"We're serious about sex"

Not a nationwide orgy, as the title may suggest, but instead an Australian political party, founded in 2008, whose policies are mostly focused on issues of sex and gender. They are a recent addition to the roughly dozen-strong group of "microparties" in Australian politics, alongside the Christian Democrats, One Nation, the Climate Sceptics party, the Shooters and Fishers Party, the Socialist Alliance, and others. In two federal by-elections in 2009 they ran for seats in the House of Representatives, coming third in one and fourth in the other. In the 2010 federal election (which took place last Saturday) they had 14 candidates in the Senate and six in the House of Reps. They did fairly well for their size, with about 2% of the national vote in the Senate, but (unsurprisingly) they won no seats in either of the houses.

So what do they stand for? The mission statement on their website begins thus:

The Australian Sex Party is a political response to the sexual needs of Australia in the 21st century. It is an attempt to restore the balance between sexual privacy and sexual publicity that has been severely distorted by morals campaigners and prudish politicians. Tolerance of sexual free speech and sexual expression is one of the main hallmarks of free and democratic nations. Intolerance of these qualities is one of the hallmarks of autocracies, dictatorships and theocracies.

Their policies include:

Looking at that list, it seems like they aren't quite the single-issue party that the media makes them out to be. Their policies also seem suspiciously similar to those put forward by Tim Kreider in a cartoon of his, also called The Sex Party. Strange, huh.

Although they are not a joke or a frivolous party, it seems like they aren't taking the whole business very seriously. They can't realistically expect to be elected, but even so, having ads for sex shops on their website is a bit odd, and some of the photos of their candidates on their website are just plain ridiculous. Western Australia Senate candidate Mark Coleman leans over a white cube of some kind, smiling very awkwardly into the camera; the photo of South Australia senate candidate Jason Virgo looks like it was taken at a party with an old camera-phone. One of their candidates, Marianne Leishman (A.K.A. Zahra Stardust) has had her photo in the newspaper a few times over the past month or so, I suspect that this is mostly because she is a pole dancer with a dreadlocks and a law degree, and in the photo she is perched daintily on a seat suspended from the roof while wearing a pink tutu. They may be amateur politicians, but at least they're honest about who they really are.

One of the things that really endeared this party to me was that their candidate for the House of Reps seat of Warringah, the electorate of Tony Abbott, is Alexander Gutman, A.K.A. Austen Tayshus, a comedian who is well known for his spoken-word single "Australiana". This might not be funny to anyone outside Australia, but the thing is that Tony Abbott is the leader of the Liberal Party (in a coalition with The Nationals), which, along with the Labor Party, makes up the effective two-party system, and he has a good chance of being Prime Minister some time in the next week, when the votes are finally counted. That really cracks me up, the idea that Iron Man Tony could have lost his seat to Austen Tayshus if enough people had gone into the polling booth and thought to themselves, "Ah, who cares, my vote won't change the result, and he's bloody funny anyway".

These tiny parties seem to have been quite encouraged recently, since a freakish flow of preference votes from the larger parties led to the Family First senator Steven Fielding being elected with only 1.9% of the primary vote. The Australian electoral process is a strange beast, and things like this happen, so a fair number of groups rustle up the $1000 that's needed to get their name on the ballot and give it a shot. As put by Tony Robinson, a delivery man from Penrith who stood as an independent this year, "bugger it, I might as well run."

I'm not sure why I am writing this now, when it would have made a lot more sense to do it before polling day, when there was a tiny chance that some Australian Everythingian might read it and decide to vote for the Sex Party. Well, anyway, I think they're a great party to have around, because good democracy requires diversity in the parties that are on offer. Although I'm sure they wouldn't make a competent federal government, I think that they might be just what we need in the Senate today, when both major parties are becoming more and more conservative. It's the reason why I voted for them.

Their website: http://www.sexparty.org.au/

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