By Denis Bright
At a time of internal chaos in the federal LNP Government, political fragmentation still offers a lifeline back to government by Scott Morrison or one of his successors if current polling levels continue to deteriorate in 2022.
Beyond the more mainstream of the far-right minor parties with recent federal parliamentary representation, there are over thirty minor political parties registered on the AEC site. Minor far-right parties come and go after fulfilling their divisive purposes. Almost twenty minor parties have been deregistered by the AEC since the 2019 elections to be replaced by a new exercise in social division.
The formation and registration of minor political parties is of course an essential component of a heathy democracy if these political parties are operating in The We The People Traditions.
Minor political parties can become a sinister force if they are merely delivering votes back to One Nation, the UAP, the Liberal Democrats or the more populist regional leaders of the federal LNP.
Recent amendments to The Electoral Legislation Amendment (Party Registration Integrity) Act 2021 (Party Registration Act) have raised the transparency of minor registered political parties a little. There is a new threshold of 1,500 signed up members for continued registration, annual registration fees and some administrative controls on operational practices. Complaints about breaches of these protocols can be made to the AEC.
While the AEC is quite strict on the accountable enforcement of the amended administrative protocols, there is still tolerance of saturation levels of advertising from generous political patrons.
Expect more fragmentation as voters are attracted to the specific issues raised by minor far right parties with support from well-funded advertising. Details of the extent of Clive Palmer’s campaign spending emerged after the 2019 election (Paul Karp in The Guardian, 23 September 2019):
In the wake of the surprise Coalition victory at the May election, Palmer said he had “decided to polarise the electorate” with an anti-Labor advertising blitz in the final weeks of the campaign, rather than attempting to win seats for the United Australia party. In the final week alone, Palmer spent $8m in electoral advertisements.
The submission noted the party was reported to have spent $60m on a “contentious” campaign that failed to win a single seat but Palmer “claims to have secured the Coalition government’s win with his preferences”.
Strategic deals between minor far right parties and the LNP achieved three senate spots in four of the states to deliver a total of 36 LNP senate places seats. With the votes from the two senators from One Nation, the LNP can pass legislation through both houses of parliament except in those situations when Labor votes with the LNP.
A National Integrity Commission can and should support the AEC in supporting the grey areas of political party registration and transparent campaign spending disclosures which are not covered by current AEC controls.
With its control of 23 of the 30 federal House seats in Queensland, the federal LNP has the capacity to use tax-payer funded electorate allowances to promote its logos through regular mail outs of cards to householders, brochures to attract postal votes and mobile offices festooned with LNP propaganda.
In the 2019 senate count in Queensland, One Nation benefited from the exchange of surplus quotas from LNP senators and preference flows from other minor far-right political parties
Some grey areas of campaigning should be scrutinized by the AEC and any future National Integrity Commission.
At previous state and local government elections for the Brisbane City Council, the LNP set up a Postal Vote Application Centre (PVA Centre) to harvest postal votes from across metropolitan electorates for delivery to the Electoral Commission of Queensland (ECQ). These PVA Centres are fully controlled by the LNP. Transparency also requires that the costs of these PVA Centres are fully declared as campaign expenses and not written off as legitimate electorate allowances.
Well funded minor far- right political parties can identify themselves with divisive wedge issues through the purchase of political polling data and intel from soft media and mobile phone and computer app devices. This alignment is particularly challenging to Labor’s broad electoral base in regional, outer suburban and inner-city electorates.
The deteriorating state of national leadership from the federal LNP might assist Labor to bridge these policy divides which cost it government in 2019 through net losses of seats in Queensland and Tasmania and a failure to gain new seats in WA.
Dr Jim Chalmers as Member for Rankin and Labor’s Shadow Treasurer is highly adept at talking up these essential policy compromises with support from the latest ABS statistical data:
Private New Capital Expenditure and Expected Expenditure, Australia
- Total new capital expenditure fell by 2.2%
- Buildings and structures fell by 0.2%
- Equipment, plant and machinery fell by 4.1%
The stagnation in private sector investment, the housing and rental crises and the state of infrastructure commitment is highly relevant in the very electorates where far-right minor parties have gained political traction in 2019.
Labor has responded with the release of sustainable emission targets for 2030 as noted by Katherine Murphy in The Guardian (3 December 2021):
Anthony Albanese will set an emissions reduction target of 43% by 2030 and boost the share of renewables in the national electricity market to 82% if Labor wins the coming federal election.
The ALP leader has unveiled Labor’s most electorally risky policy commitment since the 2019 election defeat, declaring a more ambitious target would spur $76bn in investment and reduce average annual household power bills by $275 in 2025 and $378 in 2030.
Guardian Australia revealed on Friday the shadow cabinet had signed off on a 43% target, which is lower than the 45% medium term target Labor promised at the 2019 election, but higher than the Morrison government’s Abbott-era commitment of a 26-28% cut on 2005 levels.
The primary mechanism Labor will use to reduce emissions faster than current projections will be the Coalition’s existing safeguard mechanism. Improvements to that scheme are expected to deliver emissions reductions of 213 million tonnes (Mt) by 2030.
These compromises can assist in bridging the divide between affluent inner metropolitan suburbs and those many disadvantaged regional and outer suburban struggle streets.
Let’s hope that the electorate is listening to the need for policy compromises to elect a majority government that addresses the havoc caused by three terms of LNP government by ensuring that Labor’s poor results in Queensland, Tasmania and WA are not repeated again. The current tally of thirteen Labor seats out of over fifty available seats certainly justifies the policy compromises.
Denis Bright (pictured) is a financial member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis is committed to consensus-building in these difficult times. Your feedback from readers advances the cause of citizens’ journalism. Full names are not required when making comments. However, a valid email must be submitted if you decide to hit the Replies Button.
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