Many people are now familiar with the NPC meme that caused Twitter to cancel 1500 accounts and almost shut down the internet. NPC stands for Non Playable Character, a video game reference to any character encountered in a gaming environment that is incapable of acting outside of a narrow band of programmed actions.
The meme has largely targeted small “l” liberals who tend towards collectivism and seem unable to move beyond ideological contradictions and apply critical thought without defaulting to well rehearsed chanting and name calling. But the meme has also targeted a wider demographic inclusive of any group that seems incapable of autonomous thought.
In the state of Victoria it would not be unfair to say that NPCs have a death grip on politics with the current campaign being perhaps the worst on record for tokenistic and unthinking electioneering. Candidates stagger around in fluoro vests and hard hats bumping into things and repeating a vote-purchasing mantra of “more money will be spent here……more money will be spent there…..we promise this…..we promise that ……more…..” before their program defaults and they start again. The ALP government of Daniel Andrews would have seemed unelectable a few months ago having set something of a record for scathing front page denunciations in the leading daily the Herald Sun. His government has been mired in allegations of corruption over how they conducted their previous campaign and defined by wild pendulum swings between dithering incompetence and totalitarianism. By rights they should be obliterated on Election Day, but the Coalition seems to find the idea of government far too much work and go into the election under the leadership of Matthew Guy who is also tainted by the waft of alleged corruption. The Greens also seem intent upon selecting candidates with questionable backgrounds whilst occasionally adding words like “sustainability” to the common mantra, never deviating from the “growth at all costs” ideology. It is a grim battle of unelectable mediocrity akin to observing the progress of different types of cancers in the body of an indifferent host.
The only real chance of wrestling control back from the NPCs lies with a range of minor parties that reflect diverse ideologies and social constructs. The traditional objection to voting for minors is that they may hold the balance of power in the Upper House and hence make it difficult for the government for the day to pass legislation. But this is exactly the point. Democracy is meant to be about including a wide range of viewpoints. People who make this objection are getting confused with fascism. In recent times small parties have shown they engage at an intelligent level and provide greater scrutiny of legislation and assist with insulating policy from the influence of lobbyists. If we are to reverse the disturbing decline of political vision and the undue influence of lobbyists and vested interests we need them more than ever.
Recently the Democratic Labour Party went to court to secure the right to be known as “Labour”. For those who have lost faith in the ALP, they are the other Labour party and one that claims to be the guardians of the original Labour manifesto. Kathryn Breakwell is the “Labour – DLP” candidate contesting the Lower House seat of Werribee. She is engaged in a David and Goliath battle against the ALP incumbent Tim Pallas, the state’s Treasurer. She claims she was motivated to run by a sense of indignation at how the ALP regarded supposedly “safe” seats. As someone who lives in the area she is appalled that her community is represented by someone who doesn’t live there. As she pointed out in a well received speech at the Community Forum where the area’s candidate’s were asked to present their case, she doesn’t have a law degree and didn’t go to a private school like most of the political careerists. She works in a classic ‘labour’ job as a tram driver, albeit one with a considerable background in corporate project management. “I have no desire to be a career politician”, she states. “When I talk to people in my community it becomes very clear to me that we are sick and tired of being taken for granted. The whole notion of a “safe seat” is a bad habit we need to be rid of.” After the forum concluded, she stated that “…we get treated like some feudal possession passed down from generation to generation. It is high time that regular Australians had a voice in politics and we rid ourselves of the lobbyists who have far too much influence on policy”. As well as her community’s needs, Kathryn states that a real voice in parliament also needs to be brought to many other critical issues including the post combat stress disorder struggles many returned service men and women are faced with and the lack of support and compassion the Government provide to these courageous defence personnel, and the stopping of foreign investment into Australian residential land, property, natural assets and vital infrastructure. She believes the Andrews’ ALP Government has betrayed Victorians by trying to push forward legislation to carve up the CFA and deliberately place communities in a dangerous position. Additionally, she believes the Australian taxpayer should be appalled that the Andrews’ ALP Government have signed off millions of taxpayer money to foreign economies through subcontracting out Public Transport essentially owned by taxpayers to private foreign contractors. She states “…The Andrews’ ALP Government do not behold true labour values, and this has been demonstrated time and again in a myriad of decisions, behaviours and legislation unfathomable to many labour voters and more broadly many regular Australians. They don’t hear what concerns voters, and more so they don’t care. They are more concerned with radical identity politics. It’s time to reclaim true labour values and reject the system driving the ALP agenda which has long abandoned families, workers, communities and small business.”
Another minor party contesting the election is the Health Australia Party. Once infamously described by Federal Greens leader Richard Di Natale as “the most dangerous party in Australia” they advocate for the rights of health consumers to access a full range of options including complementary medicine. Given the World Health Organisation has a well articulated policy on the role complementary and traditional medicine plays in achieving community health outcomes their position is only “dangerous” to the profit margins of pharmaceutical corporations. Di Natale’s well documented attempts to undermine the rights of health consumers to use complementary medicine makes it clear that the Greens have long ceased to support natural and traditional health choices, and have even taken issue with yoga. The Health Australia Party has policies that go far beyond personal health choices however. The party believe that by having healthy people and by protecting the enviornment, we can have a healthier economy, a healthier democracy and a healthier society.
Pharmaceutical interests dominate Australia’s current disease management system, and see the Health Australia Party calls for an “health creation system” as a threat to their profits. Yet truly integrative medicine, where citizens have the right to choose the best of pharmaceutical and natural therapies, as is done in some overseas countries, should be the future goal of the health system here. The party’s co-founder Dr Isaac Golden states that Health Australia Party is the only Party that fully understands the health benefits and cost-effectiveness of established natural therapies, and stands to protect health choices for all Australians.
The Animal Justice Party is another party contesting the election that has a strong ethical basis. In the first instance they support a range of animal rights issues claiming “It’s time for a new voice in Australian politics – a voice of kindness, non-violence and equality”. Beyond this they believe that the ethical basis for animal rights will inform other issues saying “we also recognise that the voting public needs to know how Animal Justice Party representatives will vote on important non-animal issues. Thus, when we believe a position clearly follows our core values of rationality, non-violence, kindness and equality, then we will adopt it. On some issues, there may be no single obvious position flowing from our core values, in which case our representative will exercise a conscience vote.” Derryn Hinch’s “Justice Party” also continues the theme of advocating for those who usually go unheard. His party wants to see tougher and more consistent sentencing reflective of the severity of crimes committed. Sustainable Australia is a party formed by William Burke and advocates for “sustainability” in all things including population. They motto is “better not bigger”. They make it clear that their position is that immigration should benefit the country not lobbyists for the “growth” sector, and that refugee numbers could be maintained or even expended if immigration was managed proactively. They seek a new economic model that emphasizes “sustainability” over “growth” and believe that all policy should be adopted on the basis of “sustainability”.
There are a number of other minor parties contesting the election but the key issue is that some of them present a well articulated and dedicated alternative to the mainstream parties. Unlike the major parties they are not infested with political careerists and lobbyists. Unlike the majors they often have candidates who are at least capable of independent thought and in many cases present ideas that have some vision. It is time to break the shackles of the mainstream party NPCs who have reduced the state to barely functional mediocrity. As Labour – DLP’s Ms Breakwell observed it is a “bad habit” that we can no longer afford.