“Is the Sex Party just a front for the Greens?” an interviewer asks.
Fiona Patten, President of the Sex Party (ASP) and CEO of the Eros Association, laughs and leans forward with a smile.
“We come from a small business background … I think [the] Greens would be running around in tears at the thought that we’d ever be a front for them.”
Under the advice of former Australian Democrats leader Don Chipp, Patten and her colleagues in the Eros Association founded the microparty in 2009 as a means to fight the proposed internet filter of the Labor government. Shortly afterward, the ASP burst onto the federal scene with a whole lot of cheek in a Senate bid which attracted a flock of progressive supporters with its political narrative.
The very first ASP television advertisement in 2010, ‘Jerk Choices’, mocked the Liberals’ industrial relations policies and called for marriage equality, and freedom of expression and sexuality. The strength of this message, reinforced by humorous confrontations with Family First and collaboration with the Scarlet Alliance on sex work policy, inspired people to put on a yellow shirt and also attracted over 2% of the vote.
A glance at the ASP’s website reveals a lack of policy on the environment, refugees, or welfare, while putting forward policies which support those marginalised on the basis of gender or sexuality but never at the expense of businesses and profit
Many of the people who turned out in support of the ASP are progressive, but the party itself isn’t inherently left wing. The party is ultimately bound by the interests of the adult businesses which donate to it and the Eros Association, the adult business lobby from which the ASP sprung and is somewhat governed by.
A glance at the ASP’s website reveals a lack of policy on the environment, refugees, or welfare, while putting forward policies which support those marginalised on the basis of gender or sexuality but never at the expense of businesses and profit. In fact, many of the issues that the ASP champions, such as diminishing the influence of religious groups and supporting online privacy, align with the adult industry’s ability to increase its own profit margin.
These corporate interests set the ASP apart from activist parties such as the Greens, socialist groups, and the Pirate Party and creates an uneasy relationship with the left despite common ground on civil liberties.
The ASP has now oriented toward more conservative parties with a neoliberal economic analysis rather than activist parties with an interest in civil liberties. Justified only by their critique of the Greens as having an individual candidate which Patten describes as an “anti-sex feminist”, the ASP have joined the Liberals in directing preferences toward the ALP in ALP versus Greens seats.
This antagonism toward the left has extended well beyond directing preferences against the Greens. Recently, the ASP candidate for Melbourne Ports, broadcast a public attack on members of Socialist Alternative grieving over the suicide of Amber Maxwell, a trans* identifying activist within their group.
“Australian Sex Party candidate Melissa Star openly blamed Amber’s close comrades and friends for her death the day after she took her own life. Amber was loudly opposed to the Sex Party as a party of the bosses and the Sex Party will not be welcomed at Equal Marriage rallies across the country for their cynical use of Amber’s tragic passing for political advancement,” said April Holcombe, spokesperson for Socialist Alternative.
Now, the ASP has directed preferences toward Pauline Hanson’s One Nation in the Senate which is likely to see Pauline Hanson hold the balance of power in an Abbott-led parliament. This preference deal and the ongoing political tensions have caused a wave of outrage from progressive (now former) supporters of the ASP.
Despite denials from candidates, such as Nick Wallis running for Jagajaga, commenting online that “[he knows] for a fact there was no deal”, the ASP posted a statement on their website confirming and attempting to justify negotiating with a white supremacist party: “We reckoned that there was a preference flow advantage to us putting this party above the Greens and so we went for it.”
It is unclear if the ASP can resolve their identity crisis and the inconsistency between their business orientation and progressive voter base but it is clear is that they are certainly not a front for the left. If anything, the ASP example provides a clear argument as to why progressive aims cannot come about within the framework of the corporate.
More on the federal election:
The advantages of being an election swinger – how to get the most out of your vote
Taking a microscope to the microparties – where your vote really goes
What will Abbott mean for universities? – the Coalition’s approach to tertiary education
The party without any candidates – the party started by USYD students
Australia First, minorities second – an interview with the Australia First candidate for Bennelong
Like father, like daughter – the role of politicians’ daughters in their campaigns