Western Australian Senate Group M ~ Mutual Party

We now turn to the Mutual Party, which tells me that “Australians are fed up with adversarial politics.  It runs against the Australian way of life – informality, give-and take, trust, working together, finding practical solutions. Mutuality.”  Further statements talk about the number of Australians involved in mutual organisations, sporting clubs, self-help groups, etc, and exhort Australians to take back their government!

This could go in just about any direction – though as a former volunteer and employee of an umbrella network for self-help / support groups, I do find their premises promising.  Let’s start by looking at their voting ticket.

The Mutual Party seems to be part of the little confederation of small parties that are new to me and that are preferencing each other, which I find mildly amusing.  Their first few preferences go to the two ungrouped independents, the Sustainable Population Party, and the Freedom and Prosperity Party (oh dear), followed by Australian Voice, Building Australia, the Australian Democrats, and Katter.  Rise Up Australia is worryingly high on their list, too.  They seem to be leaning mildly to the Right and a bit more definitely towards the libertarian end of the spectrum – several of the lefty libertarian groups are relatively high on their ticket, though I find the juxtaposition of the DLP right before HEMP fairly amusing.  Palmer comes in around 40,  and Family First makes it into the ticket at 50.  On the whole, large parties are not approved by this lot, and they prefer religious parties to parties like the Secular or Sex parties, and shooting parties to Animal Justice or the Greens.  The Liberal Party finally makes it onto the ticket at 60, followed immediately by the Nationals, the Socialists, Labor, and the Greens at lucky last.  The message I’m getting here is that the major parties are pretty much all alike, but God help us, let’s keep the Reds out for as long as we can.

The Greens being the Reds in this instance, of course.

As they so often are.

Let’s see what luscious and enticing policies the Mutual Party has to offer us…

Their front page welcomes us and informs us that:

The Mutual Party is a broad-based centrist political party which aims to win seats in federal and state parliaments and local governments, and enable ordinary citizens and communities to reclaim ownership of our democracy…. We welcome people from across the traditional left-right spectrum by emphasising:

– the empowerment of citizens and civil society;
– collaboration across social divisions and political backgrounds;
– local initiatives and practical solutions to economic, social and environmental challenges;
– the break-up of cartels in banking, retailing and essential services; and
– stronger community relationships and responsibilities.

A promising start.  This is a very new party, formed in November last year, and registered with the AEC only this February, so it will be interesting to see where they go.  I actually really like their platform of collaboration between people of different social and political backgrounds, and the emphasis on community relationships and responsibilities.  This party is definitely positioning itself as a grass-roots sort of group.

There are three menu items to choose from: Blog, Six Point Agenda for State Elections, and Family Violence.

The Blog is basically their news channel, and the news they want us to hear today is that Mutual Party’s lead candidate is former Liberal and then Family First MP, Anthony Fels (who also ran as a candidate for Katter’s Australian Party last year), so let’s have a look at him.  Fels’ background is in agriculture, and he was an MP for Small Business.  I note that his twitter feed talks about smaller government, honesty, transparency and accountability, and he also wants to save the ABC and disapproves of recent legislation allowing banks to pay commissions to financial planners.  His personal website mentions six key stances – he is against the mining tax, genetically modified canola, Sunday trading and public funding of political parties, wants to regulate finance brokers and abolish Daylight Savings.  I’m trying to work out what Daylight Savings ever did to earn this enmity, and I’m coming up blank.  On the whole, he could be better, or could be worse, though I do have my reservations about someone who has been a member of four separate political parties over his career.  While there may well be good reasons for this, one might also wonder whether this person just wants to be elected and doesn’t necessarily mind which party he is in.

The Mutual Party has a six point agenda for the state elections.  They want citizen voices in decision making across the levels of government, and talk about deliberative democracy and citizen juries.  They want citizen participation in the state budget.  They want localism (lots of farmers’ market photos on this site, which makes me happy!), a level playing field in business, and a streamlined government.  And, interestingly, they want:

Transformation of social policy through the introduction of individualized funding and person-centred arrangements, and whole-of-community rather than silo-based social spending.

Depending on what this means, this sounds a lot like what the Carers’ Alliance were advocating for a few elections back – individualised packages where people and families could choose how care money was spent.

So far, though, this is pretty good.  My only concern is that, well, who exactly is making these decisions and sitting on this jury?  I realise that democracies work in a bit of a majority rules sort of way, but there are usually some checks and balances, and I’m not sure I see them here.

And then we come to the Family Violence page, and this is where things get a bit worrying.  It is also where things get poorly edited – apparently women can be ‘as viscous as men’, which is almost certainly true, but probably not what they are trying to say.  (If anyone from the Mutual Party is reading this, all sarcasm aside, you probably should proof-read this page, because I am probably not the only person likely to judge a message at least in part by whether someone has gone to the effort of writing it properly.  I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it grammatically!)

(Of course, by commenting on someone else’s online grammar, I have now invoked the Bad Grammar Fairy, so I apologise in advance for the fact that I am undoubtedly going to have made at least one really *stupid* grammatical or spelling error by the end of this post.  If you spot it, tell me, and I’ll fix it.)

To put it as politely as possible, this page rings major alarm bells with me.  It looks very much like a Men’s Rights page.  Here’s how it starts:

As a father who dealt with parental alienation as well as my role as a police officer and youth worker, I am very interested in the issue of family violence.

1 think we should approach this issue as the centrist anti-adversarial movement in politics…no-one in a family, male or female, adult or child should be subjected to FV, be it physical, financial or emotional.  Since Tyabb, If stations like 3AW got it their way all men would be banned from seeing their kids post separation.  Those who have read the research will know that there are just as many, if not more, children being murdered by mixed up mothers (and their new boyfriends) than mixed up fathers.

I’m really, really hoping that I am misreading this, but I have two big concerns here.  First, parental alienation is a pretty controversial issue.  It tends to happen in acrimonious divorces, where one parent claims that the other is deliberately turning the children against them.  While this can be legitimate, there have also been a number of cases where it has been used to further abuse battered spouses or to regain access to children who were being abused by one parent.  So it’s the sort of phrasing that tends to raise alarm bells with me.  Then, there is the hyperbolic statement about all men being banned from seeing their kids post separation if 3AW had its way.  And there is a lot of similar phrasing in this article – “fathers and their children being separated by a system that apparently hates all men due to what a few bad men do…” – and talking about people crying wolf and “the silly belief that a diploma or degree qualifies a stranger as a better person to solve family issues than family member”.  This all smacks of ‘the evil feminists are out to get us and destroy our families”, which makes me sad.

The kindest interpretation I can come up with is that this article is written by someone who has been very badly hurt by the system, and who really wants to get rid of what he views as an adversarial system.

However, all feminist analysis aside, I find it disturbing that an article about family violence in fact talks very little about family violence at all, except in that throwaway line about divorced mothers’ new boyfriends, but instead focuses most of its attention on how much people – particularly men – suffer when families break down.  Violence against women – which actually is one of the most common facets of family violence – is not mentioned once.  Oddly, I suspect that if this article had been called ‘Family Law Reform’ – which really is what it is about – it might be less disturbing to read.  But by titling it Family Violence, and then just talking about families breaking down and fathers being separated from their children, one is left to contemplate just what might be behind these acrimonious divorces, and that’s actually pretty scary.

(Oddly enough, I was reading just yesterday about how implying dreadful things without stating them is an effective tool in writing horror stories… I never thought I’d see that borne out on a political website).

Having said all that, I do agree with this statement by the writer:

What we need to create in this society is a belief that it is not a bad thing to separate or divorce…it is not a sign of failure or a reason to start a small war with someone you were once in love with.  It is an opportunity to give a child a better more fulfilling life with at least 2  new parents and many more new positive mentors and family members…and two homes.

That is actually truly beautiful, and leads me to hope that this author really is just understandably angry and bitter at the moment, rather than being the rather scary person his article makes him sound like.  And I very much hope that things improve for him.

Nonetheless, I’m not sure that it was a sound move on the part of the Mutual Party to stick that article on their website.  I suspect it will lose them more votes than it gains them.

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