The end of this insane project is finally in sight, as I reach the last of the Independents on the Legislative Council ballot in Victoria! (After that, all that remains is for me to address my local Lower House parties and independents in Pascoe Vale – oh, and also figure out who I’m voting for before Saturday. It would be a little embarrassing if I forgot to do that bit…)
Clive Jackson and Richard Grummet are running as Grouped Independents in the Southern Metropolitan Region, but actually, they are representing the Australian Democrats. And this makes me sad like a very sad person, because it is always difficult to observe the last days of an endangered species, and the Democrats seem to be about at that point. From the balance of power in Federal Parliament, to not being able to get their party registered in the Victorian State Election is a long and painful fall indeed.
The Democrats would like us to know that they are A New Vision for Victoria. On their front page, they have a rotating banner next to their How to Vote Card, which includes “Aboriginal equality – now”, “Getting ready for peak oil”, “Towards a Sustainable Population”, “Compassion for Asylum Seekers” and “Sustainable Energy”. Other headlines inform us that “Victoria needs a manufacturing renaissance, or face failure” and “Link and network public transport first, say the Australian Democrats.
Mr Jackson and Mr Grummet have their own page, with brief bios for each candidate. So we learn that Mr Jackson cares about heritage buildings and the environment, public transport, education and jobs, that he is a statutory planner, a pianist, and barracks for Geelong. And likes steam trains. Mr Grummet, on the other hand, is passionate about wind, water and solar energy, is a teacher and sports coach, has worked with the disabled, and helped Save the Fitzroy Pool.
That’s all very well, I hear you cry, but who are they preferencing? A good question, which I will now answer.
Grummet and Jackson (henceforth to be known as the Hidden Democrats) preference the Group R candidates, Luzio Grossi and Crystal James ahead of everyone else. It’s a nice little preference swap between the groups. Animal Justice comes next, followed by the Cyclists, the Sex Party, Voluntary Euthanasia, and the Greens. At the bottom of the ticket, we have the DLP, Australian Christians, Rise Up Australia, the Shooters and Fishers and the Liberal Democrats. As for Labor and Liberal, well, the Hidden Democrats in fact have two group tickets, which are identical except that one preferences Labor ahead of Liberal about halfway down, and the other preferences Liberal ahead of Labor. They are not taking sides on this one.
There is a policy flyer for this election, as well as general policies for Victoria. I’m going to look at both.
The Democrats ask “Who deserves your vote?”, and reminds us that fairness and justice are the foundations of a civil-society. They then tell us that:
I can think of a few parties who would beg to differ on the bit about being the only party that considers all issues on merit, but never mind.
We are then given to understand that the Democrats are about Sustainable Prosperity, including education, a level playing field, dynamic manufacturing, better healthcare, re-basing taxation, access to land, care for country, and renewable energy (which they, delightfully, call ‘everlasting electricity’).
Incidentally, is it just me, or is Sustainable the buzzword for this election? I’m pretty sure that if I took a drink every time a party told me how sustainable they were, I would be properly plastered in no time flat. This might improve the policies of some parties, too.
Energy, Environment and Transport
The Democrats are into sustainable energy (drink!). They want to reduce reliance on (and subsidies to) fossil fuels, and encourage a transition to a sustainable (drink!) energy economy. They are against nuclear energy, new coal-fired power stations, and large scale hydroelectrics unless there is no alternative.
The Democrats want a national feed in tariff, and a higher carbon tax, to be offset for consumers by a higher tax free threshold and higher pensions, especially New Start. (So nice to meet a party that cares about New Start!). They also want to increase energy efficiency, including in rental properties. They use the word incentivise, which takes away my happy, virtual drinking buzz.
They want to make drivers licences and vehicle registration free, and instead tax fuel (the Democrats do not like anything resembling a flat taxation system), and want to remove fixed charges on energy bills, so that one is charged for usage, not for connection, etc.
Transport needs to be sustainable (drink!!), which means shifting most new road funding to sustainable forms of transport (drink!!!), including public transport, freight rail and bicycle tracks. They do not go into detail about this, but these are good priorities to have. The Democrats also want to remove tax subsidies that promote fossil fuel industries. They want to use taxes, levies and the like to ‘reduce consumption and encourage the transition to a sustainable energy economy’ (drink!).
Immigration & Population, Aid, and Defense
The Democrats are concerned about Australia’s population, which they feel needs to be stabilised and then reduced to an ecologically sustainable level (drink!). They would therefore limit baby bonus / family leave provisions, and divert the resources to education, family planning and foreign aid.
Speaking of foreign aid, the Democrats want to increase it to 0.7% of the GDP.
Australia has failed to meet its UN obligations on foreign aid and recently further cut aid in the latest budget. Worse, much of the aid budget is actually used for non-aid purposes such as boosting livestock export and persecuting asylum seekers.
We do what, now? I went and Googled that, on the grounds that one should probably test the claims of one’s friends as well as those of people one thinks are foolish, and yes, it seems that this is precisely what we’ve done. $375 million from our foreign aid budget is used to pay for asylum seekers who are detained in the community but are not allowed to work. I suppose it could be worse – on first glance, I thought they were using it to detail people on Manus Island. The part I find really depressing is that this was a Gillard Government initiative. (I know, it almost makes one want to vote Democrat – oh, wait, I can’t. Not my region…) But Abbott has continued the trend, and added more cuts to foreign aid too.
Where was I? Ah yes. The Democrats. Who want to increase aid, and particularly help out programs that encourage women to access education and family planning (educating girls has been found to be a key factor in lifting countries out of poverty). They want to achieve universal primary education, eradicate hunger, reduce child mortality and improve maternal health, promote gender equality and ensure environmental sustainability (drink!).
The Democrats will also give permanent visas to refugees, and they will not automatically detain unauthorised arrivals without a compelling security or public health reason. They are really, really against indefinite detention of people who are viewed as security risks and feel that these people must either get a fair trial or be released.
To stop the infamous boats, the democrats propose selling permanent residency and air tickets to asylum seekers in other countries (for a similar cost to that charged by people smugglers). I think they stole this policy from Clive Palmer, but that doesn’t make it a bad policy.
The Democrats feel that Australia gets involved in too many wars that we have no direct interest in. We should support the UN, but we should focus on defense, and not use the ADF as an expeditionary force.
We oppose offensive weapons systems because:
We do not believe Australia should use force in international disputes.
We need to recognise that as our large and populous ASEAN neighbours reach their natural economic potential and develop defence forces to match there will be no possibility of ‘projecting power’ over them. Even from a purely military stand point Australia needs to focus on defence rather than offence.
I’m a bit of a pacifist, and I think everyone reading this knows how I feel about our refugee policy by now, so I like this policy from start to finish.
Tax Reform, Accountability
Like everybody else in this entire election, the Democrats want more accountability and transparency and less government secrecy. They also want codes of conduct for ministers and their staff, and they want to pay ministers less, and eliminate Gold Passes for all those except former prime ministers.
They want to reform taxation, including taxing exported coal to raise money (billions, they say) for public education. In general, the Democrats want to shift taxation from workers to pollutes and commercial land holders, and also want a progressive, broadly-based taxation system. In particular, they want to increase the tax free threshold to $30,000, but raise the carbon tax, as mentioned elsewhere. They want to create a land tax on commercial and foreign owned land, excluding primary residences, family farms, wildlife reserves or heritage properties, and they want to phase out negative gearing and spend the money on new public housing. They want to reduce taxation of farm income, but tax irrigation water, to encourage more efficient water use.
(They use the word sustainable several times, but I don’t get to have a virtual drink, because the word mostly appeared in repeats of previous policies, and so that would be cheating.)
Speaking of education, they want to feed more money into public education, and reduce funding of wealthy private schools. In addition, they want to make kindergarten free and universally available for 3 and 4 year olds.
I love their policy on schools enough to quote it in full:
- Provide and maintain a well-resourced, free, public education system;
- Develop nationally-consistent core subjects while enabling individual schools and communities to be free to establish electives according to their own perceived needs;
- Develop and implement strategies for improving school retention rates;
- Special programs are required to address the problems faced by children at risk of early school leaving;
- Non-government schools, as a condition of funding, must accept students with special needs;
- As far as possible, for indigenous students to be taught by qualified indigenous teachers;
- Provide for special programs such as counselling in each school, bi-lingual, Languages Other Than English and Non EnglishSpeaking Background, integration, learning disability, vocational education and training, literacy and numeracy, etc.;
- Schools must not be dependent on corporate sponsorship
It’s so deliciously sensible. Why aren’t the Democrats still a viable party? (I mean, I know why, that’s more of a sad cry to the universe than a genuine question.)
Another theme I’m noticing in this election is the number of political parties with animal welfare policies. Did the AJP perform really well at the 2013 election or something? We are informed that ‘animals are sentient beings, deserving of respect and protection from inhumane treatment. They have a worth beyond their usefulness to humans.’
The Democrats are against live export of livestock and also against battery hens, and they also feel that animal cruelty cases should be prosecuted by the police, not the RSPCA. They want to label food to show what is vegetarian and what is vegan, and how the food as derived, and they want to establish a national database on animal experimentation, support alternatives to animal use in scientific research, and improve monitoring of such research.
This looks to me like a more moderate version of the AJP’s policy – and one I find much easier to swallow. I am a little concerned about the database, however – where I work, we are already told not to mention mice in any of our public information about research, as we are apparently already a target of threats from animal rights groups (I had no idea Australia had such an issue), and a national database could be used as a tool to find researchers to harrass.
The Democrats want to protect artists, with resale royalty rights, and amendments to the Copyright act to protect traditional art and cultural heritage collectively owned by Indigenous communities. They also want a living wage for emerging artists, and to ‘extend unemployment programs to include work experience, arts business training, apprenticeships and employment in the arts for professional artists’. Nice. They want more access to art in schools, and they want a fair use provision in copyright law so that reasonable personal use is not criminalised.
This brings us to the end of the Democrats and their policies. As usual, I find myself wishing that I could vote for them – I’ve actually never lived in an area where they were on the ballot paper in the Lower House, and by the time I was old enough to vote, they were already disintegrating and I didn’t know enough to put them on the Senate Paper. And now, I’ve lost my chance. But perhaps Mr Clark and Mr Grummet can oversee a renaissance of the Australian Democrats in Victoria, and one day I will have the chance to vote for them after all…
And that, my friends, is the end of my research into the parties and candidates who are up for election in the Legislative Council of Victoria. Tomorrow, I shall begin to investigate Pascoe Vale. But right now, all those virtual drinks have made me virtually pissed as a virtual newt, and as we know, this is just not sustainable. So I’m going to bed. Good night!