Politics: Federal Election – Meet the Independent Radicals

Moving along in my donkey-vote, we come to Group B on Victoria’s Senate voting form, which is the ticket of ‘Independent Radicals’ Joseph Toscano, Jenny Warfe and Andrew Sadauskas. As none of them are affiliated with a registered political party, there is no political website for them as a group, but their Senate Voting ticket, which preferences the Greens, the Socialist Alliance (not to be confused with the Socialist Equality Party) and the Secular Party of Australia, suggests that this lot can be found on the not-too-insane borders of the left wing.

But who are these people really? Your intrepid reporter delved into the bowels of Google in order to find out…

Joseph Toscano is a member of the Anarchist Society and the Anarchist Media Institute, which advocates ‘a voluntary, non-heirarchical society in which social and political structures are organized so that all people have free and equal access to the wealth and decision-making power of that society’. So far, so good. And so communist (has anyone else noticed that the left hand side of the ballot paper seems to be owned by the radical left of politics in this election?

Toscano does have a website, though it is not easily found, and I can’t actually get it to load. This may mean that he misses out on my insightful comments, but that probably won’t do him any harm. Fortunately, he has been interviewed a fair bit over the years, so we can get a bit more of an idea of what he stands for.

Toscano believes that people want ‘the freedom to organize their lives without overbearing interference from governments, religions and the corporate world’, and adds that anarchy is not about shunning all governance, but about ‘adopting a different model in which ‘the state’ was replaced by locally appointed community committees through which common wealth would be fairly deployed’. This is another one of those things that I find more appealing in theory than in practice, incidentally; I can see the appeal of local matters being decided locally, but I also feel that there are issues that do need to be decided on a broader scale (both for financial reasons – hospitals, for example, are expensive beyond the means of most small communities – and in cases where the situation affects a much broader group than the initial community – environmental issues in general and issues of water storage and access in particular come to mind here). I also feel very strongly that the smaller the group, the better the chance for extremists to dominate. And they might not be the extremists on my side…

Interestingly, as at the 2007 election, Toscano had never voted, nor been registered to vote. Apparently, this doesn’t disqualify you from standing – Toscano claims that the Australian Constitution is favourite bedtime reading, and he certainly appears to know his way around it. In 2004, in fact, he led a ‘Don’t Vote’ ticket, encouraging people who didn’t like any of the candidates to vote informal or not vote at all. He is also in favour of voters being able to petition to recall non-performing MPs or Senators.

As I can’t find Toscano’s policies for this election, here is a brief list (from Wikipedia) of some of the campaigns he has been involved in over the years, since he seems to have been on a fairly consistent track for some time.

– removal of (real) skulls on display at the Old Melbourne Gaol (these were part of an exhibition on phrenology, and had been approved by descendents of the prisoners whose skulls were displayed. The skulls were eventually removed, but the Gaol claims this had nothing to do with any campaign).
– Founder of the Friends of Our ABC Committee, which agitated against commercialization / privatisation of the ABC
– Reclaim the Radical Spirit of Eureka – this was a commemoration of the 150th Anniversary Eureka rebellion which took place 1854. Toscano drew attention to the role of the police in this rebellion, and called for the Victorian Police to apologise for the massacre that took place after the battle
– Defend and extend Medicare – speaks for itself, and more power to him
– Case of Robert Thomas – Thomas was sentenced to jail and flogging by the Iranian Government because he should have been aware of his wife’s involvement in a theft. Toscano called for the Australian government to intervene – as far as I can find out, it did not do so.
– Don’t Vote / Vote Informal campaign – as mentioned above.

Altogether a colorful character, who has been involved in a number of campaigns I like the sound of. Whether this would make him a useful Senator I’m not sure; I’d consider voting for him.

The main thing I’ve been able to learn about Jenny Warfe is that she co-ordinated the Blue Wedges commission, which opposed dredging Port Phillip Bay to make it a more viable international port (I am very hazy on both sides of this issue, I’m afraid, and I refuse to research absolutely everything every candidate is interested in, so you will have to do your own research if you care). The argument against dredging is an environmental one: dredging stirs up sand and silt for prolonged periods, preventing light from reaching much of the underwater area, and disrupting the marine ecosystem, potentially promoting the growth of algae at the expense of other marine life. As far as I can tell, Warfe has been pretty exclusively focused on this issue for the last few years; I can’t find any articles about her that don’t reference dredging Port Phillip Bay.

Andrew Sadauskas does appear to have a website: www.earthsharing.org.au. A look around this site suggests that he is interested in a lot of things I am also interested in: better public transport, housing affordability, the environment. The introductory page to his website says:

” Earthsharing is a world movement dedicated to achieving economic justice for all people, and to reforming the way we treat our limited planetary resources. It is not “fairies at the bottom of the garden” stuff, but it is about hard-nosed, focused reform.
We propose a simple shift away from the taxation of our hard work (income tax) and onto resources, ensuring the natural wealth of the planet is shared amongst all. We should all be shareholders by fact of our birth-rights as equals on this planet. We do this through a system of Resource Rentals.”

I think I’ve actually run across this guy before, or at least across Earthsharers – I seem to remember some very similar things being advocated by a speaker who came and visited a Quaker Meeting I attended a few years ago. The basic notion is that everyone has a ‘natural right’ to housing. Tax should be based on property rather than labour, which would act to reduce the cost of housing, in part by reducing the incentives for people to own rental properties which may stand empty waiting for a tenant who can pay the rent when poorer people are homeless. I’m not good at explaining this – perhaps because I don’t understand it very well – but if you google Georgist Economics, you’ll get a pretty good idea of what this guy is about.

While skimming through the many, many articles about Warfe and dredging, I also came across the following little snippet in the Mornington Peninsula Mail:

“Other Radicals’ policies include voluntary euthanasia, a tax deduction for interest paid on the first $250,000 of people’s main home purchased for less than $500,000, no public funding of private schools, no public funding of private health care, decriminalising drugs, establishing a people’s bank, and a 30percent resource rent tax.”

Hooray! Actual policies!

And they are actually pretty interesting. I think their tax deduction idea is quite a good one (though I challenge you to find a home anywhere within 30kms of the CBD that costs less than $500,000 in the current market), I think it is well and truly time we decriminalised drugs and also researched them properly so that we knew just what their effects really are (I want them decriminalised but also regulated), and I am rather inclined to think that schools and healthcare should be public, or at least should not receive more government funding than public schools do (as they currently do). I’m a bit concerned about voluntary euthanasia, however. It’s one of those issues that makes me nervous; on the other hand, I’ve never been in the situation of watching someone I cared about suffer through a fatal illness, or, of course, of having a fatal illness myself, and I suspect this is one of those issues it is difficult to really have an informed opinion on from a distant, unaffected perspective. Or at least, difficult for me to have an informed opinion on.

The 30% resource rent tax is something I don’t know enough about economics to comment on. A resource rent tax sounds like a very good idea, environmentally speaking, but 30% seems extremely high to me. The people’s bank also sounds interesting, though I’d like to know a bit more about how this would function before voting for it. I also like that they are not advocating revolution to get to this point. I didn’t think this was going to be a requirement that needed to be stated, but apparently it is.

Overall, the main thing I notice about the Independent Radicals is that their views and policies are not that far away from those in the SEP – but without the revolution and the weird rhetoric. Toscano, Warfe and Sadauskas seem calmer, more intellectually oriented, and more considered – the thinking person’s communists, perhaps. A vote for this lot would not be a vote in my personal economic interests, I suspect, but it might be a vote worth making anyway. My latent socialist streak approves overall of their thinking, and something about their manner suggests they might actually know what to do with a seat in the Senate if they got one. I’m willing to consider voting for them.

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