The Age
and The Australian both carried stories this morning on the putative political start-up People Power
and yours truly got mentioned in passing. The Oz said I was the
co-founder of the party, but that was of its stillborn 2001 version, not
the latest incarnation.

The AEC last week finally announced
that People Power has been registered as a political party, something
earlier versions didn’t achieve. This means the party will be eligible
for those outrageously juicy $1500 tax donations once the current
legislation receives royal assent next month.

I’ve got a contract with Crikey until September and won’t be making any
final decisions about a serious crack at the Victorian election until
then, hence the reluctance to participate in any mainstream media
discussion about the project. As a media tart, it was not easy knocking
back interviews with ABC 702 and 2UE this morning, but you can’t be a
commentator and a political spokesperson at the same time – and besides,
no definitive commitment has been made.

However, the introduction of proportional representation in the
Victorian upper house means that anyone who gets a primary vote of
5% in the eight new regions is seriously in the race for the fifth and final spot.
After all, good preference flows delivered Family First the sixth and
final Victorian senate spot with a primary vote of just 2%.

As things stand at the moment, the demise of the Democrats means the
Greens are likely to emerge with the balance of power in Victoria’s
Legislative Council, although Family First will be in the mix.

People Power founder and President Vern Hughes is talking big about
running in all 88 lower house seats and 8 upper house regions – but there is
a history of over-promising and under-delivering, so some hard-headed
realism about the enormity of the project is needed this time around.

The challenge is to put together a credible team of candidates that can
finance a $250,000 campaign – the bare minimum required for one decent
flyer and the all-important how to vote cards on polling day.

The Age’s story about a former Labor Party mayor of Whitehorse,
Peter Allan, running for People Power on a no pokies platform is the
first shot at what will probably be a minor party auction for the
anti-gambling vote in the wake of Nick Xenophon’s stunning 21.5%
state-wide primary vote in the recent South Australia election. Gabi Byrne, a former pokies addict turned anti-gambling crusader, has also announced she’s standing for People Power in Eastern Victoria

There’s also speculation about Jack Reilly, a former deputy secretary
of the Victorian Treasury and socceroo goal keeper at the 1974 World
Cup, but a few names hardly amounts to 96 candidates state-wide.

At People Power’s core is a constituency comprising carers and people with physical and mental health disabilities, and this draft policy platform is now being circulated to other would-be candidates.

It’s certainly tempting, but political start-ups in stable and
prosperous democracies are very hard to get off the ground, so we’ll
have to wait and see if this latest attempt gains any traction, let
alone the balance of power in Victoria’s upper house after 25 November.
That prize is most likely to go to the Greens – the first time
they’ll have held such power on the Australian mainland.

Peter Fray

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