There lies an inherent danger in voting for minority parties in the state election next year. The largest problem is that for many of the small parties in next year’s election, their needs would be better served as a lobby group; in fact, the Australian Cyclists Party IS a lobby group, one that is seeking election.
The reality of the small party threat to intellect actualised last year when backroom preference dealing between the minor parties led to Ricky Muir of the Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party being elected to the Senate with a primary vote of 0.51% in Victoria. In an interview last month, exactly nine months after he was elected, he could not define what his role would be in the incoming Senate. Nine months. Most people manage to learn the basics of what it takes to raise the a child in nine months, yet the roo-poo throwing Senator-elect had not bothered to learn what his job would be. For the next 6 years he will be in the Senate, receiving an annual salary of $190,000. For a man who, at the time of the federal election, was an unemployed, former part-time sawmill manager, raising 5 children, this is quite a win. One would think that, given such a monumental opportunity, he would pick up a book or two and learn as much as possible before taking up his new role; and one would be wrong. He is exactly what is wrong with many of the small parties enrolled in next year’s election; he has no position on major policies, he barely understands his own policies, and worse still, he has Pauline Hanson defending him.
AMEP is registered for next year’s state election, along with the Cyclists Party, No Land Tax Campaign, Philip Nitschke’s Voluntary Euthanasia Party, Animal Justice, and the perpetually bigoted Christian Democrats Party (Fred Nile Group), led by the oxygen thief Rev. Fred Nile.
For years, the CDP have been the enemy of intelligence and reason, and bastions of ignorance and regressive politics. They stand in the way of safe injecting rooms and same-sex parents, they demand the recriminalisation of abortions, and claim that Australia is becoming an Islamic nation, while trying to legislate scripture classes in all schools (ethics to be taught separately). Yet, they continue to be elected to the NSW Upper House by like-minded bigots and small minded “Christians” who would prefer to oppress the rights of others than consider any of the teachings of their Lord and Saviour. Many Christians vote for the CDP at the behest of their pastors or in the misguided notion of electing officials to represent their faith; without fully understanding or even reading the policies; without checking to see if the manifestation of faith within the CDP is even close to their own. This is where the CDP continue to draw power and influence from.
The CDP, especially Fred Nile, are the Westboro Baptist Church of Australian politics. Nile easily matches the profile of hatemonger and Westboro Baptist founder Fred Phelps; and perhaps ironically, even shares a “Christian” name with the fanatical zealot. This is a man who represents the views of many in the Legislative Council. As a state, we should all be ashamed.
When it comes to small parties gaining undue influence, another murky example from last year’s federal poll floats to the surface of this muck. David Leyonhjelm of the Liberal Democratic Party is the worst kind of politician. He has jumped from political party to political party, trying to find a way to further himself. He doesn’t champion causes, he champions his desires; he masquerades as an “everyday battler” trying to reduce the government’s harm. In the lead-up to the federal election, Leyonhjelm was responsible for the registration of the Outdoor Recreation Party (Stop the Greens) and the Smokers’ Rights Party. This could be misconstrued as an attempt at vote stacking, if you were to consider that these minority parties fed preferences back to the LDP, and the party names were clearly chosen to attract a certain class of voter. Of course, Leyonhjelm and the LDP further benefited from the fact that they were mistaken by many for the Liberal Party, as well as lucking into first position on the ballot paper.
As a point of order, Libertarians can be a good thing in politics, there does need to be a voice decrying undue government power, as seen in the slow rot and corrupt dealings of the QLD state government. There is a need for the protection of civil liberties in this instance; however, Leyonhjelm’s call to repeal gun control, going so far as to propose concealed carry permits is where the clear and present danger of the power he now wields surfaces.
As a lobby group turned political party, the Australian Cyclists are gambling in the same way AMEP did last September. The cyclists have a long history of successfully lobbying the NSW Government, with the installation of cycling lanes, the expansion of bicycle paths and ongoing challenges to legislation that could otherwise impact on their relative road freedom.
For years, the cycling lobby/party have been fighting common sense attempts to introduce legislation along the lines of registration for bicycles or licences for road cyclists. Even now, some in the cycling community are opposing road safety laws such as compulsory helmets. If they were to gain a government seat, it could provide them with further opportunities to negatively influence public safety, promoting the so-called needs of a vocal minority ahead of the desires of the larger electorate.
There needs to be a serious discussion about registration and licencing for all road users, including cyclists. When the issue is brought up, the cycling lobby counters with nonsensical claims such as banning children from bicycles, or the cost of registering multiple bikes. I would think it was fairly simple; if someone is going to operate a vehicle on the road, that vehicle should be registered and the rider licenced, for the safety of the operator and others. Children should not be riding on the road for basic safety reasons. This doesn’t mean that they cannot ride on paths or on tracks. Cyclists should have to pass a road safety test before they are allowed on the roads, just like anyone else. They should have insurance, just like anyone else. They should be made to ensure their vehicles are road worthy, just like anyone else. Every argument against this, such as those raised by the Cycling Party and lobby, can be countered with common sense. The fact that cyclists are not required by law to carry a licence is a part of the frustration felt by many drivers, with the blatant disregard for road rules that is frequently exhibited by cyclists. The police struggle to enforce laws against people who cannot be identified. Bike seizures do take place, but paltry fines do little to change the behaviour of rogue cyclists.
The reason why they have been so successful is because they are organised, and the apathy of most drivers is not something that can readily counter this. They continue to argue that because bikes are “greener”, cheaper to operate, and result in a lesser burden to public health due to fitness, they should not have to pay to use roads. They make these justifications because they are a lobby group. They are organised, collect funding from memberships, and have an agenda to push. By seeking election, they are attempting to circumvent the system that holds them to the fringe, where they cannot force their policies on an unwilling and unwitting public.
There is a solution to the influx of these small parties and, as ever, it’s education. Reading up on the policies of parties, talking about why lobbyists should not be government officials, and open discussion of the threat of ignorance in our political system. The fact that the Liberal Democrats were confused for the Liberal Party says a lot. The fact that people were seduced by tagline parties such as Smokers Rights and Stop the Greens is downright ridiculous. Voter stupidity is no excuse for general incompetence and that is what we are at risk of perpetuating. Just because you enjoy cycling does not mean you should elect a lobby group. Your religion and religious leaders should not influence your vote, because this is a free and fair democracy. You need to discover for yourself the policies that best fit you and your view of what this country needs, not waste your vote because you like to watch the V8s. It’s time to get serious about where your vote goes, and it’s time to exercise caution when it comes to small parties with little to offer. We don’t need a continuation of the last 15 stagnant years in NSW, and we definitely don’t need to see a result like that of last September ever again.
Minority parties are a necessary part of a good democracy, but they need to be in it for the right reasons, and they need to be elected because they have something genuine to offer. Not because of voter fatigue with the major parties, and not because you couldn’t be bothered learning what you’re supposed to do on election day.
The New South Wales state election is scheduled for Saturday 28 March 2015.