This is the opinion article I submitted to The Age on the Australian Sex Party, which they did not publish:
Does the Sex Party threaten the Greens?
After the federal election the Greens have become the focus of media attention but their high profile has obscured another new political force; the Australian Sex Party which polled 2.1% in the Victorian Senate vote. At this state election the Sex Party has nominated candidates in 17 Legislative Assembly electorates including the five where the Greens have a real prospect of victory. The Sex Party has also nominated candidates for four Legislative Council regions. The Liberal Party’s decision to preference against the Greens has weakened the Greens’ prospects of victory in the Legislative Assembly. Close contests are likely between the Greens and other parties for the final seat in Legislative Council regions. Even with 2% support the Sex Party could play a significant role in the election outcome in both houses. At the federal election the Greens won a majority of Sex Party preferences but at this election the Sex Party has favoured Labor over the Greens in the Legislative Assembly.
The Sex party and the Greens compete for the same sexually libertarian constituency. A 2007 survey of federal election voters undertaken by the Australian National University found that only 31% of Green voters believed there was too much sex and nudity in the media compared to 46% of Labor voters and 53% of Coalition voters. However debates about sexuality have the potential to destabilise the Greens. The party has drawn support not just from sexual libertarians but from Judith Brett calls the ‘moral middle class’ and feminists sceptical of sexual libertarianism in a patriarchal society. Clive Hamilton’s alleged support for internet filtering was the object of controversy during the 2009 Higgins by-election when he was the Greens candidate. The Sex Party has accused Greens Richmond candidate Kathleen Maltzhan of support for a Swedish-style prohibition of sex work, although some in Labor ranks have suggested she favours the opposite policy. However the Sex Party has also sought the support of conservative voters; it has championed small business and is critical of Green taxation policies. Sexual libertarians are not necessarily economic libertarians, the Australian National University survey of voters in 2007 found that those wanted more sexual content in the media were less likely to believe that higher taxes were a disincentive to work. The Sex Party’s economic conservatism may reflect its origins. The party was originally created as an exercise in political entrepreneurship by members of the adult industry lobby group the Eros Foundation. Sex Party leaders display the characteristic minor party syndrome of delight in preference deals. Despite this the Sex Party has inspired real enthusiasm among many sex industry workers. The members of the Eros Foundation are businesspeople whose interests are not necessarily those of their employees. Existing regulatory controls on the sex industry reduce work opportunities for sex workers and empower employers. The Sex Party may pose a challenge for the Greens but its longer term prospects may depend on demonstrating effective representation of a socially libertarian constituency rather than sex industry employers.