Dick Smith told the Weekend Australian he was considering setting up a new political party with two near-billionaires. There is space available in the market.
The founders of Flight Centre, Graham Turner and Geoff Harris, have approached Smith about lending his name to a new party to be called the Sustainable Australia Party. A policy limiting immigration to around 70 000 per year, eventually stabilizing the population, would be the core to an unspecified broader range of sustainability ideas.
Turner and Harris are each reported to have more than $800 million. Harris is a noted philanthropist. They have previously provided funds to the Sustainable Population Party, but to no avail as that party has failed to attract any attention. At the last Federal Senate election in NSW 31 parties outpolled their 0.07%, including the Pirate Party and the Smokers Party. They did get around 3% in the North Sydney by-election on Saturday but various other small parties also did better than usual.
A new start and much more money will be required if there is to be any impact from their latest efforts. As Einstein mentioned, doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result is the definition of madness.
There are 49 political parties registered for Commonwealth elections, not counting the separate registrations of State branches of major parties. Each one has to get at least 500 people to sign up as members so there is clearly no shortage of people willing to join a single-issue party with no hope of achieving anything much.
There is however a great reluctance to sign on to a party that could actually take responsibility for governing. And that makes support from wealthy backers virtually mandatory for political success.
There is still room in the market for something new, but only if it offers a big picture based on a stable population. If it keeps on banging the single-issue drum it will probably stay at the 1% or less level.
Clive Palmer managed to win one Reps seat and three senate seats by spending a lot of money and proposing an odd and incoherent set of policies. But Palmer also put himself on the line and worked very hard in the campaign, projecting an amusing and positive persona. He offered a chance for voters to go for entertainment rather than the pompous posturing of the major parties.
Dick Smith is apparently only prepared to contribute his name to SAP. It appears Turner and Harris may contribute more money than in the past but possibly not enough to kick-start the scale of venture they are imagining. They are not likely to stand themselves or even campaign much so that leaves a huge gap in the drive to replicate Palmers success.
The chaos of the Palmer Party means its vote has evaporated and theoretically is available for another minor party pushing a popular barrow. But it may be that seeing what happened to the party they voted for last time, and with Turnbull rather than Abbott leading the Liberals, these votes will revert to the big parties.
Any serious party has a meta-narrative, or big picture that sets out the broad thrust of how they will approach problems and opportunities to build a better future for the voters. Individual policies are only useful politically if they serve to strengthen the appeal of this big picture.
It is the credibility and attraction of the big picture that decides how most people vote.
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