A German Pirate Meets Pirates Downunder
Pirate Times adminstrator and member of the Pirate Party of Germany, Gefion Thürmer, travelled to Australia recently and wrote about her meeting with the Pirate Party there. What follows is a loose translation of her article in our German language sister blog Flaschenpost.
We Germans often look for differences before we look for similarities. That the political landscape in Australia is different to Germany’s is obvious. To found a party in the Commonwealth of Australia is easy – you need only 500 members – but to found a party in the state of New South Wales, where Sydney is found, you need 2,000 people.
The Pirate Party Australia has just exceeded the 1,000 members level. The growth is accelerating, the number doubling roughly every year. The party was founded in 2008, and the foundation itself took a long time, just because they needed these 500 people and also had to spend a lot of money.
In comparison to Germany, voting in Australia is difficult as there are over 50 parties. If you want to nominate candidates, you have to pay separately for each one. For the national elections, the fee is $ 1,000 (about 650 €) per candidate for the House of Representatives and $2,000 for the Senate. There is party financing from the state, but only when you reached four (!) percent of the total vote. That’s why money, for the Australian party, is a huge problem. On the other hand, in Australia, voting is compulsory – whoever does not go to the polls, must pay a fine. This makes for a very different attitude to politics. You must be interested in it.
The Parliament is divided into two houses. The first one is chosen proportionally (the number of seats is based on the voting percentage), the second house is filled the winner-takes-all principle in 150 constituencies. Each constituency shall have one representative. There is an incredible number of parties who take part in these ballots – in addition, using a preferencial voting system you can assign your vote in order of preference for the other parties 2, 3, or 4 – up to 50. This corresponds roughly to many Pirate Party’s demand for the alternative voice – perfectly!
The Australians seem to isolate themselves, a little, from the rest of the world – this is to be expected, because the land is about a 24-hour flight time of Central Europe. They are not properly engaged as a member of the international community. In particular it is difficult for them to take part directly in meetings, as the costs are just too high. They are forced to always take part as remote delegates and have the impression that their votes and decisions are not always recorded correctly. On the other hand, they have been able to build their own brand without having to constantly refer to the “mother party”. What they have achieved, they have done by themselves and they can be proud of it. Nonetheless they observe, with interest, especially in English language publications (above all in Der Spiegel), what is happening in Germany. It is clear to them that the German party is one of the biggest and is sometimes dominating, sometimes more than is good for the global community.
You may remember that the Pirates were contesting the Senate in Western Australia. At last the results are finalized and the two candidates got 0.49% of the total vote. A great achievement for a first showing.
“It was refreshing to see the response to both our crowdfunding campaign and our platform during the election. The ease with which we reached our funding goal shows that we have a viable alternate funding source to mount effective campaigns in the future.”
Featured image CC BY-SA PPAU
The article has been edited to correct errors in the candidate fees and percentage of the vote required for state funding. 04 May 2o14
Article edited: Quote from Fletcher added 05 May 2014