November 25, 2014 – 12:40PM
By Andy Hazel
Seven weeks after stating his party would make no preference deals, Basics Rock and Roll Party (BRRP) head Mr Kris Schroeder was standing on the back of a truck in a Northcote carpark, playing AC/DC’s It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Want to Rock and Roll) alongside Australian Sex Party (ASP) director Ms Fiona Patten.
This drive around Melbourne’s inner north last Sunday afternoon was to advertise the preference-swap deal between the BRRP and the ASP. Mr Schroeder is the first to admit that if a week is a long time in politics, seven weeks is an aeon.
‘It turns out we would’ve been fined if we didn’t have preferences!’ he says, referring to the laws enforcing the lodgement of group voting tickets for parties contesting the Upper House.
In an earlier interview with UniPollWatch, Mr Schroeder dismissed the Sex Party saying ‘[they] had a point when they were representing sex workers, like we do representing musicians.’ But now the BRRP have signed up to a preference deal that could see one of the two parties clinching at least one balance-of-power seat in the Upper House.
After discovering the Greens had already preferenced ASP, BRRP decided it was happy to do the same. Representatives of BRRP and ASP met in a Carlton café and a friendship was born.
Despite campaigning together and sharing common causes such as greater political transparency and accountability, key policy differences exist between the two parties.
One of the ASP’s key transportation policies is the concurrent development of the East West Link road, with the Melbourne Metro Rail Project.
Asking the ASP’s Western Metro candidate Vicki Nash about the view on the East West Link earns a withering death-stare, a whispered expletive and an exasperated sigh before fellow candidate Mr Martin Leahy steps in.
‘Our freeways need to be connected in some way,’ he says.
Specifically, the party want Stage Two of the development to be prioritised over Stage One and constructed concurrently with the Melbourne Metro Rail Project, should it be found to be economically viable.
Spokesman Mr Chris Johnson qualifies the policy: ‘If Stage Two was to show promising economic returns, we’d support that.’
Mr Johnson says the party consider ‘promising economic returns’ to mean a figure around the $1.60 for every $1 invested. This is the figure that statutory body Infrastructure Australia attached to the Melbourne Metro Rail Project.
Meanwhile the BRRP’s Mr Schroeder’s stance on the East West Link is less dependent on feasibility studies and economic returns. He has said in the past that opposition to the road was one of his reasons for entering politics. ‘It’s the sort of thing that makes you go “fuck that. As if I’m going stand aside and let them decide my future and the future of my children and their children”.’
But Mr Schroeder is now more measured in his appraisal of the project and his new co-campaigners.
‘The Sex Party might see the East-West Link as being of great economic benefit to Victoria, but I haven’t seen evidence of this. In our opinions, community must always take precedence and we encourage them to share our view on this in making their own policy.’
‘It’s easier to influence opinion having earned their confidence, especially when otherwise we share a lot of common ground,’ he adds.
These shifting views are in keeping with something Mr Schroeder prides himself on: his changeability.
He has previously told UniPollWatch that sticking to a view when presented with newer, more relevant information is an example of a poor community representative.
‘I’m the perfect mouthpiece because I change my mind every five seconds depending on who’s talking to me,’ he said.
As the day of reckoning approaches, it’s easy to imagine a lot of new information will be coming Mr Schroeder’s way. Whether or not this makes him reconsider past statements, one thing voters can be sure of is the party’s manifesto, his band’s Midnight Oil-channelling song The Lucky Country.
But a policy manifesto that is loud and clear is hard to come by.
Andy Hazel is a Master of Journalism student at the University of Melbourne