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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Meet the Small Parties: VoteFlux – Upgrade Democracy

Squeezing in a quick political post before work for a party whose distinguishing feature – and selling point – is that it has no policies!  The ideological, next-generation offspring of Senator Online, VoteFlux tells us that

Flux is an exciting and new political system for the information age. Vote for policies, not false promises, and make your voice heard. 

Ah, but what policies?  Well, that’s really up to you.

Flux is here to redistribute political power, empower the Australian people through real political participation, and enable specialists to help repair bad policy. Flux will give Australia the framework it needs to meet the challenges of the 21st century head on.

Essentially, Flux wants to put policy back in the hands of the people – creating direct democracy via a smartphone app.

Their plan is to create an app you can access from your phone and computer, and contact you every time a bill is put before the Parliament.  You get one vote per bill, and, can use the vote immediately, give it to someone else to cast on your behalf, or save it for another issue.  So if you don’t have many opinions about the environment, but care passionately about funding to public schools, you can hoard all your votes from environmental legislation to use on education legislation, effectively making your voice in that area louder.

Flux is very clear that they do not have policies.  They are about increasing political engagement:

Flux as a party is a vehicle for driving this systemic political change, with no policy platform beyond parliamentary reform. Flux as a system, is a tool for changing how policy is shaped. It will allow more voices to join the conversation, empower specialists to become politically involved in their fields, and grant Australians direct access to producing better policy for a better Australia.

While they do not have policies, Flux does have values:

We value people, not some people, but all people, and recognise our differences as strengths, not weaknesses.

We believe in a free and open society, characterised by freedom of speech, freedom of association, and the free flow of political ideas.

I’m trying to unpack this in a way that does not come across as patronising, because I think the two founders of Flux are intelligent, idealistic people, and these are great qualities in politicians.  But they also come across as being a little unaware of how people work outside their bubble (which, I suspect, is populated with bright, idealistic people like themselves).  The emphasis on freedom of speech and the free flow of political ideas are both lovely, but also a little disquieting to anyone who has spent time being female and political on the internet – or, I suspect, aboriginal anywhere, to pick just two examples.  Freedom of speech and free flow of political ideas can be about giving everyone a chance to speak – but it also can make it harder to fight against people who want to use that platform for abuse, and it’s easy to underestimate the effect of some ‘free speech’ on the people it is directed at.  I do think the intent here is absolutely benign, and in keeping with VoteFlux’s philosophy of increasing engagement in the political process, but I’m not sure about the outcomes.  Maybe I’m just too old and cynical…

Overall, I think Voteflux is a really interesting idea, and I’m all for more participation in democracy, but I am a little dubious about how it will work in practice.  It does seem open to being manipulated by special interest groups – membership of Flux is free, and Flux senators have committed to voting the will of the people as determined by their app. And I think this is likely to put any Flux senators in a very uncomfortable place sooner or later.  Traditionally, conservative churches are really good at getting people out to write letters, campaign or vote on issues of their choice (much better, in fact, than most people on the left) – but the founders of Flux are evidently quite progressive.  I like their principles, but they aren’t going to get to vote their principles.
I’ll be honest here – if VoteFlux gets into the Senate in Victoria – and currently, I’m not sure if they even plan to run in Victoria – I’ll sign up like a shot, because (as I’m sure you’ve noticed), I feel strongly about politics and am absolutely positive that my influence here could only be a good one (!).
But I’m not, after all, sure that I could bring myself to vote for them in the Senate.  Voting for Flux means voting for the policies and ideologies of whoever in Australia manages to best organise themselves to vote, and I’m not at all sure I’d like what we’d get as a result.

Meet the Small Parties: Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party

It’s time once again for us to consider the delightful smorgasbord of unfortunate opinions, charming idealism, delicious eccentricity, lateral thinking, and, occasionally, surprisingly good policy that is the tiny parties running for election in the Australian Senate.  (And, lest that sentence really sounds far too sarcastic, I should point out that it’s rare to find a tiny party that has no good ideas at all.  Even the most racist, chauvinistic and mildly unhinged parties will generally have one or two areas in which they display good sense, and sometimes even brilliance.  One day, I should start a party that compiles all the weird good bits from tiny parties’ policies…)

To kick off this joyous carnival of political diversity, we have none other than Derryn Hinch, and his brand new party, Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party.

Take a moment to appreciate the name of this party.

And now, take a moment to consider the level of maturity that is displayed daily for our delectation by Members of Parliament during question time.

I think we can all agree that Derryn Hinch, with his characteristic cry of ‘Shame, shame, shame’ would be an ornament to this august body.  Personally, I’d like to see him as speaker.

(Incidentally, I am delighted to note that Hinch himself is running in Victoria, which means I could actually vote for him and do my bit to make this vision to come true…)

But let us set aside, for a moment, this frivolity, and have a look at what Hinch’s party wants us to know about itself and what it represents.

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It’s on!

For anyone who missed the news, the Double Dissolution was called today, and the election will be on July 2.

The Electoral Rolls will close at 8pm on May 23rd, so if you have not already done so, please make sure you are enrolled to vote – you can check your registration here.  (Yes, this is longer than the one week which is the legal minimum.  Turnbull has chosen to delay issuing writs by a week, and to lengthen the time to enrol for an extra week after writs are issued.  This is a good thing, but please don’t be complacent – make sure you get onto this if you have moved or have just turned 18.  It doesn’t take long, but it’s important!)

Nominations will close on June 9, and ballot paper details will be issued the next day, with early voting opening on June 14.  If you are travelling between June 14 and July 2, the AEC provides information here on how to vote.  A number of Australian airports, and many of our consulates and embassies overseas, have overseas voting centres.  This list, naturally, does not exist yet, and by the time it does, I’ll be overseas myself, so I recommend checking back on June 14.  You can also apply for a postal vote here, and this will be sent to you at an address nominated by you on or after June 14.  Depending on where you are located, this may or may not be practical.

From the point of view of this blog, the decision to close nominations on June 9 means that I will definitely not know who is on the ballot paper in Victoria before I leave, which is frustrating.  At this stage, I plan to write up as many of the absolutely new parties as I can between now and then (once my other writing projects, and, you know, my full time job (!) allow time for this).  I am probably going to prioritise those parties which appear either especially entertaining or especially enraging, because this is going to be a bit of a gruelling task and I might as well get some fun out of it!  If there is anyone that you are desperate to hear about as soon as possible, let me know in the comments, and I’ll see what I can do.

Once I’m back in Australia on June 29, you may or may not be treated to jetlag-fuelled analyses of the independents on the Victorian Ballot.  I’ll also link to anyone I find who is also analysing small parties – once again, if you spot anyone good, please link to them in the comments, ideally on my 2016 Election page.

And in the meantime, if you haven’t read it already, go and have a quick look at my post on the new Senate Voting rules.  You’ll want to bear these in mind on July 2 (or whenever you cast your early vote)…

New Senate Voting Rules

If your Facebook feed is anything like mine, you will have noticed a sudden and somewhat vicious outbreak of political warfare between the ALP and the Greens a month or two back.  While said outbreak covered a wide variety of contentious issues, the underlying cause appears to have been the new Senate Voting rules, which were voted in by the Coalition, the Greens, and a pyjama-clad Nick Xenophon, and opposed by the ALP, Bob Day (Family First, who has attempted to take this to Court), Ricky Muir (Motoring Enthusiast), David Leyonhjelm (LDP), Jackie Lambie, Glenn Lazarus and John Madigan.

The goal of this legislation is ostensibly to get rid of Group Voting Tickets and thus make it easier for people to direct their own preferences when they vote above the line, rather than having these directed by the party, often in directions unsuspected by the average voter.  Other goals attributed to the legislation include getting rid of microparties and independents, and making it easier for the government to get a majority in the Senate.  Whether or not the legislation will have any of these effects remains to be seen.

I’m going to discuss the Bill in detail below, but for those who want to cut to the chase, here is how you actually vote (paraphrased from sections 239 and 269 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act).

Above the Line: You can now number your political parties and grouped independents (but not solo independents) above the line!  Very exciting!  Your ballot paper will ask you to number at least six parties/groups above the line in order from 1-6, but you can do more, and you probably should if you don’t want your vote to exhaust.  However, since the government is aware that people don’t tend to read instructions and they don’t really want to have a huge number of informal votes, your vote will still be counted if you only put a ‘1’ in a single box above the line.  This just means that if your first preference doesn’t get up, your vote is ‘exhausted’, and there are no second or third preferences to count.  Voting ‘1’ only above the line will not mean that your vote then gets channelled down a list of parties determined by the party you put your vote beside – that is exactly what this Bill is meant to abolish.

However, voting above the line does still mean that the party you vote for decides which candidate gets first dibs on votes for that party, so if your party has decided to put someone loathsome at the top of their ticket, you might want to consider moving below the line.  Also, you are considered to have voted for *all* the candidates for the party you put first, then *all* the candidates for the one you put second, and so forth, in the order they appear on the party’s ticket.

Below the Line: This is now a much less risky choice than it used to be, because provided you successfully manage to count to twelve below the line, your vote will be counted.  Your ballot paper will ask you to number at least 12 candidates in order from 1-6, however once again, you can do more, and I would, once again, advise you to do so, so that your vote doesn’t exhaust.  Below the line is still the only way to vote for ungrouped independents, alas.

Oops, I voted Above and Below the Line: You enthusiastic thing, you!  Don’t worry, if only one of them is formal, they will count that.  If they are both formal, your below the line vote will be counted.

Honestly, while there are things this Bill could do better, this is pretty good as far as it goes.  My biggest issue with it is that a lot of votes are going to exhaust, leading to people not getting the full value of their vote if they only number 6 places above or 12 places below the line.  But I am definitely in favour of making it easier to vote formally below the line, as I know the huge numbers of candidates can be offputting and overwhelming.

So what about the rest of the Bill? Continue reading

Impending election, registering to vote, and an announcement

Well, here we are then.  Malcolm Turnbull has his trigger for a double dissolution, and indications are that he is going to pull it in early May, for an election date of July 2, or, just possibly, July 9.

Before you get any further into this post, there is something you need to do.  Yes, I’m being prescriptive about this, but I’m assuming that if you are here and reading this, it’s because you care about voting.

So first of all, please visit this link and make sure you are currently enrolled to vote at the right address and in the right electorate and with the right name.  If you are not there, you can enrol online or through your local post office.  You can also update your details online.

According to the AEC website, the electoral roll closes 7 calendar days after the writs are issued – that is, after the election is declared. If you are not enrolled at this point, you will not be able to vote, and you will also not be able to change any of your enrolment details after this point.

(I could have sworn it was three days only, but I can’t find information about this. My advice would be to get your enrolment sorted now – you lose nothing by being a little more organised, and you don’t want to risk losing your vote if I’ve got this wrong.)

Sorted?

Good.

Now for the announcement.

As you know, I usually spend the two weeks leading up to the election feverishly reading and reporting on the policies of every party on the Senate Paper (and not sleeping).  That’s not going to be possible for me this year, because I’m going to be overseas for five weeks from May 24th – and I am not going to spend my hard-earned long-service leave reading and writing about politics.  Sorry.

Apparently, close of nominations can be anything between 10 and 27 days after the election is called, so the earliest we could possibly know who is on the ballot paper will be May 16.

My plan is to create, as early as possible, a list of all parties who are running in this election, with links to their websites.  I’ll also link to anything I’ve written about them in the past.  And then I will do my level best to write about all the brand new parties and independents between now and the election.  If, by some very unlikely chance, I have time, I will return to update the posts I wrote in 2014 about existing parties.

I’ll also be writing a post sometime in the next week or two about the new Senate Voting Rules, so that you know where you stand with those.  (Not today, though, because I have laryngitis and my brains are made of marshmallows.)

I apologise for the reduced service this year – blame it on Malcolm Turnbull’s impatience!  If he’d stuck to a proper electoral term and an election in September or October, there would not have been a problem…

Thought Experiment

Let’s, just for a moment, consider the possibility that Malcolm Turnbull has been entirely sincere in the various small-L-liberal things he has said over the years.  That he sincerely supports marriage equality, that he wants a republic, that he wants action on climate change, that even one child in detention is too many, all that stuff.  We’ll leave his economics out of the picture for now, because that’s not what this is about.

If he does believe all these things – and I’m quite willing to believe he does – and he is now Prime Minister, what, precisely, can he do about them?  Without, that is, ceasing to be Prime Minister.  Which is the catch, really, isn’t it?  I mean, theoretically, he has the power to make huge changes, but in practice, I don’t think he can actually do that and continue to lead a Coalition government.  Even setting aside our current fashion for changing our Prime Minister at the drop of an opinion poll, there is only so much the party room can tolerate.  One cannot lean too far outside the boundaries of what is acceptable to the Party.

And this, I think, is one of the big failures of the political party system, at least in the larger parties – the incredible pressure it imposes to compromise, to conform.  No matter how idealistically you start out, at some point, if you want to be pre-selected, you are going to have to get the votes of your fellow party members, and this will mean compromise.  Then you have to get the votes of the public, which may mean more compromise (though not necessarily in the same direction).  How many of your ideals do you have to trade away in order to get to a point where you can act to them?  Is there, in fact, such a point?  Or are you more tightly controlled the higher you get in the party?

Have we set things up so that by the time you reach the top job, nothing is left that is not open for negotiation?

Well, perhaps not quite.  Certainly, your Party will have certain core values that are non-negotiable.  Maybe.  But again, those values change over time – consider Malcolm Fraser’s policies on refugees versus Howard’s.  Howard was, of course, Fraser’s Treasurer, so both sets of policies were Liberal dogma during Howard’s political lifetime.  But something evidently changed in the interim.  Still, if one had entered the Liberal Party in the Fraser era because one sympathised with the Party’s ideology, one might have felt rather compromised by the time Tampa rolled around…

Then again, this example is also one of change occurring within a Party.  Someone clearly drives this change.  Is it the Party Leadership?  The Party Membership?  The Chief of Staff?  The polls?  A bit of all four? Does this mean that Turnbull does, in fact, have the power to change the party from within, if he chooses to use it?

And which policies can be changed, anyway?  Which values are ‘core’ to a party, and which are subject to negotiation?  How fast do these core values themselves change?

And would you, if you were a Prime Minister in our current climate be willing to take that risk?

I suppose it would depend on why you sought power, and what you thought you could do with it.  I mean, if you think you really can push through some vital and fantastic legislation that the country needs, so long as you stay around long enough to do it, that might be a reason to compromise on the stuff you felt was less central.

Then again, the fact that you think certain stuff is less central also tells us a bit about how sincere you are about it and how much you really care…

I’m hoping that Turnbull will work to change the conversation in the party room around marriage equality, around refugees, around climate change.  If he does, that’s definitely a useful thing.  But I think he has already signalled where his priorities lie, and for him, promoting fiscal conservatism clearly trumps promoting social liberalism.  (I note that nobody anywhere has claimed that Turnbull is anything less than sincere in his economic opinions.)

Assuming he really is sincere on the social liberalism side of things, perhaps he feels that getting conservative budget measures through is the only way he can ‘buy’ tolerance for considering these other issues.  This does not seem unlikely.  But I’m pretty sure that’s a price that he is very, very happy to pay.  I’m sure he’d like to be the PM who presided over Australia becoming a Republic that allowed Marriage Equality.  It would be a lovely legacy to leave.  But he wants to be the PM that brought Australia into a new economic Golden Age (for a value of Economic Golden Age that I personally find terrifying) more.

If he makes compromises, it won’t be on the side of economics.

New Prime Minister

So, we have a new prime minister. Again. I’m still neck deep in the year of insanity at work, but a new Prime Minister is something that’s going to bring any political blogger, no matter how sporadic, out of the woodwork.

I’m not going to miss Tony Abbott. His policies were a mixture of the cruel, the stupid and the dangerous, and we are definitely better off without him.  The question is whether Malcolm Turnbull is actually going to be an improvement.

On first glance, it doesn’t look too promising. Certainly, Turnbull is more personable than Abbott, and he comes across as more intelligent. He is certainly more electable, which is, of course, the whole point. His personal views on climate change and marriage equality are quite pleasing to the likes of me – he does seem to understand and accept the science behind climate change, and he feels that gay people should be allowed to marry. However, Turnbull is also clearly a very canny political beast.  He has been biding his time for a good while now, and it must be remembered that to become PM, he must have been able to attract votes from across the party. Turnbull may be personally liberal and pro-science, but he is even more pro-being Prime Minister, and he is far from stupid.

Turnbull was smart enough to play a waiting game through Abbott’s government, smart enough to call a spill at the right moment – and as we saw in tonight’s press conference, he is smart enough, to avoid questions about marriage equality and follow the party line on climate change and refugees if that will keep him in power.  He has said that he will lead a more consultative government, which sounds a lot to me like code for “no captain’s calls” and possibly also code for “you over there on the right, I’m on your side, too”.  And this means, really, that Turnbull cannot make decisions based on his personal opinions if these are strongly opposed by his party.  (Frankly, I can’t fault that – it’s how you are supposed to run a government in a party system, so I have to give him credit for this, even though I would personally be happier if he enacted the policies that I liked, and to hell with the party room.  But it would be hypocritical to complain about that after taking digs at Abbott for doing just that in areas that I didn’t like…)  The best we can hope for here is that we do now have a senior voice in the Liberal party that is in favour of these things, and that Turnbull might be able to use his platform to persuade others… though probably not if it will get him voted out of office.  I may be being unfair here, but I don’t think it would be wise to underestimate Turnbull’s cynicism.

One definite positive is that Turnbull doesn’t seem to share Abbott’s old-fashioned views on women, so I suspect we can expect a few more women on the front bench.  He is not just pro-choice, but sufficiently so to be willing to offend the Australian Christian Lobby by telling them so, and he does get some respect from me for that.  However, I am not actually a single-issue voter on this subject.  Actually, Tony Abbott basically trained me out of any tendencies towards single-issue voting, by demonstrating with stunning thoroughness just how many political issues there are out there that are deal breakers for me, some of which I had never even realised might be in question (making people wait for Newstart and a compulsory fee to see the doctor being two of these).  So, while it is pleasing to know that Turnbull sees himself as socially progressive and fiscally conservative, I have now had my eyes opened as to just how socially regressive fiscal conservatism can be in its effects, and am wary.  (Which is not to say that fiscally conservative but socially progressive is not still preferable to fiscally conservative and also socially conservative, of course).

Another positive is the vague feeling I have that Turnbull is less likely to embarrass Australia on the international stage, though I don’t have any really concrete evidence for this. Just a feeling that he is a bit more media savvy – and smart enough to let Julie Bishop, who is really rather brilliant with the media (she seduces me every time and I don’t want to like her), work her magic if he is not.

It’s after midnight, so I’m not going to look at Turnbull’s policies tonight, but I’d like to mention something that did give me a bit of hope, and that is Turnbull’s intention not to call an election yet, and to serve out the term until late next year. I think that is the best news the left of politics could have. Frankly, right now, the nation is riding a wave of ‘no more Tony Abbott’ euphoria, which would probably be sufficient to ensure a Liberal victory in an early election – especially as, let us confess, Shorten’s greatest achievement to date has been Not Being Tony. Unfortunately for him, Malcolm is also Not Tony, and he has both policies and charisma, both of which Shorten is a bit short on (so to speak).

Waiting until the end of the government’s term is good for the right as well as the left.  For one thing, it will give Turnbull a chance to show his true colours, and what he is capable of doing, both good and bad. This is information we need when going into an election!  But I would also suggest, tentatively and with perhaps a little too much optimism, that this is an opportunity for the Labor party.  Standing for Not Tony is no longer going to be enough for Labor, and, frankly, nor should it be.  A victory on that basis was never going to get Labor past a single term in any case.

With Turnbull at the head of the liberal party, the ALP now has the opportunity, and I think the obligation, to do some serious soul searching. This is the time for new policies. This is the time for setting out what the ALP stands for. This is even the time, dare I say it, for a change in leadership, if that’s something they want to do. After all, this is probably the one window of time during which the Liberal party can’t attack the ALP for changing leaders and being unstable. In another six months, it could be a different story. They should seriously consider using this window.

As for Turnbull’s government and what it will be like, well, that’s not my area of expertise – none of this is, let’s face it – but I have a few thoughts. For one thing, I suspect it will be very, very polished in its approach to the media (unless, of course, Abbott goes the white-anting route, but I’m actually rather hoping he will not. We’ve had enough stupid political infighting for one decade). For another, I don’t think there will be many changes in policy. Turnbull has said a lot about the Abbott government’s failure to communicate and sell their policies (I think he is wrong about that – I think the general public understands the policies just fine, and genuinely doesn’t like them), so I think we can expect a lot more talk about what these policies are and why we should accept them – but he has also said now and in the past that he supports those policies. He’s going to follow the Abbott course on refugees, economics, workplace relations and climate, at least until the next election.

Marriage equality looks like an easy win on the surface, an easy source of votes, but Turnbull is not going to do that, either, because those votes are on the left, which already likes him enough to hold their noses and vote for him even if he does not move on this.  Championing marriage equality would, however, alienate the right, who are already pretty dubious about him.  Turnbull may feel positive about the idea, but he isn’t going to risk his career for it, not after waiting this long to get where he is.  What I think we can realistically hope for is a referendum that will be written in a  way that is more likely to succeed than the one we would have got from Abbott.  We may get personal statements in favour of marriage equality from Turnbull too, and perhaps a voice in the party room, but we won’t get more than that.

Overall? I think we’re looking at the Howard government Mark 2. I think that is Turnbull’s natural style, and I think it’s also a political era that the Liberals would like to return to anyway. It speaks of stability and security and the 1950s, which is what the Coalition is all about.

Now, if Turnbull gets re-elected in 2016? Well, that might be a different story. I suspect that this would be the point at which Turnbull might risk pushing more of his own views on climate change and marriage equality. But don’t look for economic policies rooted in social justice from Turnbull.  That’s not what he stands for, and to do him justice, he has never claimed otherwise.

I’m going to finish with a quote from an opinion column by Tom Switzer from back in February, the first time we all thought this was going to happen, because I think he’s pretty much written my entire article in one paragraph:

If Turnbull replaces Abbott, he’ll need to remember he will be leading a party that is the custodian of the centre-right tradition in Australian politics. Winning the centre is the business of politics, but doing so at the expense of your own political base is suicidal – as Turnbull found out last time in 2008-09. To be a successful centre-right leader, you need to have the courage of your (conservative) convictions.

In other words, it could be worse.  It could be Abbott.  But let’s not get too excited just yet – Turnbull may be on ‘our’ side on some matters, but he’s not going to act on that.  Not in this term.

Asylum Legacy Caseload Bill, and some letter-writing campaigns

As you might imagine, there are a few campaigns going against the Bills I wrote about on Sunday.  A Just Australia is organising a letter-writing campaign, with tips on what to say and information on how to find your local MPs and Senators.  The Refugee Advocacy Network is organising a similar campagin, and has information and interviews on YouTube explaining why these Bills are dangerous.  Or if you are a social media person, check out the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre‘s campaign, which combines Facebook and Twitter selfies with the more traditional letter-writing and phone calls.  You might also want to sign GetUp’s petition to close the Manus Island and Nauru detention centres – I know it’s been around for a few weeks, but it’s still worth doing.

The good news is that the Labor Party have said that they will oppose the bill (I have read that they do still support some measures, though I have not yet managed to find out which – I suspect it’s the off-shore detention part).  Independent Senator Madigan, formerly of the DLP, has also expressed opposition to this Bill, and when I called his office a few weeks ago on a related topic, I was told that he feels very strongly about Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers.  So if you are not in the mood for admonitory letters or emails, you could write a brief note of thanks and encouragement to your Labor and DLP Senators – or, of course, your Green Senators, whose opposition to this Bill is taken so much for granted that the ASRC doesn’t even bother to mention them!

Also, Pope Francis has also written to Tony Abbott asking him to remember the human cost of his laws, and calling for generosity to refugees – as well as more equitable social policies generally.   I’m beginning to think this Pope is almost as much of a socialist as I am – it will be interesting to see what our oh-so-Catholic Prime Minister makes of this letter.

But enough of these fun and games!  It’s letter-writing time!  As usual, I’m posting below the cut copies of the letters I have just sent to all my cross-bench Senators, my local MP, the PM and the Leader of the Opposition, the Minister for Immigration, and his Shadow Minister.

You can find contact details for your own local Senators and MPs here.  Happy writing!

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Asylum Seekers: Two Bills that should cause concern

Seriously, it’s hard to keep up with the Government at the moment.  I have half-formed posts in my head about healthcare, and about pensions, and on how we construct value, and of course, the Victorian State Election is breathing down my neck with its promise of endless tiny political parties to write about, and now it seems we are finding new ways to pick on asylum seekers again. Honestly.  Some of us have full-time jobs, you know.  We can’t spend our entire time writing blog posts and letters about all the stupid and cruel things the government is doing.  You’d think they’d be old enough by now that you could let them play in Parliament House unsupervised, but evidently not… (Why yes, I am being sarcastic.  Though I have frequently suspected that the Abbott Government’s onslaught on everything from the environment to the unemployed was a deliberate strategy to weaken opposition by dividing its focus.  Nobody has the energy to fight on this many fronts.)

So.  If I’m not writing about all those other things, please don’t imagine it’s that I don’t care about them.  It’s that there are only so many hours in the day, and I have to pick the issue that a) upsets me the most, b) is worth badgering the pollies about this week and c) is something I actually have an intelligent opinion about.  You’re unlikely, for example, to get posts about global warming or coal seam gas or the Barrier Reef here, not because I don’t care, but because I’m starting from such a low baseline of knowledge that it makes sense to let people who know more write those articles. And boy, was that a digression. Continue reading