This Leader's Report was delivered at the Science Party's Annual General Meeting on Thursday 21st November, 2019.
What a year for the Science Party, my first as the leader of the party with the best policies in Australia. Since our last AGM, the first six months were spent hurtling towards an election, and the second six months have involved a lot of introspection and planning for the Science Party.
Let's talk about the federal election, 18th of May. We were short on funds (more so than usual) because the fee to run in the lower house had been increased from $1,000 to $2,000. With seven lower house candidates, that higher fee drained an extra $7,000, instantly.
Still, we achieved some firsts during the campaign:
A primary vote of 3.5% in the electorate of Sydney was our highest ever. We attribute this to 5 things:
- The candidate: Aaron Hammond, who was dedicated and a good fit for the electorate;
- The experienced campaign manager: Peter Furness, who pushed us to print materials early and stand at pre-polling until the arches of our feet collapsed. This has given us the template for future elections;
- Volunteers on the day, thank you again to everyone around the country who got our flyers into voters' hands;
- A sympathetic electorate that's already looking for what we offering; and
- A small field of six candidates.
And that is how 1 in 28 voters in this electorate decided that Aaron Hammond was their preferred candidate and the Science Party their first choice.
We had our first bilingual campaign material, in English and Chinese, for Ray Zeng in Watson. Ray also had to deal with dirty campaign tactics, having his corflute signs removed by hands unknown.
For the first time we drew the top position on a ballot paper, in Grayndler. For better or worse, the donkey vote effect is real. Unfortunately we couldn't capitalise much on this advantage as Majella Morello was away for much of the campaign.
James Jansson ran in the party's spiritual home of Kingsford Smith, making it the only lower house electorate in which we've run three times, and making James the only candidate to have stood in three federal general elections.
Brendan Clarke ran for a second time in Berowra, making him the only candidate to run twice in the same electorate. I believe Brendan is steadily building recognition of his name and the Science Party's name in the area. Berowra is only an hour away but it's remote for the purposes of campaigning.
Speaking of remote, Gary Davies ran in Perth, where we first ran in the by-election last year, and Leigh Firman ran in Mallee, our first lower house candidate in Victoria. Mallee covers one-third of the state, and had the longest ballot paper in the country, with 13 candidates.
In the senate, we ran four candidates in NSW (in 2016 we ran two candidates on a joint ticket with two Cyclists' Party candidates, to much confusion. In 2013 we ran two candidates alone). Running four candidates at $2,000 each was a calculated cost with the intention of standing out visually on the ballot paper. Was it worth the extra $4,000? No. On a ballot paper with 37 columns, nothing stands out. Still, it was a psychological boost for me to be supported on the ticket by Eve Slavich, Peter Furness, and Greg Parker, who each brought different perspectives and expertise to the campaign. I'd hoped to gain more primary votes than in the past, but instead we held steady, with 18,000 senate votes. We're aiming for ten times that number at the next election.
The campaign was somehow both protracted and rushed, from the perspective of the NSW candidates, due to the overlap with the state election in March. But to reiterate what I said at the time, I am proud of the clean and positive campaign that we ran.
Looking to the future:
How are we going to get those votes? We have a fantastic message, but most people haven't heard it. What we can do in the next two years is build our membership by bringing over supporters from all the parliamentary parties that are disappointing voters by doing nothing — or making Australia worse through authoritarianism, cronyism, polarisation and short-term thinking.
It's important to not only fight against things, though, because that's a whack-a-mole fight we'll never win. We're here to lead the broad and deep changes that need to be made so we can realise a vision of a smart, stable, fair and prosperous nation that is also a good global citizen. This future is completely achievable if we can move to genuine, accountable democracy with the wellbeing of citizens at its core.
Australia has made some progress this year with its national energy debate (although it remains an embarrassment). We took our hardest hits during the election campaign for policies supporting 800% renewables, hydrogen exports and nuclear power research. Since then, targets of 200%, 400%, 700% renewables have been floated in the mainstream media, and hydrogen exports and nuclear power have entered the national consciousness. Sometimes it doesn't pay to be ahead of the game, but we do it anyway.
The Science Party made nine written submissions to federal parliamentary inquiries this year, on:
- Nuclear Power;
- Newstart and other payments;
- Rules for launching rockets;
- Investment in the space sector;
- Citizenship loss;
- Encryption-busting assistance and access laws;
- Nationhood and national identity;
- Cash payments; and
- The conduct of the federal election.
I'm proud of those submissions, and policy updates including our charter of rights policy launched in May this year, which formalised our support for enshrining certain human rights in the constitution. But there's a lot more to do, and the work we need to do is different to and more intense than anything we've done before. We're all volunteers and we need more hands on deck and more roles to be filled. The Science Party encourages active participation of all members, and demands it of anyone wanting to make change. If you speak, you will be heard. Things get done when someone says, "How about this?"
Our party structure isn't set in stone — this has been our first year with a Deputy Leader, ably filled by James, the founding and immediate past leader of this party. I'd also like to thank Saritha, our secretary; Andrea Finno, party director; and Michael Maroske, treasurer.
I'd also like to thank all of you for your support, and I ask you to act on that support in 2020 — share our message with someone who's longing for good government, activate them and get them to do the same. This is the next of many steps for the Science Party. Thank you.