A new role of "Equity Officer"


During the recent PPAU Congress, there was some discussion about how welcoming PPAU is for women and minorities. Many participants believe that the lack of demographic diversity in the party is related to this concern. It was proposed that a new role of “Equity Officer” be created, with a mission to improve this situation.

This post is intended to form a focal point for discussion about the proposed new Equity Officer role amongst the membership of PPAU. Discussion and feedback is strongly encouraged.

***** Please also raise your voice of you would like to volunteer for the role *****

Role Creation

  • Can’t be a National Council role initially, because that would require a motion at Congress.
  • Can be created as a National Council role at a Congress, if someone wants to propose that (for instance at the upcoming emergency Congress).
  • Can also just be appointed as an non-NC role by the National Council without a motion at Congress. If so, then the role should most likely report the the current president or secretary.

General Role Responsibilities

  • Aim to increase minority representation in the party
  • Aim to Increase inclusivity
  • Represent the interests of minority (relative to party membership demographics) groups.
  • Raising issues of equity with the national council.
  • Report directly to the National Council.
  • Be first point of call for party members experiencing discrimination or bullying.
  • Facilitate and mediate civil discussion.
  • Strive to ensure everyone feels comfortable interacting in the party, and in our communication channels.
  • Document and recommend actions against members who persistently transgress against other members in a manner inconsistent with party standards.

Wider Discussion
Of course, it couldn’t just be as easy as all that.
PPAU is not just a discussion forum, we are a political party, and difficult discussions need to be had.

Left and Liberarian, at the same time?
@alexjago and I (@AndrewDowning) had a productive discussion shortly after Congress.
If you consider PPAU to be Left - Libertarian on the political spectrum (as seems to be the consensus), then you can probably imagine the following discussion with Alex presenting the Left argument and me presenting the Libertarian argument, though I don’t think either of us is absolutely in one corner or the other.

As you read though, keep in mind that the goal is to find a synthesis of the two … to answer the question of how we can most effectively be both left and libertarian at the same time. I think if we can find a practical and effective way to integrate these two philosophical positions then we will be doing something that eludes most modern political parties.

Left: Free-speech-maximalist ‘fight fire with fire’ has created an internal culture that’s unwelcoming to (Party-) minority demographics
Libertarian: This party is founded on principles of free speech and anti-censorship. These things are written into our constitution.

Left: I particularly take Liam’s (@Archaic) point that we are not a government organisation.
Libertarian: We need to practice what we preach. Being “not a government”, is not a rationale for us choosing to censor. How could we stand up and make the case that we as a party represent freedom of information, anti-censorship and evidence based policy, if we can’t even practice these things in our own party?

Left: I’m not sure there is an issue with what is being discussed, but how it is said.
We have potential contributors saying they don’t want to be around here, from demographics that are profoundly underrepresented in the Party. How can we get any respect from women and minorities who aren’t hardcore civil lib if we can’t even retain the ones who are?"
Libertarian: The ‘hardcore civil lib’ people tend to treat ‘women and minorities’ as identity groups rather than individuals with minds of their own, and agency in the world. Ideas and/or actual evidence that contradict ideological stances associated with such groups trigger emotional responses and personal attacks, because criticism of the group ideology is interpreted as an attack on the group. It’s a reversion to tribalism
Simon Frew (@Frew) advocates and acts on ‘calling out’ anybody thought to be ‘sexist or racist’, not as a well considered judgement, but as an in-your-face first response.
The ‘hardcore civil lib’ people may actually be the problem - “making the personal political”.
If you want to see this in action, try having any evidence based discussion about feminism, equality of opportunity vs. outcome, domestic violence, aboriginal issues, mens rights, wage gaps, immigration or any number of related issues.
We claim to be “evidence based”, but that’s not a strong claim if it only applies where there is already easy consensus.

Left: We should be taking a balanced approach to all our principles. We have principles other than free speech."
Libertarian: Free speech, particularly in the political realm, is more fundamental than most other principles, and for very good reasons. The rationale about free speech is not about someone getting upset that their speech was blocked. It’s about people needing to be able to freely express what they’re thinking, especially when it’s wrong, and especially in politics, because that’s how we make positive change.
You have to be able to express yourself to think properly, particularly in groups. It’s how we learn from and understand each other. It’s how we find consensus and solve problems together.

The problem may not be too much emphasis on free speech per-se, but that perhaps we’re doing free speech badly.

Attempting to Integrate these apparently opposing positions:
There is a clear and present way for ALL minorities and potentially disadvantaged groups to participate, and it’s the same as for everybody else:

  • Present your case
  • Present it well
  • Present evidence
  • We guarantee you will be heard

Of course, this is hard, especially for people new to politics, and particularly if you feel outnumbered and alone trying to make your case. On the flip side of this, if you are already well practised at political discourse, you should understand that you won’t REALLY understand your own position until you have pitted it against the strongest possible representations of opposing positions. Furthermore, your position will never stand up in public or in the media, if it can’t survive basic criticism on your home turf.

So, how can we work this?
Can the role of “Equity Officer” help with this?
Can we fix it? I think, “Yes we can”.

How about we form an “Equity Team”, led by the “Equity Officer”?
A core function of the team would to ensure that anybody that could be described as new, isolated, outnumbered, a minority, disadvantaged etc., would find they suddenly have someone on their side, helping them to form the strongest possible representation of their interests.

It could be a bit like a “buddy system” … (<==== This needs a better name)

  • New person signs up.
  • Unless they opt-out, they get auto-assigned to a buddy, who contacts them by email.
  • Buddy explains all the facilities, how to engage, do they have specific issues they’d like addressed? etc.
  • In the forums, they help via PM, to construct stronger representation of the persons interests etc.
  • Connect them to other members with similar issues.
  • Over time, leave them to their own devices as they become competent at the cut and thrust of politics.

In terms of mediation in forums:

  • We should listen, and strongly protect everyone’s ability to express their position.
  • We should make room for everyone to be heard.
  • We should not inherently agree with people to avoid upsetting them.
  • Politics is not an intellectual or emotional safe space, and that should never come as a surprise to anybody participating. Buddies should set that expectation up front.
  • People should not be left to feel isolated and unsupported.
  • Draw a hard line at direct personal insults/threats etc. That is simple facilitation that already happens.
    **** Suggest exponential suspension back-off strategy for direct personal insults.
    **** Suggest instant ban for serious actual threats.
  • If someone expresses a position on a political matter, and particularly if they back that with evidence, then I don’t care how offended you claim to be, you don’t get to shut it down. You do get to argue the counter case and present evidence just as strongly.
  • It might also help if Discourse pseudonyms could get “Member” tags, so we can deal with trolls from outside the party.

I think there is an opportunity here.
I think if we do this well, we might not only improve our demographic distribution, we might also improve the participation rates across the bulk of the membership.
If we do this really well, then we could consider drawing in discussion from outside groups - other political parties, activists, researchers, media figures etc. to hone our own positions while drawing in external connections and potential new political allies.


Thanks for posting this up Andrew.

Just one note from me for now - we don’t need an emergency Congress, just four by-elections.

This is a good discussion covering a few of the perspectives. What we need to do is solicit input from people outside the party and anyone interested in taking the role.

Agreed. we need new systems to be put in place to allow better diversity in the party.

I currently do not feel that I am able to perform the head role:
as I have White/MajorityRace, Male, Cisgender, Heterosexual, able-bodied, singlet(non-DID), “Native speaker of the main language”, “not in poverty”, Educated and countless other privileges I do not know about… and I would not be surprised if “Neurodiverse” (ASD-Aspergers) is way to common in the party already…

The Buddy system, better rules on mediation, and the like are all good ideas.
I however am willing to help document cases that arise from this as part of my role as a member of the DRC…


Even if you don’t want to lead this, I was suggesting an Equity team …

And I am willing to serve as a member that team, after some coaching/training from the right people.