The recently vacated seats of Higgins and Bradfield have got some interesting new candidates in the running for December 5. In something of an "F" you to conservative politics, the Australian Sex Party's leader Fiona Patten announced her candidacy for the seat of Higgins on Wednesday and pole dancer come Law graduate Zahra Stardust is going to contest Bradfield. Presumably neither think they will win, given both seats are Liberal strongholds. So is this just about trying to shock blue ribbon constituents by turning up in thigh-high boots and body glitter, with the added bonus of garnering attention for the party's message.
The Australian Sex Party are not alone - the Christian Democrats, Family First, One Nation and climate sceptic Independent Leon Ashby are all joining the circus. A race with an almost guaranteed party winner should be boring, but this time it has brought all sorts out of the wood work.
So do the Sex Party really think they have a snowball's? Fiona Patten is realistic, saying that she is "fairly certain we won't find a prime minister from the Australian Sex Party in my lifetime". A year after it was established, the Australian Sex Party is now being noticed by the media and getting some public traction. A campaign will garner further publicity and these are two high profile seats. Patten told ABC radio the seats were an opportunity to "test our electoral strength". The Sex Party does appeal to some in the community who support more liberal laws on censorship and a more comprehensive sex education in school. Presumably, not many pro-porn voters will be living in these seats. But Patten points out four million people participate in some form of the euphemistically termed "adult entertainment". Statistically speaking, some of this market would live in these electorates. And as Patten pointed out on ABC radio, these four million are "possible voters who feel that their... relaxed position on sex and sexuality is not being reflected by the current politicians".
Bradfield, according to Patten, has "only ever been held by the Liberal party, and only ever been held by a man in a suit". Candidate Zahra Stardust still maintains that a woman in a burlesque costume on a trapeze could get through to some people. A clearly articulate and intelligent woman, she is a human rights advocate, lawyer, burlesque performer, gender studies expert, trapeze artist and finalist for Miss Pole 2008.
In the end, why do we bother having parties other than the big two? If they have no chance whatsoever then why do we join them, listen to them and vote for them in elections? Minor parties have always been an important quirk of the Australian system and do play an important role in promoting issues outside the mainstream. But with Labor not running in Bradfield or Higgins and with lots of media attention on the race, it is peculiar opportunity to see a quasi mardi-gras of minor politics, complete with independents and extremes of the left and right.
One Nation is running in in both seats on the usual anti-immigration platform, although bizarrely with a Hungarian-born immigrant candidate, Steve Raskovy in Higgins. When Patten claims Clive Hamilton's candidacy is a part of the Greens "lurching strongly to the right", you can see what a bizarre display of agendas are going to be on show.
Secretly, we all want the circus to happen. We want some really mad independents and people on the periphery to go in there and shake things up. If we're going to spend serious money ($500,000 each) on two by-elections because two men had had enough of this silly game we call politics, then we may as well get some entertainment value out of it. Here's to the political mardi gras of the year.
Bella Counihan is the Goanna.