Continuing in the spirit of Cate Speaks

The Local Party

Summary

Website: www.thelocalparty.net
Social Media: FacebookInstagram
Slogans: New Party. New Way. All Independents
Themes: Social justice, anti-corruption and the environment.
Electorates:

Upper House: Tasmania & South Australia

Lower House: Braddon & Franklin

Preferences: not yet available

Policies & Commentary

The Local Party appears to be one of our newer parties – it’s hard to be sure since their website contains no information about the founding of the party, but the earliest news story they link to is an op-ed by a party candidate from March 2021, and the article itself is very much an introduction to the party, so it’s likely they were formed sometime around that point, although the AEC only lists them as formally registering a year later.

The party appears to be a relatively loose alliance, with no enforced party loyalty on votes in Parliament. They are mostly based in Tasmania, with a single candidate listed as running in South Australia, and another running for the Tasmanian state parliament. They have a strict policy about living in the electorate where you stand for election, as befits their name and orientation. They also appear to be reasonably well-funded, with billboard and drive-around ads that appear to be the products of a professional studio.

They also seem to be realistic about their chances, specifying that they’re aiming for the sixth (i.e. last) Senate seat in both Tasmania and South Australia.

The website is quick to explain who they are and what they want:

The Local Party IS:

  • A vehicle to put real people into parliament.
  • Committed to action on reconciliation, climate action & corruption.
  • Solutions bases and unifying rather than adversarial and divisive.
  • A coalition of independents – who won’t be told how to vote.
  • Committed to basing its policies & decisions on the best available science.

And also:

The Local Party is NOT:

  • A vehicle for career politicians
  • Just another political party
  • Replicating existing power structures
  • A party that believes we already have all the answers

I must admit, I do like that last bit – if only more parties took that approach.

Their policies are a mixed bag, and some of them seem to be more state than federal areas of concern. That said, those lines are increasingly blurred in our political landscape.

They have a policy regarding Pokies which is very much the same sort of Harm Minimization that Andrew Wilkie has been banging the drum on for years now – perhaps unsurprisingly, Wilkie was a speaker at the Local Party’s official campaign launch, and although not a member, seems to be an ally at very least. In contrast to most of their other policies, this one has five specific reforms they wish to enact, all of which are aimed at making gambling less economically dangerous to gamblers, and none of which seem unreasonable to me (although in fairness, I loathe the pokies and think they should be banned, so I may not be the best judge of this).

On the environment, their offering is a little more mixed. For broader climate change issues, they’re calling for a Citizen’s Jury (about which more below) to make recommendations on what should be done. This is honestly a little surprising, given that their most prominent candidate, Leanne Minshull, is also a member of the Climate 200 alliance, although this is not mentioned anywhere on the Local Party’s site. That said, Minshull’s individual page on the party site shows her to be firmer on environmental issues than the party as a whole seems to be.

Their other two issues are more local in nature, being specifically about a planned wind farm on Robbins Island, Tasmania, and about the fishing industry, particularly salmon fishing, in Tasmanian waters. These seem to mostly be raising legitimate concerns, but as the party name suggests, there is a whiff of NIMBYism about them. I’m not really across the particulars of the Robbins Island wind farm, but the emphasis on energy prices in that portion of the site tends NIMBYish. That said, the fishing industry policy is quick to point out that it has national ramifications, and seems to be mostly in line with what other environmentalist parties are calling for.

Similarly, although the actual policy page for Justice and Corrections doesn’t mention it, the party’s opposition to a prison planned for Westbury is also easy to see through this lens. The actual policy on the other hand, is quite surprising:

Instead of planning for more jails, let’s work toward less crime
Over 2019–20, crime decreased in Australia. In fact, there was a five percent decrease in the number of offenders since 2018–19 — the lowest since 2008 and 2009 when statistics began to be reported.
Despite this good news, state governments continue to focus on increasing jails rather than decreasing crime.

Tasmania
Relative to the Australian average, Tasmania has low rates of incarceration per 100,000 head of population.
Tasmania could lead the rest of the country in restorative justice. The Local Party is working with legal practitioners, prisoner advocates, literacy experts to chart a course towards negligible crime rates in Tasmania.

There’s not a lot of detail here, to be sure, but even mentioning restorative justice is a remarkable thing in the context of Australian politics, and one I personally would like to see more of. I would like to hear more about what they have in mind though. And lest anyone accuse them of being soft on crime, the next paragraph adds:

We understand some people – no matter what help they receive – will commit crimes. But we also know the crime rate need not be as high as it is. Our action plan is not about giving ‘criminals a free kick’ it’s about reducing the amount of harm being done to Tasmanians.

Harm minimization as a guiding principle for criminal justice is an interesting idea, and one worth exploring (Portugal’s drug law reforms, for example, take this approach and appear to be a great success).

It’s interesting that although the party seems overall against corruption in our political process – three of the four federal candidates mention it specifically on their individual pages – none of them has any specific measures listed and the party as a whole has no official policy on it at the time of this writing. (It would not surprise me at all if this changes over the next few weeks, given how much the ALP is pushing on this issue at the moment.)

Finally, there’s Citizen Juries. This is a fascinating idea, described thusly:

A ‘Citizens’ Jury’ is a group of people randomly invited from the electoral roll to form a jury – not unlike a jury in a criminal trial. These citizens are presented with evidence from independent experts, as well as advocates if they wish, so they can decide on the issue based on the best available evidence.
The use of Citizens’ Juries is often called deliberative or participatory democracy, reflecting the process of citizen engagement and deliberation that makes this method of decision making so different from the politics we see around us.
It is a model of democracy in which citizens have the power to make political decisions. In short, it is a way to get people back into the political process, and a way of getting government to engage with real community concerns.

This doesn’t sound terribly different to some of the ideas that Rudd had as Prime Minister, notably the 2020 Australia Summit in 2008. Keenly aware that this model is neither well-remembered nor much respected, the page hastens to reassure the reader of the idea’s acceptability:

The Scottish Parliament is soon to hold a Citizens’ Jury on assisted dying, and Ireland held one in the run up to the referendum on the repeal of their abortion laws. Iceland used the same process to help rewrite its Constitution after the GFC crashed its economy.
There are a growing number of Citizens’ Juries taking place in Australia across a range of issues. For example, in Western Australia a Citizens’ Jury was employed on the placement of a highway slip road, and in Victoria they have been used to discuss infrastructure and planning issues. Perhaps the best publicised Citizens’ Jury was held in South Australia in 2016 when the Premier Jay Weatherill was planning to create a dump in SA for international nuclear waste. The Citizens’ Jury rejected the government’s proposal, and to its credit the government shelved the project

Honestly, it doesn’t seem to be unworkable, and while there are clearly some details to be worked out, and not all issues will necessarily be appropriate for it due to time constraints or necessary expertise (pandemic response springs to mind on both counts), it could certainly serve as an adjunct to policy making, so long as it didn’t become simply a glorified version of focus grouping.

So there you have it: a Local Party that isn’t just for Local People, with a fierce social conscience and realistic expectations about how well they could possibly do in the election. I have some reservations, but all in all, I like their policy offerings.


Just a reminder that Maz and I lack the necessary Eurovision knowledge to choose the songs that Catherine liked to include, but we’d love to see what you suggest in the comments below 🙂

5 Comments

  1. Sandra

    I’ve observed citizens juries in action twice in SA and they have been a pleasure to watch. The first was done to get rid of the upper house of the SA Parliament, and the jury opposed it. The second one was to get a nuclear waste dump set up in SA and the jury came out against it. Give people the opportunity to ask questions and seek further information and it seems they will stand up to the powers that be.

    • Loki

      That is certainly how I would like to see them turn out. And always delighted to see Australians being more politically engaged than the media stereotype we so often get.

  2. Heath Graham

    Good write -up. Nice to see this work continuing.

  3. Adam, bringer of Eurovision tie-ins.

    Alright, let’s get the ball rolling!

    So, we have a party that emphasizes the importance of local residents standing for each electorate. The first Eurovision song that comes to mind is Ktheju Tokës, the Albanian entrant from 2019. With a title that translates as “Return to your land”, and dealing with the alienation that expatriates can feel while aboard, this little ballad seems like a good match for this little pseudo-party.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-NAbYUoxIfg

  4. LSN

    Interesting concept, and this party feels very in line with the zeitgeist of high numbers of independents running. It will be interesting to see if they end up with more candidates running in other states.

    Thank you so much for doing this, and keeping her torch going.

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