Would a Public Transport Party do well in Victoria?

The Victorian state election is coming up, and new small parties are registering. Given the rush of minor parties and independents that carried the day in the last federal election, it’s no surprise that Victoria is seeing a lot more parties registered with the Electoral Commission.

Here are four that have recently applied.

  • Rise Up Australia Party
  • Vote 1 Local Jobs
  • Animal Justice Party
  • Australian Cyclists Party

If they’ve filled out the forms properly, collected names and addresses of their members and paid their fee they will join the established parties on your ballot paper:

  • Australian Christians
  • Australian Country Alliance
  • Australian Labor Party
  • Australian Sex Party
  • Democratic Labor Party (DLP) of Australia
  • Family First Party Victoria Inc
  • Liberal Party of Australia
  • National Party of Australia
  • Palmer United Party
  • People Power Victoria – No Smart Meters
  • Socialist Alliance
  • The Australian Greens
  • Voluntary Euthanasia Party

I am surprised when I look at this list, that there is no Public Transport Party. The issue of public transport is hot in Victoria right now, partly due to the increasing concentration of jobs in the CBD, and the resultant increase in crowding.

Google Trends vic
Google Trends shows Victorians are obsessed with the search term “public transport”

Crowding above the acceptable threshold affects nine per cent of passengers in the morning peak, according to the latest data. It’s lower on some lines and up to 26 per cent on the Craigieburn and Werribee lines. 

In 2002 such a party existed. Called Public Transport First, it was founded by the late Paul Mees and fielded a candidate called Tony Morton in the seat of Brunswick. He lost but is now the head of the Public Transport Users Association.

But perhaps 2002 was too soon for a public transport party.

Stories about public transport are hot property in the press and on social media. You’d imagine a Public Transport party would get a decent share of the votes. It may be a less emotive topic than Voluntary Euthanasia, but it affects more people. And it’s a lot more sensible than a party opposed to smart meters.

The Victorian Upper House might be the best chance to get someone elected. But its not a fait accompli. In the last election the Greens got 12 per cent of the first-preference vote and installed three candidates. Family First got 2.86 per cent of first preferences and installed none.

It would be very tough to make an impact in the regions. But there are five metropolitan “seats” in the upper house that each elect five candidates. Three of those elected Greens last time (western, northern, southern). These would have to be possibilities.

upper house regions

But the advantage of a single issue party like this is not necessarily in getting elected. Simply by forming, the threat of drawing votes away from all the other parties can encourage them to shift their policy positions. It’s the famous Hotelling Effect, perhaps my most-loved of all the economic theories.

Nevertheless, the challenges to starting a political party are many. You need 500 members to commit, you need the fees, and you have to pay $350 for each candidate you stand (refundable if you get 4 per cent of the vote.

And you have to be ready to face vitriol. I was kicking this idea around on the internet yesterday and a lot of people told me that it was stupid. But nobody had as much passion as this guy:

reddit cockroach screenshot


I imagine that actually becoming a politician would invite even more vitriol than just talking about it. When you look at it like that, I’m surprised there are so many brave people willing to start their own parties. Kudos to them.

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Thomas the Think Engine is the blog of a trained economist. It comes to you from Melbourne Australia.

One thought on “Would a Public Transport Party do well in Victoria?”

  1. re: melbournemarathoner comment.
    I can understand having a crack at ThomasTTEngin (it can be very tempting), but why bring cockroaches into it? What have they ever done but eek out a meager living in close proximity to the ground?


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