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It's official: the Australian Sex Party (ASP) is now a bona fide political party, entitled to appear on the ballot paper, raise funds and even - if they gain more than four percent of the primary vote - eligible for public funding.

This follows a long drawn-out tussle with the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), after several members of the public claimed that the Party’s name was obscene. In a five-page minute (pdf) that carefully explored the precise meaning of the concept of obscenity and how it related to the electoral process, the AEC decided that the various objections received to the registration of the ASP were outside the grounds on which a refusal might be made.

They did, however, consider objections that the ASP name invoked "orgiastic notions", with a full analysis of the case and statute law surrounding the subject.

The AEC found that the name itself was unlikely to "deprave or corrupt" voters – the touchstone test for obscenity in both the UK and Australia. They were also swayed by the fact that the party membership forms state that "Sex is deeply rooted in the lives of all Australians. It is relevant to hundreds of pieces of legislation made around the country", as well as a message instructing members to "Vote 1 for personal freedom and sexual rights".

In an outbreak of establishment common sense, the AEC therefore ruled: "The name was most likely selected because of the substance and subject matter of many of the party’s key policies, such as the legalisation of marriage for same sex couples, the introduction of sex education into schools, and the listing of drugs used to treat sexual dysfunction on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme."

Responding to this decision, the ASP urged party supporters to take pride in this historic event.

They had no criticism for the AEC, which also had to investigate accusations that party convenor Fiona Patten and its public officer are involved in abusing Asian sex workers, running illegal brothels, destroying the innocence of minors and generally corrupting public morality. According to the ASP: "It's not easy getting a political party registered. Neither should it be. You don't want every ideologue or collective in the country appearing on the ballot paper at election time."

Now that the registration process is done, and the ASP has joined the ranks of the other 27 political parties registered in Australia, the serious work will begin: policy development, candidate selection and fund-raising.

As the Reg has previously observed, this phenomenon is one to watch. The ASP was born out of substantial exasperation that when it came to legislation on public morality, the Australian establishment appeared to be living on a different planet from the rest of Australia. In this sense, they mirror recent developments in Europe, where Pirate Parties have been established out of a sense that government is only listening to one voice when it comes to internet issues.

Given the electoral arithmetic in Australia, whereby the balance of power in Federal and State Senates has often been held by one or two independents (in turn tending to represent fairly reactionary moral positions), the specific limited electoral aims of the ASP - to supplant these senators, and themselves to hold the balance of power - is by no means unrealistic. ®

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