Papow! An observation on political inability.

In an increasingly partisan and fact-devoid media landscape, it’s easy to focus on whose team is scoring political points instead of what’s actually getting done by the government. Unless you are truly engaged, it’s difficult at best to stay up to date on what the major players are doing. Even if you are engaged, it’s almost impossible to know what the minors and micros are keeping themselves busy with. So it was with only some surprise to me that the most recent registration to the Australia Electoral Commission was a complete unknown, the Animal Justice Party, and not the seemingly always on the cusp of officially registering Pirate Party.

For those unfamiliar with the Pirate Party, allow them to introduce themselves; “Pirate Party Australia is an informal and currently unregistered political party in Australia that represents civil liberty issues. The party is based on the Swedish Pirate Party and is focused on copyright reform, internet freedom, and ending censorship.” They were founded in 2009 with the intention of contesting the 2010 federal election, something they were unable to do. Almost a year on, and PPAU remains an unregistered and informal political party.


It isn’t as though there is a shortage of enthusiasm in the party executive or party ranks. A very brief look over their own wiki reveals a robust bureaucratic infrastructure with national, state and local agendas being set, and a general willingness to engage in the national discussion. In the brief time since they announced their presence they have even elected two party Presidents and held countless policy and direction meetings. Why then are they not officially registered with the AEC and gearing up to contest the next federal election?

To contrast, here is a list of all the federal political parties newly registered since mid-2009 (or around the same time PPAU signalled their intent) :

Animal Justice Party – Officially registered on 3 May 2011
Australia First Party16 June 2010
Australian Protectionist Party18 January 2011
Australian Sex Party5 August 2009
Building Australia Party17 June 2010
Help End Marijuana Prohibition Party23 September 2010
Secular Party of Australia16 June 2010
Stable Population Party of Australia23 September 2010
The Climate Sceptics16 June 2010
The First Nations Political Party6 January 2011

Quite a list, and that doesn’t touch on the myriad of state-based political parties that have sprung up and been officially registered by their respective electoral commissions in the same time period.

Think what you like about the various platforms and agendas of those listed above, but you cannot deny that it’s a diverse group. From people advocating a return to the White Australia policy, to potheads, to climate change deniers, to godless atheists and sex worker advocates; The common thread they all share is that they’ve all been able to get registered with the AEC and have either contested the most recent election (and in some cases, admirably), or will be contesting the next in an official capacity. What’s so different about the Pirate Party that they just can’t seem to get their act together?

For one, the Pirate Party has something that those aforementioned parties do not; an international parent organisation that holds elected seats at various levels of government in multiple countries. Surely they can bypass a lot of the prevarication and difficulties faced when writing a party constitution from scratch by asking for assistance from their overseas brethren. Has it not occurred to them to ask for this assistance? Or, somewhat ironically, have they not thought to euphemistically borrow large portions of the Piratpartiet constitution in order to provide them with an established and working framework?

There’s an opportunity here to suggest that all of the members of the Pirate Party are too self-involved and too busy torrenting other people’s intellectual property to get motivated enough to actually try and take the next step towards political legitimacy, but that’s a short-sighted and undoubtedly incorrect assumption. There’s also an argument to be made that people expecting the right to have everything made freely available to them probably aren’t going to possess the werewithal to actually complete anything of their own accord, but this too would be wildly inaccurate and more than a bit glib.

Perhaps the truth is somewhere between the extremes. It could be that the anarchic nature of people attracted to a platform that decrees other people’s work should be freely available in every instance doesn’t engender the cooperation required to get a political party off the ground. It could be that the membership fee of $20 required to join is anathema to those same people. Hell, it could even be that many are more focussed on having a title of import within a closed society than they are on gaining that title any external meaning whatsoever.

What we do know is this; it’s been almost two years since they signalled their intent to register and they have still not done so. The only conclusions to make are that they are not taking this electoral system and their own ideology seriously, or, they are simply incapable of doing what so many others are and perhaps this, more than anything, is why they identify themselves as pirates.

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