When Australians talk about the upcoming federal election – in the media, online and around water coolers – we invariably talk about Labor, the Coalition and the Greens.
We do this with good reason too. After all, these parties currently hold over 96% of the seats in Federal Parliament and, following the election on 7 September, they will probably hold about 96% of the seats in Federal Parliament!
But did you know that there are 52 other parties registered to contest the election on 7 September? There are plenty of reasons to familiarise yourself with some of these ‘very minor’ parties, too.
Whether you’re disillusioned with the old players, tired of donkey voting or looking for a party that wants to legalise marijuana use, this rough guide to a few of Australia’s very minor parties is for you.
Australian First Nations Political Party
The Australian First Nations Political Party (AFNPP) became Australia’s first Aboriginal political party when it registered with the Australian Electoral Commission in 2011. The AFNPP was established by the grandson of Aboriginal rights activist Vincent Lingiari, who is celebrated in the Paul Kelly song, ‘From Little Things Big Things Grow’. The party supports Northern Territory statehood and Aboriginal sovereignty, and opposes the NT Intervention.
The AFNPP fielded nine candidates unsuccessfully in the 2012 Northern Territory election. This year, it is contesting both House of Representatives seats in the Northern Territory and has two candidates running for the Senate in the Northern Territory also.
Despite most Lot’s Wife readers being unable to vote for the AFNPP, the party deserves a mention simply because 2013 will mark the first time that an Aboriginal political party has contested a federal election. This is a landmark event and one that is long overdue.
To top it off, the AFNPP’s grassroots approach to politics is refreshing at a time when many Australians feel neglected by their political leaders. Voters can even find AFNPP candidates’ mobile numbers online and give them a call for a chinwag. What I wouldn’t do for my local candidates’ mobile numbers!
Bullet Train For Australia
Bullet Train For Australia (BTFA) is, as their name suggests, a single-issue political party. According to their website, BTFA’s “sole aim is to create a better future for Australia by pushing high-speed rail onto the national agenda. We are not trying to form government or run the whole show.”
Single-issue political parties are a tantalising option for voters who want to know what they’re getting when they cast their vote. If you vote for ‘Bullet Train for Australia’, you are voting for a bullet train for Australia! This seems simple enough, but then many Australian political parties’ names are written in doublespeak (take the divisive, xenophobic ‘One Nation’, for example).
The high-speed rail debate has been a constant in Australia since the early 1980s. In 2010, the Federal Government commissioned a feasibility study for a high-speed rail network linking Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney, Brisbane and several smaller cities along the east coast. The full network would include 1748km of dedicated track, cost $114 billion and would not be completed until 2065. Of course, if approved, a high-speed rail network would likely be completed in stages. BTFA’s website claims that stage one – linking Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Newcastle – would take only five years to construct!
Opposition to high-speed rail usually focuses on Australia’s population, which some argue is too small to make high-speed rail feasible. On the other hand, there are strong environmental arguments in favour of high-speed rail. According to the BTFA website, high-speed rail is eight times more fuel-efficient than flying and over three times more efficient than driving.
If you’re passionate about high-speed rail, here’s some good news: BTFA has two candidates running for the Senate in Victoria and candidates in several lower house electorates too. And if you’re really passionate about high-speed rail, visit BTFA’s website (bullettrainforaustralia. com.au) where you can buy a ticket for the train’s maiden voyage!
Coke in the Bubblers Party
According to the Coke in the Bubblers Party’s Facebook page, the party is a “group of young Australians with a sugar-headache, who want leadership from our representatives instead of schoolyard bickering and promises of coke in the bubblers before each election.”
Unfortunately, the party seems to have fallen into a deep sleep after coming down from a soft drink-fuelled sugar high and so has forgotten to update its Facebook page or website for several months. Their welcome pledge to engage young Australians online ahead of the election through developing ‘open source’ policy together has sadly not eventuated either.
The Coke in the Bubblers Party hasn’t put forward any candidates for this year’s election but the brains behind their party are young, so we may yet see more of them in the future. For now though, follow their example by demanding more than just Coke in the bubblers from our politicians.
Help End Marijuana Prohibition (HEMP) Party
The name says it all. The HEMP Party is fielding Senate candidates in every State at this election. In Victoria there are two candidates. Although this party mightn’t be for you, everyone can enjoy the fact that their registered office is, fittingly, in Nimbin.
Senator Online is a unique political party that “aims to provide everyone listed on electoral rolls a direct voice in parliament.” It will do this by allowing voters to vote online on every Bill or important issue debated in Federal Parliament, prior to when Parliament votes. The results of the online poll will then be given to Senator Online MPs or Senators (urgh, I really wish they’d chosen a different name) who will vote in accordance with the results.
Senator Online has no policies on their website (senatoronline. org.au). Voters will determine how the party votes on each specific issue. What you will find on their website though is a unique ‘Technology’ section that details how their voting system will work. The website also contains a list of FAQs that address concerns with the privacy, accountability and integrity of their proposed system.
While their big stars (comedian Tim Ferguson, actor Tony Barry and former rugby league star Don McKinnon) are all running in New South Wales, Senator Online is also running two candidates for the Senate in Victoria.
There are many other very minor political parties that could have been included in this guide. The aim of this guide isn’t to cover them all though; it’s to show that while we may be limited in our choice of government in Australia, we are not limited in our choice of parties.
Whichever way you vote on 7 September, make sure it’s an informed one by familiarising yourself with all the weird and wonderful parties and candidates in your electorate first. Visit the Australian Electoral Commission’s website (aec.gov.au) for more information.