There were still some rumblings in Western Australia as desperate Greens MP Scott Ludlam demanded a recount of votes after losing his by just 14 votes. That’s how close it got thanks to parties such as the Shooters and Fishers who stepped in to break The Greens’ hold on the Upper House.
Thankfully common sense prevailed and Ludlam’s demand was ignored and the final count saw a Palmer United Party candidate elected in thanks the preference deals done by the Shooters and Fishers and other parties.
While the election saw the Labor-Greens alliance suffer huge defeat – again thanks to preference dealing among the minor parties – the Shooters and Fishers Party didn’t pick up the seat they were hoping for.
The party has waited until the dust settled before making an official statement about their election performance, and they’ve done that with a lengthy analysis that’s featured on their website. We’ve reproduced that analysis here and it makes for interesting reading, especially the frank revelations about deals that went wrong and the anomalies created as each minor party strove for power.
Not the result we hoped for, but plenty of positives
The 2013 Australian Federal election results took the country by surprise, not in terms of the Liberal-National victory but in the success of the minor parties and the reinforcement of our nation’s democracy.
We’re disappointed the Shooters and Fishers Party didn’t succeed in winning the Senate seat we aimed for but the great success of minor parties and the conservative side of politics is a victory for Australia.
The SFP was a big part of this success and the final election counts show just how close we came to winning more than one a seat. We ran a smart and precise campaign. In fact, if it weren’t for an unprecedented circumstance on the NSW Senate ballot paper, we almost certainly would have won a seat in that State.
The SFP put considerable skill into setting up preference deals but a closer analysis of the election results shows how forces outside our control worked against us.
One Nation (ON) reneged on its agreement with us, damaging our results in NSW, WA and Tasmania, three States where we had an excellent chance of taking Senate seats. It was a similar story with Katter’s Australian Party (KAP).
Both ON and KAP had vowed to give us favourable treatment in the preferences, as we did for them. We honoured our commitment to them, but they did not honour their side of the agreements.
The Palmer United Party, having spent millions of dollars on their campaign, wiped about 6% of the conservative vote off the table completely. Yet preferences from Palmer’s party did not help the conservative side of politics, instead benefitting the Greens.
Finally and most importantly, you cannot ignore the fluke of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the party that drew the “donkey vote” position on the NSW Senate paper and also fooled tens of thousands of voters who thought they were voting for the Liberal Party. This cost the Liberals more than 7% of the vote in NSW.
SFP had approached the LDP to preference each other ahead of the major parties. We did this for them, but in return they did worse than just renege on it, they preferenced our NSW #2 candidate well ahead of our #1, a tactic deliberately designed to nullify any preference advantage.
Had all this not happened, Karl Houseman would have been elected to a Senate seat in NSW. Murray Bow may well have been elected in WA, and even Matt Allen would have been in the running for a Tasmanian Senate spot.
In States where we knew we had slimmer chances of being elected, we ensured we gave a leg-up to friendly parties that share our values and, in many cases, our policies. The Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party won its Victorian seat as a result of this. Our preferences to the Australian Fishing and Lifestyle Party in Queensland helped that party to come very close to winning a Senate seat. Unfortunately, the Palmer juggernaut ruined that chance.
On the other hand, we can boast that our careful preferencing was largely responsible for a sitting Greens MP losing his seat in WA and helped keep the Greens out in NSW and Queensland. (In WA, it was a close-run result, and the Greens are so dirty about their loss they’re calling for a recount. That will be about 1.5 million votes to count again, all because of the damage done to the Greens by a minor party called the SFP!)
The volume of minor parties, and their larger presence in the eyes of voters this year, undoubtedly reduced the SFP’s primary vote (like almost every minor party’s primary vote), but looking at the outcome in purely those terms ignores the more important side of the issue, which, at the Federal level, is whether or not a seat is won on preferences. We came very close to winning in NSW, and were also the last of the minor parties knocked out of the count in the NT, and similarly stayed in the count right up till the final few in WA. Admittedly, those are not successes, but they are nevertheless results of which we are justifiably proud.
The message for us is that the SFP remains in a strong position, while the vital alliance of minor parties that we helped pull together has broken the power of the Greens in the Federal Parliament by ensuring they do not control the balance of power.
The strength of minor parties is vital for Australia’s pluralistic democracy and will ensure fairer representation for so many citizens who have been effectively excluded from the political process.
The SFP led this shift away from the Greens, which will allow the new Liberal-National Coalition Government to prosecute its mandate without being blocked by a Senate dominated by a Labor-Greens coalition. There will now be eight crossbenchers in the Australian Senate, and the Coalition needs the support six of them to pass legislation that might be opposed by Labor and the nine Greens.
At the same time, the Senators representing the minor parties are in a position to stop the Liberal-National Government from repeating undemocratic acts such as John Howard’s forcing of knee-jerk firearm laws on the States.
Howard’s infamous National Firearms Agreement (NFA), which is being discredited more and more as subsequent research reveals its lack of promised effects, shows why the Federal Parliament is such an important sphere for the SFP.
States control firearm laws in Australia, but the Federal Government funds the States and uses this position of power to blackmail them into adopting certain laws, exactly as Howard did to implement the NFA. It’s an abuse of our democracy and Constitution that cannot be allowed to happen again, and it underpins the SFP’s policy position as a defender of State rights.
With the Federal election over, we are now turning our attention back to the individual States and Territories, where a number of crucial elections are only months away.
We have registered our South Australian branch to contest the upcoming election in March, and have a very good chance of repeating the victory we had in the last WA election, when Rick Mazza was elected to the upper house. Moves in other States and Territories are being planned.
Moreover, the Shooters and Fishers Party is in excellent shape, particularly from an organisational viewpoint.
Under Peter Johnson’s leadership and with great help from people like Andrew Hestelow, the Fishing branch is building ever-stronger support from the ranks of the nation’s fishers.
More regional branches are opening all the time, we have established a Bowhunting branch and Motorcyclists branch, and we have the funding for a full-time Membership and Donations Officer.
Overall, SFP party membership has soared, donations are coming in steadily and our NSW branch has a sizeable “war chest” for the vital 2015 NSW State election.
In NSW, we already have two Members of the Legislative Council in Parliament, so we have an extremely high bar to clear if we are to succeed in our ambition of winning another seat. As a result, we have enlisted an experienced Campaign Manager to work full-time over the 18 months leading up to the 2015 NSW election, and we will be making a big push to man polling booths, a practice we know can increase our primary vote by 5-10 times in those booths.
To reach our goals, however, we will need the grassroots support of shooters and fishers, 4WDers, fossickers, farmers, foresters… their families, friends and community networks. Every vote will be crucial in our campaign to ensure Barry O’Farrell doesn’t gain control of the NSW Upper House.
The Shooters and Fishers Party is in a strong position around Australia, and with more people than ever before getting involved in shooting, hunting, fishing, camping, 4WDing and other outdoor activities, we will continue to grow.
We will win more seats in the States and Territories in the coming years and will enter the 2016 Federal election campaign in a very strong position.