Nominations for the NSW State election have closed and are posted on the NSW Electoral Commission website. Once again, the Shooters Party is only standing for the upper house and has not nominated for any lower house seats.
The party that gains the most seats in the lower house forms government. If Labor wins more seats, it will continue to govern. If the Coalition does, there will be a change of government. The upper house is far less important to either of them than winning a majority of seats in the lower house.
Winning requires not only primary votes, but also more preferences. The preferences of the minor parties and independent candidates in the lower house seats will determine the outcome of the election.
Most of the minor parties use this to their advantage. The Greens and the Fishing Party are good examples. If ever there is a time to put pressure on the major parties, it’s in marginal lower house electorates at election time. With preferences, they win. Without them, they lose.
Not the Shooters Party. It knows better. Its political geniuses have concluded that it makes no difference who wins the lower house so they’ll stay out of it (as they have since before 1995). As a result they have again dealt themselves out of the action. While the main match has lots of competitors and takes up the main rifle range, they are involved in a minor match on the junior’s range that will be decided with a single shot rifle and a solitary round.
Their reasoning is that if the party wins a second seat, there will be two shooters in parliament who can stand up for shooters rights. Maybe so, but there were two shooters in the last parliament too (David Oldfield and John Tingle) and it didn’t seem to help much. But let’s assume for now that Roy Smith and Robert Brown are capable of more than those two.
Whatever their capability, the reality is that what they can achieve for shooters will be governed by their leverage in parliament. That is, how often their votes are required by the government. If the government can achieve a majority without them, and that is a distinct possibility given the likely makeup of the upper house, they’ll achieve very little apart from what they can wheedle (and neither Brown nor Smith can wheedle as well as Tingle). If the government needs their votes most of the time, they might get somewhere.
Now suppose Roy Smith is not elected. What will the Shooters Party have achieved? More than $700,000 gone, with nothing to show for it. No consolation prize. Nothing at all. The party will probably collapse, as it almost did after the 1999 loss.
But what if the Shooters Party had chosen to contest a number of marginal lower house seats as well as the upper house?
Suppose it had used its preferences to negotiate with the major parties while they were under pressure, gaining written promises and commitments that could be used against them later. Or, if they refused to make any worthwhile promises, directing preferences against the sitting member. (That really sends them ballistic.) What then?
If Smith was not elected, the party would still have had an impact. Its preferences may have determined the outcome in some seats, perhaps even the government. Some MPs would owe their seats to shooter preferences. Shooters would have left their mark, with the potential to do it again.
If Smith was elected, his and Brown’s negotiating position in parliament would have been considerably enhanced. They would not only have their votes to leverage, but would inevitably be dealing with MPs who owed their seats to shooter preferences and might need them again in future.
When I was Chairman of the Shooters Party (1999-2005) I argued very strongly for the party to contest lower house seats as well as the upper house. I never had a chance against what passes for political intelligence in the organisation. At the 2005 State Conference, the party voted 30 to 1 against standing candidates in the lower house. (Incidentally, it also voted by the same margin against running in the federal election. Another of my frustrations.)
With “friends” like these, you wonder whether shooters really need enemies.