Note: This is the second time that I have posted this article. After writing the article the first time, I learned that I had mistakenly conflated The Basics Rock ‘n’ Roll Party with the Australian Rock ‘n’ Roll Party, so that in fact most of what I had written was inaccurate. I apologise for the mistake, which is very embarrassing all round. And I can assure you that I definitely have the right party now…
Before I start this commentary, can I just stop and say how incredibly disappointed I am that HEMP has chosen not to contest this election. I mean, we have the Sex Party. We have the Rock’n’Roll Party. But where is the drugs party?
I think you will agree that this is a real missed opportunity in the Australian voting experience.
But I digress, as usual. The Basics Rock ‘n’ Roll Party is a party so new that it just squeaked in ahead of the deadline a few weeks ago, and does not yet have an official website, other than the band website and their FaceBook page. Band website, I hear you ask? Well, yes. The BRRP is a political party formed by the members of The Basics, an Australian band comprising Wally De Backer (Gotye) and Kris Schroeder and Tim Heath. According to Wikipedia (because I am rubbish at pop culture), their style is either indie-pop, rock’n’roll, or pop rock, which I presume has nothing to do with pop rock sweets, and now I really want pop rocks (does anyone have some?). I’m guessing they would define themselves as rock’n’roll. Just a little hint in their party name, don’t you know…
Also, I understand that their most recent album, The Lucky Country, released just over a week ago, is very political. So the good news is, any advertising campaign they run is likely to have better than average musical accompaniment.
(I am suddenly seized with an almost overwhelming urge to go find their album, listen to it, and see if I can discern anything about their policies from it.)
Let’s start by looking at their Group Voting Ticket.
Clearly, the BRRP got my memo about sex, drugs and rock’n’roll, because they have indeed given their first round of preferences to the Sex Party. After that, things get a little chaotic. They give grouped Independent Peter Allen their next preference (but the rest of his party is down around 17-18), then we have the Greens, Animal Justice, Voice for the West, and the two Grouped Independents who are Vote Planet. I detect a liking for leftie environmentalist types. We then have Family First ahead of the Cyclists, then some of Labor, and after that it’s a total free-for-all, with no two people from the same party in a row. Down towards the end, it goes LDP, People Power, DLP, Liberal, PUP, People Power, Country Alliance, Liberal, Rise Up Australia, and finally Liberal – Gladys Liu, who seems pretty inoffensive to me, but who knows? This is a really, really, weird ticket.
My strong impression is that the BRRP don’t like any of the remaining parties after Labor, and have therefore chosen to just mix them up in a somewhat random way, to decrease their chances of getting a representative elected. (I gather that separating out members of a particular group on your vote is actually quite a good way to sabotage them, but I am currently too under the weather to figure out the maths of why this is so. Which is why I need pop rocks. Therapeutic pop rocks.).
In terms of policies, it’s a little difficult to find a complete list, as FaceBook really isn’t designed to keep important posts in the one place. I understand that the Victorian State Election is more or less the BRRP’s ‘test run’, so hopefully they will be able to put a more useful website together before the next election.
For the purposes of this post, I’ll start with the policies I can see on the BRRP’s FaceBook page, and then add in gleanings from the rather wide variety of excited articles and interviews online about the fact that the Basics have formed a political party. And yes, I’m going to look at the lyrics from their recent album, too. Unorthodox, perhaps, but I’m pretty sure that if a rock’n’roll band starts a political party, one can justifiably count lyrics to their songs as part of their political profile…
(I do love that watching YouTube clips now counts as legit research)Oh, also, in the interests of transparency, I should add that before writing this post, I contacted the BRRP to ask directly about their policies. This is not something I intend to make a habit of with political parties, because this project is time-consuming enough as it is, but given that I had accidentally tarred them with the brush of the Australian Rock ‘n’ Roll Party, who I didn’t like all that much, I felt that I owed them a little extra consideration. I got a very nice email back from Kris, saying, essentially, that their FaceBook page was indeed the place to go for policies, and adding that “we’re trying to represent what the Greens do, but for an entirely different audience. We love the Greens, but a lot of people just ignore what they have to say, because “they’re the Greens”. So we’re trying to help out by spreading the message of inclusiveness and compassion to an audience that might otherwise be lost.”Which I thought was really lovely, and also, I totally approve of this idea, so I am officially biased in favour of this mob. I’m not 100% convinced about their organisational skills, but their hearts are definitely in the right place.Onward!According to their Constitution:
1.2.1 The mission of the BRRP is founded on three major pillars: Innovation, Education and Rock’n’Roll.
1.2.2 As members of the BRRP, we are informed by Education, improved by Innovation and inspired by Rock’n’Roll.
1.2.3 We aim to promote and advocate for practical, sustainable change in areas of community and social engagement; where as Innovators we will strive for a “better way” to do things, as Educators we will appeal to youth whilst encouraging life-long learning, and as Rock’n’Rollers we will promote a spirit of challenge to “the way things are”
As for policies:
What are our policies, you ask? Aside from an equitable representation of marginalised voices, the core purpose of the BRRP is to ask questions – what actually is politics? Do we actually live in a democracy? Why do we support a system that allows two lobby groups, who obscure their true intentions with talk of ‘ideology’, to make decisions in our name? Why are things done the way they are done? Is there a better way? We exist to prove honesty and integrity can co-exist with decision-making (aka politics).
All good stuff, but not very specific, though later on they add that they will push for more funding for Public Transport, the Arts, Education, Renewable Energies & Health.
Here’s what we’ve got by way of specific plans, broken down into the BRRP’s three key platforms:
There are no long policies here, but there are several in point form, including promotion of and assistance in setting up food co-ops in outer Melbourne from organic farms, subsidised swimming lessons, and solar for renters. They are also soliciting ideas regularly from their members, which is fairly innovative as political parties go!
The BRRP has a policy on indigenous local learning in schools, something I haven’t seen before, and wishes to encourage the education of high school students on the culture, customs and language of their local Indigenous Nation. This would go hand in hand with efforts to address the literacy, opportunity and health-care gap between Indigenous Australians and those of us who turned up late for the party.
I really like this idea. We learned almost nothing about Indigenous Australians when I was at school – yes, we got some of the local myths and legends in primary school, and did a bit on Aboriginal art when I was in grade six, but we were also told that there were no more Indigenous Australians left – which is manifestly not true. Improving education in this area can only be a good thing, especially if it improves sensitivity to and knowledge of Indigenous Australian issues and culture.
Also in education, BRRP wants to push for better health awareness, and in particularly wants to make First Aid training a compulsory subject in high schools.
Apparently, “Rock’n’Roll lives in the soul, not at the bottom of a bottle”. You know, as a musician myself, I really shouldn’t find the emphasis on Rock’n’Roll so hilarious, but I really, really do. Obviously, I am a slightly warped individual. But back to the point. The BRRP tells us that “While the performance and enjoyment of live music and that of alcohol gives the appearance of being intrinsically linked, we believe that alcohol producers have – for the sake of their bottom-line, and particularly in the manipulative use of sponsorship and advertising during events – capitalised in ways that have been detrimental to the music scene and the broader community”. They would like to ban alcohol advertising and sponsorship of live music events in Victoria. And they win my heart again by citing NHMRC statistics on alcohol-related deaths to back up their argument.
I have to say, they are doing a fine job of playing counter to stereotype here.
The BRRP wants to support the arts and live music scene, both in terms of providing subsidies for rehearsal spaces (these are apparently for soundproofing, which is practical, but also amusing to my easily-amused mind), and in creating small grants to help live music acts to tour in regional Victoria. And speaking of regional Victoria, the BRRP also supports improved funding for Community Radio infrastructure, to increase its reach into Regional Victoria so that young Victorians from the country can have the chance to grow up listening to Triple R, PBS, 3CR etc.
The BRRP is concerned about accountability, integrity, and responsibility, in particular expressing disgust at “the lack of recognition by politicians and other members of Government of the effects their off-hand comments (think Clive Palmer and his comments on China), decisions, manipulations and downright lies make on the Mental Health of the populace,” calling on Australians to stop making excuses for this, and insist on integrity and honesty from politicians. I especially like their call for “compulsory psychological assessment of all those seeking public office, to mitigate a situation (which unfortunately may have already occurred) where we find we are being led by a group of sociopathic power-hungry miscreants. No other occupation in the world allows for such rampant abuse of power to occur without consequence.”
I don’t think they are going to get very far with that, but points for trying.
The BRRP makes my little social-justice-warrior / feminist heart happy with their “Humanity before Commerce” policy, and their emphasis of equity over equality. They comment on the fact that our lifestyle in Australia is in many ways built on the backs of an underclass in Third World countries who produce our goods and services cheaply because they are working in pretty terrible conditions – and they promise to “vigorously interrogate the introduction of any legislation that further allows corporations (ie. utilities companies, sweatshop purchasers), to capitalise on their monopoly positions simply to further benefit the interests of shareholders rather than the general public”.
I love a good protest song, and the Basics have three good ones on their Lucky Country album, which I may actually have to buy at the rate I’m going. I think one can safely conclude from their recent oevre (and particularly Tunaomba Saidia) that the BRRP does not like Australia’s treatment of refugees one bit. And I understand that ‘Lucky Country’ was written more or less in protest against all the rubbish being talked about Australia’s budget crisis and the rest during the Gillard Government.
It’s pretty good stuff.
Overall, then, the BRRP is a young party, and it shows in the slightly scattered way they are presenting themselves and their policy (or perhaps I’m just the wrong age demographic? But seriously guys, please, get a website and put your policies and Constitution and ideas up where people can see them and they don’t disappear into the mists of time on FaceBook! ), but when they actually settle down to writing policies, they come with with thoughtful, interesting ones, which are not identical to the policies of other parties – even the other little parties on the left. I like them a lot. I don’t know how far they’ll get in this election – I think they may have difficulty getting taken seriously, to be honest – but they are going to be appearing pretty high on my ballot paper. I wish them the best of luck.