Words by Duncan Willis
Illustration by Jennifer Crow
In Graeme Green’s Magnum Opus The Quiet American, American CIA agent Alden Pyle argues that the way to protect democracy in 1950s Vietnam is to fund a “third force” who will overcome both communists and colonialists to be Vietnam’s saviour. The idea of a third option is one that is becoming commonplace in world democracies.
In the polls leading up to the recent Indian elections, the Aam Aadami Party (AAP) sought to present a transparent alternative to the dominant parties, showing a fresh face in the Indian political scene, different to the Hindu fundamentalist party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) or the corruption riddled Congress party. In Australian politics we have our own third force, bigger than most, of Clive Palmer and his Palmer United Party. But for some reason Clive’s policies haven’t seemed to have taken hold in Victoria, quite possibly because we’ve always preferred watching birds over watching dinosaurs. Instead we’ve got the Greens, who in all honesty are probably better for everybody than the Clive Juggernaut.
In our Westminster system, third parties are rarely seen in the Lower House and when they are, they’re usually—bar the 2010 election—not important. When they do get elected they generally find themselves squeezed by the two major parties who don’t need the help of the cross benchers to pursue their agenda. However, this all changes in the Upper house, with our unique voting system permitting a swathe of minor parties into the house. The current Senate constitutes some parties which have been on the minor party scene for a while (Greens and Family First) and others which fall into the “there’s a party for that?” category, like the Motoring Enthusiast Party.