Australian election minor party guide
While the federal election is still seven months away, consideration of another election got me delving into an old hobby of mine and checking up on the many small political parties that sit on the fringe of the political game. Most people don’t know most of these parties even exist, and that’s not likely to change soon… but as a way to procrastinate from what I should be doing (my PhD) I thought I’d offer a very short guide about the smaller parties.
For the sake of this article I’m going to ignore the big three players — the coalition (including Liberal, National, Country Liberal & Liberal National Parties), the Labor Party, and the Greens. If you haven’t heard of them before, then this article probably isn’t for you.
I’ve split the remaining parties into three groups. First the “big little parties” which round out the top ten political parties based on the 2010 Senate election plus a few others that are likely to be top ten this year. Then there is the “micro-right”, and finally the “micro-left”. I hate the false “left-right” dichotomy, but unfortunately that’s still the way most people consider politics.
BIG LITTLE PARTIES
Family First — first came to attention with electoral success in South Australia, FF really came to national attention when they got a Senator elected in 2004. Though they now have no federal representation, they did score 2.1% of the vote in 2010 which gave them fourth place. The party is generally pidgin-holed as a Christian party, but under the leadership of Bob Day they have tried to shift their focus towards a more small government agenda, while keeping a fair amount of Christian social conservatism. This means they are slightly differentiated from the many “big government conservative” parties discussed below. Not a bad choice for conservative “tea party” types.
Sex Party — the “anti Family First” party came onto the scene in 2010 and engaged Family First about moral issues. While not getting anybody elected, they did manage 2% of the vote which put them just behind FF in fifth place. The party primarily promotes civil liberties and a socially progressive agenda, as well as gender quotas in parliament, but they haven’t been drawn too much into economic debates. Sometimes seen as an economically safer version of the Greens.
Liberal Democrats (LDP) — Australia’s only libertarian political party has been around since 2001 but has only had electoral success at the local council level. The party received 1.8% of the Senate vote in 2010 which put them in sixth place. The LDP is clearly the most free-market party in Australia (the only party to promote real spending cuts), as well as being one of the most socially progressive (marijuana legalization and gay equality). The only choice for libertarians, classical liberals and Ron Paul types.
Shooters & Fishers (SFP) — Originally just the “shooters party” but fishing has been added lately to broaden the appeal. They received 1.7% of the Senate vote in 2010 making them the seventh biggest party. The SFP is focused primarily on NSW where they have two members of the state upper house that current hold joint balance of power with the Christian Democrats. The party is “anti-Green”, and want to relax government controls over shooting and outdoor recreation. Economically they are populist protectionists and socially they are Christian conservative. They are one of the options for “big government conservatives”, along with the DLP, CDP and KAP… all discussed below.
Democratic Labour (DLP) — The “balance of power” party in the 60s and 70s (before the Democrats), the DLP is now a much smaller party but has had a resurgence thanks to electoral victories in Victoria’s upper house and then in the Australian Senate, on the back of a 1.1% national vote that was mainly focused in Victoria. While their Senate vote makes them the eighth largest party, their federal Senator makes them more politically relevant than the above four parties at the moment. The party was born from conservative Catholics of the Labor Party, and continues to promote populist protectionist economics and Christian conservative social values… aka “big government conservatives”.
Christian Democrats (CDP) — At the 2010 Senate election the CDP got 1% of the national vote, putting them in ninth nationally, but they scored significantly higher in NSW where they have two members of the state upper house. As with the SFP and DLP, the Christian Democrats follow populist protectionist economics and Christian conservative social values (“big government conservatives”). Stereotypically, while DLP has Catholic influences the CDP is seen to have traditional protestant influences, and Family First has more pentecostal protestant (born again) influences.
Democrats — The “balance of power” party of the 80s and 90s (after the DLP), the Democrats have fallen far and they may soon disappear. They scored 0.6% in the 2010 Senate election (down from 2.1% in 2004), sneaking into 10th spot over One Nation by less than 0.1%. Their representatives have all faded and many key players have moved on to other parties, though there are constant rumours about a renewal. The party originally came from the left of the Liberals and pitched as a “centrist” party, but shifted further left in later years until they were lost in the shadow of the Greens. They remain a socially progressive party, with an ambiguous economic agenda. With the growth of the Sex Party and LDP (as well as Pirate Party and Wikileaks) it’s hard to see what niche the Democrats are now trying to fill.
One Nation — Rising quickly in the late 90s and dying quickly in the early 00s, One Nation is in a similar situation to the Democrats — though with a different political agenda. With 0.6% of the 2010 Senate vote (down from 1.7% in 2004) they may soon disappear. Formed by Pauline Hanson, the party loudly promoted populist protectionist economics and conservative social values (“big government conservativism”) until perceptions of incompetence drove voters away. With many other parties offering a similar agenda (SFP, DLP, CDP, KAP, etc), the loss of Hanson, and the damaged brand, it’s hard to see how they will rise again. [EDIT] With the return of Pauline running in NSW it is possible that the ghost of One Nation might rise from the ashes. Time will tell.
Katter Australian Party (KAP) — KAP didn’t contest the 2010 Senate election so they weren’t previously in the top-ten… but given the high profile of Bob Katter and their performance in the recent Queensland election (11.5% of the vote and now three members of parliament), they are likely to overtake many of the above parties in the 2013 election. As populist protectionists and social conservatives (“big government conservatives”) it will be interesting to see how much they will steal votes from SFP, DLP, CDP, One Nation, etc… and also how much support they will be able to take from the majors. If they can combine the big government conservative vote in one party (as One Nation briefly did) then they could potentially jump straight to the top of this list and be competitive with the Greens. Time will tell.
Wikileaks — While not registered yet, and having no track record, the name of Julian Assange and Wikileaks means that this party has the potential to make a name for itself on civil liberties and transparency issues, potentially stealing support from the Greens, Sex Party, LDP and Democrats. If they run in all states, then they are a decent chance of making the top-ten for 2013.
Palmer’s United Party (PUP) — Racing to get registered in time in the face of naming troubles, but Clive Palmer’s money will probably buy them a chunk of the vote, taking from both the Liberals and Katter with generic conservative populism.
Many of the “big little parties” discussed above are part of the “micro-right”, including Family First, Shooters & Fishers, Democratic Labour, Christian Democrats, One Nation, and the Katter Australian Party (and arguably the Liberal Democrats). If you thought there was no room for more, you’d be wrong…
Outdoor Recreation Party (Stop the Greens) — was set up in NSW in the 90s and briefly had a member of the NSW upper house thanks to a small vote but very favourable preference deals. The philosophy is in the name. This will be their first federal election.
Australia First — formed by Graeme Campbell (ex-ALP) in the late 90s to promote populist protectionist economics and conservative social policies (“big government conservatives”), the Australia First Party was side-lined by the success of One Nation and so never really gained ground. Later taken over by more nationalistic types, the party is generally now seen as being on the “far right”, and struggles to gain any significant vote (0.1% average vote in 2010 Senate).
Protectionists — created as an even more protectionist and conservative break-away from Australia First, the Protectionist Party is probably the closest thing we have to a “national socialist” party in Australia.
Rise Up Australia — could potentially be bundled in with the “far right” based on their rhetoric, but given the ethnic diversity of the party membership and leadership it is harder to throw the “racist” tag at them. Started by Danny Nalliah — who has tried to pray the witches away from Canberra and blamed gay-friendly laws for bush fires — the party runs on a strongly anti-Islamic agenda and a “keep Australia Australian” catch-cry. Their launch included Lord Monckton.
Christian Party — not yet prominent, but from all accounts they are similar to the CDP but base themselves in all states other than NSW.
Fishing & Lifestyle Party — the Queensland break-away of the old Fishing Party, the FLP is mostly focused on reducing regulations on outdoor activities.
Country Alliance — set up in Victoria to try and be the “real Nationals”, but hasn’t yet received enough vote to really get on the radar. This will be their first federal election, so if their name resonates they could move up the pecking order.
Climate Skeptics — strongly opposed to the carbon tax and friendly with several other micro-right parties. They received 0.2% average Senate vote in 2010.
Non-Custodial Parents — long time micro party that never really troubles the scorers. They got less than 0.1% average Senate vote in 2010.
Smokers’ Rights — not really “micro-right”… they have a general “anti nanny state” agenda with an obvious focus on smokers’ rights. If they are registered in time then this will be their first federal election, so if their name resonates they could move up the pecking order.
Citizens Electoral Council — not really “micro-right” so much as just “insane” given that they believe there is a global conspiracy being run by the British royal family to kill off humanity. They have been around forever, run plenty of candidates, and rarely get more than 0.1% of the vote (as they got in the 2010 Senate).
Building Australia — isn’t necessarily “micro-right” either, their main policy is to help the building industry, and they got 0.1% in the 2010 Senate.
Stable Population Party — another not-quite “micro-right” party, they want to prevent the population going above 23 million. Somehow.
Like the micro-right, the main players in the micro-left are in the “big little party” list, including the Sex Party, Democrats, and Wikileaks (and arguably the Liberal Democrats). But there are more.
Animal Justice — a new party that loves animals, but I’m not talking about the taste. They want to provide “a dedicated voice” for animals in politics, and give them constitutional protection.
HEMP — the “help end marijuana prohibition” party is registered again after being deregistered for a few elections. Their agenda is pretty self-explanatory, and while other parties hint at drug law reform, HEMP and the LDP (EDIT: and now “drug law reform”) are the only parties to explicitly call for legalization of marijuana. Received over 0.3% last time they ran (back in 2004).
First Nation — [EDIT] it was pointed out somewhere on the interwebs that I don’t know enough about this party to give a fair comment. So I’ll just say that it seems to have something to do with aboriginals, and they are based in the Northern Territory.
Pirate Party — focused on internet freedoms, similar parties have done well around the world and it will be interesting to see how effective the Pirate Party is in Australia. They could be competitive with the Sex Party, Wikileaks, LDP and HEMP in gathering the socially progressive vote. One to watch.
Secular Party — main agenda is to fight against religious influence, and so could be seen as the “anti-party” to the CDP, Family First, DLP and Christian Party. Received 0.1% average vote for the 2010 Senate so hasn’t really gained traction, but might be an option for non-religious centrists.
Republicans — not quite “micro-left”, but since their main concerns are removing the monarchy and introducing a bill of rights, this seems like the best place to put them. No connection to the US Republicans. They are probably targeting a similar group to the Secular party.
Senator Online — not quite “micro-left” but tends to prefer centre-left parties. Their policy is to not have policies until they see the results of online surveys about each topic. Got 0.1% in 2010 Senate election.
Carers Alliance — not quite “micro-left” but since they want more money for carers they tends to gravitate towards parties that believe in an ever-increasing welfare state. Got 0.1% in 2010 Senate election.
Socialist Alliance — many years ago there were a half-dozen socialist parties, but now there are only two, and SA is the largest… even having two councillors elected. They are loud, like to protest, get very offended by everything, and are trying (mostly failing) to bring together the different socialist factions in the country. They generally receive about 0.3% of the vote and tend to preference the Greens before Labor.
Socialist Equality — the other registered socialist party is “Trotskyist” and consider themselves the “real deal” holders of the communist flame. They got 0.1% in for the 2010 Senate, and tend to preference straight to Labor out of love for the union movement, or preference randomly.
POSTSCRIPT (24 August): it appears somebody has found this long-lost blog post, so I should point out that there were some other parties registered after I wrote this… including the Motoring Enthusiasts, Bullet Train for Australia, Australian Voice, Australian Independents, Sports Party, Bank Reform Party, Drug Law Reform, Future Party, Stop CSG, Uniting Australia, and Voluntary Euthanasia. There is also a party called “Coke in the Bubblers” though they don’t seem to have any candidates. A unique strategy.