The race is well underway, and the major parties are running neck and neck in the House of Representatives but obviously neither will get a majority in the senate. This allows voters to hedge their bets by making sure that those holding the other seats will act responsibly in both blocking and negotiating unfair and poor legislation. As neither of the major parties have scored particularly well in the stocktake, either on past or promised performance, WEL recommends that voters think hard about splitting their vote to pick the somewhat better options offered by some senate candidates.
Because of their position as a house of review, one of the criteria on which we have judged the parties is whether they have both good policies and capacities to negotiate these with whoever attains government. Rather than assess policies on a portfolio-by-portfolio basis as with Part 1 of our formguide, we have also looked at two major areas - equity, including economics and social infrastructure, including enhancing options (choice). Time and resources does not allow us to assess them all. We have therefore only assessed those most likely to gain the balance of power, and a couple that will have a specific impact on women.
|Australian Democrats||Australian Greens||Australian Women's Party|
|Unity||One Nation||Family Law Reform Party Inc|
|Abolish Child Support/Family Law Court Party|
|Australian Men's Party||Australia First||Tasmania First|
|The Reform Party||Brian Harradine||Christian Democrats|
The Australian Democrats are the broadest of the minor parties, with policies covering most areas of government and a long record of effective interventions. The Democrats are also the party with the highest percentage representation of women in parliament, and both their leader and deputy leader are women. Their record on promotion of women to positions of power is particularly good and is assisted by the less aggressive, less confrontational style of politics. They also have a good record on indigenous, gay and multicultural issues indicating a broad sense of fairness.
The Democrats have a long commitment to equity and this is shown in their tax policies in general and their opposition to the imposition of a GST on food and of reducing the Coalition's proposals for tax cuts to the rich. Their own policies include the lowering of taxes on labour in order to increase employment by the abolition of payroll tax. They would shift to eco-taxes including on greenhouse gas emitting fuels. This is in direct contrast to the Coalition who have proposed a decrease in the diesel fuel levy. The Democrats are also in favour of broadening the tax base to ensure sustainability of the tax base and ensure tax reform is fair and equitable. They would improve both major parties' policies were they in the position to negotiate.
The Democrats have issued major policy statements on, among other things, industrial relations and employment, child care, health and education. They are strongly in favour of an adequately funded public health and education sector, both for its improved ability to provide services and its jobs creation and unemployment reduction abilities. Their industrial relations policies favour job security and fairness, while still allowing for enterprise bargaining. They have stated, in strong terms, their opposition to any "Coalition second wave of harsh and unfair workplace relations laws that seek to reduce the legitimate place of unions and employees in workplace relations." They have also stated their opposition to "any Labor attempt to revert to compulsory unionism and big union industrial relations practices." However, their support for the last legislation, although with improvements, did weaken the bargaining position of less powerful women workers. The Democrats are pro-choice.
There is, however, room for improvement in their child care policies as they fail to recognise its similarities to education and need for some forms of government funding to services, not just parents.
|Recommendation:||Based on both past and present indications WEL recommends serious consideration be given to increasing the numbers of Democrats|
While the Greens' policies encompass environmental sustainability as a central theme, they are by no means a single-issue party, with policies covering most major areas. While some of their policies lack detail, this is not an impediment to their ability to negotiate with whoever gain government. On the contrary, it gives them a strong base and a direction in which to do so. They have been good on indigenous issues and inclusive of outgroups including gays. They have a good record of electing women and have Aboriginal dyke and feminist heading their Victorian Ticket! The Greens are pro-choice.
The Greens state that environmental and social concerns are the central theme to their taxation policies. According to these criteria, higher taxes would be implemented on those behaviours which result in poor environmental management, such as unsustainable use of natural resources and pollution creating practices. They are also in favour of lower taxes in areas that they feel should be encouraged such as employment creation, thus they also favour the abolition of payroll tax. Such "eco-taxes" are currently in use in Europe and have been shown to be workable. However, it is in direct opposition to the Coalition's proposal for a reduction in the diesel fuel levy and the imposition of taxes on services.
The Greens are strong believers in an adequately funded public sector in order to both improve services to the community and to create more jobs. Along with the major parties, the Greens also have a specific policy on women. The Greens' includes a commitment to the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women as well as to strong affirmative action programs and promotion of women to positions of power and decision making.
|Recommendation:||With an improving performance could be worth a try|
The central platform of the Australian Women's Party is "a call for constitutional change so that men and women are guaranteed equal representation in federal parliament." They state that they have a "progressive approach to such issues as the position of indigenous people, industrial relations, employment, social security, the environment, immigration, health, education, gay and lesbian rights, international relations, peace and security, fertility control, housing, transport, community and domestic violence, childcare and human rights" however no specific policies on any of these issues have been released. They would probably score well on most issues and should be encouraged to develop further policies.
|Recommendation:||Need to develop a bit before an unconditional recommendation could be made. However, encourage them by giving them a vote|
The Unity party has not been scored by WEL because of its new status and lack of policies. However their stated aims of recognition of diversity and commitment to multiculturalism have to be positive.
WEL is not in favour of women being elected who are not prepared to commit themselves to basic respect for difference and a recognition of the particular situations of our indigenous sisters. So we are including ONE Nation in the assessment formguide with a warning that they have an exceptionally poor record on almost all outgroups except gun owners and aggrieved males. While they would claim to want to treat all equally, this is tantamount to creating greater inequality and further discrimination as there are many groups who need a handup to give them a fair go. We cannot suggest supporting the women who are running, as their policies are divisive and unfair. Were they to hold the balance of power, it would be very scary.
ONE Nation's proposals to reduce funding to Aboriginal services, migrants, single mothers and other social security recipients aim to punish those members of our society who are already badly off. Their health policy also strongly favours those who are able to take out private health insurance and reduces the amount directed to the public sector by exempting the privately insured from paying the medicare levy. Of particular concern to many women is the ONE Nation policy to allow for the ownership and storage of guns in domestic situations, including domestic violence situations without a criminal conviction.
|Recommendation:||Under no circumstances could WEL recommend that this party by given an opportunity to further increase the divisiveness, disadvantage and hate in Australia. Not even as a protest.|
As their name suggests, the first two of these parties have been established with the specific purpose of abolishing the Family Court, which they feel is biased towards women. They both believe that it is Family Law, rather than any personal responsibility, that is responsible for the increase in divorce rates. Their definition of the family is confined to legally married, heterosexual nuclear families. Policies for the Australian Men's Party have not been released, but their principles are to overcome the disadvantage faced by men in our society.
|Recommendation||These parties are solely dedicated to removing the gains which women have made. WEL could not give them a recommendation under any circumstances.|
|Recommendation||The above three parties tend to pursue policies similar to ONE Nation and therefore could not be recommended.|
Both Brian Harradine and the Christian Democrats are anti-choice.
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Page created 28 September 1998; last updated 28 September 1998