10 Sep 2013

Minor Party Winners And Losers

By Alex Hamer

It's been boom times for minor parties this election – but most of them won't be sending anyone to Canberra. Alex Hamer spoke to candidates about their tilt at high office

As the Coalition celebrated its emphatic election win on Saturday night, minor and micro party candidates were also marking the end of the campaign. In the end, some were more successful than others; the Motoring Enthusiasts Party and Palmer United Party were elected to Parliament, while the WikiLeaks Party and its star Senate candidate Julian Assange only pulled 1.19 per cent of the vote.

Showing the WikiLeaks Party how preference deals are done, likely senator Wayne Dropulich of the Australian Sports Party will make it to Canberra with just over 1900 primary votes in Western Australia.

Dropulich has so far avoided commenting on the likely legislation to be put to him and the seven other incoming non-major party senators by the Abbott government, sticking to the only policy area his party has covered: Sport.

He has had a glowing start, however, compared to the Motoring Enthusiasts Party’s Ricky Muir, whose coverage in the media has been limited to a video of him and his brother throwing kangaroo poo at one another. His response to media queries over the video was simple, saying “before [being elected to the Senate] I was just an ordinary Australian” and “the past is the past”. 

Candidates not supported by preference deals in the Senate or a strong party ticket in the lower house must shift the goalposts when determining what a win would be for their campaign. 

Greens candidate for Goldstein Rose Read celebrated the party’s wins – Adam Bandt’s re-election and Janet Rice claiming Victoria’s number six Senate seat – but did not hit her target of 20 per cent of the vote.

A first time federal candidate, she received 16 per cent of first preferences in the seat won again by incoming Finance Minister Andrew Robb.

“It’s been a long campaign – we’ve had two teams out every Saturday since June, so we’ve spoken to thousands of people around Goldstein,” she told New Matilda.

One of her highlights from the last few months was meeting an elderly woman who had been sent over by her family to find out about Greens policy.

“She was an older Liberal voter, and she had been told to find out about the Greens paid parental leave policy. After hearing what we proposed, she said it would be the issue she voted on, because her family ‘didn’t need’ the Liberal scheme. I had great conversations with many former Liberal voters.”

Read wasn’t sure whether she would run again, although said she told New Matilda would definitely help out with future campaigns.

Adam Bandt was returned as the Member for Melbourne on Saturday, again defeating Labor candidate Cath Bowtell. Bandt told New Matilda he looked forward to greater Greens representation in the lower house in the future. “I hope that at some point I’ll have someone sitting next to me to second my motions, instead of having to ask Bob Katter to do it,” he said.

The Greens’ national vote dropped from 11.7 per cent in 2010, to 8.5 per cent. 

Bandt will likely be joined by mining magnate Clive Palmer as the sole representative of their respective parties in the lower house. The Palmer United Party was also successful in the Senate, with ex-rugby league player Glenn Lazarus set to take the sixth spot in Queensland.

On Monday, Palmer told AAP that Prime Minister-elect Tony Abbott had him to thank for the prime ministership: "Without Palmer United's preferences, Tony Abbott would not be prime minister," he said.

In the Victorian seat of Corangamite, won comfortably by Liberal challenger Sarah Henderson, disendorsed Palmer United Party candidate Buddy Rojek looked on as his former party celebrates its success. Rojek was disendorsed after trying to recruit campaign volunteers by throwing an election night party where attendees might “get lucky” with models.

In the first few months of the campaign Rojek seemed confident of victory, his campaign material and media releases full of statements like “when I am your representative”.

He was happy to have run a campaign based on “my own values.”

Rojek told New Matilda on Saturday night that he was determined to stay involved in politics.

“I’ve discovered that vocal minorities get all of the attention from gutless politicians, and I want to represent everyone else,” he said.

After his disendorsement -- which he claims was actually due to his support for marriage equality -- Rojek promised to start a new party called the ANZAC United Party, which would run ADF veterans as candidates.

Despite legal challenges over the name, Rojek says he already has support from some veterans in Corangamite and will get the party registered for the next federal election.

At a candidate forum for the seat of Melbourne Secular Party candidate Royston Wilding was clear about his viability as an MP: “I’d probably be bloody hopeless as your representative, to be honest,” he said.

In the count so far, Wilding has received 175 votes, giving him 0.3 per cent of first preferences, indicating voters took heed of his warning.

As well as attempting to lead the audience in song at the forum, Wilding spoke passionately of the Secular Party’s ideals and supported the Greens policy of changing funding for school chaplains to funding for counsellors.

“[We should move away from] paying for Father O’Leary’s access to little Jimmy Citizen in a state primary school near you,” he said.  

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