By John Flanagan
In terms of human suffering, the Australian public has already paid dearly for the failure to reform outdated, badly administered and inappropriate institutions dealing with family breakdown — and for the failure of governments to take seriously the voices of the men and women most directly affected by them. The country’s failure to reform its dysfunctional and discredited family law and child support systems is ultimately a failure of democracy itself.
One of those fighting in the trenches against a multi-billion dollar tax payer funded industry and the malpractice and malfeasance that characterises the sector has been founder of the Non-Custodial Parents Party John Flanagan. Hundreds of hours went into overcoming the many hurdles the Australian political system puts in the path of anyone trying to overcome the hegemony of the major political parties. Here he recounts the story.
The Story of the NCPP
The Non-Custodial Parents Party (Equal Parenting) (originally known as the Non-Custodial Parents Party) is a minor political party in Australia. The party has members in all states and territories of Australia. It supports less government control of many aspects of daily family life. In particular, it puts forward a number of policies seeking changes in the areas of family law and child support.
The party was registered with the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) for 21 years as a political party. The party was initially registered with the AEC as a political party on 12 January 1999. This was as the Non-Custodial Parents Party. Later the party was re-registered with the AEC as the Non-Custodial Parents Party (Equal Parenting). The party subsequently voluntarily de-registered with the AEC on 27 May 2020.
The party’s web-site states that the core policies centre on the issue of family law reform. It emphasises legislative changes in order to enshrine a child’s natural rights to a meaningful relationship with both parents, and legal and procedural changes to ensure that the Child Support system is fair, equitable and aimed at fulfilling its primarily goal, that being to support the children.
The policies are primarily aimed at assisting non-custodial parents, grandparents and spouses of non-custodial parents. This is particularly with respect to those parents who have either not been granted contact with their children or who have been adversely affected by the child support legislation.
The Non-Custodial Parents Party (Equal Parenting) was formed in Australia in 1998 by Andrew Thompson and other concerned citizens. The original name of the Party was the Non-Custodial Parents Party. Andrew Thompson is the Party Secretary and the Registered Officer of the Party. John Flanagan became the Deputy Registered Officer of the Party in 2003.
The Non-Custodial Parents Party first fielded candidates at the 1999 NSW State Election. Since the 1999 NSW State Election, the Non-Custodial Parents Party has provided candidates for all federal elections until 2019. The Non-Custodial Parents Party has fielded candidates in the 2001, 2004, 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016 and 2019 Federal Elections. The party also ran a candidate in the 2002 Cunningham Federal By-Election and in the 2017 Bennelong Federal By-Election.
In that time, we have had 66 candidates contest these elections. We have organised or attended 57 street rallies. We have made 44 submissions to various parliamentary and other inquiries. We have also appeared on various DadsontheAir community radio programmes. This was firstly at Liverpool with John Stapleton and then later with Bill Kable and Kathryn Barrett.
Prior to the 2016 Federal election, most voters followed the “how to vote” cards for the Senate of the various political parties and just marked a single box above the line. This triggered the party’s group voting ticket (a pre-assigned sequence of preferences). Only a few voters took the time and placed a number in every box below the line to allow them to assign their own preferences.
For example, our party’s preferences were part of the reason why Barnaby Joyce was first elected to the Senate in 2004. Our party’s Queensland vote with preferences was 4,332 votes. Senator Len Harris’s vote was 106,466 votes. This was just 3096 votes ahead of Pauline Hanson’s vote. Our party pre-assigned group voting ticket preferenced Pauline Hanson ahead of Len Harris.
As such, our vote reversed the placing of Len Harris and Pauline Hanson in the voting count. It allowed Pauline Hanson to continue in the count and Len Harris was eliminated. At the same time, 32,165 Fishing Party votes ,that were held by Len Harris, were freed as a result of the Len Harris being eliminated. These preferences and some other preferences were transferred to Barnaby Joyce. This, in turn, allowed Barnaby Joyce to eliminate Pauline Hanson and be elected to the Senate for the first time.
If we would have preferenced Len Harris ahead of Pauline Hanson, then Len Harris would have retained the Fishing Party preferences. He would have eliminated Barnaby Joyce. Len Harris would have been re-elected as a Senator and we probably may not have heard anymore of Barnaby Joyce. However that was not the case.
Because of pre-assigned group voting method, the larger political parties tended to listen to what our party had to say – at least every three (3) years at election time. That was until 2016.
Important changes were made in 2016 to the method of voting in the Senate. The “above the line” group voting tickets were abolished and also optional preferential voting was introduced for both “above the line” and “below the line” voting. Both changes in voting procedure significantly reduced the impact of smaller political parties such as the Non-Custodial Parents Party (Equal Parenting).
The ballot paper did continue to have a box for each party above a heavy line. This is with each party’s candidates in a column below that party’s box that was located below the solid line. As a result of these electoral changes made in 2016, voters were now able to assign their own preferences for parties “above the line”. This is by numbering a minimum of six boxes above the line (and then as many boxes as they wished).
If voters chose to do so, they had the option of placing a number in every box, below the line. This was as could be previously done prior to 2016. However this was with the additional change with the voter not being required to fill all of the boxes below the line. Therefore above and below the line voting now became optional preferential voting.
Without pre-assigned group voting by the political parties and to some extent the introduction of optional preferential voting, the allocation of voters’ preferences was often found to be quite random. This made smaller political parties, such as the Non-Custodial Parents Party (Equal Parenting), far less relevant in determining the outcome of Senate elections and to some extent House of Representative seats. The larger political parties now ignored us.
Voluntary de-registration with the AEC was then undertaken and became effective from 27 March 2020.
- Wikipedia. Non-Custodial Parents Party (Equal Parenting). Date accessed 13 June 2020.
- The Non-Custodial Parents Party (Equal Parenting) web-site. www.equalparenting.org.au.
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