By Jamie Hyams
The recent federal election was unlike any other since World War II, and may have changed politics in this country forever. What did not change, however, was the plethora of minor and special interest parties participating. As always, a number of these had policies that would be of concern to the majority of the Jewish community. This article examines both the policies and the electoral performances of these fringe parties.
The Socialist Alliance had the most blatantly anti-Israel policy of any party. The policy begins, “The Socialist Alliance condemns the ethnic cleansing of Palestine by the state of Israel. This oppression takes different forms including – the occupation of Palestinian land, hi-tech military assaults on the impoverished Palestinian population, the blockade and siege of Gaza, the breaking up of the West Bank into isolated ghettos and systematic violence and discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel and those exiled as refugees.” It supports various Palestinian demands, including the full right of return, which would mean the end of Israel as a Jewish state, as well as an end to all Israeli security measures, and the prosecution of Israeli leaders for war crimes. It also signals support for all the Palestinian terror groups and Hezbollah, advocating, “Ending the criminalisation, in Australia, of Palestinian and Lebanese organisations that resist Israeli occupation using the misnamed ‘anti-terrorism’ laws.” The policy contains no criticism of, or demands on, the Palestinians.
The Socialist Alliance ran in 12 seats spread across the six states, scoring between 1.46% and 0.42% of the primary vote. It also stood candidates for the Senate, receiving 0.56% of the vote in NSW, 0.16% in Queensland and 0.1% in each of Victoria, Western Australia and South Australia. The Socialist Alliance website explains that the party was formed in 2001 by eight separate Socialist groups. Their election results show there isn’t always strength in unity.
Socialist Equality Party
The Socialist Equality Party identities itself as “the Australian section of the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI), the World Party of Socialist Revolution” established by Leon Trotsky. While its election statement only mentions Israel in passing, it complains “[Julia] Gillard took great care to cultivate close relations with key Washington figures, making known her unconditional commitment to Australia’s alliance with US imperialism – as well as her unwavering support for Israel and its attacks on the Palestinian people, especially during the murderous Israeli invasion of Gaza in 2009, when she was acting prime minister.” Another concern of the party is that, “Australian forces remained embroiled in Washington’s criminal operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.” In fact, it calls for “the disbanding of the entire Australian military apparatus”.
The party ran in ten seats, mainly in NSW, achieving between 3.51% and 0.5% of the vote. It also contested the Senate in NSW, where it received 0.09% of the primary vote, and in Victoria, where its tally was 0.32%. Interestingly, the party’s Annual Return revealed that it raised $213,996 in the 2008-09 financial year, spending $191,395. Clearly the fund-raising and expenditure didn’t translate into votes.
Even less prominent was the Communist Alliance, which ran only in the NSW seat of Sydney, where it received 0.83% of the vote, and in the NSW Senate where 0.17% of voters gave it their first preference. The Communists made no reference to Israel is their policies, but demanded an end to the US alliance, stating “Rudd claims the war is about ‘combating terrorism’. But there was no terrorist threat to Australia before the war in Afghanistan or before the war in Iraq in 2003. The wars have made us a target.”
Citizens Electoral Council
Probably the looniest party competing in the election was the Citizens Electoral Council (CEC), disciples of the notoriously antisemitic American “physical economist” Lyndon LaRouche. The CEC spent much of the election campaign accusing anyone who advocated restricted population growth of genocide. The CEC is fond of wild conspiracy theories, for example that anti-racism legislation is a British plot to prevent Australian patriots such as themselves questioning Aboriginal land rights, which in turn are a British device to allow the royal family to control Australia’s mineral wealth. It is continually warning about impending economic crises, from which only they can save us.
Its literature generally features classical, literary or academic references mixed with vulgar abuse. This style, and the CEC attitude to Israel, is exemplified in the following release immediately subsequent to the Gaza flotilla incident: “In Jonathan Swift’s classic, Gulliver’s Travels, Lemuel Gulliver, in his fourth voyage, encounters the Yahoos, a race of vile and savage creatures, filthy and with unpleasant habits, who, unfortunately bear an absolute physical likeness to human men and women. The Yahoos are promiscuous, sadistic, cowardly, treacherous, and they have an absolute love of war. Israel, under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has once again displayed all of the characteristic traits of Swift’s Yahoos.”
In past elections, the CEC has distinguished itself by running candidates in most electorates and achieving a minuscule percentage of the vote. This time they changed tactics, running in only 12 electorates. This may have been to concentrate the party’s resources and, if so, it paid some dividends, with their candidates receiving a slightly less minuscule percentage of the vote than normal. Apart from the Northern Territory seat of Lingiari where, perhaps aided by the donkey vote from being first on the ballot paper, they achieved a whopping (by their standards) 3.87%, their best result was 1.55%. However, most CEC candidates attracted less than 1% of the vote, with the least successful managing only 0.22%.
In the Senate, the CEC results also improved everywhere they ran apart from the Northern Territory, with 0.14% of the vote in NSW, 0.07% in Victoria, 0.12% in Queensland, 0.10% in WA and 0.92% in the Northern Territory.
What the CEC lacks in electoral appeal, it makes up for in fund-raising, with its 2008/9 annual return and amended returns together revealing receipts of $1,858,977. Past editions of the AIR have outlined the pressure and boiler room techniques they use to raise these amounts. However, even this is clearly not enough for the CEC’s needs. Total payments for the year were $1,806,468 and debts were $720,394, owed mainly to other CEC bodies.
The rump of One Nation continued to inveigh against multiculturalism, its platform stating, “Multiculturalism has failed everywhere. It is negative and divisive, a weight that is drowning our once safe and cohesive society. One Nation will abolish multiculturalism and the Racial Discrimination Act and promote assimilation, nationalism, loyalty and pride in being an Australian.”
Clearly, the party’s heyday has passed. It ran in only 18 seats, with a best result of 2.99% of the primary vote, and a low of 0.5%. Senate results were even worse, with a best result in Queensland, where it was once a powerful force, of only 0.91% and a low of 0.38% in Victoria.
Australia First similarly listed among its policies a call to “End the divisive, government funded and institutionalised policy of multiculturalism.” It ran in only two seats, attracting 0.77% and 0.37% of the vote and in the Senate in Queensland, where it gained 0.4%.
The secular party is less extreme than the others mentioned here, although, as the name suggests, it would campaign against government funding of religiously backed schools, which would include Jewish day schools. Also of interest is its policy on “Israel-Palestine” which states, “The Secular Party is opposed to theocracies, whether Christian, Islamic or Judaic. A state that preserves privileges to a particular religious, ethnic or national group violates secular principles and universal human rights. The Secular Party advocates that the only possible long-term solution is one in which all citizens have equal rights.” Strangely, despite the many religiously based regimes, including those fundamentalist in nature, Israel, which is actually not one, is the only example the party sees fit to mention.
It ran in 20 electorates. Only three candidates received more than 1% of the vote, with a high of 1.95% and a low of 0.32%. In the Senate, it received 0.1% of the vote in NSW, 0.11% in Victoria, 0.08% in both Queensland and WA, 0.9% in South Australia and 0.17% in Tasmania.
It is a sign of a vibrant democracy that these fringe dwelling parties are free to compete in our elections, but it is also a sign of the health of our democracy that so few people vote for them.