Q&A: Australian Sex Party's Fiona Patten on Victory, the Future

LOS ANGELES — With a name like “The Australian Sex Party” it stands to reason that such a political organization would grab attention, raise eyebrows and in some cases be the target of scorn and criticism by conservative do-gooders and moral zealots.

But Australia’s maverick civil liberties political party embraces its moniker and has withstood the slings and arrows for more than six years, remaining steadfast in its cause for individual freedoms, separation of church and state, support for legal marijuana, voluntary euthanasia, and the adult industry in Australia and around the world.

And its hard-fought battles recently yielded success that according to Party founder and President Fiona Patten has finally made it a major political force in Australia, winning a huge victory in the recent Victorian state elections by gaining two Parliament upper house seats.

The Party recorded its best ever result in its recent election campaign, and in addition to sexual and personal freedom, ran on a wide spectrum of social and economic life including 24-hour public transportation and better tax breaks for small businesses.

Patten took a well-deserved break from running the Party to talk to XBIZ and reflect on her organization’s success, the future, and her continued fight as a champion of adult causes.

XBIZ: How long have you been the front person for the Australian Sex Party?

Patten: I founded the party in late 2009 and have been the President since then. At the same time I’ve also been the CEO of Australia’s adult industry association, the Eros Association. I’ve run in two federal elections and two state elections. In 2013 I missed out on winning an Australian Senate seat because of a botched preference deal and my partner, Robbie Swan, missed out on winning a Senate seat by only 245 votes, so we were on the edge of breaking through somewhere after four years.

XBIZ: Do you hold a government office? If not, what are your personal aspirations?

Patten: Yes, as of a few days ago, I am now a member of the Victorian State Parliament. I will also be on a couple of influential parliamentary committees. In the future, when we have more people elected I do hope to take on more senior roles in government. At the moment I am pretty pleased just to be elected.

XBIZ: Has the Party platform changed over the years?  If so, how?

Patten: Our platform has expanded considerably and in the last election we had policies on a wide range of issues including taxation, the environment, public transport and of course our core policies of no censorship, freedom of information and separation of church and state.

XBIZ: What impact will your win have on the people of the state?

Patten: The vagaries of the Australian political system mean that the government will need my support for just about every piece of legislation that they wish to pass into law. This gives us the opportunity to “negotiate” and get the government’s support for our progressive agenda. After many years of fairly conservative government, I think the people of Victoria will experience our win through the gradual opening up of personal freedom portals. I’m hoping that life will become easier, more relaxed and more profitable as we turn around old prohibitions and start to dismantle the hugely expensive administrations that support them. With the possible exception of Cicciolina in Italy, I think my election is the first time that someone from the adult industry, fronting a registered political party, has won public office. I’m hoping it will encourage industry people around the world to become more political and forming political parties based on personal freedom and other concepts that have been cemented in adult industry politics.

XBIZ: What do you believe were the major contributing factors to the win?

Patten: Australians are becoming sick and tired of the two major political parties. The public no longer relates to them like they did. Younger voters especially are looking for someone who speaks for them. We are a small party that does not have a huge budget so we used social media extensively and that enabled us to get a wide range of nuanced messages out there. Our winning policies appear to have been Voluntary Euthanasia and Medical Cannabis. I suspect that we are the first party to be elected on a drugs and death platform. Our secular approach and our high profile attacks on religion were also helpful. As was our completely unique campaigning style where instead of adopting an adversarial approach to other parties, we tried to find common ground with them and even campaigned alongside a couple of them. This has never happened in Australian politics before. I also believe we had a better fashion sense than the other parties.

XBIZ: Does the Party hold any other positions in government?

Patten: No

XBIZ: How does the Party interact with the private adult industry?

Patten: We have a very good relationship with the adult industry and we would not have been elected without it. Australian adult companies and a few international companies donated generously to the campaign through the Eros Association. Many adult industry workers handed out voting cards on election day and we were definitely the only the party that had posters, fliers and even flags in adult stores.

While our platform is much broader than just adult industry issues, I am passionate about ensuring that we have a healthy, prosperous and legal industry. Having spent more than 20 years lobbying for the industry I guess this is not surprising.

As a result of this election the CEO job at the adult industry association is now seen as a transition point into parliament.

XBIZ: Does funding come primarily from business or individuals?

Patten: It came from both. We did some very effective crowd funding, which had not been tried before.

XBIZ: Could a Sex Party be established in the U.S.? If yes, how and why?

Patten: I certainly think it could. Notwithstanding the duopoly that exists in your system, people like Ralph Nader have shown that third parties can get a start in U.S. politics. And I think that if the industry there was to get behind a Sex Party that many people who do not vote, because they realize that the choice is between Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, would re-engage with politics if only to cast a protest vote. We pick up a lot of that vote here and the name “Sex Party” makes it easy for these people to vote for us because sex is probably the one constant pleasure in their lives that they can relate to. Our platform has many similarities to the American Civil Liberties party but our name was what got us the initial attention.

XBIZ: What legislation do you think will be enacted as a result of your newly elected representatives?

Patten: Voluntary euthanasia and drug law reform would be the first two. If I can get marijuana legalized and dying with dignity in the next four years I will be very, very satisfied. However we also want to get X-rated films finally legalized, anti-discrimination laws in place that protect people in the adult industry, tobacco sales from restricted premises only, taxing the church at the same rate as other businesses and state recognition of gay marriage.

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