Monday, 10 August 2009

The Australian Sex Party (ASP) has been on my radar for some months now but it has just got approval from the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) to run in elections.

Now it can take to the stage where influence is brought to bear on the public alongside the Greens, and help to form debate on a broader scale, not just at the level of the sex industry but at the civil level.

ASP convenor Fiona Patten has been in the news in regard to sex policies and activism for a long time. In 1992 she founded the Eros Foundation, based in Canberra, which lobbied for certain policies and laws against a determined, conservative agenda. She left the foundation in 2000 and spoke with the ABC’s Julie Posetti.

JULIE POSETTI: What sort of support have you had from your family? I mean, a lot of people, you know, would go home and tell mum and dad, 'I'm going to represent the sex industry' and be met with an apoplectic reaction.

FIONA PATTEN: Yes. Look, honestly, in some ways they would probably prefer that I was doing - I was doing something else or representing other people - you know, the wheat farmers of Australia or something. But one of my, sort of, ancestors or relatives is a woman called Jessy [actually ‘Jessie’] Street who was a fabulous reformist, and actually she spoke out - or spoke for sex workers back in the first part of this century. So -

JULIE POSETTI: She was, of course, a famous feminist.

FIONA PATTEN: Mm.

JULIE POSETTI: A founding mother, if you like of feminism in Australia.

It’s useful to note that the ASP’s logo bears the same ‘twin arrow’ design as that which was used by the Eros Foundation.

As for the name, the AEC decided that the name of the new party was not ‘obscene’, as suggested by petitioners to the AEC. To reach their conclusion, the AEC referred to statutes.

An application for registration as a federal political party has never previously been refused on the basis of the name being ‘obscene’. Accordingly, the AEC had to assess the validity of this claim by conducting an examination of case law and statute relating to the word ‘obscene’ in order to obtain some guidance on the standard that must be met for an application to be refused under s129(1)(b). When the Party name and abbreviation are assessed in light of the guidance afforded by existing case law and statute on the word ‘obscene’, the name ‘Australian Sex Party’ and the abbreviation ‘Sex Party’ are not prohibited under s129(1)(b).

This must have been a relief to Patten and her coworkers at the ASP, which now is able to run candidates in Australian electorates for the purpose of gaining seats in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The party’s logo is accompanied by a humorous slogan: “Where you come first!”

Which may be considered, by some, to be obscene.

In any event it is a done deal and we will now see ASP candidates debating issues in the federal arena alongside previously the only alternative game in town - the Greens. The Eros Foundation seems to still exist as it has a Hotfrog page. But it has no website or published telephone number. However the Eros Association (‘Australia’s national adult retail entertainment association’) does have a web page. It also has the Eros Foundation’s twin-arrow logo and the same Deakin address. The Eros Association website says it, too, was founded in 1992.

Considering that Canberra is Australia’s porn capital, I guess it’s not surprising to see this as the postal address. Nor this as part of its duty statement:

“We seek to bring logical and popular perspectives to love and sex rather than moral or religious ones.”

“Make love, not war” is another element, albeit borrowed from the more-popular Hippie Movement of the 1960s and -70s.

At some point the Eros Foundation became the Eros Association. What is clear, however, is that the people who formed this industry peak body had a hand in assuring that ‘X-rated’ movies were not banned by the federal government. That was in the late 80s. But, as the website says, the fight continues:

Despite overwhelming support for the legalisation of X rated videos amongst the general public (72% average in polls over 10 years), they remain illegal in all the states. It is still illegal to host adult content from an Australian ISP and phone sex is still illegal if charged to a normal home phone account. On the other side of the ledger, X videos remain legal at a federal level despite constant pressure from sections of the government to ban them. Draconian laws to make it illegal to even upload adult material to a website, have been defeated in some states but have been passed in others.

Clearly Patten has a lot of experience dealing with government on touchy subjects. As a member of the peak industry body, she was at arm’s length from business and so was able to deal effectively with politicians without them becoming involved in potentially damaging entanglements with the private sector. She has served a useful purpose.

I wonder why she left the association?

Whatever the reason may be, she has now found a more substantial platform for her activities and inspirations.

Jessie Street (1889 - 1970) has an entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

1 comment:

membership said...

Hi Dean,

Yes the Eros Foundation has become the Eros Association Inc and currently Fiona Patten continues to be the CEO of the Association as well as the Convener of the Sex Party. She is an amazing woman with an unrivaled knowledge of the Australian adult industry.

It is our hope that the Australian Sex Party will be able to provide an alternative voice to the increasing conservatism that seems to be creeping into politics.

Cheers,
Rebecca
Membership Manager: Australian Sex Party