Sex Party And Micro Players Give Australians Polling Choice

Sex Party And Micro Players Give Australians Polling Choice

Australia's Labor Party leader Bill Shorten chats with shadow minister for transport and infrastructure Anthony Albanese before a press conference at Port Botany in Sydney. (AFP Photo)

Sydney: Voters sick of the Liberal-Labor duopoly in Australian politics have plenty of choice at polls on Saturday with more than 50 minor players on the ballot, including a sex party, one for car enthusiasts and another with no policies.

While Malcolm Turnbull's Liberals or the Labor party led by Bill Shorten will be elected to high office, minor party alliances can hold the balance of power in the upper house Senate.

This means their vote could decide the outcome of an issue if the government and opposition disagree, something that has frustrated the current Liberal government.

It prompted Turnbull to call an early poll because crossbenchers, politicians who are independent or from minor parties, have failed to pass legislation relating to the creation of a construction industry watchdog.

But minor players remain undeterred, promising a range of alternatives to the mainstream despite operating on a shoestring.

The Greens are traditionally the most powerful small party, and the centrist Nick Xenophon Team, named after its founder member, is tipped to get two or three members elected, but there are no shortage of others hoping to pick up disaffected voters.

The Australian Sex Party, established in 2009 in response to what it saw as escalating government encroachment on adult's civil liberties, now has 6,000 members.

Among its policies, it advocates for nationally consistent age of consent laws, the decriminalisation of sex work and voluntary assisted dying.

In a bid to boost its chances, it recently announced an alliance with the Marijuana (Hemp) party, running a "joint ticket" in all states and territories except New South Wales and Victoria.

Minor parties secured 15 percent of the vote in 2013 elections under Australia's complex transferable ballot system, where voters rank parties or candidates according to preference.

Fiona Patten, Sex Party MP in the Victorian state upper house, said they traditionally attract the youth vote, but support was increasing among baby boomers.

"Because we've also had a very strong stance on euthanasia, I must say I'm getting approached by people in their 80s who are saying 'I'm voting for Sex Party'," Patten said.

"And they're also the people who want access to medicinal marijuana."

'Real-Time' Voting

Independent Victorian senator John Madigan has called for "a snub to the major political parties on July 2 and a vote for independents and minor parties".

"People are sick and tired of the duopoly. They no longer want the Coles and Woolies of Australian politics calling the shots," he said, referring to the grocery shopping duopoly.

Political scientist at Monash University Nick Economou admitted "the choice has never been greater".

"It's true that there's a bit of a drift away from the major parties, but there's a huge increase in the number of parties," he said.

The Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party has its own unique agenda, focusing not just on cars but the preservation of family values while encouraging a sense of community.

Remarkably, at the last election in 2013 one of its candidates Ricky Muir, who had no political experience, won a Senate seat and in an alliance with the Palmer United Party held sway in the upper house.

"Political correctness drives me nuts," Muir, who favours jeans and hoodie over a suit, explained to reporters this month on why he was in politics.

Among other minor parties on the ticket are the Renewable Energy Party, the Smokers Rights Party, Socialist Alliance and the Australian Anti-Paedophile Party.

Perhaps the most innovative is the Flux Party, which has no policies and no platform.

Using the moniker Upgrade Democracy, members would vote "yes" or "no" on each bill before parliament via the Flux app, which would instruct the party's senator how to vote.

"Flux is here to upgrade our democracy, pioneering a real-time voting system which gives you a direct voice into parliament," it explains on its Facebook page.

Voting is mandatory in Australia for all adults, with turnout never falling below 90 percent since it became compulsory in 1924.
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