Join a major political party: your only hope

An estimated 10,000 pro-life campaigners converged on Sydney’s Hyde Park in mid-September last year for the ‘Stand for Life’ rally, protesting against the contentious abortion bill being voted on in the NSW Parliament. A month earlier, the upper house committee examining the draft legislation received 13,000 submissions, causing state Parliament’s web portal to temporarily crash. Leading up to the bill passing both houses of Parliament, over 30,000 submissions in total were received. And from the little sampling that were conducted on those submissions, up to 70% of them opposed the bill. Why was that not enough to defeat the bill? Because ultimately, the only type of numbers that matter to most politicians are the numbers that equal votes. What does this mean in my home state of NSW (and any State or Territory for that matter)?

Over 8 million people live in NSW, but I have it on good authority that only about 30,000 of them are members of political parties. And probably only a few thousand of them max are active in those parties in total. In effect, NSW voters have abrogated their political desire and will to a few hundred people in each of the major parties (even less in the minor parties), and I mean no disrespect in saying that to you. Because as we’ve seen, prayers, making submissions to Parliament, and protesting on the streets is not good enough. The progressive Left have taken over the Greens, the ALP, and are close to taking over the Liberal Party. These are well-resourced political parties, so it’s time for those of non-Left persuasions to GetUp! and active to put these political resources back to good use.

You live in a particular State electorate or Federal electorate, so one of your options is to stand as an independent or minor party candidate, use whatever resources you have to make the best of it, try to fundraise as much as possible, and stand at the next State or Federal election, only to very likely not end up being elected. Here’s a better option, but it ideally requires at least a few dozens of you who share similar beliefs and values: join a major political party (Labor, Liberal or National) in order to join the local candidate preselection process for every electoral cycle.

In other words, the very least but the most important thing you can do as a paid-up member of a major party is to be part of the process before an election to pick the local Labor/Liberal/National candidate to represent your beliefs and values in government or opposition, not on the crossbench. You don’t have to agree with everything in that major political party you’re a member of. The point is that you use your membership as a means to an end: direct participation in the political process. As it stands, and depending on size, in a Sydney-based State or Federal electorate preselection for the Labor or Liberal candidate, up to a hundred or so people would be voting for someone who potentially will be elected to Parliament.

Isn’t it better to be one of a hundred people in a Federal electorate who stands a good chance in helping elect someone to the Australian Parliament who’ll represent their beliefs and values, than one of 16 million Australian voters getting frustrated on election day that even a democracy sausage won’t cheer them up? And if it turns out that the Member of Parliament you helped get elected lied or deceived you about their beliefs and values, you can choose to help make their worst nightmare a reality by not preselecting them for the next election. All politics isn’t just local — politics is also about numbers that directly affect the politicians’ paycheck. That’s how you influence change.

10,000 pro-life campaigners converging on Sydney’s Hyde Park is not going to directly affect the pollies’ paycheck. If those 10,000 quiet Australians got noisy and active in the major parties instead of protesting on the streets, thereby made themselves busy preselecting prolife Labor/Liberal/National candidates for the NSW elections in March 2019, perhaps the abortion bill would’ve quickly met defeat. After all, conservative MPs don’t naturally become conservative during their parliamentary term/s. What’s 10,000 divided by a hundred? A hundred electorates. How many State electorates are there in NSW? 93. Do the math, and you’ll see how we can ‘keep the bastards honest’ by joining the major parties.

Keeping the bastards honest via minor political parties has been at best, a mixed success over the decades past. Australia’s electoral system is designed to make it difficult for the minor parties to break the so-called two-party system. Minor parties in Parliament generally rise and fall too often, and independent MPs usually suffer the same fate. The Greens may end up being the exception to the rule, but this remains to be seen. From what I’ve observed, minor parties, perhaps other than the Greens, are at higher risk of having its power and authority centralised into the hands of one or two personalities.

Parties, whether minor or major, are meant to be relatively decentralised and democratic for the grassroots to carry its electoral success, because all politics is local. It’s obvious to ex-members of the defunct Australian Conservatives and outside observers that it was never really the members’ Australian Conservatives — it was in reality, Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives. This reality contributed to both the rise and fall of the once promising minor party. It wouldn’t surprise me that Pauline Hanson’s One Nation has a similar risk that’s not as conspicuous as the popularity of the party’s Federal and NSW leaders with certain parts of Australian society. The bottomline: never trust a party that lacks a proper democratic process for you, the grassroots, to pick the candidates who represent your beliefs and values.

A quick look at the NSW Labor, NSW Liberals and NSW Nationals websites show that annual membership will probably cost you $80, $100 or $120/year respectively depending on your circumstances. That’s about 20–30 cups of coffee worth every year. Is it better for you, and those who share your beliefs and values, to have 25 cups of coffee every year each, or is it better to forgo those cups of coffee to play your part in stopping bad laws and costly government policies from happening? Your daily life is busy, and your time is precious, so the very least but the most important thing you can do as a paid-up member of a major party is to be part of the process to help elect a local Labor/Liberal/National MP to represent your beliefs and values in government. You attending only one or two Party branch meetings every year may just be enough to make the difference.

If you decide to join a major party, you’ll likely be asked whether you’ve been involved in other political parties and campaigned for candidates who stood against the party you’re joining. When faced with this question, ask yourself: how badly do you want to directly participate in the political process to stop bad laws and costly government policies from happening? Bad laws and costly government policies happen when the major parties give Australian voters bad candidates and MPs to choose from, but it doesn’t have to be that way. You can make a difference as a member of a major party, no matter how small that difference. When the small differences accumulate, they can make a big difference in ensuring your party gives Australian voters more good candidates and MPs to choose from.

If you want to make a much bigger difference as an individual in your party, have a look around and connect with like-minded people, because there is safety in numbers to ensure that there are more MPs in your party who represent your beliefs and values. Don’t be so trusting of those who don’t share your beliefs and values. Have a look at your networks outside of the party, including the church your attend, and any community and social groups that you’re a part of. Since the people in your networks will probably share your beliefs and values, why not ask them to join your major party to help elect MPs who’ll represent said beliefs and values?

When the quiet Australians, the silent majority, remains quiet/silent, they lose their majority. So, is your new year’s resolution to join Labor, the Liberals or the Nationals, play your part in shaping the future of your community and country, and encourage others to do the same? The Sydney Morning Herald published the following last year in an opinion piece:

“Ian McAllister, director of the Australian Election Study, is not that convinced that parties are interested in recruiting. Australia has one flaw when it comes to getting us to join up: “Compulsory voting makes Australian political parties lazy.”

There’s one way to make them less lazy. Join up, make trouble.”

Join a major party. Support your lobbyists of choice. Be smart on social media, but don’t compromise your character and values. Become a Christian educator and reach out to the youth. Keep in touch with the Human Rights Law Alliance.

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TransCatholic ⚧️✝️ | Liberal Arts student @notredameaus | Thomistic Personalist | social media content curator | all opinions expressed here are my own

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Dana Pham

Dana Pham

TransCatholic ⚧️✝️ | Liberal Arts student @notredameaus | Thomistic Personalist | social media content curator | all opinions expressed here are my own

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