Pirate Party comes fourth in Griffith



news The Australian division of digital rights group the Pirate Party has taken fourth place in the Griffith by-election held in Brisbane over the weekend, in a result that placed the party ahead of other minor parties such as the Katter Australian Party and Family First.

According to the ABC’s election result page for the election, the Pirate Party picked up 1.5 percent of the primary vote. This was still significantly behind the major parties, with Labor picking up 38.9 percent, the Liberals 44 percent, and the Greens picking up 9.9 percent of the primary vote. However, the Pirate Party came in ahead of Katter’s Australian Party (1.1 percent), Family First (1.0 percent), and quite a few other independent parties.


The Pirate Party’s candidate was its deputy president Melanie Thomas (pictured). 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.”

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 other areas of importance for Australia, including education, taxation, welfare, asylum seekers, energy and marriage.

The Griffith by-election was Pirate Party Australia’s first attempt at contesting a House of Representatives seat.

“It is encouraging that despite the Labor and Liberal Parties dominating the political arena, an increasing number of voters are willing to break out of the major party duopoly and put their support behind an alternative voice like the Pirate Party,” Thomas said in a statement issued this week. “Those voters are sending a powerful message that Australians need someone to stand up for civil and digital liberties, and to protect our country from a range of threats such as warrantless dragnet surveillance, mistreatment of refugees, climate change, governmental secrecy, corruption and cronyism.”

“As more and more Australians see that the Pirate Party is a party backed by a serious platform of evidenced-based policies, we firmly believe that positive inroads can and will be made to stop major parties taking the voting public for granted. We are a party that practices what it preaches and we have shown what a party based on transparency, democracy, and participation can achieve.”

The swing of around 1.5 percent to the Pirate Party in Griffith is three times greater than the Party’s result in Queensland for the Senate at the last federal election in September 2013. It also represents a doubling of first preference votes when compared to the Party’s polling in Griffith for that same Senate election, where the Party received 0.7% of the vote.

“The Pirate Party would like to express its sincere thanks to the electorate for its support of Mel. Fourth place is an amazing effort, and everyone who helped reach it should be enormously proud,” said Simon Frew, President of Pirate Party Australia. “We received positive feedback on our policies, which were listed on the back of our how-to-vote cards distributed at polling places around Griffith. It’s also very telling that despite being fairly new, our small dent is much larger than more established and widely known parties like Katter’s Australian Party and Family First.”

The Party will now turn its attention to the formation and registration of state and territory branches.

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.

Great result for the Pirate Party. I would note that it was only a decade or so ago that the Greens were seeing similar results to the Pirate Party in many areas. It will be interesting to see whether the Pirate Party can continue to increase its vote over the next few years. My bet is that, with digital rights becoming an increasingly important issue, it will be able to continually grow, although I would hesitate to go so far as stating that a niche party like the Pirate Party will ever be able to compete on an equal with Labor or the Coalition.

1.5 percent of the primary vote is also significant in that the Pirate Party will be able to gradually start to play an interesting role in the distribution of preferences, if that level of growth continues.

Image credit: Melanie Thomas


  1. Minor parties always get swings to them at by-elections. This is not news. Call me back when they clear 4% and can get their registration money back at least.

  2. More power to these guys. With things like the way the TPP seems to be shaping up and the NSA spying scandal, civil liberties and IP laws are in desperate need of reform. I know that neither Labor nor the Coalition would dare touch either issue for fear of getting the USA offside (not to mention it potentially eroding their power base), so it ultimately is likely to fall to parties like The Pirate Party to tackle these issues. Here’s hoping that they start to pick up some seats in the coming years.

      • Perhaps “Arrr Pirate” thought you meant novelty party?

        Or he may have thought you meant niche as in “single issue” – while that is their origins, they have policy on a wide range of topics.

  3. I think a party need to beat the informal vote before can claim to have significant electoral support

    I’d like to see it happen but it didn’t this time.

  4. Great to see another minor party erode the 2 party “comfy old couch”. Maybe they’ll (LNP/ALP) realise they’ll have to actually work for their votes and listen to people in a couple more decades :/

  5. The paragraph before the opinion/analysis is really feeling like flogging a dead horse.

    Is there a reason why the author is unable to move on from mistakes that were made in the Pirate Party’s past? Seems odd to keep bringing it up considering the party has clearly made an effort and moved forward under new management.

  6. Trying to get elected in the lower house before the Senate is insanity (which is why Palmer threw so much money at it). I suppose it’s their deposit money to waste.

    If you look at PPA’s Senate results for QLD in 2013, they were comfortably beaten by Animal Justice, Shooters and Fishers, Motoring Enthusiasts and One Nation. Almost two decades ago the Greens were winning Senate seats, and one decade ago they were winning outside TAS. The Greens were and are massively more effective, and the comparison isn’t valid.

    Comparing the swing numbers is a bit disingenuous, given the Palmer wasn’t running in Griffith this time, freeing up a relatively large amount of protest voters (twice as many as ended up voting for PPA this time around).

    This result has nothing to say about the support for the PPA in the electorate.

    • Being totally realistic here, I don’t think Melanie was expecting to get elected – in fact I don’t think 9 out of 11 candidates had any chance at all. But this experience has raised her profile (and the parties’ profile) for the next election.

      I hardly think PUP voters would have changed to PPAU this time around. The conservative votes would have gone to the Liberal candidate (or to Katter, etc).

  7. I know Pirate Party is a global political brand, but that name is not going to help them much in Australia. No matter how good their policies or how innovative their party operation.

    I think they have some good ideas and practises, but whenever I talk about them to people, I spend the first few minutes explaining where they came from, and how they have nothing to do with the high seas or playing dress ups.

    It’s hard enough for minor parties to make headway in Australia even when they have ‘typical’ party names.

    • If our society has a problem with the name, then our society has a problem.

      The name is homage to TPB due to it being taken to court, it reflects the attitude of modern day pirates, and is fun for people who want to think about tradition sea-faring pirates.

      The whole global movement itself has only been around since 2006. Give it time to sink in.

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