Nature abhors a vacuum and so does politics.
Over the past year, in conversations,
calls and emails by the thousands, many
thoughtful and concerned Australians have
made me aware that they feel they are
increasingly left out of Australian politics.
The calls have come from those I once
would have described as small "l"
Liberals, small "l" Labor, big
These are the voters most devoted to
the ideals of democracy in Australia,
the ones who don't vote from habit and
whose votes can't be bought. Their votes
have to be earned but as the Liberals
move to the right, Labor moves nowhere
and the Democrats move down and out, these
votes are not being earned.
These are the voters who cannot be dragged
to the extremes by the Greens in any enduring
way. These are the voters who want more
choice in the mainstream, who want to
be able to make a positive vote rather
than just choose the lesser of several
Sitting as an Independent, there were
obvious limits to the extent to which
I could respond to these calls. The Australian
Progressive Alliance has been formed to
earn the votes of concerned, considerate
and conscientious Australians.
At a personal level, I don't need to
do this. I have been an elected Senator
for South Australia for 13 years and have
been grateful to achieve much for my home
state and nationally. But my job is not
I am fed up with watching politicians
and political parties ride the politics
of popular prejudice, make policy on the
basis of opinion polling and fold up in
front of powerful lobby groups. The results
are an increasingly fragmented community
where the irresponsible and unprincipled
fan the flames of fear and suspicion,
reward meanness and allow our environment
to be abused to the point where it becomes
an economic cost rather than our most
The economy is important but focussing
solely on economic efficiency comes at
a high cost. That cost can be measured
in environmental terms, for example in
the degradation of the Murray-Darling
Basin, and in social terms as we move
to an Australia where the wealthy can
look after their own health and education
and others struggle to access under-funded
public services. It takes courage to acknowledge,
for the sake of our community, that we
need to collect taxes and we need to spend
the money on health, education and the
I want the Australian Progressive Alliance
to appeal to those who feel, as I do,
that this country cannot progress too
far unless we make reconciliation with
Indigenous Australians real. We have got
to make it real for our institutions,
real in our landscapes and most of all
real for Indigenous Australians. Reconciliation
is not an obstacle but an opportunity.
And we cannot hold our heads high at
home or abroad while we force refugees
and asylum seekers into anything that
resembles, however remotely, a concentration
camp. Razor wire, guards and incarceration
are not appropriate for men, women or
children who have committed no crime.
We cannot morally or realistically portray
the advantages of being a freedom loving
country to Iraqis in Iraq when we preach
a quite different message to Iraqis in
The Australian Progressive Alliance has
been carefully put together to fill a
real political need for a party of the
centre that holds to a firm basis of principle,
takes each issue on its merits and is
committed to negotiating and working towards
the best policy outcomes. It is much better
to work for and achieve 90 per cent of
something than to end up with 100 per
cent of nothing.
It will grow slowly, and it is best that
it grows slowly. Australians do not deserve
and nor will they want some flash-in-the-pan
as the third force in Australian politics.
Who holds the balance of power is a very
important choice for all Australians.
It determines whether the Senate performs
as a true house of review over the government
of the day. It guards against a repeat
of 1975 or the taste of chaos that was
caused by the Greens during the 1993 budget.
Those who are trusted with it need to
be fair, they need to be reasonable, and
they need to have the best interests of
all Australians uppermost in their mind.
The Democrats used to do this well and
it saddens me to say this, now they don't.
The Australian Progressive Alliance will
now be there for those who want to vote
for a strong economy, a fair society and
the protection of Australia's unique environment.