While I’m in favour of both these ideas in principle, I can’t honestly imagine how the latter would work in practice. Also, I wish they wouldn’t put scare quotes around “conscientious objection”.
(The Sex Party, for those who were not aware of it, is very, very secular. They clearly do not like or trust the church or religious people and seem to assume bad faith as a matter of course. I’m actually finding some of their policies hard to read as a result, because I feel as though they are constantly emphasising and re-emphasising this, and I’m having difficulty not taking it personally. They paint an even more unflattering picture of Christianity as the Australian Christian Party does, which is really saying something. And this all makes me very sad.)
In other policies that would give the Christian Right conniptions, the Sex Party has a very intelligent policy on Voluntary Assisted Dying. And I would like to say that I really appreciate them calling a spade a spade in this matter – I think if we want to have a sensible conversation about Assisted Dying, we should call it what it is, rather than giving ourselves that little bit of distance that the word Euthanasia allows us. If we can’t talk about it openly and comfortably, then we are unlikely to legislate it well.
The Sex Party has some good policies on mental health, focusing on integrated care, noting the special needs of marginalised groups, and calling for education to reduce stigma around mental illness. I especially like this policy:
Provide a safe environment within mental health facilities for all mental health consumers, free from all kinds of violence, assault and abuse (including sexual assault and abuse), by conducting regular risk assessments and enacting risk response strategies that include listening to the consumers;
It’s the last line that works for me. I’m less sure about this one:
Oppose any bans on smoking within mental health facilities to ensure that mental health consumers, particularly those involuntarily placed on treatment orders, are provided a safe unenclosed area to smoke while within the facility grounds.
Which is nice on one level, but I do think that smoking is one of those things where your right to choose impinges on my right to be healthy, and we need to be taking care of our health professionals, too.
The Sex Party is in favour of Marriage Equality, surprising precisely nobody. They also support equality in adoption rights, which I think is even more important in some ways, as it allows same-sex step-parents to have parental rights when needed. Their LGBTI policy is unusually good, in that it actually seems to remember the TI bit, asking for removal of unnecessary gender and sex markers from government forms, and making it easier to change one’s sex on one’s birth certificate. I would like to see a policy here about gender reassignment, because from what I’ve been hearing, we manage it very badly in Australia, and I can’t see too many of the other parties getting into detail on this topic.
There is a brief policy on domestic and sexual violence, calling for better education of police, and finding an alternative approach to justice that focuses on the survivor. This is a good start, but I’d like to see more discussion of the community education aspect of these issues – bystander training, addressing misogyny in entertainment (and the attitudes that this normalises), and similar, but I don’t think that’s the model of feminism that the Sex Party espouses, being more libertarian and less about systems.
The Sex Party is good, if brief, on environmental issues, stating up front that they accept the evidence for climate change, and promoting the transition to renewable energy, better public transport, reducing emissions, and re-vegetation programs. They want to stay out of the Road versus Rail debate (good luck with that), but in fact have a lot of policies about extending public transport, and not so many about roads, so… Also, they get points from me for noticing that the Upfield Line exists. Even Public Transport Victoria frequently forgets this.
They are big on privacy, and are particularly concerned about Myki and the government collecting data on our movements and our internet usage. And they are also big on Freedom of Information and transparent government, with a similar policy to that of the Greens. Like the Greens, they want to get rid of mandatory sentencing laws. They also want to repeal laws that unduly restrict freedom, which could mean almost anything, though the examples they give are good ones (I had no idea that anyone still had laws criminalising HIV on the books, for example, and I’m wondering how that even works).
Unlike the Greens, the Sex Party has no qualms about announcing that it wants to decriminalise personal use of drugs. This is probably because when you go around calling yourself the Sex Party, there is a level on which you are just not going to be taken seriously anyway, so you might as well be up-front with your policies. Also, the sorts of people who are really against legalising drugs are probably not going to be voting for the Sex Party anyway. (We’ll know that the Sex Party is getting ready to be Australia’s third party when the controversial policies start getting polished to a more acceptable shine…)
Seriously, though, this is quite a good policy, with an emphasis on harm minimisation models for dealing with drug use, which I highly approve of, creating “a system of hard-to-get and easy-to-lose licences for the large scale cultivation, wholesale and retail sale of cannabis,” and having similar health warnings and age restrictions to the legal drugs, alcohol and nicotine. This makes excellent sense to me.
The Sex Party wants to make Victoria into a Live Music State, promoting Melbourne as a music city and developing its music sector. For both arts and music, they want to redistribute current funding, providing more competitive grants to small and medium-sized organisations, and less to the big, traditional Institutions like the Art Gallery. In addition, they oppose ‘lock-out’ laws and want to “extend to all liquor license types the automatic extension to trade to 3am on New Year’s Eve to allow live music venues to operate at a profit, and provide a safe, regulated environment for the public to celebrate the new year”.
They also want to ensure that exemptions for artists contained in the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act remain in place. I have to say, I had no idea that we had such exemptions. I’m a bit ambivalent about this one, to be honest, because while I don’t much like the idea of censoring the arts, I’m also inclined to think that one can create amazing art without being racist, misogynistic, or otherwise offensive. And there is some really unpleasant, nasty-minded stuff out there perpertrated in the name of art. Why would we want to encourage that? Then again, who decides what is offensive? (Ideally, me… and I imagine most people are having exactly that thought themselves).
The Sex Party, again unsurprisingly, is in favour of fully decriminalising sex work, and is particularly against the Nordic Model, which essentially criminalises those who pay for sex work, but not the sex workers themselves. I have to say, I don’t agree. I’m one of those humourless feminists who takes the view that given the amount of misogyny we already have in our society, we don’t need to legalise the idea that women’s bodies (and it really is primarily women’s bodies) are a buyable commodity. And I am concerned that legalising sex work in the current economic environment is problematic – if we are saying that the unemployed must apply for a certain number of jobs every week, and sex work is available, is that going to push more vulnerable women into a job that, even if legal, is likely to retain a strong stigma and high risk of violence and sexualised violence, at least for the foreseeable future? I do think that sex work presents risks that other low-status or potentially distasteful jobs do not and I do think that it is fundamentally different to other jobs due to the very personal nature of what one is selling.
On the other hand, I’m also aware that some women choose sex work willingly, are perfectly happy with it, and would prefer it to be legal. I don’t know how one balances their right to work safely in the field they choose against the high potential of exploitation for others – or the negative effects on society.
Yes, I’m a big old leftie greenie feminist, but on this issue, I’m inclined to be conservative. Sorry.
And finally, to end on a lighter note, the Sex Party also has policies on recreation, which cover bicycles, mixed martial arts, motorbikes, nudism, and recreational fishing. Did you see the way they just slipped nudism into the list there? Also, I know one doesn’t normally put a comma before the ‘and’, but if I didn’t, it sounded way too much like there was a specific policy on nudism and fishing, which would be awesome if true, and provides one with certain very entertaining mental images (and gives a whole new meaning to fly fishing), but I am actually attempting to be non-misleading in my writing here, so you will have to content yourself with the nudism.
Overall, I think the Sex Party has broadened its base somewhat since the last election, which is good news all around. I don’t think they are the party for me (and Mum, I don’t think they are your cup of tea, either, sarcastic text messages notwithstanding), but they do have some ideas that I’d like to see more widely adopted. I do wish they weren’t so fond of the LDP, however.