news The Pirate Party Australia has signalled it will contest the Griffith by-election for the seat of formr Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, in another sign that the party which has achieved electoral success in Europe on digital rights and civil liberties issues is increasingly serious about gaining a higher slice of the popular vote in Australia.
A by-election in Rudd’s seat will be held on 8 February due to the former Labor leader’s decision to resign politics following the previous Federal Election. A stiff competition between Bill Glasson, an opthalmologist who contested the seat in the 2013 election and the Labor candidate, lawyer Terri Butler, is expected to result, although other parties such as the Greens (which took 10.2 percent of the primary vote in 2013) and perhaps the Palmer United Party are expected to play a role.
In a statement issued yesterday, the Pirate Party said its deputy president Melanie Thomas (pictured, right) would compete in the by-election, with the Australian Electoral Commission having confirmed Thomas’ nomination yesterday morning.
The party did not include a biography for Thomas with its release. However, a profile of the candidate published during last year’s Federal Election by website My Sunshine Coast, in which Thomas was a Senate candidate for Queensland, describes her as having “long been an activist on many social issues including environmental protection, animal welfare, womens issues and opposition to war and nuclear proliferation”. It further states: “Mel joined the Pirate Party because she was confident it could truly hold government to account.”
In its statment, the Pirate Party, which competed its first Australian Federal Election in September 2013, stands for civil liberties, intellectual property reform, and increased transparency in government. The Party also has detailed policies on areas of vital importance for Australia, including education, taxation, welfare, asylum seekers, energy and marriage.
“Australian politics is in an appalling state at present. It has become mired in issues that shouldn’t be politicised: asylum seekers, climate change and same-sex marriage are just three major issues that have been taken by the current Government and distorted for political gain,” said Thomas.
“Matters that are of major national importance are being kept secret from the public — the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement is being negotiated with disturbing secrecy, and the Government hides behind “national security” to avoid answering difficult questions about the extent of surveillance in Australia. We have a Government that is proving itself to be both reckless and self-serving.”
“I intend to shine a light on these issues and bring balanced values back to the political table. A vote for the Pirate Party is a vote for a compassionate, progressive and independent Australia. It is a firm statement from the electorate that they want Government to be accountable and honest and that policies steeped with rhetoric are not good enough. The Pirate Party’s policies are grounded firmly on evidence and the Party is dedicated to democracy and transparency.”
According to its statement, the Pirate Party achieved 0.31% of the national Senate vote during last year’s Federal Election, despite competing in only four states, with over 40,000 votes in total, receiving 0.5 percent of the vote in Queensland. The Party decides all of its candidates and Senate preferences by a party-wide vote.
Globally, the Pirate Party movement has had electoral success at all levels of government, including two seats in the European Parliament, three national seats in the Icelandic Parliament, 45 state seats across Germany, and many local government positions.
“For a party with no wealthy corporate backers, running a campaign on a very tight budget, we were very pleased with the results of our first tilt at a Federal Election. We managed to outpoll many parties that have been in the game a lot longer and ensured we stuck to our principles of transparency and democratic decision-making,” commented Party President Simon Frew. “This adherence to our principles was highlighted by the transparent and democratic manner in which we determined our Senate preferences, rejecting the secrecy and unprincipled deal-making that has unfortunately come to define the Senate ballots these days.”
The Pirate Party hasn’t always had a strong level of organisation when it comes to elections. In July 2012, for instance, the party failed key registration requirements determining its elegibility to contest the Australian Capital Territory’s territorial elections in 2012. In July 2010, the Pirate Party had to abandon its stated aim of contesting the then-imminent Federal Election due to election regulations, as it had not registered as a party before the election was called. However, it was able to successfully regster for the 2013 Federal Election.
Image credit: Melanie Thomas