The One and Only Cate Speaks Microparty Policy Fantasy League!

I have frequently noted that almost every small party – even the otherwise loathesome ones! – has one policy worth reading about.  Sometimes, you have to look really hard to find it, because it is buried in a sea of horror and revulsion, but that only makes it the more beautiful when you find it.

So this election, as a special treat, I thought it might be fun to make a collection of the policies that our smaller, weirder parties have come up with that stand out from the crowd. A Microparty Fantasy League, if you will.  Now, it should be noted that there are some parties on this list who I wouldn’t trust to legislate their way out of a paper sack, and who definitely shouldn’t be put in charge of policy on anything resembling a regular basis.  And it should also be noted that this in no way constitutes a complete policy platform.  But I think you will agree that there are, in fact, some unexpectedly good ideas on this list.

On Climate and the Environment

There are lots of good policies to be had here, but nobody can beat the Independents for Climate Action Now.  Their entire platform is urgent, evidence-based and comprehensive action on climate change, including planning for the human impact of climate change, creating a zero-emissions society, re-skilling those who lose their jobs as a result of phasing out of coal, and adapting to unavoidable climate impacts.  You can read the entire thing here.  Let’s just put them in charge of this one, eh?

On Jobs and the Economy

The Australian Workers Party favours a Universal Job Guarantee

This is a federally funded, locally administered programme that offers anyone willing and able to work a community job at a socially inclusive minimum wage. This eliminates involuntary unemployment, sets a floor price for labour below which we deem employment to be exploitative and ensures a minimum standard of living below which we deem people to be unable to fully participate in the economy.

A Job Guarantee could also recognise what has been traditionally unpaid care work such as child rearing and care for elderly or disabled relatives with a socially inclusive minimum wage. This has the potential to revolutionise economic outcomes for women who have long been disadvantaged by their over representation in unpaid care work.

The Secular Party of Australia would like to establish “a resource rent tax on mining of non-renewable resources, giving all Australians, as collective owners of the country’s mineral wealth, an equitable share in the proceeds of resource sales.”

The Together Party would like to add to this “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.”

And the Australian Progressives are here to remind us that:

Income taxation should not be treated as a punishment, rather it should be treated as an incentivised public investment scheme by taxpaying shareholders into Australia’s social capital fund: Our nation.

On Housing and Homelessness

Unsurprisingly, the Affordable Housing Party has the best policies here, including taxing of properties that are left deliberately untenanted to encourage owners to rent them out  or sell them (minimum owner occupancy periods will protect holiday home owners); ban or tax full-time “Airbnb” type properties that the owner never lives in and are operated like a hotel or hostel; increase funding for public, social and affordable housing; get rid of negative gearing and other incentives to focus on housing as an investment; nationally consistent and improved rights for renters.

On Infrastructure

I don’t like much of what the Christian Democratic Party has to say, but I make an exception for their infrastructure policy.

There is real social and economic value to have strong infrastructure programs of roads, bridges, hospitals, airports, water ways and power supply be steady and affordable. It is pertinent to remember that projects should be planned to facilitate future generations, not just short term objectives. One of the huge imperatives must be that all infrastructures must become accessible to all of the population, especially the elderly and to those with disabilities. Where identified by expert advice, that urgent implementation of recommended infrastructure safety systems be prioritised as soon as possible after identification of access and safety concerns.

Meanwhile, the Science Party wants to create a futuristic charter city with underground tunnels for self-driving cars that would focus on science and technology and act as a Special Immigration Zone.  I am not entirely sure that this would work, but it is a highly original policy idea and worth a look.

On Transport

Independent candidate Robert Whitehill really, really cares about public transport and has a comprehensive set of policies, including:

More frequent bus services going to more places; separated bike lanes that encourage cycling; discounted fares for travel only within districts (e.g. $1 if you travel no more than 2 hours in a day, and $2 for longer travel, for all commuters within Melbourne). Traffic light priority for buses and trams to reduce their travel times. Investment in our tram network, extending it to key interchanges and locations, and making 100% DDA-compliant. Investment in railway, including high speed rail from Melbourne to Brisbane, as well as a Monorail from Melbourne Airpoint to Doncaster via Highpoint Shopping Centre and Melbourne Lonsdale Street, and eventually to Ringwood, Knox, Rowville and Dandenong.

And really, that’s just the beginning – for the full effect, you should download his 174-page transport policy document on the subject.

(Of course, if ordinary trains aren’t enough for you, there’s always the Citizens Electoral Council‘s plan to dig a tunnel under the sea from Darwin to Asia and beyond, and use it to run a magnetic levitation train at 6,200 kmph.  Would this work?  Probably not.  Does it sound awesome?  Oh, yes.)

On Health

The Australian Mental Health Party has a lot of good policies around mental health, but as it happens, I thought their most interesting one was on general post-hospital care:

Provide better transitional support for people leaving hospitals, including

  • Connecting people to accommodation support if needed at discharge;
  • Dedicated support workers at all hospitals to bridge adjustment to community based care and link people to meaningful follow up care;
  • Access to tailored suicide prevention programs following psychiatric hospital discharge, to address elevated risk of suicide in the first three months

The Democratic Labour Party has a pretty strong set of policies on disability and mental health.  They want to increase NDIS funding, and simplify its delivery – keep all disability programs under one department, and make everything transparent and easier to access.  Improve advocacy services for people with disabilities and carers.  Affordable housing for people with disabilities, and disability equipment to be manufactured in Australia where possible.

They also advocate for a similar program for mental health care, with a person-centred approach, 24 hour emergency response, early intervention, better regional services, and teaching resilience and monitoring of mental health.  (Policy also includes discouraging illicit drug use, which is something I feel more neutral about – though self-medication doesn’t tend to be a great idea for people with mental health issues.)

On Agriculture and Regional Australia

The Australian Democrats have an all-round good policy here, with a nice balance between the current needs of farmers and the long-term care of the land.  Highlights include:

  • Support farmers to innovate practices that increase profitability and productivity, reduce resource use and maintain ecosystem health;
  • Protect agricultural landscapes and water resources for future generations;
  • Deliver natural resource planning which includes achievable, practical and ecologically sustainable measures for the environment, communities, agriculture and industry;
  • Foster sustainable land use and provide incentives for recovery of degraded lands and conservation of biodiversity, empowering farmers to play a greater role in the development of land management policies;
  • Protect and restore the health of Australian soils and native ecosystems;
  • Limit and regulate foreign investment in Australia
  • Mitigation of production and market risks for agriculture

Katter’s Australian Party, when they aren’t obsessing over crocodiles, have a pretty good plan to create a ‘Fair Milk’ logo to go on milk bottles which would indicate that farmers had been paid a fair price for their milk.

And Sunny Chandra would like to revitalise regional Australia and boost their economies by encouraging universities to build campuses in regional Australia, and then encouraging overseas students to study at regional universities and find jobs in their local communities.

On Education

Speaking of universities, the Socialist Equality Party has a typically aggressive (but generally positive) statement that:

All tertiary students should automatically receive a living wage. Student fees must be abolished, including for overseas students, and loan debts cancelled.

You do you, SEP.  You do you.

(Mind you, they do have at least a small point here – there are some courses of study that you simply can’t undertake unless you have a family who can support you, because they are too expensive and don’t allow any spare time or energy for work.)

Back in the more normal world, the Australian People’s Party are one of several suggesting that school curriculums incorporate life skills in one way or another.

Support the introduction of course in year 10 where students are taught things to prepare them for life after education like tax, superannuation, budgeting, democracy, voting system, working rights.

The Pirate Party would expand this to include things like first aid and sex ed, but the Pirate Party also wants to make only Maths, English, Science and Life Skills the only compulsory subjects and pretty much throws the humanities subjects under the bus.  Since I think the humanities are very important, I can’t be having with this.  However, their approach to science education and scientific research is pretty good:

Improve public understanding of science.

  • Provide an online portal for use by schools and the general public, with permanent streaming and free download of publicly owned science and science education programs.
  • Require every primary school to employ at least one teacher with specialised STEM skills.

Improve conditions for researchers.

  • Align disparate grant processes and link grant periods to requirements of the research.
  • Recommence the International Science Linkages program.
  • Provide an online portal to facilitate researcher access to alternative funding sources, including crowdfunding.
  • Allow researchers working within government bodies to own patents on their research.

Finally, independent candidate Max Dicks has two rather lovely policies in education:

Create domestic exchange programs, whereby rural students would have a chance to live in the country, and vice versa.

Teach emotional intelligence to students, and help them vocalise their feelings and be more empathic.

On Crime and Rehabilitation

The Child Protection Party would like to

Establish a National Child Advocacy Centre which would focus on verifying notifications of child harm, on the balance of probabilities.  This centre would capture the voice of the child using a professional multi-disciplinary team.  It would assign a Child Advocate to the child, compile a forensic family report, conduct a forensic interview of the child and provide a report to the Court for its consideration.

The Centre Alliance would in turn

Advocate for uniform laws relating to family violence across all states and territories; adequate funding for a coordinated approach to family violence including safe houses, counselling, case management and legal support to ensure survivors have a voice and can enforce their rights; rehabilitation of perpetrators to end intergenerational cycles of violence; creation and funding of a national education program in schools focusing on respect and safety in family and other interpersonal relationships.

Finally, the Science Party, who really do think that there is no problem that can’t be fixed by education, have a pretty interesting plan for rehabilitation of offenders:

Give offenders in gaol better access to education, from vocational training to higher education training. Individuals who leave gaol should be supported upon their release by giving a grant to their first employer following release of a fraction of their income for 3 months, to give the individual access to immediate employment upon leaving the gaol system. By giving offenders’ employers this grant, it reduces the barrier to re-entry into the workforce. Failing to re-enter the workforce can be a path to recidivism. By reducing recidivism, we will reduce the amount of crime in the community, reduce the cost of policing crime, decrease the cost of running the gaol system, decrease the economic losses of having a lot of humans being idle in the gaol system, and reduce discrimination in society (as some groups are, unfortunately, overrepresented in the gaol system).

On Social Issues

Help End Marijuana Prohibition have one policy, and it cannot be denied that they oversell its benefits.  But it’s still worth noting:

Legalise and regulate personal, medical and industrial use of marijuana.

Also, maybe if we legalise marijuana, HEMP will find better things to do than torment me with disorganised websites

The Centre Alliance were pretty much founded on Pokie Reform, and they still have the most consistent policy platform on this subject:

Implementation of the Productivity Commission’s recommendation for $1 maximum bets per spin and $120 in hourly losses (compared to $10 per spin and $1200 an hour). End micro-betting on sports events and sports betting ads during games. Remove ATMs and EFTPOS access from venues with poker machines.

And the Animal Justice Party, while a little extreme in other areas, actually have a very reasonable and practical policy on companion animals:

More funding for animal shelters; compulsory desexing of companion animals at point of sale; phasing out sale of companion animals except from shelters and rescuers; licensing breeding of assistance animals; phasing out breeding of companion animals until shelters reach the point where they have space to keep all animals without having to euthanase healthy animals; supporting rehabilitation of animals and compatibility-based adoption; and not discriminating against tenants with pets.

On Refugees & Immigration

The Pirate Party has probably the best policy I’ve seen to date on Asylum Seekers.

Set up a single regional asylum seeker “queue” comprising willing refugee convention signatory countries

  • Australia to offer funding and leadership.
  • All countries take a share of asylum seekers according to a transparent allocation process.
  • A single process will provide common housing, education, treatment and assessment for all asylum seekers who arrive in any participating country.
    • Assessments, health & security checks to be conducted in common, agreed places.
    • Process to be overseen by UNHCR or by an independent, expert organisation.
    • Assessment of backlogged claims to be fast-tracked.
    • Families should be kept together, and asylum seekers may submit preferences on a destination nation. (Preferences may be taken into account, but final decisions to be made by the overseeing body in line with agreed quotas.)
    • Nations to pool information to assist with document and identity checking.
    • Processing will follow all relevant international law and treaties.

Change immigration and asylum seeker processes regarding claims of gender, sex and orientation based oppression

  • Implement Kaleidoscope Australia’s Guide to Best Practice in Determining Applications for Refugee Status Based on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Grounds.
    • Provide training for immigration on gender, sex and orientation variations context, including privacy needs and processes.
    • Inform asylum seekers of the need to state the basis of their claim early, even if that does not mean they are required to substantiate it at that time.
    • Assign advocates that speak the asylum seekers’ languages.
    • Implement protocols and processes for managing privacy, including not making it obvious that additional privacy measures are being taken in specific cases.
    • Only use medical professionals to establish the truth of claimed personal conditions. Regular customs officers are not qualified for this.

Release refugees accepted into Australia into the community

  • Successful asylum seekers assigned to Australia to be brought safely as refugees (by plane or naval vessel).
  • Conditions of release should include reporting requirements and continued availability for processing.
  • Peer-driven community training and social services will help refugees understand their legal rights, build social networks, and overcome disadvantage (language barriers, skills, trauma, etc).
  • Refugees to be provided with a basic income, a right to work, and a pathway to citizenship.
  • Savings from closing offshore detention centres to be redirected in order to provide:
    • Incentives for regional nations to sign the refugee convention and engage with the plan.
    • Resources to speed processing times, develop humane processing practices, and improve support services in destination countries.

But, unexpectedly, the Australian Christians have a pretty good plan for what to do once the asylum seekers actually get here:

Introduction of a Pilot Homestay Transition Program for asylum seekers who have completed identity, health and security checks and for refugees wishing to take advantage of this transition option into Australian life. This is designed to offer a safe, humane, cost effective and personal introduction to Australian life that will engage individual community members and break down barriers for a better Australia. It is also intended to reduce time spent in detention, offer affordable housing and supplement the income of Australian families while giving genuine refugees a fair go and a softer introduction to Australia.

On Equity and Diversity

Reason Australia would like to increase women’s participation in the workforce and decrease the superannuation gap:

Introduce six months paid parental leave at 80% of regular salary (capped at $70,000), with a safety net floor of the minimum wage; Introduce a means tested government co-contribution to superannuation for women earning less than $60,000 a year; Mandate a minimum of 35% of either sex on all boards of companies earning more than $15M.

And the Victorian Socialists and the Socialist Alliance have a good policy on indigenous recognition and affairs:

Negotiate treaties to respect Aboriginal sovereignty and land rights; repeal the “Stronger Futures”/NT Intervention laws; abolish racist welfare quarantining and compulsory income management; no uranium waste dumps; close the gap in Aboriginal health, education, employment and housing; implement all the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody; fund language and culture programs and bilingual education in schools; Aboriginal control of Aboriginal affairs — not tokenistic Constitutional recognition; no closure of Aboriginal communities.

On the Arts

Sustainable Australia has a nice policy aimed at allowing all Australians to fulfil their creative potential:

  • Provide more access to ongoing small business support and education
  • Offer better protection of creative and intellectual rights
  • Support more local film and television production
  • Protect live music and arts venues from any adjacent build-up of housing and property developments
  • More rigorously protect and recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and culture.

And Reason Australia would add to this by redistributing 1% from major arts institutions to small and medium institutions; creating an Interactive Games Fund to encouraging innovative approaches and start-ups in the digital arts; and creating a National Arts Week

On Foreign Affairs and the Military

The Jacqui Lambie Network has far and away the best policies on Australia’s military.  In particular, the ‘Australian Troops in Australian Boots’ policy is one that I think there is no good reason not to adopt – the idea is that the Australian army should be outfitted by Australian companies, as this keeps us self-sufficient, creates jobs, and protects against counterfeiting, theft and sabotage.  I really can’t see any downsides to this.

And I think this statement bears repeating.

The cost of protecting Australians and their interests is represented not only by the price tag of our annual military spend, but by the ongoing cost of looking after those who are deployed in service of the nation. Decisions about whether we can afford to adequately care for our veterans should be made before, not after, we decide to send soldiers to war. If there is not enough in the budget to fund a decent veterans’ support program then we cannot afford to produce veterans.

Pauline Hanson’s One Nation has an unexpectedly sane remark regarding foreign policy:

Australia needs to guard against foreign policies that make international terrorism worse. The 2003 invasion of Iraq, for instance, turned that country into terrorism-central, giving rise to the evil of ISIS. Australia’s role in the international war on terror must be carefully targeted and strategic, always serving our best national interests.

I mean, I wouldn’t trust PHON to actually *identify* such policies accurately – and I would argue that their internal policies are actually likely to have precisely the effect that they claim to be trying to avoid here, but they are right that we ought to be thinking, before we go and interfere in another country’s affairs, about whether we are needed, whether we are wanted, and whether we are capable of cleaning up the messes that we are likely to make if we wade into another country and another culture and try to ‘fix’ it.

On the government and integrity

Quite a lot of small parties have Feelings about the government and about the integrity of our politicians.  Shocking, I know…

The Seniors United Party of Australia would like all MPs to subscribe to the Fitzgerald Principles:

  • To act honourably and fairly and solely in the public interest
  • To treat all citizens equally
  • To tell the truth
  • Not to mislead or deceive
  • Not to withhold or obfuscate information to which voters are entitled
  • Not to spend public money except for public benefit
  • Not to use your position or information gained from your position for your benefit or the benefit of a family member, friend, political party or other related entity

The Small Business Party wants to make the government tender process fairer and more transparent.  It’s try that they may have a small element of self-interest in play here, but it’s still a worthwhiel policy.

The Australian Conservatives have quite a few changes that they would like to make to the system, including term limits and a pay freeze for politicians; an end to  parliamentary pensions; cap political donations and disclosure of large donations in real time.  Also, a Prime Minister must serve a full four-year term to receive post-Parliamentary benefits, which seems kind of… pointed…

Even the United Australia Party has a decent (if brief and slightly incoherent) policy in this area:

Party Officials should not be Lobbyists, thereby taking a strong position on Paid Political Lobbyists, saving tax payers dollars and introducing Fair Policies

Meanwhile, the Science Party wants to completely overturn the current House of Representatives system, combining current electorates into groups of three and having three MPs for each new super-electorate, to be elected by proportional representation.  Prospective benefits would be:

  • It allows smaller parties that hold a significant vote to be represented in parliament. The current system prefers the creation of a two party system.
  • It is more representative of the proportion of people who vote for each political party.
  • It prevents ‘swing-seat’ elections where the majority of areas are ignored during an election because they are considered ‘safe’. Such swing-seat elections simply pander to a small group of people while not considering the wider implication of policies on the ‘safe’ areas.

I really like this idea. Not least because I am in a seat that was, until recently, very safe and thus got completely ignored by the government.  I have to say, now that the Greens are sneaking up on Labor, we are getting much nicer things (including a really excellent local MP, who I’m seriously considering voting for, despite my general aversion to voting for major parties).

Things that nearly every small party agrees on:

Every election, there are one or two themes that recur and can be found on both the left, the right, and the deeply weird corners of the political spectrum.  This time around, those themes are:

  • Establish a Federal ICAC (seriously, it’s the new Royal Commission.  Everyone wants one).
  • Decrease or end overseas ownership of Australian farmland, housing, and utilities.
  • Stop changing Prime Ministers every time it rains.  Even with climate change, this is too often.

Other common themes (albeit with less broad agreement) are a need to raise the pension, or introduce a universal basic income, or bring back the old Commonwealth Employment Service, or maybe have a Universal Job Guarantee, or stop foreigners from stealing our jobs, or introducing a 30 or 32 hour working week so that there are more jobs to go around, or something.  Employment and pensions are clearly a huge issue right now, although there is no consensus on how to address this.

Water is another common theme, again with no consensus.  The far right parties are all heavily into the Bradfield Scheme; other parties favour desalination, rainwater tanks, a single, federal body to deal with water issues, or just doing something, anything, about the Murray Darling system. I wish I had the first idea what the solution was to that one.  I wish anyone did.

And that, my friends, is my final policy round-up for this election.   Do you have a favourite policy?  Is it remotely realistic?  (And… does it actually need to be?)

Eurovision Song, because you surely didn’t think I was going to do all this and then not put a Eurovision song at the bottom of the post, now did you?

In 2016, Sweden hosted the Eurovision Song Contest, and the hosts wrote two songs to celebrate.  The first was a sung history of the Eurovision song contest, which managed to simultaneously channel Julie Andrews and Bob Fosse.  The second, ‘Love, Love, Peace, Peace’ was a guide to writing a winning Eurovision song, and featured cameos from… well, quite a lot of the songs I’ve featured in this blog over the last few weeks.

It’s not strictly a Eurovision song, but it *is* a bit of a compilation of ten years of Eurovision highlights… just as this post is a compilation of the highlights of reading through sixty-odd (and I do mean odd) sets of policy documents from all corners of the political spectrum.  Seems like a good fit, don’t you think?

(Also, it’s absolutely hilarious, and if you *have* been listening to all the songs as you read along through this series of posts, you should be pretty well-placed to get every one of the jokes.)

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