Victorian State Election 2018: Meet the Sustainable Australia Party!

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

sustainable

Website: https://www.sustainableaustralia.org.au/vic
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/VoteSustainable/
Themes: Overpopulation, sustainability, the environment, jobs, anti-immigration.

With friends like these…
The Group Voting Ticket

This is another confusing ticket, probably brought to you by Glenn Druery.  The top of the ticket favours the Battlers, Transport Australia and Hinch’s Justice Party, but there are a lot of frequent flyers here, and about all you can say for it is that at least the Australian Liberty Alliance is never in the top five.

The foot of their ticket is always reserved for the three major parties, followed by the Victorian Socialists and the Democratic Labour Party.  Of the three majors, Labor and the Greens alternate in first place, and Liberal is always last.  Where there are ungrouped independents, these are always last of all.

I will note that on both their website and their Facebook they are encouraging their voters to direct their own preferences, and advocate an end to group voting tickets, so it will be interesting to see how many of their voters actually do vote above the line.  I have to say, while I have always enjoyed using group voting tickets to get an insight into voting blocs, this time round, it’s been less than useful, so I am sadly inclined to agree with them.  (Thanks, Glenn Druery, for ruining my fun.  Don’t you understand that the best part of above the line voting is playing Upper House Roulette?  Rigging the wheel is just not fair…)

Of course, they then say of their own ticket that because of the way the major parties game the system, they need to game it too, in order to ensure fairness:

We need to end ‘business as usual’ major party politics, even if it means some less than ideal minor parties are preferenced before the major parties. 

So there’s that.

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


Sustainable Australia’s main slogan is ‘Better, not bigger’.  This is a good slogan – it’s easy to remember, it’s alliterative, it sounds good, and it reflects their ideas nicely.  The main subtext – and I’m not even sure you can call it that – is that bigger is not better, and that perhaps their opponents think it is.  This works well for a party whose main theme is avoiding population growth.

On the ballot paper, they have another slogan – ‘Stop over-development’.  How do they plan to do this?

For starters, return real power to local communities in planning decisions and end rapid population growth by lowering Australia’s annual immigration intake from 200,000 back to the long term average of 70,000.

So we are a wee bit anti-immigration here. (Over on Twitter, a bunch of people are calling them racist, and they are getting extremely upset and angry about this and calling it slander.  So this could be interesting.)  Incidentally, remember how the Democratic Labour Party was always in the bottom 4 on their ticket?  The DLP, who feel that Australia’s population is ageing and too small, and that the best way to fix this is through more immigration?  Yeah, I think we know why Sustainable doesn’t get along with them…

Other priorities are ‘secure jobs, affordable housing, better planning, and a sustainable environment and population’.

The Sustainable Australia Party view themselves as neither right, nor left, but centrist, and they want to leave Australia better than they found it, basically.  They are ‘committed to a prosperous, inclusive, democratic and sustainable Australia’.  Sounds good so far.  Their core values are  sustainable living, productive innovation, egalitarian democracy, fiscal responsibility, and global vision.

Rather than unpicking these in detail, I’m going to head straight over to their policies, to see what this is all about.

Environment

The SAP wants to protect biodiversity by protecting habitats, avoiding inappropriate tree clearing, creating wildlife corridors and eradicating high-risk feral species.

They want to prioritise ecological sustainability, and quote a government paper pointing out that population growth and economic development will be the main drivers of environmental problems.

If we are to lower Australia’s total environmental impact, as we must, we need to lower both our per capita environmental impact, and stabilise our population. Our holistic approach is outlined below.

The SAP wants more investment in environmental education, and end to land clearing and more ecological restoration.  They want to end old growth forest logging, phase out coal mining and fossil fuel subsidies, and decrease our greenhouse gas emissions by 80-100% by 2050.

They want to fund and subsidise research and development of renewable energy technologies, with a renewable energy target of at least 50% by 2030.  And they want to promote the environmental benefits of plant based food.

They want to conduct ‘regular and full public audits of its finite and non-renewable resources’, and adopt a tax on iron ore and coal, and use revenue generated from depletion of non-renewable resources to advance sustainability goals.

The SAP is also worried about water waste, and about recycling.

But mostly, they want to remind us at every turn, that the driving force for environmental degradation is population growth and that we need to lower immigration.

(… what does this mean for the environment of countries people are coming from, though?)

Also, they want a Sustainability Army which would apparently ‘revitalise regional, rural, remote and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities’.  I’ve found mention of this in several areas, but I’m really not clear on what it is at all – I suspect it’s like the Country Needs People program, but on a broader scale?

Also, you need to know that population growth is the main driver of all environmental issues.  Have I mentioned that?

Basically, this whole section is a lot like the Greens’ policy platform, only with a LOT of emphasis on population size.

Animals, Farming and Regional Australia

Farmers have been taken for granted!  But not by the SAP!

They favour decentralisation and regional revitalisation – pretty much the same suite of policies as every other party that likes decentralisation, including tax concessions,  and jobs.  But not infrastructure, that I can see.

Also, is this policy of decentralisation and moving more people to the country compatible with their policy against land clearing?  I’m not sure about that one.

They also favour protectionist policies so that local produce doesn’t have to compete with overseas exports, and they want to promote the benefits of local primary products.

The SAP is also concerned about animal welfare and its effect on the environment, and want to end live animal exports and factory farming (which can apparently best be done by keeping Australia’s population, and thus consumption, stable).

Energy

Australia should develop an energy supply that is smart, affordable, reliable, safe and environmentally sustainable.

This is a pretty good policy – it supports all forms of sustainable energy, with the exception of nuclear, and is anti-fracking.  It wants more funding for research into renewable energy technologies.  This bit made me laugh:

Empower Australian consumers to manage and reduce their energy use through the provision of consumer-friendly smart meters providing real time energy usage information

I mean, yep, it’s a good idea, but I hope they aren’t trying to claim that the current smart meters help with this, because they really don’t.

Also, did you know that lower immigration and population size will help with making everything more sustainable?

Sustainable Population

Oh boy.  So, the SAP feels that rapid population growth is unsustainable, which is true.  And they are opposed to coercive restrictions on family size, which is sensible (though they are in favour of universal access to free contraception, which is smart).

  • Sustainable Australia is for immigration, being sustainable immigration, which will help maintain social cohesion and long term public support for immigration by addressing the public’s growing frustration with too much immigration too soon.
  • Sustainable Australia is opposed to discrimination of immigrants based on race (ethnicity) or religion.
    • Our immigration practices should not be ethnically or religiously based, but they must allow for more intensive screening of, and support for, all prospective immigrants than is currently the case. There are serious dangers in not devoting sufficient resources to managing our record high immigration intake. The Department is simply overloaded with work. Lowering our immigration intake back to the sustainable long-term average level (see below) will help the Australian Government to recover and secure a sustainable Australia.

That last bullet point is a mess.  First, if the Department is overloaded, more intensive screening will overload it even more.  And yes, lowering immigration intake will help with that, but at what point are you doing this?  I mean, surely you would want to screen to make sure it is the right people we are letting in?  In which case, we are back to the workload.

Also, more intensive screening?  There is already a lot of screening, which is why we have people trapped indefinitely in detention centres.

The SAP wants to remove immigration from all trade agreements, and encourage population decentralisation into rural areas that need more people, through relocation grants and migration settlement policies.  I have no beef with this!

They are worried about work visas, both temporary and long-term, and want to reduce working rights for unskilled foreign students ‘in order to increase job opportunities for Australia’s lower socio-economic demographic, including youth looking for entry level job opportunities’.  (This is a policy which could never, ever lead to the illegal underpayment of foreign students, right?  I mean, the wage theft opportunities are obvious, because who is going to risk reporting?)

The SAP wants us to know that

Australia’s rapid population growth is not caused by refugees or asylum seekers. Refugees, including asylum seekers, make up only around five per cent of Australia’s population growth, and are being used as a distraction by federal governments in order to quietly maintain a record permanent (combined family reunion and ‘skills’) immigration program – by plane. This unsustainable immigration is driven by the desire of large employers and their representatives for more customers and cheaper labour, as well as a larger ‘aggregate’ (but not per capita) GDP statistic for governments to promote.

So, that’s a fun combination of compassion towards refugees with a government conspiracy theory twist.  (That sounds like a synchronised diving move…)

They would maintain our refugee intake at 14,000-20,000 (which is actually higher than the numbers I can see for the last few years), but include it in our overall annual immigration numbers, and would consider further asylum seeker requests according to circumstances.  They want to get children out of detention.  But their main policy with regard to refugees is to ‘recognise and address the root causes of the world’s refugee migration, including rapid population growth, resource scarcity, corruption, poverty, conflict and war’, and thus to try to create peace in regions from which refugees are coming so that they don’t have to come here.

This is ambitious, but appealing.

However, check out this footnote:

Government officials say the 2015/16 12,000-strong Syrian refugee intake is expected to cost $700 million over four years, accounting for about $60,000 for each person resettled in Australia under the expanded humanitarian program (just for direct resettlement, not including major costs like public infrastructure, which can add up to over $100,000 per person). According to World Vision, Australians can sponsor a child for around $500 p.a. and provide basic needs like food, water, education and hygiene. The very conservatively estimated $60,000 per person could help 120 children in their homeland over four years ($700 million could help 1.4 million children over four years). Helping people to live in peace and harmony in their homeland makes a real difference.

I… don’t think that World Vision Sponsorship is necessarily the best measure of how much aid one needs to give to make their lives sustainable?  Particularly since I imagine that this amount depends *very strongly* on what country people are coming from and the cost of living there? This seems off.

Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Aid

The SAP has a very brief policy on Defense – we need to maintain a strong defense force, but avoid regional conflicts by sticking to diplomacy, defence alliances, and regional aid.  No arguments there.

They don’t much like foreign investment, and like many other parties, want to restrict the purchase of Australian land and resources to foreign entities.  Foreign investment needs to be shown to be in the long term national interest.

They are very concerned about global sustainability, and want to

Tie foreign aid wherever possible to the improvement of economic and environmental sustainability, with a particular focus on female rights and education, including opportunities for women and men to access reproductive health and voluntary family planning services to help prevent unwanted pregnancies.

They also want to encourage other countries to pay attention to their environmental impact and population size.

I’m pretty much there for all of this, but I’d like to know how much foreign aid the SAP plans to provide.

Planning, Transport and Housing

Australia’s town and urban planning should be transparent, egalitarian and ecologically sustainable, and work to stop over-development.

The SAP favours lots of community consultation in planning, and they don’t want local planning decisions to be overturned by state or federal governments.  Which could be interesting, because my experience nobody ever wants to have the public housing development in their neighbourhood…

They also want biodiversity corridors, and energy efficient housing.

Speaking of housing, the SAP would get rid of both negative gearing and the discount on capital gains tax that isn’t a place of residence, and restrict overseas residents from being able to buy Australian housing (and when they do, they have to pay higher stamp duty).  They want increased investment in public housing and better renters rights.

But you know what’s really going to make housing more affordable, don’t you?  That’s right!  Low population growth!

The SAP’s transport plan is pretty much more public transport and more bike tracks, in preference to more roads.  They are interested in high speed trains for interstate travel, and, just in case you had forgotten their brand, ‘this should be based on a relatively stable national population scenario’.  They don’t want more airports in capital cities, but they do want to look into an Australian owned, energy efficient car company, which is fun.

Health and Ageing

The SAP is pretty good on this.  Basically, they are big on preventative care, better funding for medical and nursing training and medical research, better resourcing for mental health services, and getting the NDIS working properly.  Also, free contraception and reproductive health advice.

They do seem to have drunk the Health Australia Party coolaid with regard to natural therapies, and they are very worried about obesity and sugar (beyond, I think, what is entirely medically proven, but this does seem to be a trend with political parties this year), but otherwise they are pretty solid here.  Oh, and they think that drug abuse is primarily a health issue, and want better funding for rehab programs.

On ageing, we need to better respect our senior citizens, and have better quality aged care.  I like this bit:

Better facilitate and celebrate the unpaid community contributions of all citizens, particularly older citizens, who make a significant contribution to national wealth and wellbeing.

Of course, this wouldn’t be an SAP policy without a Sustainable Population PSA:

It is vital to recognise that: a) Our gradual ageing does not necessarily lead to lower workforce participation or higher welfare burdens, and therefore does not justify policies to produce higher immigration or a higher fertility rate; and (b) Immigration and a higher fertility rate have, at best, a small and temporary impact on the age structure of the population.

I do think we need a certain number of younger people to care for our older people, though…

Education

The SAP wants every Australian to have access to a good education.  So they want to fund public schools better, encourage small classroom sizes, and reduce HECS debts and higher education fees.   In particular, approved STEM courses should be offered for free.  They also want affordable and reliable childcare and early childhood education, and sustainable and environmental education programs in schools.

They want more investment in universities, particularly since there will be fewer international students, because apparently they will just try to emigrate here permanently (sigh).

Jobs and Economy

This might be their longest policy of the lot.  They start by pointing out that population growth has tripled since the Howard era, causing per capita GDP growth to plummet.  I really don’t think this was the only factor (Global financial crisis, anyone?  Not to mention Workchoices and other legislation designed to concentrate more money in the hands of the wealthy at the expense of the workers.  Oops, sorry, I think my inner socialist is showing…), but I think we all knew it would be the one the SAP cared about most!

 

  • We urgently need to re-allocate a significant portion of Australia’s scarce economic capital – from massive overinvestment in housing and property speculation, via personal savings, bank lending, superannuation funds, etc – back into our factories, farms and small businesses, to re-diversify our economy.
  • Sustainable Australia is the only political party in Australia that recognises that surging population growth, and the misallocation of investment capital and spiralling government debt associated with trying to manage its impacts, is a fundamental threat to our economy, environment, social cohesion and quality of life.

That second one sounds suspiciously like ‘those foreigners are coming here and stealing our jobs and failing to integrate’, frankly.

Anyway.  To fix these problems, we need to invest in education, lower immigration, and reallocate capital into manufacturing and small business.  We need to stop privatising things, and support Australian-made products.  We need to prioritise social wellbeing indicators, as well as economic indicators such as high employment, balanced budgets, balanced trade, and low cost of living.  We need to manage our environmemntal resources, and support not-for-profit co-operatives, and support a fair industrial relations system.

Oh, and they want job guarantee programmes for young people or long-term unemployed people that include ‘opportunities for employment and training in conservation land management in regional and Aboriginal communities.’ I like this idea, provided it actually is training and (properly paid) employment, and not an expansion of work for the dole.

They want to get rid of red tape for small businesses, because of course they do, and they want to end multinational tax avoidance and increase the tax-free threshold to $25,000 ‘and, where necessary, reduce personal income tax rates or increase pension and welfare payments to make up for any increased GST payable.’

Oh, for goodness’ sake:

Recognise and resolve the massive increase in taxes, charges and infrastructure productivity costs caused by record immigration-fuelled rapid population growth. 

And then they repeat this paragraph:

Sustainable Australia is the only political party in Australia that recognises that surging population growth, and the misallocation of investment capital and spiralling government debt associated with trying to manage its impacts, is a fundamental threat to our economy, environment, social cohesion and quality of life.

We get it, you think immigration is bad for Australia.  You can stop hammering this home now.

 

Governance

This is your standard anti-government-corruption package: Cap political donations and make them more transparent, with no foreign political donations allowed.  Generally make everything more transparent, and expose corruption.  Ban ex-politicians and senior staffers from employment with registered lobbying organisations and relevant vested interests for at least 3 years after leaving office.  Scrap political pensions.

Also, they want to ‘Remove the four per cent threshold for public funding of political parties and independents, so that all candidates attract the same (and increased) public funding amount per vote’.  A little self-interest there, but I think it’s fair enough, in the circumstances.

They also want citizen-initiated referenda and the ability to directly petition Federal Parliament online asking for action to be taken on an issue.  I’m not sure how the latter differs from emailing politicians online, except that one could do all of them as a group?

Also, public utilities should stay in public hands.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders

This is a quite a short policy.  The SAP wants to ‘close the gap’ on Aboriginal health, support and promote ATSI arts and culture, and provide greater employment opportunities, particularly those that facilitate their ongoing relationship with the land and natural environment.

Arts

Another short policy, and not a particularly brilliant one, frankly.  They want to support small businesses and education, protect intellectual property, support local film and television production, and oppose build up of properties near live music venues.

Conscience vote issues

The SAP wants a national plebiscite on the republic and on voluntary euthanasia, but if they don’t get one, their members can follow their conscience on this if it comes to a Parliamentary vote.

Policing

Increase policing resources, more resources to prevent terrorism, more counter-radicalisation strategies.  Also:

Ensure the reasonable privacy and rights of citizens to freedom of speech, movement, religion, commerce, employment, internet usage and association, and protect ordinary Australians from abuse by governments and businesses

Hmm.  I know this is a short policy, but it bugs me.  We have a big emphasis on possible terrorism, and then we have  freedom of speech and freedom of religion, which have become really big talking points on the far right of politics recently.  There’s not enough detail to know where the SAP is coming from, but it’s not a good look.  (Also, nothing on domestic violence?  Really?)

Gambling

Less advertising, fewer pokie machines, and $1 maximum bets per spin.  Basically, your bog standard harm-minimisation gambling reduction policy.

Yes, but are they racist?

Well, I don’t think they are *trying* to be racist.  I mean, they are very determined to tell us that they are not, and their actual background and policy statements are quite supportive of refugees and immigrants as people.  But they clearly do think that immigration is, if not the cause of, a major contributor to all of our problems.

Also, their policies play right into  racist narratives.  We have the ‘intensive screening’ of immigrants (implying that we think they are more likely to commit crimes), we have the reduced working rights for ‘unskilled and semi-skilled foreign students’ and the suspicion that students will try to make this a pathway to immigration (because they are stealing jobs from local youth).

We have the ‘refugees are expensive, but World Vision Sponsorship is cheap’ which kind of assumes that refugees are fleeing starvation in impoverished countries, not war in developed ones where $500 a year won’t get you very far (playing into the ‘economic migrant’ narrative and also, probably, anxieties about skin colour, because I suspect I am not the only one who hears World Vision and thinks ‘starving children in Africa’. ) We have the focus on terrorism in their policy on policing, despite the fact that domestic violence is responsible for far more deaths (but immigrants don’t integrate, and might be terrorists…)

These are all narratives that have real effects on the immigrants who do come here – and, ironically, make it harder for them to integrate!  They also affect people born in Australia who look like they might be immigrants – people of middle-eastern or African or Asian or Indian origin.   This is a real problem.

So, yeah.  Good intentions, but time for some unconscious bias training, basically.  Because consciously or not, the SAP have managed to integrate a *lot* of racist dog-whistles into their policies, and that’s a bit crap, frankly.

10 thoughts on “Victorian State Election 2018: Meet the Sustainable Australia Party!

  1. I’m sorry Cate that you have come to the conclusion there’s a lot of racist dog-whistling. What if it’s not dog whistling? What if it’s as it appears without a hidden agenda? Have you considered that possibility?

    Amongst many political issues, I advocate against hard core pornography and therefore for censorship. I find myself in agreement with some fairly conservative Christian groups. Should I pull back from my position because of who I find myself aligned with? My answer to that is no – for the welfare of women and children it is too important to pull back on that basis.

    I am president of environment NGO Sustainable Population Australia http://www.population.org.au (no connection to the Sustainable Australia Party). We find ourselves on the receiving end of accusations similar to the dog-whistling one you make about SAP. And like the example above, I regard the population issue as so all-encompassing that I cannot pull back from it for fear of criticism of who I appear to be aligned with.

    • Hi Sandra,

      I hear what you are saying, and I did say that I doubted the dog-whistling was intentional or that you guys set out to be racist. However, I am concerned that people who are reading your policies, and who see immigration blamed for all Australians problems again and again and again are unlikely to see the subtleties of what you are getting at. And this helps them justify their racism.

      I accept that your intentions are good, but there have to be better ways to express your concerns about the population without giving encouragement to racists.

      Catherine

      • Cate the problem is that more than 60% of population growth comes via immigration so it would be silly to target something else, wouldn’t it?

  2. Hi Cate, I am a student at RMIT studying environmental studies. I used to vote Greens but this election I am voting for Sustainable Australia Party although I am not a member yet but I am thinking about it. When I first heard about them I had similar concerns to you, however the State of the Environment Report lists population growth as a serious concern that needs to be address on a global scale. If we decrease consumption and limit our fossil fuels but increase our population at the same time then we are taking two steps forward and one step backward. Also note their policy doesn’t target country of origin when discussing lowering the immigration and doesn’t limit refugee intake. I do agree that their language needs to be worded carefully because otherwise they could end up just sounding like they are blaming migrants. Anyway thanks for the read. 🙂

    • Right on Jake! The State of the Environment Report is clear on this. The UNFCCC says that the two main contributors to climate change are economic growth and population growth.

      • Stopping people from moving countries won’t lower the world population. It’s likely to increase it, in fact, if they had been trying to move to countries with better reproductive healthcare availability.

        The UK threw a temper tantrum about migrants a whole ago known as the Brexit vote. The result is that residents from overseas are moving away due to not enjoying being treated like shit, and the health service is hemorrhaging staff, which affects everyone. It’s going to get worse in every conceivable way, food shortages, lack of medications, deaths. That’s quite apart from the massive rise in xenophobic and racist hate crimes. If you think this is something you want to copy, oh dearie me.

        The reason people keep telling you that you’re racist is because you are making racist statements and pushing racist policies, and your response to being called on it does not include listening to these valid critiques or trying to see what you’ve done wrong, let alone attempting to be less racist.

        The largest group of people overstaying their visas here in the UK, by the way, is Australians.

        • The SAP policy makes no such claim that ‘stopping’ people from coming to Australia will lower the world population. You’ve created a straw man Ms Insearchofmornings. I’m not a member of SAP so cannot speak for them, but reducing immigration has nothing to do with race. The issue of access to family planning and contraception is dear to my heart, but it not usually a cited reason for moving from one country to another.

    • Hi Jake,

      Thanks for that. I do think it is more a problem of language than of intention, and agree with what you say regarding their refugee policy, but given the recent rise in anti-immigrant sentiment in Australia, I think that language is pretty important!

      Part of the issue is that if one reads one or two policies, it’s only a minor thing. But if you read all of them in a row, it feels like it’s really hammering the anti-migrant thing in quite a frightening way.

      Overpopulation is a genuine environmental issue – though I’m not sure it touches on quite as many areas as the Sustainable Australia Party think – but I’m not sure this is the best way to address it. And I really do worry about what messages some of these policies are sending to people who are already inclined to dislike migrants.

      Catherine

  3. Pingback: The One and Only Cate Speaks Endorsed How to Vote Card! | Cate Speaks

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.