Victoria is going to the polls again and there’s as many candidates as ever. Most people have strong opinions on the four largest parties (Labor, the Liberals, the Nationals and the Greens) but I thought I’d write up some analysis on the minor parties as there’s some new faces, some name changes, and some shifting political ground.
Unlike most states in Australia, Victoria still has group tickets for the upper house (the Victorian Legislative Council, our equivalent of the Senate) which means you can vote for one party above the line and let them dictate how your preference vote flows on to other parties. However, this sucks. Many parties engage in preference deals wherein they pay “preference whisperer” Glenn Druery to negotiate complex vote-swapping arrangements in the hope that they’ll manage to get a seat in the upper house without needing more than a tiny fraction of the primary vote. If this sounds to you like vote rigging and profiting from vote rigging then you’re not alone – Druery has been referred to the VEC for possibly breaching election laws and is now the subject of a police probe. Several of the parties here have claimed that they are the only one who didn’t pay Druery and I don’t care to get into it – we’ll probably never know for sure what’s going on until this nonsense is stopped altogether.
Instead, read up a little bit about the smaller players and vote below the line. You only need to vote for 5 candidates in the MLC below the line for your vote to be valid (this is optional preferential voting, the system recently introduced for the Federal Senate), and realistically you can easily vote for a handful of minor parties who pique your interest and then work your way down to the majors, confident that your vote won’t disappear or go to someone who you would never vote for. Additionally, parties receive $1.668 in election funding from the VEC (as of the last election) for each primary vote they receive, so by giving your first preference to a party you agree with you are directly supporting them, regardless of whether they get across the line.
I can’t claim to be impartial on this stuff because obviously I have views on politics and what’s most important, but I’ve tried to be fair about describing each party’s ideology and their main policies clearly enough that you can get an idea of what they’re about even if you wouldn’t agree with my opinion of them.
Let’s take a look at the parties.
Animal Justice Party
The AJP believe in the humane treatment of animals. Policy-wise this translates to banning live animal export, banning culls of animals like brumbies and kangaroos, and ending greyhound and horse racing. They’ve softened their policy around veganism in recent years, with an end to factory farming as a short-term goal but long-term they do still want a fully-vegan society. They also want to ban any and all testing on animals, including medical testing (or at least impose restrictions on it that would effectively stop the practice).
Aussie Battler Party
This group are an unlikely collection of right-wing candidates and it’s hard to describe how worrisome and inept their politics are. While definitely on the Conservative side of politics but are against both “Big Government” and “Big Business” which has left them with quite a right-wing populist platform. To make things more difficult, most of their policies have been removed from their website since I started writing this because they came under media scrutiny. Here’s a few of their now-vanished policies to give you an idea of their flavour:
– mandatory jail for violent crimes, with no bail, and no recourse for mental health pleas
– good behaviour clauses for all immigrants where their entire family gets deported if a crime is committed
– dismantling the Department of Human Services before the end of the year (this would be ambitious even if it wasn’t a Federal Government Department)
– get rid of the “pro-pedophilia Safe Schools program”
– limit public schools to a maximum of 30% of their students to be from non-English-speaking backgrounds (not sure where the other kids are supposed to go in areas with a lot of new immigration)
At any rate, examining their farcically horrendous policies for a real ideology is probably being too generous. They’ve got a couple of ex-One Nation people, some serial candidates, and one guy who summered in Arizona with armed vigilantes hunting for imaginary pedophile rings because he’s bought into a Pizzagate-style QAnon conspiracy about MS-13. It’s all deeply cooked. The weirdly uncooked exception is their Northern Metro candidate, Walter Mikac, presumably the driving force behind one of their few sane – and uncensored – policies, “Our firearms regulations are ok” – Mikac lost his wife and children in the Port Arthur Massacre. He’s done good work for child safety through his Alannah and Madeline Foundation, but I couldn’t in good conscience support him while he’s attached to this mob. Due to preference deals, they stand a decent chance at getting their Western Metro candidate a seat.
Australian Country Party/Give It Back
Formerly known as Australian Country Alliance, and I suppose formerly known as the Australian Country Party now that their party name is officially Australian Country Party/Give It Back (it is not entirely clear to me what they want back). They’re basically the prototypical Conservative regional-interests party, very similar to the Nationals before they tried to broaden their appeal. ACPGIB want more investment in regional infrastructure, a loosening of red tape around firearm ownership (really they’re pro-gun and definitely pro-hunting), and they’re very hostile towards the Safe Schools program. They’re a bit patchy and inconsistent on environment policy from my viewpoint, and it’s unclear where they stand on the big topic of climate change but they’re against coal seam gas as it stands and I get the sense that they don’t like environmentalists telling them what to do. ACPGIB share the Shooters & Fishers approach to recreation policy and want national parks opened up to more hunting, fishing, 4WD, and prospecting.
Australian Liberty Alliance
This is the anti-Islam party on the ticket. There’s more nuance to it, it’s true: they’re largely Libertarian and don’t like Big Government, they want to wind back racial discrimination protections, they’re very pro-guns – but really at the end of the day they just really, really hate Muslims. They’ve got a star candidate in Southeast Metro in Avi Yemini, the kind of guy who can’t speak in public without a couple hundred antifa protestors turning up.
There’s none of their traditional competitors from this end of politics on the ballot – no One Nation or arch-conservatives like Family First or Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives – so maybe they’ll get more of a primary vote than they normally do.
Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party
DHJP are probably centre-Right and, like Hinch, are generally pretty level-headed but have a few areas of intense interest that they won’t back down on. These are: humane treatment of animals, stricter controls on bail and parole for violent criminals, a register of sex offenders, and national access to legal euthanasia. The last one doesn’t apply because this is a state election and we’ve already legalised it, but Hinch got elected to the Australian Senate campaigning on things that were mostly Victorian state issues so that seems a fair turnaround.
Fiona Patten’s Reason Party
Formerly known as The Sex Party, this group are a centre-Left party with some Libertarian values and an emphasis on best-practice approaches to difficult social issues. Patten is an incumbent member for Northern Metropolitan so unlike most minor parties we can look at their voting record in parliament – Patten was a strong proponent of recent passed legislation for a safe injecting room in Richmond, safe zones around abortion clinics and voluntary assisted dying, which are pretty good examples of the kind of issues that Reason are focused on. They want a harm-minimisation approach to drugs, further separate Church and State (a considerable mellowing of the Sex Party’s rather anti-religion stance) and decriminalise sex work. They also want more restriction around Pokies such as maximum bets, reduced operating hours and a ban on cashless gambling – which doesn’t seem very Libertarian to me but it does seem very reasonable. They also want to make bicycle helmets optional for adults, which is a) a pretty bad idea and b) never realistically going to be voted through because the tabloids would blame any party that did for every person who died not wearing a helmet from then on.
Reason are going very hard at this election, with a flashy new website, new [Recognisable Candidate]’s [Buzzword] Party name, and are spending a lot trying to capture the attention of the youth vote in the inner suburbs in particular. The preference flow in Northern Metropolitan could work to lose Patten her seat if the Greens get a strong primary vote, and then they’d probably have to rename the party again. At any rate, she has said that a second term would be her last. Reason have also got a celebrity candidate in Catherine Deveny in Brunswick, which is why I’m so annoyed about the helmet thing I guess.
Health Australia Party
This party name is misleading – these guys are advocates for alternative and natural medicines. They frame this in terms of introducing more choice into healthcare and emphasise a more natural approach, but the main goal is to get natural medicines to be recognised on an equal footing to conventional medicines. The same applies to vaccinisation but they get very upset if they’re described as anti-vax, so I’ll just say that their policies make them very popular with people who are anti-vax. They’ve got more policies – some of it reasonable and some even wilder than this – but alternative healthcare is their main focus.
The Democratic Labour Party have rebranded, presumably trying to emulate the Liberal Democrats’ success in getting voters to mistake them for one of the two larger parties. The DLP are a resurrection of the old Catholic Conservative wing of the Labor party and in my experience are mostly differentiated by their social conservative values around things like opposition to LGBTQIA rights, reproductive rights, Safe Schools, women’s rights, and so on. I find they’re usually a bit better in their focus on disability and health than you’d expect and being a worker’s party at their core they are good on things like worker’s rights, anti-poverty measures and social housing.
The Liberal Democrats are Libertarians, and many people would know of them via David Leyonhjelm’s presence in the Australian Senate. Libertarianism as an ideology is about personal freedom above all else and so its adherents are against the government restricting behaviour and have a strong individualist bent. For example, they were strongly in favour of equal marriage, but against the hypothetical conservative baker having to make a cake for a gay couple because the government shouldn’t be able to make you do anything you don’t want to. In terms of policy, this means drastically lowering taxes, selling off the public health and public school systems, legalising cannabis and decriminalising the use of many other drugs, relaxing firearms laws, removing protections around racial discrimination (18C), and dismantling the welfare state entirely. Libertarians tend to lean towards the Right-wing of politics a bit largely because to really believe in this stuff you have to be the kind of person who might conceivably be better off if all of the protections of the State disappeared: white, male, able-bodied, and well-off. They don’t believe in climate change, and if they did they’d try to stand in the way of any action we need to take to fix it.
The Liberal Democrats do well in elections where they are listed above the Liberal Party because people don’t read the ballot properly. That’s certainly how Leyonhjelm got elected. In this election they got the first spot in Eastern Metro which is a bit of a Liberal stronghold so they stand a pretty good chance of getting a seat.
Hudson for NV
The name’s a bit cryptic, so let me explain: Hudson is Josh Hudson, and NV stands for Northern Victoria. Hudson for NV don’t have much in terms of policy but look to have a general Country Party vibe, with an emphasis on building infrastructure in Northern Victoria. As far as I can tell they aren’t pretending that they have interests outside that region.
Apparently Hudson was going to run as an independent before learning that independents rarely get elected to Victoria’s upper house, so he created a party to run instead. Inexplicably, they’re fielding candidates in every region and I’ve no idea why anyone outside of Northern Victoria would vote for them. Maybe it’s to make preference trades or maybe they just misunderstood the rules.
Shooters, Fishers and Farmers VIC
The Right-wing Shooter and Fishers Party recently added “Farmers” to their name in an attempt to broaden their appeal, but their policy goals remain the same: asserting the right to own and use firearms, and opening up national parks to recreational activities like hunting, fishing, four-wheel driving and prospecting. The prospecting thing keeps coming up with these country parties because the Victorian Environmental Advisory Council has proposed extending some national parks and prospecting is one of the prohibited activities. I think the Battlers even said it was an attack on the livelihood of rural Victorians which I find entirely baffling. Anyway, the SFFP seem to be phoning it in a bit this election because their website only lists NSW and Federal policies.
Ricky Muir, formerly an Australian Senator for the Motoring Enthusiasts Party, is their candidate for Morwell. I would have thought Muir to be too level-headed for the Shooters, but he did always like firearms.
Don’t let the name fool you – the sustainability this party are talking about isn’t environmental, it’s a sustainable population they’re after, and they want to do it by limiting immigration. Sure, they’re otherwise a centrist party who have a lot of fairly level-headed, middle-of-the-road policies but when you dig through them the immigration thing comes up again and again as a foundation belief. Their fans get quite irate (sometimes on my threads here) if you say that Sustainable Australia are anti-immigration but believe me, I don’t say this lightly. To their credit, unlike most parties that want to lower our immigration intake, there doesn’t appear to be any racial element to it and their refugee policy is a compassionate one. They believe in the importance of environmental sustainability, access to education, housing affordability, and lower unemployment – and they have exactly one idea as to how to achieve them.
Transport Matters Party
This party has been formed by the Taxi lobby, outraged at Labor’s recent decision to allow Uber into the hire car market and to repeal taxi licences. They’ve fluffed this up a bit with other policies trying to appear as a party in favour of improving public transport generally, but I think in truth they’re a single-issue party. They want financial compensation for drivers and licence holders who’ve been adversely affected by the changes and greater restrictions on ride share services. Unexpectedly, they’re in favour of the rail link to the airport. They’re more likely to vote with the Liberals than with Labor.
The Victorian Socialists are a new party, mostly an alliance of existing Socialist political organisations who’ve come together to try to emulate the success of Corbyn or Sanders in capturing a grassroots enthusiasm for socialism among the youth vote. Their main candidate is Stephen Jolly, who’s been making a name for himself for many years as the socialist councillor in the City of Yarra pushing for public housing expansion, the Richmond safe injecting room, the campaign to stop the East-West Link, and the controversial abstinence from citizenship ceremonies on Australia Day. Victorian Socialists have a very broad platform (because socialism – they have an entire manifesto) but their key issues for this election are building more public housing, pushing back against property developers, improved (free, state-owned) public transport, a public-health approach to drug use, decriminalisation of sex work, and, well, a lot of other stuff in that vein to be honest. I could go on, but I imagine by this point you either love them or hate them.
Jolly has strong ties to the ETU and CFMEU and is hoping that along with his reputation for public housing advocacy, this can win them votes in the Northern Metropolitan Labor heartland on the Northern side of Bell St, Coburg. They stand to gain preferences from the Greens as well, so they have a chance of getting a seat and the Herald Sun losing their mind. It’s at least novel to see the socialists not fighting each other for a change.
Voluntary Euthanasia Party
This party was formed to campaign for the legalisation of voluntary euthanasia, which happened last year. You’d think that would take the wind out of their sails, but they’re keeping on with the aim of defending the legislation (making the not unreasonable assumption that a Conservative government would try to erode or remove it), and advancing some associated policies: expanding access to medicinal cannabis, improving palliative care, and similar progressive ideas around end-of-life care.
Vote 1 Local Jobs
This is roughly speaking a rural issues party, focused on job creation, protectionism and decentralisation. They got elected to an upper house seat for Western Metropolitan last election, but confusingly a) they’re only running in Northern Metropolitan this time which historically doesn’t have a lot of voter interest in things like foreign ownership of agricultural land, and b) they haven’t updated any of their policies since before the last election. I’m not sure why they’ve bothered running if they’re putting in this little effort.