Meet the Small Parties – Australian Equality Party

OK, I think we need a palate cleanser after that, and since I’m still in Eurovision mode (yes, I’m watching the show a second time tonight), and I’ve heard at least two people this weekend refer to Eurovision as ‘Gay Christmas’, what better time to visit the Australian Equality Party – which is listed on the AEC website as the Australian Equality Party (Marriage)?

According to their front page “The Australian Equality Party is a proud new voice in Australian politics that aims to promote fairness, human rights and equality for all Australians.”

I am on board with this.  I am on board with this entire party.

The Australian Equality Party is a broad based human rights party that has the well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) Australians at its heart.

This also works for me.

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Meet the Small Parties: The Arts Party

With Eurovision upon us (not to mention the grand final of the all-important Museum Dance Off), and yesterday’s news about funding cuts to the arts, the time is clearly ripe to review the policies of The Arts Party!

Their front page is pretty active right now, what with the aforementioned cuts, but their mission statement is front and centre:

The Arts Party exists to encourage a more creative, cultural, educated and prosperous life for every Australian.

I am in favour of this.

The first thing that strikes me about the Arts Party policy page is that in addition to a brief blurb about what they are about, they tell us that they have forwarded their policy ideas to all the major parties ‘in the hope they will consider new creative ideas to improving the future of Australia’. This is an approach that I have never seen before from a minor party, and I think it’s a very good idea.  The Arts Party is, by and large, a single-issue party, and single-issue parties traditionally exist to raise awareness and give voters a chance to show the government what issues they would like to focus on.  There is nothing wrong with this, but if a party has formulated good policies in an area they care about, wagering them all on the lottery that is our Senate voting system is not the best way to get them implemented – encouraging larger parties, with more chance of forming government, to consider adopting these policies is a pragmatic approach, and turns the party into both a party in its own right and a well-organised lobby group.

They also invite suggestions and critiques (because of course they do, they’re the Arts party).

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Victorian Senate Group V: They Call Him (Palmer) Mellow Yellow

Oh, my eyes.  Have you seen the Palmer United Party website?  Let’s just say that if the ALP has red for their colour, the Liberals blue, and the Greens, well, green, the Palmer United Party is definitely laying claim to yellow as their signature colour.  And by yellow, I actually mean YELLOW.  If you visit their site from the AEC page the first thing you see is this.  It’s the colour of raw highlighters.  It’s the sort of yellow that can re-set your body clock.  I can feel my melatonin levels dropping just having that page open on the side of my screen.

That will teach me to sneak a peek at their page before I even get to their Group Voting Ticket.  I actually know absolutely nothing about Palmer United, though I have deduced that it was founded by Clive Palmer – who is apparently Professor Clive Palmer (Business and Law at Deakin for those who were instantly curious), and Chairman of Mineralogy Australia, and whose background seems to cover a wide range of mineral resources.  So aside from having an inkling that this party may possibly be against the mineral resource rent  / mining tax, I have no pre-suppositions going into this particular post.

Incidentally, since I am doing this post back-to-back with Katter’s Australian Party, it seems worthwhile to mention that there was actually a debate between Bob Katter and Clive Palmer at the National Press Club on Monday – Marian Dalton, who is a friend of mine,  live-tweeted it, and you can see her comments here.  And if you like hanging around on the left side of politics I can also recommend her blog, The Conscience Vote, which is much more knowledgeable about what’s actually going on in politics than this one is…

The Group Voting Ticket is interesting and unexpected.  First preference goes to Family First, followed by the Motoring Enthusiasts, the Democrats, and Bullet Train for Australia, but then we get Australian Christian, the Australian Independents and the Greens.  Followed by the anarchists.  I have to say, I was not expecting to see the Greens this far up the ticket of a party founded by a mining magnate (in fact, I just had to scroll back up to the top of the ticket and check that I have the right one, but it turns out I really do).  We then get the Liberals and Nationals, a large number of tiny parties, and then, right near the bottom of the ticket we get the ALP.  The very bottom of the ticket is reserved for the Socialist Equality Party and five independents who I have not so far analysed.

Let’s investigate this painfully yellow website of theirs.  I’m honestly not trying to be mean here – I mean, here I sit, wearing a top that is in stripes of bright orange, fuchsia and magenta, so I’m really not one to complain about bright colours, but this yellow hurts my eyes.

Entering the website, I am invited to view a message from Clive Palmer.  I duly do so and discover a PDF download – on bright yellow paper, I might add – explaining that Australia’s debt is increasing at $3 billion every week and that Palmer United is going to turbo charge the Australian economy.  They will do this by releasing $70 billion into the economy so that people will buy things and create jobs.  They want to reduce income tax, get rid of Fringe Benefits Tax, make the first $10,000 of any home loan tax deductable, increase the old age pension, cut tax on second jobs and inject $80 billion into the health budget.

OK, first, I honestly don’t believe that our debt is increasing by $3 billion every week.  I think if it was, we would have been hearing about it incessantly from Tony Abbott by now, and he would have used the numbers.  Admittedly, I avoid listening to Tony Abbott, so I could have missed this. But even if I did, I still don’t buy it.  I suspect if everything was going down the drain at that rate there would be effects somewhere that even someone like me would notice them.

Secondly, while I absolutely agree that the best way to stimulate the economy is to put money into it for people to spend… is that really how you pay off massive debt?  As I have said in almost every one of these posts, I don’t understand economics, but this does sound illogical.

The website front page mostly wants to tell me that they are Bringing People Together and Reuniting The Nation, but it pauses in passing to mention that Palmer recently slammed Rudd’s naval manoeuvre, so clearly there are limits to this togetherness.  It also tells me that the Palmer United Party wants to abolish tertiary education fees.  Well, of course it does.  That’s what happens when you let academics write policies…

The Palmer United Policy page gives us a six-pronged vision, starting with saying that party officials should not be lobbyists.  They want to abolish the carbon tax, and point out that mineral wealth is awesome and we ought to have more of it and export it to create more revenue, jobs, tax and facilities.  They also want to establish “a system where people create wealth in various parts of the country and for that wealth to flow back to the Community that generates the wealth”.

Sucks to be you, Victoria.  Better get that clever economy up and running, because Western Australia and Queensland are about to clean up (and I’m not talking about the environment)…

They also want to revise the refugee policy to ‘ensure Australia is protected and refugees are given opportunities for a better future and lifestyle’.  This could mean anything.

Palmer United Party’s National Policy is another downloadable PDF.  Guess what colour it is?  No, not bright yellow, actually, though it is still definitely yellow.  This basically expands on these six principles.  I note that they want to get rid of the Carbon Tax retroactively, and refund people lost money.  Does that mean that people who benefited from the Carbon Tax will have to pay the government back?  Ah, but of course, nobody benefited from the Carbon Tax…

Aha!  Here’s the refugee policy, and this is the most novel way yet to stop the boats – by putting people on planes instead!

If a person seeking entry into Australia was allowed to board a plane for $800 to fly to one of our airports such as Sydney or Brisbane they wouldn’t need to pay the People Smugglers up to $20,000 for illegal entry to Australia. Any person would require their valid passport to board the flight, so when arriving at the immigration hall we would know who they are and where they came from. At the airport we could have the facilities to deal with them. Each person or family could be given a fair hearing at the airport facilities when they arrive to determine if they had a lawful right of entry into Australia. If they didn’t they could be returned to where they came from on the next flight. This would abolish the detention camps, restore our navy to its traditional role, save the lives of children and families, keep families together and recognise the legitimate rights of those that have a lawful reason for entering Australia. This policy would also reduce the risk of breeches in our quarantine and protect our agricultural industries.

This is so brilliant in its simplicity that I’m fairly certain it must be missing something significant.  Possibly the fact that if it were so easy for asylum seekers to get onto a plane to Australia, then they’d probably already be doing that?  After all, you can fly to Australia from pretty much anywhere in the world for not much more than $800, and it’s certainly safer and more comfortable than getting on a leaky boat from somewhere in southeast Asia.  So unless the Palmer United Party are putting together a system to get people on planes from southeast Asia, I believe there is a flaw in this plan.

If I wanted to be truly cynical, I would also have to wonder if in fact the entire point of this statement is to suggest that anyone who was a legitimate refugee and not trying to hide something would have a passport and therefore be able to get on a plane… which I’m not convinced is the case.

Next, we get on to a bunch of value statements.  They believe in lots of things, including Australia, freedom of thought, speech, association, worship and choice, and equality of opportunity.  They believe in Family.  (It doesn’t get a capital letter in their version, but it sounds like it deserves one).  They are into mutual obligation and voluntary organisations, and into the Government not competing with the private sector.  I’ll just bet.

They also believe in providing jobs from Australian resource wealth (what a shock), in reducing taxation – but not wasting taxpayer funds – and in ‘protecting the rights of children and mothers’, which is lovely, but seems like an awfully random thing to put on that list just there.  I suspect this is another one of those coded phrases, but I don’t know this particular code.

I am not going to comment on their lengthy essay on the Australian Way and on Governance, except to say that on my skim-read of it, it looked fairly reasonable.

Then we get more random policy things.  They have a section on work and prosperity which sounds good on the surface but does ring very quiet workchoices alarm bells for me.

  • encouraging workplace reform through promoting the shared interests of employers and employees in building efficient, cohesive, profitable and competitive enterprises and through breaking down centralised controls that have held back productivity and sustainable real wage growth;
  • ensuring that all have the choice to belong, or not, to unions and professional associations;

I realise that these statements don’t have to mean anything about collective bargaining and agreements, but I have a bad feeling about it.  They also talk about a taxation system which enhances incentives to work and save and promotes simplicity and consistency, which sounds a lot like a non-progressive tax (i.e., people with higher incomes paying the same proportion as people with lower incomes).

They are, however, in favour of transport and communications infrastructure and boosting innovation and technological  development, and they want to do more with apprenticeships and re-training and re-skilling for those who are long-term unemployed.

Palmer United’s education policy actually looks pretty good – they want ‘the widest possible freedom of choice in education… not just for the rich,’ and want to accommodate diversity in needs and aspirations (including the needs of gifted and talented children, and that’s the first time I’ve seen a policy that even mentions gifted kids, so one big tick to Palmer United for that), as well as offering financial assistance where needed.  I notice that there is no mention of a commitment to public schools, but I’m actually inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt here, as they do seem to be trying to be universal.

I’m going to stop here, because while there are a handful more policies, they are rather more general.  Also, I must admit, Palmer United is focusing on a lot of areas that I don’t have a great deal of knowledge of or interest in, so I’m not sure I can do this party justice.  From my limited understanding, however, I think a lot of their policies sound good in theory but don’t hold together.  If I had to choose between Palmer and Katter, it would be Katter any day.  I’m a bit astonished that Palmer United is running so many candidates this early in its existence, too. Though it must be useful to be a small party with a wealthy party leader…

I do like the education policies, though.