In Australian politics we have seen minor party’s come and go. In the early 90’s we saw the Australian Democrats gain significant power in the Senate, in the late 90’s we saw the rise of Pauline Hansons One Nation Party which gained a large number of seats in Qld State Parliament and then in the noughties we have seen the Australian Greens gain some momentum. The big question is, why do these party’s continually fail to sustain their electoral success?
As a former member of a minor party in the past, it has been observed that the support base of minor party’s are a result of a number of factors. Many people join, or vote for minor party’s because they are disillusioned by the major party’s; they believe strongly in a particular ideology or issue and or peoples ego’s are satisfied when involved in a political party, and by joining a minor party they can fulfil this easier than if they joined an established party.
At the 2013 Federal Election the Australian Greens lost some of their support. The Australian Greens, which support base is strong on extreme socialism, decided to do deals with the Australian Labor Party, in particular when it came to the Carbon Tax, one could make an educated guess that this relationship was a probable cause for their diminished vote.
Party’s such as Palmers United Party, the Motorist Enthusiast Party and the Liberal Democrat Party all gained parliamentary representation for the first time. If history serves us anything, it can be assumed these parties will not sustain their electoral success.
Starting with the Liberal Democrat Party. In NSW this party gained 9.50% of the vote in the senate, and lucky for them they gained a senate seat. This has been a controversial gain as they were given the number one position on the senate paper, and many individuals voted for the Liberal Democrat Party by mistake as they were confused and thought they were voting for the Liberal Party of Australia; with a swing of 7.19% from the previous 2010 federal election this was not due to the party campaigning hard, in fact many people did not think this party existed. The Liberal Democrat Party is based on hardcore liberalism, they believe in policies such as gay marriage, no gun control, legalisation of drugs and laissez-faire capitalism. Due to having a strong ideological belief, such party’s attract people with this viewpoint and with this in mind the party most probably cannot appeal to the wider community, as Australian voters are a mixed bag. Once you analyse these factors such as the party gaining a senator by mistake and being focussed on ideology, it is a recipe for failure.
The Australian Motor Enthusiast Party gained a senate seat in Victoria, they only received 0.51% of the vote however was elected in by preferences, too confusing to divulge in this blog. According to it’s website the party has policies that revolves around motoring. Recent news reports however stated that infighting within the party was occurring, a split between the party in Queensland and Victoria were rife, and the Queensland division terminated its Victorian leadership. This party is built on a single issue and clearly there are ego’s within the party that need to be satisfied, this party will probably not succeed electorally due to this.
Finally Palmers United Party, this party founded by Clive Palmer early 2013, a larger than life (Due to his outgoing nature of course) businessman who once was a member of the Liberal National Party in Qld. Palmers United Party has gained 2 senate seats and Clive Palmer himself is now the member for Fairfax. The electoral success for PUP is somewhat unremarkable considering they don’t have any solid policies, and the fact his candidates were unknown in most electorates. In Qld, PUP received 9.89% of the vote in the senate and in Tasmania 6.58% therefore gaining 2 senators. The interesting notion with PUP is this party thrives on peoples dissatisfaction of the major parties, Palmer himself appears to have a vendetta with the Liberal Party which appeals to these voters, and with Palmer being a man with money he can capitalise on this.
All in all, minor parties serve only to those who support them, they generally don’t look at the bigger picture of governing, this is why minor party’s fail to sustain their electoral success. Political party’s such as the ALP and LNP have been established for decades, they have seen the ups and downs of party politics and aim to govern for all Australians regardless of ideology. Of course generally speaking both major party’s lean a particular way but not to the extremes of some minor party’s. As mentioned before in regards to my observations being a former member of a minor party, the three things that create a minor party can also be viewed as detrimental such as;
Dissatisfaction of the major party’s – Voters vote for minor party’s in protest, usually unsustainable and people tend to go back to the established party’s.
Ideology – Many minor party’s as mentioned, base their policies and objectives through strong hardcore ideology, therefore only appealing to a small percentage of population.
Ego’s – Minor party’s are an avenue for people with big ego’s therefore creating a magnitude of infighting amongst party members.
In conclusion, minor party’s come and go, the major political party’s will be around for some time, they focus on Governing not on holding Government to ransom, it will take a lot to destabilise a major party in Australia regardless of circumstances.