Victorian State Election 2018 – Meet the Aussie Battler Party!

Update, November 15, 2018: Well, they certainly have developed.  I don’t know when it happened, but the Aussie Battlers have made sweeping changes to their policies.  No longer do they want to feed roosters to the starving and house the homeless in shipping containers, and now it appears that they are Tough On Crime and don’t like Immigrants.  I haven’t had a chance to look at them again properly, but will do my best to review them before the election.  In the meantime, you can read an article about the new policies here. But be wary.  This is definitely a bait-and-switch, and I’m wondering how many of their candidates were aware that this would happen. 

I don’t have time to read all of this!
The Basics

Facebook page:
Current leader: Stuart O’Neill
Themes: Common sense, Aussie Battlers, affordable housing and homelessness, ‘the real Australia’.  Patriotic and focused on regional Victoria.  Pro mouthguards!

With friends like these…
The Group Voting Ticket

Oh, this is one hot mess of a party.  They have completely different tickets in each region, and the only real common ground is that they always put Labor, Liberals and the Greens last.  But always in a different order.  Their top five varies wildly with the Animal Justice Party taking top billing in Northern Metropolitan, and the Shooters and Fishers getting it in Western Metropolitan.  In South-Eastern Metropolitan, alternate anti-family-violence candidates with the LDP and the Shooters and Fishers.

Their favourite party to support is Sustainable Australia (another party who I find very hard to read), which makes their top five on 7 out of 8 tickets. Derryn Hinch gets into the top five in 6 out of 8, and the Shooters and Fishers and Liberal Democratic Party both get there 5 times.  Transport is also important.  But honestly, everyone seems to turn up in their top five at least once, except for the Voluntary Euthanasia Party and the Victorian Socialists.  Even the Australian Liberty Alliance is in there.

It feels to me like the pro-gun parties are getting a higher than statistically-probable level of top billing, if this were all random, but there are kind of a lot of pro-gun parties this year, and I don’t know how to do statistical analysis, so take that for what it’s worth.

There is some evidence that they might be preferencing the small parties that they expect to be popular in that region – the Shooters and Fishers or the ACP in regional areas, Hudson for Northern Victoria in the north, the Animal Justice Party in the vegan-friendly northern metropolitan region.  But it could also be that they have no clue what they are doing, and I find it unsettling that I can’t tell.

Basically, if you are going to vote for this party, do it below the line.  You don’t know where your vote might end up otherwise.

The Body Politic
Policies, Snark, Terrible Theme Songs and Other Observations

The Aussie Battler Party doesn’t have a slogan per se, but their website tells me that the party “was created to represent all of those who are fed up with so much wasting of taxpayers money and time by too many politicians who have forgotten what it is like to live in mainstream society!”.
I think the key concepts here are that politicians are out of touch with ‘real’ Australia, which is hard-working (and thus concerned about wasting taxpayer money) and ‘mainstream’ (which might be code for white, straight and Christian, or might just be someone who is new to politics and hasn’t figured out these subtexts yet).  The subtext is ‘we’re angry about how things are, and you should be angry too!’, which is classic populist framing, and it’s notable that their policy page has the subtitle ‘what we will focus on fixing first’.  Australia is broken – we will fix it.
The ABP’s logo on Facebook is a true blue Australian hand with an Australian flag on it giving a thumbs-up; elsewhere, it’s either a blue map of Australia with ‘ABP’ in white letters on it, or else an Australia-shaped flag.  Blue tends to be associated with conservative parties in Australia, and Australian flags with nationalism (for overseas readers – we do not, as a country, get big into putting national flags everywhere).  It’s clear that, as a new party, they are still working out their branding, but I think it’s safe to say that patriotism is a big part of it.
Their website has six sections – Membership, Volunteer, Donate, Candidate, Events and Policies.  Membership is free (battlers don’t have big money to spend on politics!), and they seem pretty well organised in terms of volunteer recruitment and donations.  Their candidate page is a recruiting one – to actually find out about their candidates, you need to click through to any of these sections page and go hunting about the menus – as I said, this is a really new party, and the website clearly isn’t finished yet (as is evident from a certain amount of ‘lorem ipsum’ on their media page…).  Alas, when I did find the ‘Our Team’ page, the only person who is listed is Stuart O’Neill, even though they are running candidates in all regions.  This is something that will probably be updated between now and the election, but the tyranny of the alphabet means that I’m looking at their page at the very start of this amazing voyage, and the sheer number of parties means that I won’t get the chance to revisit them – so you might want to check out your local candidate directly by following this link.  Their Constitution is ‘coming soon’ and their ‘about us’ page is still minimal.
So let’s take a quick look at Stuart O’Neill, party leader and founder, and a divorced life coach with three amazing sons.  He’s “that bloke who shakes his head just like you when he hears our Governments sold Vegemite, Melbourne Ports to China, Blundstones or Games of Footy in China when country and suburban clubs are struggling…  that bloke who is fair dinkum fed up to the eyeballs with constant brainless decisions that help politicians today and hurt us Aussies for the long term.”
Too right, mate.  I’m thinking that Stuart O’Neill is that bloke who is playing the true blue, fair dinkum, she’ll-be-apples, bonzer, dyed-in-the-wool, dinky-di, waltzing-matilda-all-the-way, Aussie card pretty hard.  May I suggest… a trifle too hard?
(Seriously, I’m having an attack of ‘On the Mateship‘ from Paul Keating  – the Musical! now.)
This next bit is interesting:
I will be the voice for all those that are thinking all the logical things we discuss at work, on the train, over a beer or coffee, when we open the paper to another shocking event. I mean the way I was raised, if I even swore at a cop let alone kicked one, I’d be thinking for sure, ‘I’m going for a very long swim in Port Phillip Bay!’
Hmm.  Looks like someone thinks we need to be more Tough On Crime.  (I’m not sure I don’t detect a whiff of African gangs, either, what with ‘the way I was raised’, but I may be projecting.)
On the other hand, I now see that their lead candidate for Northern Metropolitan is Walter Mikac, whose wife and daughters were killed in the Port Arthur massacre, who successfully advocated for changes to our gun laws, and and who founded the Alannah and Madeline foundation, which is dedicated to protecting children from violence.  Why they are not making a huge thing of this, I have no idea (and why he is letting them get away with favouring so many gun-totin’ political parties on their group voting ticket I also have no idea – I really don’t know how to weigh the one against the other).  But it does suggest that perhaps the excessive all-Aussieness of this page may not be as alarming an indicator as I feared.
It is worth noting that they do not have any policies on firearms or on family violence.  I would really like to see some, now.
So let’s move on to the policies they do have, because these are pretty interesting, and less alarming than all those Australian flags might have led me to believe.  They have ten policy areas, and I’ll group them by subject matter.
Aussie Battlers

The wealthy are getting wealthier and government at all levels continually looks for ways to better support BIG business, which seems to be failing us Aussies as choices become fewer and prices seem to keep rising. The fallout of this is the flow on effect to Aussie Battlers.

It seems unthinkable today that a household earning as much as $100,000 per annum would be doing it tough. Spare a thought for those receiving some form of benefit, those who simply cannot get benefits due to the minefield of qualifying, and the working poor.

I’m humming ‘The Red Flag’ here.

They go on to list the various jobs which don’t pay a lot, and raise the concern that people then find themselves getting what they need on credit cards and having to deal with debt as well.
The ABP’s solution is to help people start small businesses by cutting red tape:
The nonsense a new business creator has to go through to open is ridiculous, and for an existing business wanting to grow, the hurdles don’t get any smaller. 
(So I probably need to stop with the communist anthems for now.)
The ABP would reduce electricity costs, and business restrictions (which ones, please?  Because some of them can be quite important…), promote farm gate purchases, and provide everyone with annual transport passes at capped rates.  I’m not sure how you do the last bit – either you provide the passes for free, or you cap the rates, because you can’t actually force people to buy an annual transport pass, regardless of how cheap it is (that’s a whole other model of government…).
They also have a shout out for carers, who ought to be getting paid more.  And appreciated more!
And they want everyone to be able to own a home, which leads us to their next set of policies…
Housing & Homelessness
You can tell right away that this, right here, is what our Aussie Battlers really care about.  Where most of the other policies are only a few lines long, the policies on Affordable Housing and on Homelessness are long, detailed and very, very heartfelt.  I’m not quite sure who wrote these bits – they have a different feel to the west of the website, but the author talks about their own experience with homelessness in a heartfelt, if occasionally unsettling, fashion.

Having experienced many nights myself sleeping rough in a very small car when a perfectly good house was available gave me even greater understanding to homelessness and the many varied reasons why people become homeless.

While studying social welfare at uni (I didn’t complete), I learned even more about homelessness in Australia. I proposed a solution to someone high enough up the food chain who ought to have listened and ideally jump at a solution as I had become aware there were homeless students not only in my classes but also many others who were studying and trying their best to improve their lives.

As part of my DNA, I consider myself one of those solution-type people.

Learning that females were the fastest-growing sector of the population becoming homeless really struck a chord with me!

Our campus was next to a federal police station. We had 24/7 foot-patrolling security guards, cameras everywhere, a gated parking, 24/7 student access, toilets, showers, kitchens, lounges, wifi, warmth and safety! I proposed our uni could become the first uni to provide a safe zone to women and their kids who were students and sleeping rough. We had all the resources and this was a zero-cost solution! The uni could allow them to park in one location from 7 pm to 7am, 7 days a week in the staff carpark. This was simple repurposing and an opportunity for the uni to stand tall in society and to be an industry leader. Anyway, they said no and showed zero interest. I left uni that day and never went back.

The author of the article goes on to define not being homeless as ‘having a permanent roof overhead and a safe place to rest and to store personal items’, and saying that the problem is that the government is trying to create big solutions that are too hard to implement, where they should instead try really basic things that are cheap and easy to implement.  Suggestions include ‘clean used courier style van with a bed, lighting, locks, and insulation’, or shipping containers set up as apartments in business carparks in industrial areas, where the user “could offer on-site surveillance, become involved socially with the business, get upskilled, feel safe, have some pride restored and call their new container “home”!”.

OK.  So, first I think perhaps it would have been a good idea to have finished that course in social policy.  Because – and I have a lot of sympathy for this, because I do the same thing myself – while it’s great to be full of big ideas and want to be the person that fixes the world, you do need to get other people on board, and you do, often, need to refine your ideas.

Bluntly, I don’t think housing people in shipping containers in industrial carparks is a great idea.  I think what is most likely to happen is that they will become targets for crime (because some people are really crappy about homeless people or people who are ‘getting something for nothing’), I think that’s actually going to be quite socially alienating for the people living in them (what are they to do during the day?   Also, when do they get to sleep, if they are providing security by night?  Industrial carparks are not quiet by day…).  I think it will make people think that those carparks are unsafe places to go – which will, in turn, make them unsafe places to go.

The University idea sounds better in theory, but anywhere you have a lot of people staying, you need someone to manage them, and clean up after them, and so forth.  This is not a reflection on homeless people – this is a reflection on people, period.  Essentially… you might be able to do some of what you wanted there, but there are all sorts of liability reasons why the University might not have been interested.

On the other hand, there are some good ideas in with all the slightly weird stuff.  Overnight safe zones in carparks for people sleeping in cars might work, and should be tried.  Training people to build tiny homes (possibly not out of shipping containers) is a good plan.  Creating tiny home communities in regional areas (with the tiny homes connected to sewer and other systems) where land is cheap is a very good idea – if the cost of land is low, and you can fit several dwellings there, then that’s a good solution.  But you do need to make sure the infrastructure is there to support the communities living there.  And you also want to make sure you don’t set up a situation like they have with mobile homes in the US, where people don’t own the land under their home, and can be kicked out of a not-very-portable home on very short notice.

This brings us to the Affordable Housing policy, which is largely about state-sponsored mortgages – with a funding mechanism similar to that of student loans.  And again, the ABP wants to get people to move to regional Victoria (where, as you will shortly learn, they have many plans for improved services and infrastructure, so that works.)  This policy also talks about the importance of housing stability for health and mental health.  They also want to create a housing fund for low income earners and people on disability and illness benefits.  I’m not quite sure how this bit works, because low-cost mortgages are great, but if one is on benefits, how is one going to keep paying said mortgage?

To my mind, this entire section is well-intentioned and has the seeds of some excellent ideas, but also some fundamental flaws.

Animals, Farming, and helping Regional Victoria
The ABP tells us that they are ‘passionate about protecting animal rights from abuse and non-loving farm practices’.  I am a little worried about what loving farm practices might be, but moving on from that, the actual policies are good.   They want to get rid of battery hens, stop gassing male chickens (they point out that “we have a starving sector of the population who will gladly eat any gender of a chook!”, and stop doing ‘brutal farm practices’ such as trimming chickens’ beaks.  They want to ban rapid growth hormones, and provide tax incentives for early adopters of animal-friendly farming methods.  And they want to provide financial support to farms where weather conditions mean that an animal is at risk of harm.  This is an interesting basis for deciding who gets funding, and I need to note that they do not appear to have a policy on climate change, which is the underlying issue here.
The ABP also wants to make anyone selling puppies and kittens apply for a safe breeders permit (though there is space for one accidental litter, which was a cute touch!).
Lest farmers think that the ABP are making their lives too difficult, they do want to encourage Australian produce, with dedicated supermarket aisles (painted yellow!) that will be only for 100% Australian made goods.  (Apparently the ABP conducted an online survey to come up with this policy.  I would love to know how many respondents they got.  I mean, I have no trouble believing that 90% of people polled wanted such an aisle – if polled, I’d probably say yes, too, and I’m not very nationalistic – but given how small and new a party they are, I strongly suspect that 90% could well have been…45 people…).
They also have a policy on Country Transport, which they think there should be more of, and they are quite right.  They want free weekend transport on VLINE, and they want shuttle buses, everywhere.  Shuttle buses to hospitals, shuttle buses for single parents where the other parent lives >50km away (how would this work, exactly?), shuttle bus services at night so that young people can have a night life, and bus routes specifically for weekend sports.  (You’ll be hearing more about sports…)
Finally in this section, the ABP has a policy on Decentralisation – basically, they want to create opportunities to relocate people to regional towns.  These are actually some pretty smart, if brief, policies – identifying skills shortages, making it easier to start small businesses in regions, better infrastructure, getting engagement from the local councils.  I’m actually completely on board with this set of policies, and I’d like to see them more thoroughly worked out.
This one is kind of a back-of-the-envelope policy.  It’s not an area of focus, just a general statement of support for things like less plastic, protecting wildlife, cleaner oceans, and sustainability.  I note that neither renewables nor climate change are mentioned here, but whether this is a conscious omission, or just the result of this being an area of lesser interest for them is unclear.  If I had to guess, I’d assume the latter.
Children and Education
These are also very much back-of-the-envelope policies.  Education is important and should be well-resourced, and sports is also super important (maybe even more important, if word-count is anything to go by).  More teaching positions.  Don’t close country schools.  More outdoor education.  Emphasis on healthy food and lifestyles.   Business mathematics.   Subsidised registration fees and uniforms for team sports.  ‘Education pathways created to advise of future employment in Sports related industries’ (???!!!).  And – my personal favourite – a free mouthguard annually.
This is the best policy ever.  We only had time for, what, five policies on children’s health, and so we had to prioritise.  And we concluded that what Australian children need most is mouthguards.
(There is no policy for dentistry.)
(Seriously, the free mouth guard policy has made my day.  Probably because I am a terrible, shallow person, who has been reading political policies for hours and hours and hours and going ever so slightly around the bend.  But this is just so beautiful.)
(PS – I always chewed through my mouthguard in the first hockey game of the year, if not the first practice.  This policy would have done nothing for me!  Nothing!  But then, I was also the world’s worst hockey player, playing, generally, with other extremely poor hockey players, and nothing ever went anywhere near our teeth…)
And that’s all for the Aussie Battlers!  Interestingly, despite the high levels of Australian flags and tough-on-crime moments, there is very little nationalism (or, indeed, discussion of crime) in the policies.  What there is is a strong focus on regional Victoria – this feels like a party that is angling to steal votes from the Nationals, frankly – and on poverty.  I feel like they need a few more practical people on board to make some of their policies functional, but there’s not a lot to dislike here.  I do find the contrast between the rhetoric and the policies a bit concerning – I’ve seen references elsewhere to them being right wing and xenophobic, but I don’t see any internal evidence for that on their website.  Having Mikac on their team is a bit of a coup, and I have no idea why they aren’t shouting it from the rooftops – he’s well-known for having helped achieve some pretty big things, after all.
I’m honestly not entirely sure what to make of them. At present, they seemed destined for the middle section of my ballot, the home of parties who have not personally offended me, but who are either a little bit too strange or a little bit too dysfunctional to belong at the top.  Mikac definitely bumps them up a few notches in Northern Metropolitan, but this is one of the hardest parties to get a sense of that I’ve seen in a while.  And that doesn’t really breed confidence.
I’ll be very interested to see how this party develops between now and the Federal Election.

11 thoughts on “Victorian State Election 2018 – Meet the Aussie Battler Party!

  1. I suspect Mikac has no idea about the preferencing as nothing I have read of him recently indicates he’s changed his mind about the current firearms legislation.

  2. My read on this party is as confused as yours. They seem a real mish-mash, some decent social justice ideas (and shipping container housing can be pretty secure and well-done, we looked into building one for a while there), but more than a whiff of Tea Party sentiment.

  3. I agree that I got the impression that they are very very new, rather disorganised (they were the last party to submit candidates), and seem to have the naive approach to policies that make a lot of them sound like ‘Here is the idea I came up with with friends while drinking, it’s self-evident to us, why aren’t we doing this Simple Thing?’

    They seem very earnest, especially in regards to regional policies and homelessness, but there are also those potential dogwhistles in their language (starting with the party name!) and I just can’t figure out if it’s that they’re clueless, or they really are for Good Old Country Values (Including Racism).

    I don’t think the party name is going to do them many favours, honestly.

  4. I love your blog Cate – thanks so much for summarizing all the literature for those of us who want to vote below the line but lose the will to live reading each party’s webpages (your insights and sense of humour help here).

    If you ever start a GoFundMe let me know – or if you want a cake or something knitted just say.

  5. Vern Hughes is the candidate in Eastern Victoria. I think he’s turned up in every party at some point – People Power, Australian Independents, etc

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