Published November 20, 2008
SYDNEY, Australia – The name may seem like a joke, but the Australian Sex Party is serious — serious about sex, according to their slogan.
The country's newest political party is also serious about a number of other issues: quashing a government proposal for a national Internet filter that would block 10,000 Web sites; instituting a national sex education curriculum; and pushing for the legalization of gay marriage.
The party — launched Thursday at Sexpo, an annual sex exhibition in Melbourne — has already gathered the required 500 members and plans to register with the electoral commission next week.
While most of its members are drawn from Eros — Australia's national adult industry association— the Sex Party believes it can attract a broader base.
"We're concerned about the Australian government becoming a nanny state, and about this conservative creep in politics," party convener and Eros head Fiona Patten told The Associated Press by phone.
Patten said she had expected Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, whose center-left Labour Party took power nearly a year ago, to be "reasonably socially progressive."
But she was surprised when Rudd called a May exhibit of photographs of nude teenagers "revolting." Critics said the Sydney show constituted obscenity, but the artwork was eventually cleared by Australia's Classification Board as non-pornographic.
Patten called the federal government's proposal for an Internet filter "the last straw" and said the party's first goal is to alert voters to the "unprecedented censorship of legal material" encompassed by the filter.
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy told Parliament earlier this month that his mandatory Internet filter would block 10,000 Web sites on a government blacklist of "unwanted content," including sites showing child pornography, excessive violence, drug use or instructions in criminal or terrorist acts.
But Patten said the filter targets a far wider range of sites.
"If they were aiming to block child pornography, no problem," she said. "But they've identified any adult site, things like playboy.com, a site that shows material that you can buy in a news agency or rent or buy in an adult video shop. It was an incredible shift back 30 years."
The party's platform also includes support for an age-appropriate national sex education curriculum, gay marriage and opposition to a government policy that bans overseas aid to any organization that provides abortion information.
The Australian Christian Lobby has already condemned the Sex Party "for its inappropriate views about women."
"Pornography and prostitution do enormous damage to women and children, and the idea of mainstream political parties giving this trade seats in our nation's parliaments ... would offend the sensibilities of most Australians who believe women should be respected," the lobby's Managing Director Jim Wallace said in a statement. "The last thing we need in Parliament is a Sex Party pushing for governments to put more sex in ours and our children's faces."
But Patten believes the Australian Sex Party offers a new voice to many Australians.
"We feel we really have hit a nerve," she said. "I'm kind of blown away by the response. People appreciate our policies of education, gender equality. They are taking us seriously."
The party, whose slogan is "We're serious about sex," plans to run candidates in Senate and state upper house elections.