The Together Party is a grassroots party that has sprung out of the fertile lands of the Northern Rivers and is running candidates for the Senate in the federal election taking place in less than three weeks. But you can only vote for them in the Senate (aka the upper house or the house of review), not in the lower house (aka House of Representatives).
For a first-time party the Together Party has had an ‘exhilarating and exhausting’ campaign so far, said party founder, lawyer, and comedian Mark Swivel.
‘Our fantastic team of volunteers have powered Together from day one, turning a comedy show and a book into a legitimate political party. Together shows there is a need and a place for a new broad-based progressive party,’ said Mark.
In fact they have gathered a strong team together with key knowledge and understanding across a wide range of legislation and issues that are directly affecting Australians today, including economics, law, health, and the environment.
So why are they only running for the Senate?
‘That’s where a small party can have the most impact,’ says Mark.
‘We are trying to balance the negative, fear-mongering populism with a positive, intelligent populism. The Senate is traditionally a house of review but it is really now a focal point for our national conversation – and Together wants to be part of that.
‘After a generation of privatisation and waning confidence in government, a fundamental shift is required in our public life. Yes we need a federal ICAC but we really need a change of heart as much as a change of government. We need to reassert public health, public education, and public transport as absolute foundations of our democracy. We also need people like my running mates Belinda Kinkead and Kate McDowell in politics – talented, intelligent women who could run rings around most in our parliaments.’
The question is what are the key policies of the Together Party and how would they achieve them?
‘We would take 10 per cent of the budget and spend it differently – picking new winners to make Australia better and fairer,’ says Mark.
Together would invest:
$10 billion in building our climate economy powered by renewables, batteries, electrification, innovation, and carbon management, protecting water, supporting regenerative farming, and expanding national parks. We don’t need climate-change response, we need to build a new way of living on the planet and this continent.
$10 billion in making homes for all Australians putting the homeless, renters, and new buyers before property investors.
$10 billion in more Medicare – including free dental care and ambulances, access to more specialists including cancer and all significant diseases.
$10 billion on a learning nation – creating free university and TAFE places, prioritising low-income students and putting public education before private schools.
$5 billion on a better society – doubling the budgets for the ABC, the arts, and legal aid; supporting a treaty and the Uluru Statement From the Heart.
$5 billion on trickle-up economics – raising Newstart and other payments, trialling UBI, and investing in startups and community enterprise.
‘We would fund our commitments by moving fossil-fuel subsidies into renewables, spending less on defence (moving from two per cent to 1.5 per cent of GDP), reducing tax concessions on trusts, super income, CGT, and property investment, applying flagfall taxes for high-turnover tax-minimising companies and collecting royalties from oil and gas explorers. The budget commitments of all the major parties are too mild and we need to more creative.
‘Australia is crying out for grownup policy and gutsy government!’
If they don’t win a seat?
For their first run the Together Party decided to concentrate on running for a seat in the senate in NSW but they seriously considered running in all of Victoria and Queensland.
‘We’ve attracted support from all over Australia, with many people in other states asking us if they can vote for Together there,’ said Mark
‘We nearly ran in Victoria and Queensland this time but thought we should focus on NSW to keep things simple. We quickly realised we were onto something long term and worthwhile, so we decided not to run campaigns that we could not fully resource at this stage.’
However, they aren’t planning to be a one-election wonder and are looking at how they will run in other states around Australia and even perhaps run candidates for the lower house in the next election.
‘We will run again – here and elsewhere, in both houses,’ said Mark.
‘We have proven the concept. At the first attempt the vote outcome is not as important as the quality of response and the depth of passion among our supporters. We know Together has a future. We have tried to grow “thick roots” and it will be fantastic to watch this tree grow to maturity!
‘The electorate is fed up with our old parties and the first wave of populism is brittle, despite the “rise of the right”. We need a new era of politics where the parliament reflects the good things people do in our communities – and the way we do business outside Canberra. Pragmatically and fairly.
‘There should be no “politics” in building a climate economy powered by renewables, or building homes for all Australians – putting the homeless, renters, and new buyers before property investors, or in advocating major investment in our society and its culture. It is good policy frustrated by a broken political process. Years of cuts to the ABC are a metaphor for how we have degraded the best of Australia – a form of national self-harm. We need a huge explosion of positive and creative government to create a viable and vital future. Australia has been too timid for too long and, whatever happens on May 18, Together will be around to tell our story for a long time to come!’