By Jan Bowman @GriffithElects
31st January 2014
Independent candidate in the Griffith by-election, Karel Boele, comes across as accomplished, considered and energetic. He has studied mechatronics, physics, and strategic affairs. He has managed large financial projects in South East Asia, and he currently runs a business which provides advice on participatory democracy and on complementary currencies such as Time banking.
Among his clients is the NSW Government Department of Education and Communities, to which his company provides software and support for a time banking project in the Central Coast and Hunter Valley regions.
He told No Fibs that he is in politics for the long haul. While he is standing as an independent in this election, he aims is to get enough people signed-up to enable him to register his PeopleDecide (PD) participatory democracy party. Once registered he plans to stand candidates for the senate in the next federal election and in some electorates, such as Griffith.
Mr Boele has been pounding the pavements and door-knocking around Carina over the past week and said he has had a very pleasing response from voters.
The idea of PeopleDecide, Mr Boele said, is to set up a voting platform that allows people to vote on laws in real-time through the phone or computer. Under this model, he said, “if 10 per cent of Griffith votes with a clear majority, then I am contracted to vote with the people.”
This form of representation works best, Mr Boele said, where there are already clearly established community positions. For example, he told No Fibs that under a participatory democracy model, same-sex marriage and euthanasia would be law already, because a clear majority of Australians support these changes.
He supports “needs-based education funding and an effective solution to climate instability, for example an ETS, and a no offshore processing by Australia policy for refugees.”
Mr Boele has an open ticket when it comes to preferences, encouraging voters to select him as number one, and whomever they like after that.
For what many would consider to be a fringe party or a single issue party, The Pirate Party (TPP) is incredibly well organised. Its website has links to its constitution and to a set of policies on issues from civil liberties to education.
The party has its roots in Europe (it was started in Sweden in 2006) and now has a presence in over 50 countries including the UK and the US. It says of itself: “We exist to campaign for a free society where civil liberties are respected. We believe in the right to privacy for individuals and the need for transparency for organisations. The government is meant to serve the people and by fighting for these principles we believe it can.”
The Pirate Party International (PPI) oversees all Pirate Parties, providing policy consistency on key issues such as copyright reform and intellectual property, civil liberties and digital rights.
Ms Thomas is the party’s deputy president. In late her thirties, she has been working in media for 14 years, and has studied communication, editing and publishing. The Party’s first foray into the Australian election process was in 2013 when Ms Thomas stood as a senate candidate for Queensland. This is the first election at which the party has fielded a candidate for the house of representatives.
Ms Thomas has been active on Twitter in the lead up to the by-election, indicating that key issues for the The Pirate Party are the rights of asylum seekers, the Newman government’s Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Bill (VLAD) and the Trans Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement negotiations (TPP).
Of her entry into politics, Ms Thomas said: “In the background I have always had a social conscience. I have always considered myself an environmentalist. I always voted Green. I also have a keen interest in human rights, and social justice. I have always attended protests and been an organiser, but I guess I came to a critical point where I needed to take what I was feeling to the next level”.
“When the Pirate Party came along, it just jumped out at me. I never actually joined the Greens even though I had voted for them, but the policies of the Pirate Party just spoke to me.”
Ms Thomas says that while the party is not financially well resourced, it has a number of members who are lawyers or who have studied law and “that helps us in terms of correct procedures for research and legislation and the like.”
She said the party drew a very positive response during the 2013 election. “We ran a grassroots campaign and had a phenomenal response, especially on social media and Twitter”.
“The #votepirate hashtag went crazy around the time of the election. We were amazed. Our purpose in 2013 was to raise our profile and we achieved that.
“I think people are slowly beginning to see that we are not just a single issue party,” she added. “The name ‘pirate party’ confuses people. They think we are a joke party. Then when we explain, we are reclaiming a name that governments have given people who share files – they call that piracy and give it a negative connotation, when in fact sharing is human instinct. We are reclaiming that name and are proud of it.”
The Pirate Party considers that current copyright laws are no longer relevant to our digital media age. It considers that society has made a “generational shift in the way we relate to and participate in culture” and that a new paradigm is required.
The current national membership sits at about 2000, Ms Thomas said, and the party has been using this by-election to actively recruit new members.
Ms Thomas said she is campaigning out on the street as she did in 2013 and is picking up a lot discontent with the Coalition.
“A hell of a lot of people are now discontented with the two parties who have a monopoly over Australian politics. We are sending a message to both parties. We think the ALP has sold out its membership on several issues, but asylum seekers is the big one as well as marriage equality. They have completely lacked courage and bowed to the more right wing elements in this country. We are fighting bravely on our polices and will not bow to anybody.”
On preferences, Ms Thomas said in the last election the party was most strongly aligned with the Greens, and its preferences flowed to them followed by other left wing parties.
The Pirate Party has a Facebook site, and a website, and Ms Thomas tweets as @photogramel.
Travis Windsor is standing for the first time as an independent candidate in Griffith.
Mr Windsor has worked for some years in South Brisbane with the Australian Industry Group. “I help people,” he said, “my role in South Brisbane, mainly in the seat of Griffith, was to bring together schools, community, businesses, industry, government and training institutions to achieve particular outcomes. I have probably set up over 50 projects in South Brisbane, and behind the scenes I have probably influenced thousands of school leavers in their career choice, and helped many businesses in their workforce development.”
Mr Windsor is proposing a model for politics that moves away from the current two-party model, which he considers unproductive. “I don’t want to bag either party, but when I saw the candidates put forward, I thought, ‘nothing is going to happen’. The Libs and Labor don’t get on, they don’t come together, they are never going to come together, whereas I bring people together,” he said.
Mr Windsor is remarkably positive about his chances in this election for a first timer. “I’m in there to make a difference. It would be a tragedy if one of the others got up. It would have a numbing and negative effect. If I got in it would have a positive and uplifting and creative effect,” he told No Fibs.
Mr Windsor comes from Albury-Wodonga and says he moved to Brisbane in 2007 specifically to be involved in the seat of Griffith. He said he knew that this is the best area for his unique skills.
His focus seems to be on the very local, for someone standing for federal parliament. He talks about “community stuff” he wants to achieve, such as a music hub in West End, and a polo pool in Carina.
Issues such as Medicare, he said, “are just crazy, contrived political positions. It just demonstrates how ridiculous the current situation is.”
As a keen biker, Mr Windsor considers that the Newman Government’s (VLAD) laws enacted in 2013 are “draconian in the extreme”.
He recently offered to meet with the Premier, “to discuss ways we can continue to target and crack down on criminal behaviour while allowing law abiding motorcycle enthusiasts to ride their bikes without fear of being stopped or charged by the Police.”
On preferences, Mr Windsor said he is disappointed that the Greens didn’t give him their first preference. He has preferenced the SPP at number two and the Greens at three. His how-to-vote card suggests ALP and LNP options at positions 8 and 11.
Anthony Ackroyd is a comedian who, among other things, impersonates Kevin Rudd. He is campaigning in this by-election in character using the Rudd persona, standing for the Bullet Train for Australia party.
This seems a risky strategy because the real issues represented by the Bullet Train for Australia party are likely to be lost in the joke. This may indeed be the feedback Mr Ackroyd is receiving, because a few days ago he tweeted: “Could get peeved at unintelligent people who don’t understand political satire is vital to a healthy democracy but I’m having too much fun!”
A spokesperson for the party told me it is a serious one issue party (high speed rail), which does not take itself too seriously. He invited me to send emailed questions to Mr Ackroyd which I have done, but as yet I have not received a response.
The Greens have preferenced Mr Ackroyd at number two, and Travis Windsor tweeted recently that he sees Mr Ackroyd as his main rival.
Further information on Candidates.
Most candidates will participate in the Westender’s candidates’ forum to be held on Wednesday February 5. The Westender invites readers to submit their question on-line.
The Australian Christian Lobby will also be hosting a Candidates’ forum on Monday February 3.