It seems timely to say more about this, given that the election has been run and won (or lost, in our case).
There is a segment of our supporter base who are genuinely disappointed that we agreed to preference most minor parties (excepting the shooters and fishers and their ilk) ahead of the major parties, including The Greens, Labor and Liberals. They have a view that we should have preferenced parties with good animal policies above all others. The problem with this view is that it would give us no chance of winning whatsoever. Civilised disagreement is, of course, something to engage with and celebrate. Now, while we have not won in any case, we went dangerously close to it, and it is ultimately a failure to get preferences from one or two other minor parties in the order that we needed which has cost us the seat.
There is a further segment that do not understand why we would put The Greens last in the ACT. This has been explained here:
Ultimately, we have tried everything we can to save a group of animals, whose lives should not be swept under the carpet. If there is a failure here, it is on the part of The Greens. It is a failure to care about these lives.
And then there are antagonists that exist to damage and discredit our movement and party. Sadly, most of this has come from The Greens.
For example, they paid for a google ad that came up and suggested that the Animal Justice Party “support Cruel Live Exports”. Yeah, right.
They sent out misinformation mixed with truth, deliberately in order to deceive and confuse. These included the lies that:
“AJP are preferencing One Nation in Melbourne” – untrue on many levels, since they were not running
“AJP are preferencing the Shooters” – untrue except that we were preferencing them last
“The ACT Greens have stopped the cull and I understand that they are relocating many of the kangaroos.” – from the normally excellent Lee Rhiannon. Completely untrue.
“The AJP made a deal with the shooters party” – completely untrue, we have never even spoken to them except to advise them we will be putting them last on our preference paper
“The AJP are preferencing the Liberals” – certainly true in that we put The Greens last in the ACT, but issued as a nationwide advertisement to confuse voters, 99% of whom were in states where we were preferencing The Greens ahead of Labor and the Liberals.
“But The Greens are always so pure in their preferences” – Yeah, right. That’s why they preferenced the Shooters in WA the last election (getting them elected!), and Palmer United this election (getting him elected!).
“in Victoria they have preferenced the LNP and the Shooters and fishers over the greens” – Completely untrue and this came out on the night before the election, nicely timed so that we had no chance to correct it. This was sent to thousands of people who are concerned about animals.
Many of these emails were sent not just to animal lovers and Greens supporters, but animal organisations, funding bodies, wildlife groups.
On the day of the election, we manned around 100 voting booths. There were many good stories, but there were also many bad stories, where people would not take our cards “because we are preferencing the shooters”. Hmmm, ok.
This stuff was on Facebook, on email, on Google. Flying squads of real and fake greens supporters spammed our pages to create doubt and sow discontent.
We had few funds to put towards advertising, and even less to put to countering the overwhelming variety of lies being told. We did pay for some corflutes (signs) to be put up in the ACT, but these were vandalised by The Greens in the days before the election. When challenged about it, they didn’t even bother denying it.
So why didn’t we do more to counter-attack against this bullying? For one thing, we don’t have the budget to, and they know that. Just as the Lab/Lib parties often attack The Greens close to the election date, knowing they don’t have the means to fight back with paid ads, so they know they can do that to us. So they have learnt something I suppose.
Secondly, we were doing everything possible to support Adam Bandt’s re-election in the lower house seat of Melbourne. Adam has been an advocate of banning live export and the office of animal welfare, and it would be very unfortunate to lose that voice in the house. With his re-election being predicted as a very close thing indeed, we felt that it was necessary to ‘grin and bear’ the abuse from another set of Greens, so that we could not damage the chances of another Green (who was re-elected, with a great primary vote and the assistance of our and other preferences).
All this is very difficult for our supporters and volunteers. Sorry about that. Many of them, motivated to make a difference in the lives of animals, have given enormously of there time and money, only to be met with scorn and abuse. But they are the best. And living with scorn and abuse is just one more sacrifice that they will have to make in order to win this fight.
We lost this election. As it turns out…just. A few more votes or a slightly different preference flow from some of the minors and it might have been very different.
But we will contest the next one, and the next, and the next. Already we have achieved a small measure of political power to be wielded directly for animals. In the future, there will be more.
We are pleased to have skipped so quickly to stage 3 of Gandhi’s theory of social change (they are fighting us). Next, we win.