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How did Australia’s first ever Arts Party perform at its first Federal Election?

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The newly-formed Arts Party has fallen far short of its optimistic goal of one million votes in its first federal election, but Arts Party leader PJ Collins told Daily Review he’s “very happy” with the result.

So far the Arts Party has received just under 30,000 first preferences across both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Collins says they’re predicting that number will rise to somewhere between 40,000 and 50,000 once all the votes are counted.

“We hoped for better and prepared for worse,” Collins said. “We don’t have the full picture yet. What will transpire with the preferences through the Senate will be very interesting. The numbers will be much bigger when we start looking at the second, third and fourth preferences for the Arts Party.”

Collins says there could be up to 500,000 favourable Senate preferences given to the Arts Party. But even then it’s practically impossible that the party will pick up a spot.

The Arts Party formed in August 2014 after a lengthy crowd-funding campaign, to ensure that the arts are adequately supported by governments. At the weekend’s election it had Senate candidates in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania, and House of Representatives candidates in Wentworth, Bennelong, Warringah, Longman, Petrie, Franklin and Dunkley.

In Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s seat of Wentworth, Arts Party candidate comedian Anthony Ackroyd came in fourth place behind Liberal, Labor and the Greens, beating two independents, the Christian Democrat Party and the Science Party. Tim Sanderson, the candidate for the Tasmanian seat of Franklin performed best, picking up 2.4% of the votes in that electorate.

While the Party hasn’t had any successful candidates, Collins said he’s encouraged by the result. He also said that the 200 volunteers who handed out how-to-vote leaflets for the party received lots of positive feedback, with plenty of voters pleasantly surprised to learn of the existence of an arts party.

“We’re certainly not at the bottom but we’re not at the top, but we’re amongst the youngest,” he says. “So it’s really early days for us.

“Moreso than any party that’s polled higher than us, we’ve done this on the smell of an oily rag, so it’s onwards and upwards for us.”

The focus will now turn to other elections around the country.

“The core of what we do is about direct support for the arts sector, but really it’s about introducing an arts sensibility and an arts-based voice into our democracy at whatever level we can,” Collins says.

“By the time we get to the next federal election, I’d love to see us with somebody in state parliament somewhere and multiple people in local councils across the country.”

The Arts Party is receiving its highest percentage vote in Queensland currently, where 0.41% of voters (currently just over 6000) gave their first preference to the party. Collins says the Party’s relative success in Queensland is partly due to the Newman Government’s arts cuts.

“When the last Queensland state election came around and Campbell Newman got dumped, there was a huge backlash at that point about the treatment of the arts in Queensland. That has definitely improved under Labor up in Queensland, but awareness of our existence certainly got a big boost in Queensland during that campaign.

“It’s a bit of a bipolar state — on one hand, Pauline Hanson is up, but the arts get the highest percentage there than in any state. Talk about both ends of the spectrum.”

On a positive note, Collins says the recent instability in the arts sector has inspired several minor parties to develop arts policies. That includes the Nick Xenophon Team, which could turn out to hold significant sway in the next parliament with its first lower house seat and a likely two in the Senate.

Collins says he hopes the Arts Party will continue to grow its membership and become a strong voice in the democratic process, particularly if the Coalition is returned to power.

“It looks like we’ll still be governed by a party with no cultural policy, so in that sense, all of the direct reasons why people got behind the Arts Party are still in place. There’s never been a better time to stand up for the arts than right now.”

11 responses to “How did Australia’s first ever Arts Party perform at its first Federal Election?

  1. God arty farty non Qld “nice people” always LOVE to attack Qld somehow. So we get blamed fro Hanson when in fact Hanson is a product of many factors including huge economic inequality in North Qld after the mining boom.

    I gave the Arts Party a third Senate preference after Greens and Labor. BUT given the obvious latent BIGOTRY of these more “cosmopolitan” arty types I wonder if I would again.

    When people say they want Arts Funding returned they really want arts public servants given back their jobs for life!! And also we get back the appalling way those arts public servants treat individual artists!! The Arts are a closed little system that is impervious to change. No matter what one thinks of Hanson she will cause real change…for the better or for the worse. The arts are quite impotent in Australia because its all GOVERNMENT ART!

    1. Hang on there. The Arts Party has run in three elections – the federal election and the NSW and Queensland State elections. This is why there was the focus on Queensland – and the backlash came from Queenslanders themselves who organised very quickly to have an Arts Party presence at their election.

    2. “The arts are quite impotent in Australia because its all GOVERNMENT ART!”

      Someone not making art subsidized by an illiterate government

    3. Sorry Scott,
      You lost me when you went on a pro Queensland rant. Followed up with an attack on public servants it constituted a diatribe.It is possible voted for the Arts party -they got my first preference- because they are concerned about the Neocons attack on the arts. They can’t put a dollar value on Australian culture so they attack its funding. They can’t see that the arts are an essential part of our cultural heritage. They can’t see the damage they are doing. That’s why Arts Party got my vote.

      1. We in the Arts Party have two roles here, one is as makers, performers, writers or producers in whatever field we express our creativity, the other is education so this kind of flippant and offhand dismissal is able to be countered. How important are ‘The Arts’ in your life? Without artistic creativity you would have not clothing, no TV shows or films to watch, no music to download, no soft furnishings in your home, no paint on your walls, no sleek lines on your new care or motorbike, no games to play on your PS4, no music in your local pub and no fireworks on Australia Day. I use art as a therapist, in writing, in painting in mask making it brings healing and hope in sometimes the most terrible of circumstances, by soldiers damaged by war, by mothers mourning a lost child or a criminal seeking hope. There is a place for creativity and the Arts in all areas of government policy, not just education or ‘Arts Funding’ but in every area. We all need to pay more attention. Art and creativity helps us to be better people for ourselves and for each other.

  2. The arts sector has brought all this mayhem upon itself. The Australia Council has shown its inability to effectively reform itself to account AND to ‘cultural democracy’. Otherwise the federal government is just funding the nation’s largest cult group. Hence the re-allocation of funds – NOT CUTS, as the sector is happy to misinform and dumb down the reality of a little bit of inspection and accountability.
    Luvvies please go check up on the reasons for the re-allocation ie “closed shop”. Go and talk to the victims of your closed cartel or let the Productivity Commission conduct an Inquiry. The entire Australia arts public sector funding model is essentially a socialism model for serfs, held captive to desperately beg for handouts or favour payouts, bring on the Unions’ Inquiry and include the arts sector too as it’s the same stitch-up model. The private sector and the audience is discouraged and excluded from supporting a ‘new’ model, sigh…
    The Australia Council ignores it’s ‘shadow’ at its own peril. This inward focus is foreign to European and USA arts funding models, hence our local model fails us all.

  3. I thought I should add to this story that the actual results for the Arts Party were over 1.5million preference votes. More than 10% of all Australian voters preferenced us between 1-6 for the senate alone.

    In terms of first preference federal senate votes, the Arts Party came 26th out of 56 parties, beating any comparable party:

    The entire campaign was crowdfunded to the tune of 100K. A further breakdown is available here:

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