Federal Election 2019: Meet The Together Party

Summary

Website: https://thetogetherparty.org.au/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheTogetherParty/
Slogans:
Let’s Rebuild Our Commonwealth Together
Let’s Get It Together
Themes: Socially-progressive policies, action on climate change, getting rid of privatisation.  Making Australia slightly better than average again.
Electorate:
Upper House: NSW
Preferences: No How to Vote cards available.

Policies & Commentary

The Together Party starts strongly, with the following statement:

Disruption is everywhere except politics. We campaign for the restoration of Government in the public interest, as a constructive force for positive societal change. Let’s rebuild our common wealth together.

Their front page shows us their three candidates (the links are broken for two of them…), exhorts us to join or to donate, and has a one minute video which, thankfully, isn’t on autoplay.  In the video, founder Mark Swivel (of whom more shortly) gazes at us sternly, yet kindly, like a teacher trying to inspire his class of high school students and tells us that we need a change, because wages are flatlining, there is no economic plan, everyone wants renewables and action on the climate, privatisation has failed, children are living in poverty, and there is a housing crisis.  The government is broken, the opposition is too mild, and Auspol needs more people like you and me.

This is a pretty good start on policies, and look, I don’t think it’s easy to stare into a camera and deliver a short political manifesto without looking a little bit silly, so kudos to Swivel for trying.  (And for not making it autoplay.  I still haven’t forgiven the SBP for that.)  And once again – yay for accessibility, and at least providing your vision impaired potential voters with a precis of your policies in audible form.

Let us swivel (sorry!) to our candidates, of whom there are three.  Mark Swivel is a lawyer, performer and writer, and the founder of this party.  He is involved in microfinance and renewable energy companies and has made a documentary on prison privatisation.  He has also written a book called Making Australia slightly better than average again, which is the kind of book title I can embrace.  I am cautiously optimistic here.  Especially as this seems to be one of the parties minor slogans.

His co-runners are Belinda Kinkead, an engineer who is involved in energy trading and renewable energy, and Kate McDowell, an artist and the creator of Wonderbabes, a one-woman performance ‘exposing the traumas of our young sexual and political lives’, which is apparently visceral and poetic.  OK then.

All in all, I’m getting a vibe that this is the lefty environmentalist party for arty people.  Which is a vibe I’m pretty OK with, provided it doesn’t get too visceral and poetic (sorry Kate!).  (Actually, technically it should be my party of choice, except that I’m in Victoria.  And this is me carefully not complaining that NSW gets all the fun political parties, because it’s more that NSW gets *all* the political parties, including the extremely non-fun ones…)

Together has a ‘mini-festo’, which is about government in the public interest.  They outline seven principles:

  • Outcomes not just Opportunity.
  • Communities before the Economy.
  • People before Profit.
  • Homes before Houses.
  • Education before Defence.
  • Living with, not against, the Planet.
  • Human rights above all.

Yes, I think I’m going to find myself in poetic and visceral agreement with this lot.  (And apparently, I am not going to be letting go of ‘poetic and visceral’ any time soon, which is fairly hypocritical of me given the way I can go on about the alto arias in Bach’s St Matthew Passion, which are indeed both visceral and poetic, but it has been a long week, so there you have it.)

They then divide further into three general policy areas, each with its own page – Better spending, Better society, and Better government.

Oh, and I should mention in passing that they have little links to discussion pages for absolutely everything, where you can add your thoughts to the conversation.  I both respect this move, and sincerely hope they aren’t going to regret it – it could become a moderation nightmare if they get any traction.

Under Better Spending, they want to move half the defence budget into education, thus permitting free university education, a rebuilding of TAFE, and more money for scientific research.  I am 100% poetically and viscerally in favour of this!  Also, I need a new catchphrase.  Their reasoning is that Australia’s size and population are such that we are not capable of independent defence, whereas strategic partners do need us, so this is not an area where we need to spend so much money.

They want to be a renewables superpower, moving carbon subsidies across to renewables, and they want the government to invest in these renewable energies generally, since privatisation has been a mess.

Bank tax should be earmarked for small business development in regional Australia, and they want a dedicated development fund for cooperative business.

And the money we spend on detention centres (which they want to close) should be spent on improving the criminal justice system, including rehabilitation, victim compensation, and community integration.  Also, some of this money should invest in regional development to support refugees.

Together favours a universal basic income, land tax and a corporate turnover tax ‘ensure companies contribute to government revenues, even when their income tax would otherwise be zero’.  They want a sovereign wealth fund:

A turbo-charged sovereign wealth fund – with a board appointed by the federal government – should tap superannuation funds and redirect offshore investment into key infrastructure projects. The fund could support partial re-nationalisation of government statutory corporations in key industries such as electricity, transport and banking

I think this is an excellent idea.  (I mean, I’ve liked all their ideas so far, but that one is especially good.)

They favour public schools, public health, public broadcasting (funding for the ABC and SBS to be doubled, then increased by 10% per annum for ten years), indigenous justice, and coming up with sensible principles for government and revenue sharing between states.  They want to invest in ‘valued key workers like nurses, teachers, police and firies’.  On tax, they want to means test all tax benefits, tax large religious institutions (but at a low rate, say 10%), and create a development tax:

A Robin Hood tax applied to cross-border financial transactions could fund regional development and an international aid budget up to 0.7 per cent of GDP.

This is another interesting and original idea, but I suspect it would be a nightmare to implement, if they are talking something analogous to trying to apply the GST to, for example, books that one buys from the Book Depository…

They want a Federal Spending Ombudsman, and a Climate Change Fund.

Under Better Society, Together starts with Indigenous Australians.

Indigenous Australia should be able to negotiate treaties with the federal and state governments, supported by advisory councils in all Australian parliaments and a national indigenous compensation and development fund, financed by a federal Treaty levy.

I would like to note that this is the first time in nearly ten years of writing about political parties that I’ve seen a policy on Indigenous Australians listed first on someone’s policy page.  Good on them.

Together’s key message on this page is about longer-term thinking and planning.  They want policies and priorities that last more than three years on industry, on housing and on energy.  Once again, renewable energies are front and centre, with the phasing out of coal,  emissions targets benchmarked to international standards, and a goal of 100% renewables in the medium term.

They want to boost the minimum wage, and strengthen unions – striking is a human right! – and they want better legal aid for lower income Australians.  We reiterate the policies around free education and public broadcasting, and add:

The NBN should be wholly owned and operated in perpetuity by a statutory corporation, supported by all political parties. Our technology platform is too important, too fundamental, to our society and economic development to be politicised.

Have I mentioned that I’m terrified of what will happen to my internet when they install the NBN this Thursday?  (Which, yes, I realise is ANZAC Day, and that does not fill me with reassurance, either…)

Together wants to make women more prominent in government policy, and expresses a need to listen to women.  Family violence and reproductive rights are mentioned here, though briefly.  Together also wants a serious arts policy and proper funding, which surprises me not at all.  (Nor do I object to it, either viscerally or poetically)

They also want to expand the Deductible Gift Recipient scheme for non-profits.  Speaking as someone who spent quite a lot of time trying to organise DGR status for a  non-profit she was involved with years ago, they could also stand to make the scheme more transparent…

Better Government us largely about transparency.  They want the Government to report annually to Australian Citizens ‘on the return on investment for money spent in every project, fund and department, as a company reports to its shareholders’.

I… am not sure whether I want to attend that AGM.

They want to end privatisation, make tender processes transparent, and strengthen ASIC the ACCC and ACRA.  They want an accountability and corruption watchdog, a capping of private donations for elections, and a public listing of lobbyists.

Interestingly, Together wants significant strategic decisions to require a super-majority of both houses of parliament:

Such decisions might include referendum proposals, decisions to go to war or material changes to the treaty or international status of Australia (e.g. ANZUS, ASEAN, TPP).

This is an interesting one, because I think how I’d feel about that would depend entirely on who was the last person to put that legislation in place before the law changed.  Because let’s face it, this rule would make it much, much harder to change the status quo, especially in our increasingly adversarial political system.  For a party that wants transformative change, this is actually a fairly regressive move.  And yet… I don’t much like the idea that the government could unilaterally send us to war, and I was not a happy camper when we had the marriage equality debate.  So I can see pros and cons.

Together wants to stop outsourcing things like social security and prisons, and it wants to strengthen the public service, including restoring tenure, to encourage independence.  They also want to renationalise failing NGO service providers, particularly in the areas of employment, vocational education and disability services.

Together wants to shut down detention centres, both in Australia and offshore.

The government should not jail people who have not committed crimes and never for indefinite periods. 

Sing it, sisters.  And in this case, I mean that literally.

Climate change is again a priority here, including projects to cope with future impacts on our coastline, rivers and forests.  They are particularly concerned with the health of the Great Barrier Reef, and with water as a national resource.  They want an independent authority to manage national water allocation and use, which really ought to be a no brainer at this point.

Finally, Together wants a bill of rights and a republic with an elected president.

And that’s it!  What we have here is a pretty broad range of policies, with at least some thought given to how they would be funded.  There is an emphasis on climate change and on de-privatisation – this is not a party that favours small government – and on taking care of people.  Frankly, if this group were running in Victoria, they would be looking pretty good for a position at the top of my ballot.

Eurovision Theme Song as determined by me, very objectively

I mean, it’s almost a shame that I’m limited to Eurovision songs here, because the Beatles’ ‘Come Together’ is probably exactly the song Together were looking for.  And there are so many Eurovision songs about togetherness…

But I really liked England’s entry last year, even if it did come very nearly last.  It had a pretty strong emphasis on togetherness (not to mention a certain ‘please don’t hate us all because some of us voted for Brexit subtext), and the lyrics seem rather in line with Together’s policy platform.

Do you believe in the things we dreamt we’d discover?
I still have faith
I still believe in chasing rainbows
Storms don’t last forever, forever, remember
We can hold our hands together
Through this storm.

Spread your love, give all you got
Hold your head up, don’t give up, no, no…

2 thoughts on “Federal Election 2019: Meet The Together Party

  1. They had me right up until the referendum proposals bit. They’re rare enough already, and rarer still to pass. Let’s not throw more obstacles onto what is already one of the most difficult paths in Australian politics.

    • Yeah, that’s an odd one, for a party that is otherwise so set on reform. I’ve been trying to game out what that would have done to the marriage equality debate, and my current theory is that we would probably be having an election on that topic about now…

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