Written by Bruce Poon - Lead Senate Candidate Victoria
We appreciate all the advice and feedback we have received concerning the Animal Justice Party's decision to recommend that voter’s preference Jason Wood after ourselves in the seat of La Trobe. It makes sense for us to lay out the reasoning behind this decision in some detail. Having read the reasoning, it may be that some people still disagree with the decision, but such is the nature of politics, where to try to please everyone is to guarantee pleasing no one.
The Animal Justice Party exists to represent animals and their best interests. All our decisions are based on what we can do to most effectively reduce the suffering of animals. We are on the side of the rabbits, guinea pigs and rats. We are also aware that this is not the only animal suffering we can affect. We would not want to ‘pay’ too much to solve one problem, or in its solving, create more. Some trade-offs must be made BUT they must be well considered.
We have been running our campaign to end animal testing of cosmetics in Australia for 3 years. It will soon end successfully. Throughout this time, we have used our political power to try to engineer a solution that will ensure the end of this awful industrial practice. We can easily presume that everyone who cares about animals and our party will agree that this practice is abhorrent, unnecessary and should end. If you are in doubt, remind yourself of some of the detailed torturous nature of acute toxicity tests, repeated dose toxicity or skin sensitisation tests by visiting one of our friends at Humane Research Australia, PETA, Choose Cruelty Free or Animals Australia.
At this point it is important to acknowledge our partners. There have been several organisations and many individuals who have campaigned to end cosmetic testing for an extensive period of time. The campaign began around 1979 with Henry Spira, so at least 37 years ago - most of my lifetime. These people are all heroes and champions for animals. It is totally beyond the means of the AJP to do the work they do. They gather donations and employ campaigners, they build websites, they hold demonstrations, distribute flyers, question corporations. We have worked with activists in a number of organisations during this campaign, including organisations and brands known to many. Most prominent and helpful have been Humane Research Australia, Humane Society International and their Be Cruelty Free campaign. They have been able to do technical work on the proposed bills with exceptional insight of what has worked internationally and what is required in order to make it work here. There have been others, too numerous to mention. These groups investigate, interrogate, lobby and educate but they cannot legislate. This is where the AJP come in. We (including all the voters) are the political arm of all these grassroots organisations - the next step towards the required change.
At the 2013 Federal election we supported the re-election of Adam Bandt in Melbourne. In 2014 The Greens introduced a bill to the parliament that called for an end to animal tested cosmetics. Lee Rhiannon, as part of its introduction, noted that the AJP was a driving force behind the bill and we stood together on the steps of parliament to announce the bill. At that time, both of the major parties did not support the bill. Following from this, Labor conducted extensive community consultation, resulting in over 13,000 submissions and ending with a solid commitment from the ALP to introduce a bill of their own to end this practice - which they did, but it did not get support of the government.
In the 2016 Federal election AJP have campaigned hard in the seat of La Trobe, with an excellent candidate, Leah Folloni, and many active volunteers. We aim, as you would expect of a political party, to get the strongest vote possible. Unlike a major political party, we don’t expect to win the seat, but we do expect to have influence. In 2016, just days before the polls open, the current coalition government announced that if re-elected they will commit to the legislation. They committed to ensure the rapid introduction of a bill to move away from cruel animal tested cosmetics with a very quick phase out period.
We are not trying to put Jason Wood, the sitting Liberal MP for La Trobe on a pedestal or claim that he is an angel. He came to our attention when he worked with an NGO, For the Love of Wildlife, to introduce world leading legislation to ban the import of lion trophies from Africa, hitting at the business model of ‘Canned Hunting’, the rearing and semi-taming of wild animals to be shot as trophies by big game hunters. This legislation is now being copied in France and being looked at around the world. He has also spoken out about the cruelty of cosmetic testing on animals, and worked to bring about change in his party and a commitment through Ministers, the Prime Minister and the party room to get it done.
This has come at a cost to him. After all, how dare a Liberal MP introduce legislation that is good for animals? Not only with the Coalition, but outside it, he has met fierce resistance. He has been threatened, both physically and politically. Parties like the Liberal Democrats and the Shooters and Fishers are targeting him and will run AGAINST him in his seat of La Trobe. I can hear them saying “What kind of example would it be if somebody that does good work for animals were to stay in power? This compassion, it must be expunged at all costs.”
In supporting Jason Wood, we are opposing the shooters and the gun nuts who want him gone. As far as we are concerned, the real war is not between Labor and Liberal. What a phony war that is! The real war is on animals. And we are the only ones fighting on their side. But if we see any reliable allies, you bet we will support them too.
Throughout this campaign, we have worked cooperatively with a range of people, both inside and outside of politics. Sadly, very often, in our experience, people will not move on an action unless it can be turned to political or financial advantage. They want credit. If we are to make progress, at least someone must be prepared to advance and pour resources into the project in order to get it done - for the result…to stop animal suffering. We always aim to be that party.
Who has heard of Nyree Walshe, our 'Saving Face' end cruel cosmetics campaign manager? Probably no one, because she goes about the work with vigour and enthusiasm, and with no expectation of personal reward. Just like all our many volunteers. We come together as a political party not because we look the same, have the same religion, race or class, but because we all agree that working together we can cultivate a better world for animals.
And our party has received nothing in return for all this work. We have received no credit, no money, no favours. There have been no backroom deals. There are no preferences coming our way from the Coalition. But we have received what is for us much more important - agreement for the passage of a bill that will stop the unnecessary and unethical torture of powerless sentient beings. What we have received is agreement to make a better life for animals - the very reason we exist.
Only the impotent are pure. We reject the doctrine that we should aim for a level of purity that doesn’t allow us to win campaigns by trading our preferences for outcomes.
We didn’t invent politics. It is as old as our species…no, older. The use of power to govern and change society is as old as organised groups. For the last few thousand years, humans have used it to organise a society that is hell on earth for our fellow animals. But for the first time in history, there is a measure of power being held in trust and used on behalf of animals. Here, and in the Netherlands, Portugal, Germany….the list grows all the time.
And even with this small measure of the total power wielded by politicians in Australia, breakthroughs are being made.
In this coming election we are running in over 40 seats nationwide and for the Senate in 7 of 8 states and territories. In just one seat we are recommending that the voters preference the best friend that animals have in the Coalition. Not such a big claim, but not such a big ask either.
Loss of support
So, not for the first time, when we support those who support animals, and punish those who hurt animals, we have crossed the uncrossable party boundaries that people use as shorthand to remember who the good guys are. We have received a torrent of abuse, criticism, complaint, threat and the inevitable loss of support from some. It is a harsh reward for success.
Remember that, unlike most parties of influence in Australia, we are a party of volunteers. People have given up their time and money to work on behalf of animals to gain them power and achieve these results.
If we were largely unsuccessful, we would certainly get less criticism. It is because we are already having an impact that we have created such vocal enemies. We are ruffling feathers and threatening people’s vested interests. If we did not advise you to vote for anyone, we would be very inoffensive.
I think a lot of people in the animal protection movement are optimists - perhaps too much so. They think perhaps "If only we want something enough, perhaps politicians will, out of the essential goodness in their hearts, reach out and make it happen. After all, we live in a democracy, and they only work towards the best results for the people”.
I would like to live in that same world. But I live in this one.
I so often hear people say, having spoken to their local MP, “Well, they seemed REALLY nice”. Yes, that is their job.
If you want the animals to have some power to bargain with, Vote 1 Animal Justice Party.
Just to make things clear, the government is formed by the party with the majority in the Lower House. This means that Government has always been picked by the voters and the ONLY influence any party can have on that, is the recommendations we give you on the How To Vote cards. These are traditionally called Preferences, but in actual fact, all they are is advice.
The big change this year is that the Group Voting Ticket (GVT) for the Senate has gone. There is no longer such as thing as preference flows agreed to by the parties. The parliament abolished it just before ending the session and holding this election. No party can control your vote so you can preference in your own way. In the Senate, Vote 1 (AJP) and 2 through at least 6 for whoever you want to.
We will have some parties with decent attitudes to animals on our How to Vote card, but there is no penalty for not following it.
In the lower house, Vote 1 for the AJP candidate, and the others in your order of preference. Our card will merely show our suggestion.
TL;DR: In 1 seat amongst 55 we advise our supporters to vote for the Liberal guy ahead of Labor. If you are a voter, the choice is still in your hands.
Q. What if the Libs win by one seat?
A. Then a bad government will have been voted for by a majority of Australians, but ultimately will have been saved from defeat by the one commitment they made to reduce animal cruelty. Maybe they should do more of that? But what if the Liberals win by 5-10 seats as is being predicted by most psephologists and bookmakers, to serve another term of 3 years, or 6 or 9, with no commitment or end in sight to the unnecessary suffering of animals in cosmetic testing?
Q. What if the ALP win the election
A. Labor is rightly committed to legislation on this matter, as are The Greens. Whoever wins this election, cruel cosmetics will end.
Q. What if politicians come to understand that all they need to do to get your support is implement good legislation for animals?
A. Then we start to achieve what we are all fighting for – a kinder world for animals which also means a kinder world for all, including humans.
Interested in learning more about our policies? You can read them here