Nine things you don't know about the Senate's micro-parties

Turns out the micro-parties actually do have proper policies. Well, at least two of them do.

We’re a couple of weeks out from the installation of the new Senate and the three micro-parties that are destined to wield the balance of power are already making headlines across Australia.  

Not only that, but they're also generating favour among voters. A Newspoll yesterday reported the approval of these parties at an all-time high of 17 per cent

So, ahead of their rise to power in two weeks’ time, Business Spectator trawled though the videos, websites and policy documents of the Liberal Democrats, the Family First Party and the Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party the learn a little more about these groups. Here’s what we found:

1. Surprise, surprise: There is more to the Liberal Democrats than just being 'pro-gun'

Since being elected, the Liberal Democrats have more or less become known as the ‘gun party’. But you probably didn’t know that they are also pro-nuclear power, want to privatise SBS and the ABC and also support marriage equality.  (You can see a full list of their rather diverse range of policies here.)

The Liberal Democrats struggle with educating the public on their ideas largely because their engagements with the press have often centred around their most controversial policy positions. Senator-elect David Leyonhjelm actually picked up on this point during the party’s annual conference last year.

“The tone after I was elected was set by the front page of The Spectator [The UK site, not us], which had a caricature of me carrying a gun, smoking a joint, tearing up the carbon tax, with the headline: ‘Free at last’ mate.”

Graph for Nine things you don't know about the Senate's micro-parties

Source: The Spectator

The question is, can the Liberal Democrats break out of this caricature come July? 

2. Senator-elect David Leyonhjelm actually credits negative coverage from the Daily Telegraph (and not his spot on the ballot paper or the party’s name) as one of the reasons he got into the NSW senate

Apparently, there is no such thing as bad publicity.

“A newspaper [the Daily Telegraph] does a huge expose, warning the public. Instead of staying away, the public likes what they hear, and votes for us, in bigger numbers than in any other state than we would have had,” Leyonhjelm said.

“We also had very early positions in the other states on the ballot paper as well. It’s not a Donkey vote factor,” he added

Leyonhjelm mentions poor publicity from the Daily Telegraph earlier in his talk. (You can see the full video here, this quote is about 9 minutes in.)

We suspect the story he is talking about may have been this one indicating that early postal voters mistook Liberal Democrats for the Coalition on the senate ballot. 

3. Despite forming a voting bloc in the Senate, a debate on foreign aid or assisted suicide will divide the Liberal Democrats and Family First Party.

Family First wants to increase foreign aid up to 1 per cent of Australia’s total GDP. Liberal Democrats want to abolish all foreign aid, except for that given during “short-term humanitarian relief”.

And as you can likely guess, Family First are pro-life and oppose assisted suicide. Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats are pro-choice and believe that people should be able to end their own lives “with or without assistance”. 

4. Family First campaigns quite heavily on youth issues, but won’t budge on gay marriage – an issue being cheer-led by youth

Case in point: here’s Family First’s youth campaign montage. No other policy point on its website has its own video. 

5. Family First Senator-elect Bob Day is a huge advocate for affordable housing and trade apprenticeships, which makes sense given his background

OK, you may already know this one from watching our KGB interview with Bob Day, but he used to be the national president of the Housing Industry Association. Another quirky fact: according to his bio, he’s also a qualified plumber. 

6. If Family First had its way on environmental issues, we would be holding a royal commission into the carbon tax

In its policy documents, the party calls the carbon tax “grossly irresponsible” and says its implementation would need to be justified by a royal commission. That being said, the party also has a blanket position that all new taxes are bad, and that the tax system should reformed to have less loopholes and exemptions.

7. Out of the three parties, the Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party is by far the newest. It’s also the most popular on social media

The Liberal Democrats were formed in 2002 and Family First was founded in 2001. The Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party came into existence last year. Despite this, it has more Facebook followers than both the Family First and Liberal Democrats combined. There must be a lot of motoring enthusiasts out there. 

8. The AMEP has a slew of commitments and core values, but no hard policy positions.  

Here’s a quote from AMEP’s own FAQ under the heading “Policies? Where do you stand on critical issues?” 

“Our Senate Commitments have been carefully written to give you, the voters, an understanding on how we will form policy and how we will make decisions on proposed legislation that passes from the House of Representatives to the Senate.

"The commitments work in unison with our core values and allow us to review proposed legislation in a manner that is not divisive and that best respects the diversity of our constituents.

"We are all about balance in this respect and you will not find a blanket policy that addresses the issues some are asking about. Rather, you will find the process by which we will use to address those Bills that relate to the topical issues asked of us.

"Why cant [sic] we give a simple answer to your questions? Because we simply do not have all the facts. It would be remiss of us answer an important question that we have been asked based purely on our opinion instead of a comprehensive review of all the data available.

We are a party that is committed to making an educated decision, not an emotional or political beneficial one.”

9. The AMEP does however, have a comprehensive road safety policy, which contradicts road safety actions taken by various state governments over the past decade

The AMEP wants to nationalise road policy and improve public awareness around vehicle maintenance. The party also wants to roll back reforms made by state governments around the country which have seen hoon drivers penalised by either having their car impounded or potentially destroyed by state police.

The AMEP favours tailored education courses for problem drivers instead of pulling them off the road. They claim the “big stick” approach isn't working. 

Got a question? Let us know in the comments below or contact the reporter @HarrisonPolites on Twitter.

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