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|2019 (as the Australian Country Party) — 2018 (VIC, as the Australian Country Party: Give it Back!) — 2014 (VIC, as the Australian Country Alliance) — 2013 (as the Australian Country Alliance)
Policies & Commentary
Looking back over Cate’s looks at the previous incarnations of this party, it’s clear that she struggled to get a read on this party. And it’s not hard to see why. The party has been an ungainly hybrid of chameleon and a weathercock for most of its existence. In fact, per their 2019 reorganisation and subsequent renaming, it’s not clear how much at all the current Ausfed (their abbreviation) Party owes to its predecessors.
Sadly, while where they have landed has many smart policies, it has just as many less-smart ones. Take their environmental policy, which has many good ideas for environmental restoration, but also spends quite a bit of time railing against the idea that carbon is the problem, instead blaming nitrous oxide (N₂O), which is, apparently 300 times worse than carbon. Now, to be fair, the source they provide for this assertion seems legit, but they are ignoring the fact that although we do emit N₂O at a higher rate than we should, we emit several hundred times more carbon. You see what I mean: it’s a legit problem that does require attention (as the linked article shows), but it’s untrue to pretend that it’s the only one.
Their defence policy – which for some reason also includes putting Australia back on the Gold Standard – is similarly conflicted. Ausfed wants to hold an International Peace Summit at which we will encourage China, Russia and the USA to attend an open dialogue. Sounds reasonable enough, right? But then the rest of their page goes on to say that Australia should buy nuclear weapons from the USA (who have demonstrated little evidence ever of wanting to sell them to anyone), and also abandon both Taiwan and Ukraine to their respective aggressors – and without even troubling themselves to name the Ukraine, at that: it’s described with the Putinesque phrasing “fringes and contested Soviet-era territories that are ethnocentric and primarily Russian”
This is, not to put too fine a point on it, disgusting. It is the appeasement of dictators and the abandoning of innocents. It is nothing that a civilised nation should be doing, and honestly, I’m tempted to stop the review right now, and just tell you that the only reason this party or its candidates should feature on your ballot is because you’ve numbered every box and they were last.
Okay. Deep breath. Once more unto the breach, dear friends…
Moving on to what they call Federal Renovation Policy, they basically want to completely remove the service delivery role of Local Government, because Freed of service delivery, local government can become an instrument for local community voice and micro-level social organisation. Local government service delivery will be moved to state governments, while Health and Education will be taken off the states and given to the Federal Government, following which To match this reduction in size and scope of state governments, the number of state Members of Parliament should be cut by 50%. Apparently this will save money and reduce bureaucracy, which is an odd conclusion to draw, given that it looks like it will actually just move monies and bureaucracies around.
They also support the creation of new states in Australia, naming North Queensland, Central Queensland, the Riverina and New England as areas where this could happen, or the addition of other states by adding Pacific Islands to the Australian Commonwealth, naming the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and/or Papua New Guinea as potential candidates – the latter apparently supported by the original Constitutional provision for New Zealand joining Australia. This is not so much good or bad as just plain odd, although there is more than a whiff of fearing an expansionist China to it, and I’m not convinced that fighting fire with fire is really the solution here. (In passing, it’s also a little odd that they are suddenly so willing to antagonise China given the more conciliatory stances I mentioned above.)
The Ausfeds also have a proposal for a Bill of Rights, which appears very strongly influenced by the American example of the same, although fortunately lacking in any mention of firearms. It’s mostly reasonable stuff, although there may be some dogwhistles I am missing. But then there’s Section 9 of their proposal, which I’ll quote in full:
9. Freedom of religion, belief and opinion
- Everyone has the right to freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief and opinion.
- Religious observances may be conducted at state or state-aided institutions, provided that
- those observances follow rules made by the appropriate public authorities;
- they are conducted on an equitable basis; and
- attendance at them is free and voluntary.
- This section does not prevent legislation recognising
- marriages concluded under any tradition, or a system of religious, personal or family law; or
- systems of personal and family law under any tradition, or adhered to by persons professing a particular religion.
- Recognition in terms of paragraph (a) must be consistent with this section and the other provisions of the Constitution.
Did you catch that? I had to read it a few times and get my co-writer here to help me parse it. It is, as Tom Waits put it, a case where “the large print giveth and the small print taketh away“. Here’s the current text of the Australian Constitution on the same subject:
116. Commonwealth not to legislate in respect of religion
The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.
Quite different, aren’t they?
The Ausfed version starts off strong, with a pretty decent – though still weaker than the current version – protection of religious freedom in point 1. But then points 2 and 3 undermine it, permitting the government to stage religious ceremonies and to legislate in respect of religion, even up to the point of establishing an actual state religion.
Why would they want this? Well, it turns out that the current incarnation of this party is, shall we say, strongly influenced by evangelical Christianity – and when they say a particular religion, it’s a safe bet they’re not thinking of Buddhism. It’s all in Chairman Peter Harris’s public statement of the core values of the party. The very first value listed is an absolute opposition to full term and late-term abortions, which they claim are out of step with community standards of morality and belief and with the sacred place of human life in indigenous culture and other traditions. This co-opting of indigenous issues is highly characteristic of a certain strain of political thought in this country, and if you’ve read our earlier articles, you should know exactly where I’m going with this already. The Australian Federal Party is, in its current form, a part of the larger anti-vaccination movement in this country. Harris is the bankrupted former chairman of the Family First party… behind a popular anonymous online campaign against Victoria’s proposed pandemic law. Actually, you know what? I’m done. Just read the article I’ve linked to there, and vote last Australian Federal Party.
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 🙂