Does the Sex Party threaten the Greens?

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.

5 thoughts on “Does the Sex Party threaten the Greens?

  1. Rob Ruminski says:

    Hi Geoff,

    Great, insightful piece. Just wanted to offer one small clarification.

    The Sex Party has actually announced their policy on Sex Work, calling for decriminalisation to replace the current model of tightly controlled legalisation:

    This is the model favoured by sex worker organisations, and the ASP policy was written with input from individuals who are active in sex worker advocacy organisations on a national and international level. More to the point, this is NOT the model which is favoured by the brothel industry, who obviously have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo which makes it near impossible to open a new brothel or perform sex work outside of Victoria’s existing brothels.

    Decriminalisation is not a matter of reducing regulatory controls, but of offering sex workers alternatives to working in the existing brothel industry. Decriminalisation will allow independent workers the freedom to work on their own legally, and it will allow sex workers to organise their own collective arrangements if they so choose without having to work in a brothel.

    While the Sex Party has always been very transparent about it’s background in and support from the adult industry, I believe that in creating a consultative, evidenced-based policy on a matter related to the industry which does actually empower workers, the Sex Party has demonstrated it’s integrity as a political entity which includes, but ultimately transcends, business interests.

  2. Zane Massey says:

    No need to call for moral absolutism, but the sexual libertarians of the 21st century seemed to have mistaken sexual liberation for sexual exploitation. This is no surprise as the lobbyists who sternly established the party were initially acting within the interests of the adult corporate industry; who obviously want to make a dime from the rent and prostitution of the supposedly ‘sexual libertarians’ (although, I would probably call it: morally backward peoples who have re-conceptualised the idea of being an object for other peoples sexual desires). Theres nothing libertarian about that. Take for example one of chomsky’s analogies of sexual exploitation and it’s democratic significance. Don’t hold me for the exact words “Little children work in sweat shops, consentingly, and are exploited by hours and hours of terrible working conditions; the idea that they consent to it because there are no other viable means of making money, is entirely undemocratic because it gives them choice but very little choice, at all. The same can be applied to sex labor. Arguments such eroticism are helled pretty significantly within small proportions of the sex labor industry, but thinking about it honestly, if women had the democratic power of choice (and I’m suggesting viable productive choices, which there aren’t any, at least easily accessible ones) then I’m sure the industry would depreciate. So, what to learn? The fact that sexual libertarians get off on their own pretexts’ for equal sex rights but mischievously reject to mention that corporate enterprise, within the adult industry, is the only reason why such political agendas are taken seriously. This isn’t democratic or libertarian and the party isn’t a representation of the moral zeitgeist which is having an affect of the populace of Australia. In fact, if you analyse any of the social revolutions that have taken place up until this day, none, thus far, have taken place through political means. take for example Martin Luther King’s civil rights movement. Bills were only passed after blacks were accepted into the consciences of the general populace. As well as many other social movements. This is relevant because it shows that sexual libertion has to be executed by the people and not interest groups that represent very small sectors of corporate interests….

    hopefully these arguments, even if less radical, present themselves in the political debating arena some day

  3. Andrew McIntosh says:

    The Sex Party have struck me as not much more than a glorified lobby group for the porn industry. Outside of that industry, they have very little genuine to offer.

  4. Andrew, I’m surprised you would say that. The Sex Party has policies dealing with matters of public transport, intellectual property, community health, ethics education in schools, privacy, data retention, anti-discrimination, same-sex marriage, full equality of access to medical technologies, mental health, censorship, prosecution of institutional child abusers, euthanasia, reproductive rights and a host of others – yes, including introduction of an R18+ classification for video games and protection for sex workers.

    They have a strong commitment to the protection of civil liberties, and to equal rights.

    Making comments like, ‘oh, it’s just a lobby group’ strike me as either woefully uninformed, or wilfully ignorant. It’s not hard to find the Sex Party’s policy information. Their policies for Victoria are here:

  5. Joe says:

    I can see why they didn’t publish it…shorter paragraphs, man.

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