I don’t have time to read all of this!
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/CountryPartyVic
Victorian Campaign Page: https://australiancountryparty.org.au/policies/victorian/
Themes: Pro-regional Australia, pro-personal responsibility, pro-guns. Deeply suspicious of environmentalism in any form. Clearly positioning themselves to take over from the Nationals.
Update January 26, 2019: I’ve been advised that the ACP has undergone a complete reorganisation since November, including an overhaul of policies. I’ll be covering them again ahead of the next election, but if you want to know more, please see the comment below from Glenn O’Rourke, which includes a link to a press release and the new website.
With friends like these…
The Group Voting Ticket
The ACP is pretty good friends with conservative and libertarian parties who like guns. Their top five spots always include the Democratic Labor Party, the Liberal Democrats and the Australian Liberty Alliance. Other favoured parties are the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers, Sustainable Australia, the Health Australia Party, and Hudson for Northern Victoria. The Aussie Battlers and the Transport parties appear occasionally.
The Liberal Party sits right at the middle of their ticket, with Labor usually a couple of parties behind them. The last four places on their tickets are always the Voluntary Euthanasia Party, the Victorian Socialists, the Animal Justice Party, and last of all, the Australian Greens. These are not people who like environmentalists very much.
The Body Politic
Policies, Snark, Terrible Theme Songs and Other Observations
So, I am finding the name of this party absolutely hilarious, and I’m just going to get all the stupid jokes off my chest right now before they pollute the whole post.
First, I can’t read the name ‘Country Party’ without thinking of the anecdote about Sir Winton Turnbull ranting about a particular adjournment and shouting “I am a Country Member” to which Gough Whitlam drily interjected “Oh, I remember.” So that just makes me giggle every time.
And the recent name change to ‘Australian Country Party – Give it Back’ is almost as funny, because it feels like they are incorporating a slogan into their own party name, and it’s not even a very good slogan, because it sounds like a couple of toddlers fighting over a toy.
Which is to say that the Country Party is not off to a very good start as far as I’m concerned.
Their actual slogan is “My Country, My Party”, which now also sounds like a toddler tantrum to me. (It’s mine! You can’t have it! Give it back!). But if I try to remove it from the context of their truly abominable party name, I think the goal of this slogan is quite a simple one – it encourages prospective voters to see themselves as part of the Party – they are country people, it’s their country, and therefore, it’s their party.
Oh, and I’ve just had a brainwave – I was wondering who the ‘Give it Back’ was addressed to, and was sort of assuming it was the Greens, who are traditional enemies of this party, but on reflection, I wonder if there is an element of telling the National Party – who were originally called ‘The Australian Country Party’, to ‘give back’ the name to which they no longer have a right, since they no longer represent the interests of rural Australians? I mean, it’s pretty clear that those are the votes that the ACP is aiming for, and there is a definite sense of ‘the Nationals have lost their way’ about this whole party (and indeed, about the proliferation of rural-oriented parties generally).
The Australian Country Party has a website that includes all their branches, but they have a specific policy section for Victoria. In the interests of preserving my (tenuous) sanity, I’ll look at the website overall, but will only focus on the Victorian policies, not the national ones.
The ‘About Us’ section starts by telling us that they want to put people and policies before politics, and then lists the things and people they care about – small businesses, children, seniors, rural health services, farmers, lack of infrastructure in country towns, water entitlements, lack of assistance to farmers and “our right to live and work in our communities and to pursue our chosen pastimes in recreation and outdoor sports and activities”. Since they have a whole policy on firearms, I am pretty sure that last bit means shooting and fishing.
Their objectives pretty much matches this list, but adds some goodies like maintaining ‘democracy, liberty and personal responsibility’, ‘appropriate balance between economic development and a healthy and sustainable environment’ (hmmm…), ensuring that ‘policies involving environmental issues are based on verifiable facts, rigorous scientific inquiry and field visits to ascertain community views’ (could go in either direction here – I’ve heard that quite a few farmers have Feelings about climate change denial at this point), and, interestingly ‘effective representation and promotion of the traditional values, culture, views and aspirations of all Australian communities, including indigenous.’
Also, they will “do such things as are necessary to achieve the objects of the party”, which sounds faintly sinister, but probably only because I read too much fiction…
Their history page tells me that this party was the result of a merger between the Australian Country Alliance and the local branch of the Katter Australia Party (which presumably found itself at a disadvantage in Victoria due to the lack of crocodile attacks).
And here’s their mission statement:
Australian Country Party is committed to the representation and preservation of the rights and interests of those who live in and work in Australia. We will not pander to economic and social agendas that have paralysed elements of Australia, its economic health, cost of living and ability to enjoy life.
We believe in equality of access to education, transportation, communication and health care for all communities;
We believe in “Australia’s Foundation Values”, common sense, fairness, equality and a fair go for all;
We support freedom of access to the public lands for the responsible pursuit of legitimate employment and recreational activities;
We believe that the land management policies must be guided by and funded to meet the needs of the communities that live adjacent to public land or who access it for their recreation or livelihood;
We respect our environment and believe in developing a sustainable manageable future, without sacrificing economic prosperity and our rights and freedoms in the process;
We believe in your best interests first, before that of multinational corporations or political parties.
So, a little bit libertarian, not entirely convinced about environmentalism, and very much here to tell you that they are Not Like The Other Political Parties. (#notallpoliticalparties)
They actually have a pretty interesting selection of candidates, most of whom have done a fair bit of volunteer community work of different kinds, so that’s a point in their favour.
Let’s have a look at their policies, shall we?
The ACP is against Coal Seam Gas ‘at this point of development of the process’ – though they hasten to add that ‘we still have plentiful off-shore reserves which could supply Australia with all the gas we require’. But their wording suggests a certain suspicion that some of the opposition to it is just a beat up by the media, and they sound a lot happier once they are able to reassure themselves that there are concerns about the use of a farmer’s primary production land.
Their water policies include building more dams, and allowing people to ‘carry over’ water from previous years. Honestly, I don’t understand this policy in its entirety, but they are *extremely* suspicious of the environment as something that might have some sort of right to water. For example:
The environment has never been able to carry over water in the past so it should not have this option beyond normal river management.
Environmental water must be utilised to mimic current and future rainfall patterns. Benefits must be real and measurable and not just offsetting the environmental benefits that were already achieved prior to the removal/rebranding of irrigation water into environmental water.
I feel like they view themselves as competing against the environment for this precious resource, which strikes me as an extremely odd way to look at the world.
Their timber policy is not yet complete, but they support a sustainable timber industry.
There is no mention anywhere of climate change, fossil fuels, renewable energy, etc. This is evidently not of interest to the ACP.
Governance, Law and Order
The ACP wants more government offices to be located in regional areas, which sounds like a good idea to me, only then they comment darkly that “Their distance from their areas of oversight exposes them to influence from groups with political agendas and media hype. In recent years we have twice seen what happens when government reacts emotionally to media reports on live animal export. DEWLP and Parks Victoria are two obvious examples of agencies that need to go bush.”.
I really don’t think this group likes environmentalists. And I’ve just noticed that unlike other parties so far with an interest in farming, this lot don’t have any animal welfare policies. Hmm. I can’t imagine why the AJP and the Greens are so low on their Group Voting Ticket, can you?
They also want to review and reduce the role of local government, which sounds a little inconsistent.
The ACP is very much pro-small business and anti-red tape – or, as they put it, red/green tape. Yep, I’m definitely sensing an animus towards the greenies here! They also want to reduce payroll tax for regional businesses, which is a reasonable move if you are trying to attract more businesses to regional areas.
On Law and Order, I don’t think the ACP has actually read its own policy. They start off by wanting mandatory sentencing for repeat offenders, particularly those breaching restraining orders. And they say a lot of sensible things about restraining orders, which almost overcomes my usual resistance to the idea of mandatory sentencing (it must be said, one issue with restraining orders is that they are not taken seriously or enforced well, due to societal prejudices about family violence. It’s an area where mandatory sentencing might actually be helpful. Though I’m still dubious about it as a policy.).
Only then they go on a rant about speeding and revenue collection and say:
ACP supports a return to the more traditional way of dealing with those who break the law so they can use their judgement in deciding what to do. That means allowing them to do anything from giving someone a warning to giving them a ticket to locking them up. Devices set to reap revenue cannot make those judgements.
So, are they for mandatory sentencing, or against it? (I suspect that they are for it in the case of violent crimes and against it in other cases – but honestly, the boundary seems to be drawn in a somewhat arbitrary fashion. I mean, if someone speeds repeatedly, they risk their own lives and the lives of others. Speeding is only a non-violent crime until something goes wrong…).
And they are cross about corrupt politicians making profit from their jobs, and fair enough too.
In a word, they want more! More revenue going into infrastructure for country roads, a large program of upgrades to regional railway lines, both in terms of infrastructure and numbers of trains. And they want a better NBN and an emphasis on getting rid of mobile phone blackspots. They make the very reasonable point that
Claims by our telecommunications companies that mobile coverage is extended to most of the population are seriously misleading… While the majority of our urban population may have coverage the reality is that there are over 6000 known coverage “black spots throughout the country, the majority of these in regional Australia. The situation has been made worse by the delays in the NBN roll-out and today many regional communities have sub-standard or no mobile ‘phone or internet. This situation has significant human safety implications and is clearly unacceptable.
Also, they want mobile towers to be publicly funded and available for all networks to use. Frankly, this is a safety issue and the sort of policy that should be getting more attention.
And speaking of safety and health, they want better access to healthcare and mental health care. This bit really struck me:
More needs to be done to attract medical professionals to rural communities. We would support any initiative that is aimed at addressing this disparity.
It’s really, really hard to get doctors to move to rural communities, and nobody seems to have any really good answers. Part of the problem, I think, is that even if you come up with an attractive package to lure a doctor to your community, if that doctor is married to someone who won’t have a job there, or has children who will have lesser access to schools or activities there, they still might not come. The answer to that, presumably, is making our rural areas more liveable, which starts with better infrastructure, so…
Anyway, I have no beef with the ACP on any of this.
Nor do I have a beef with the first part of their Education policy, which is about making sure people in rural areas have equal access to educational opportunities, and stop closing TAFEs, please.
Only then we get to this:
Sexualisation of children through school curriculums.
The Australian Country Party will oppose any legislation to continue, or initiate any new programs, which teach gender ideology or portray sexual intimacy in schools. Sexual education should only extend to the biological functions and the process of reproduction from conception to birth as part of the science curriculum and be age appropriate and respectful of the social and cultural values of families in the school community. We believe parents and guardians are primarily responsible for teaching their children about respectful, intimate relationships, their joys, dangers and morals.
Sigh. Teaching children about relationships and consent and the correct words for body parts isn’t sexualising them, it’s keeping them safe. And teaching children that some people are LGBTIQA+ is not sexualising them, it’s helping ensure that they don’t grow up hating themselves or others because they feel abnormal.
(Also… if I mention my husband to someone in passing, nobody thinks I’m bringing sex, gender or sexuality in the conversation. But if my friend who is lesbian mentions her wife in precisely the same way, apparently she is talking about sex or imposing some sort of gender ideology on people. And if that’s not bad enough, my trans friend is apparently imposing her gender ideology on the world the moment she walks into a room – she doesn’t even have to open her mouth! This is a ridiculous double standard and we need to get over it.)
Not cool, ACP. Not cool at all.
And speaking of not cool, let’s get to my least favourite set of your policies.
Guns are Fun!
(That is not the actual name of their policy. But it’s certainly their attitude.)
The Australian Country Party supports Government and police in eradicating the community of illegal firearms and eliminating illegal firearm usage. However, we will staunchly defend the legal rights of licenced firearm owners.
The images of legally held firearms by law-abiding citizens and the criminal misuse of firearms must be separated, as they are indeed separate issues. The far majority of firearm owners are law-abiding. Police have the powers and responsibility to deal with those who break the law.
We support the increase of penalties for firearm theft and illegal use of firearms, particularly in the commission of a crime.
Safe firearm storage and proper licensing is a responsibility of firearm owners. However, we will support any changes that relieve the burden of red tape that is unnecessary and does not contribute to the safety of the community.
A review of the current firearms categories is overdue.
The ACP wants to loosen restrictions on the kinds of guns people can use, and on silencers. They want less red tape for farmers who need to purchase guns for the purposes of their work. They feel that guns are useful tools and good for various recreational activities.
Look, if you’ve spent any time on the internet, you have undoubtedly read more arguments than you will ever need to read about gun control. And you probably already have an opinion about it one way or another.
My opinion is that if fewer people have guns, fewer people get killed. Guns are designed for killing efficiently, and at a distance. That’s why we give them to soldiers. That is why they were prized for hunting, back in the days when people hunted for necessity rather than for sport.
A person with a knife can only hurt the people he gets close to. A person with a gun can hurt people from a distance, before they see him coming. A person with a knife can only kill one person at a time. A person with a gun can be much more efficient than that.
Like many people in Melbourne, I was horrified by the events last Friday, and deeply saddened by the death of Sisto Malaspina of Pellegrini’s. It was a terrible thing and it should never have happened. But it did. And because the attacker had a knife, we only lost one good, kind, innocent person to the attack that day. In contrast, the attacker in the Thousand Oaks shooting in the USA last Thursday killed twelve people before he was stopped.
Our gun control rules may not be perfect, but they are definitely working, and I cannot support a party that would risk weakening them.
OK, rant over (and please do not come into the comments to tell me I’m wrong, because you won’t convince me, and I won’t convince you, so we might as well not strain the NBN by having this argument online).
Anyway, the ACP thinks that guns are not just OK but actively good. The party is pro-hunting, and feels that the hunters who “assist Government departments at no charge should be commended for their community assistance with pest control and management”.
They are also opposed to further restrictions to access to land for hunting and shooting, and support reclassification of some national parks to increase access to hunters, prospectors, members of 4WD clubs, and so forth.
I begin to see why they don’t like the greenies. Something tells me that the feeling might be mutual.
The ACP then has a lengthy policy on recreation, which extols the benefits of hunting, shooting, fishing, prospecting, etc, and once again lobbies for more access to national parks for these purposes.
But it does contain possibly my favourite of all their policies:
We support the continuation of minimum impact prospecting in our state and national parks and public land. Minimum impact prospecting is defined in http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/visit/popular-activities/fossicking. Responsible gold prospecting is a good use of our land, it has a very low impact on the environment and wins wealth from the soil. It is an important part of the economy in some parts of Victoria and for some towns, it is entirely responsible for keeping them viable.
I’m seriously trying to work out how you run an economy on fossicking. Unless you are Ballarat, I suppose, but that’s more about tourism, surely? Anyway, that cheered me up after all the gun-worship, so that’s something.
And that’s a wrap for the Australian Country Party. They have some really good policies around infrastructure, but they are really, really weird about environmental stuff – it almost feels like a knee-jerk reaction sort of situation. And they like guns. A lot.
Quite seriously, I know it’s difficult to tell from what I’ve written, but I want to highlight the fact that the policies on firearms and on recreation are the longest and most detailed policies in the ACP’s policy suite. By far.
It’s clear that the ACP cares about other things as well, but I find that the amount of time someone spends working on something gives you a pretty good idea of where their priorities lie. And the ACP clearly spent a lot of time working on those policies on Firearms and Recreation.
If guns are your jam, this is a party you will want to consider. But if you believe, as I do, that easier access to guns is not something we need in this country, I’d recommend putting the ACP way down near the bottom of your ticket. Because changing the laws around gun control is something they clearly care about a lot.