Strategy - Party resources: local, state, federal?

In our discussions last night we uncovered that some of us would over the long term like to see Pirate candidates or endorsed candidates elected to local, state and federal levels. A fairly standard statement for a political party.

@AndrewDowning raised a good question for discussion which we agreed to continue here, essentially: organisations can achieve more by focusing on a single objective first, that of most value, before expending effort else where. Part of the logic behind this being that gaining a ‘win’ in one area of focus will attract more resources.

Our starting point is that we are currently a federal organisation, we run in federal elections, and to implement our policy we need to win elections at a federal level for the most part.

Personally, while we are discussing strategy I don’t think we should be focussing on the order we attempt to achieve the goals outlined in the first paragraph too much. Because as an organisation we’ve essentially never had the resources to set direction in such a way, we’re not a top down organisation. I view the task of setting strategy in this organisation as simply creating sane empty boxes with a label on them that people can jump into or make their own (edit - actually that was a poor way to explain what I mean by strategy, it’s obviously more, but a framework that can be filled outwards is one worthwhile outcome.), boxes which serve a purpose: Design team, Press team, Policy development committee etc. (whether those teams are functioning currently is a question for another part of strategy development).

In trying to determine the order we should approach local, state, federal priorities I think we might miss the opportunity to empower our ‘swarm’ to just go and do it, which in itself can be considered a ‘win’ which would bring in more resources. So my current thinking is generally we should continue as we are now, putting resources into federal elections, but also consider how to create the boxes for state and local should people with the time and resources come along and want to do that.

My inclination is to re-focus on State Politics, which already has a lot of crossover with the work we are doing in the Federal space, as a Federal Senate candidate requires at least 14.3% to get voted in, whereas in a State it is only 4%.

State success will still bring a lot of profile to the Party (even word of success can travel to other states).

From State level, we could then use that success to move up to Federal (where most of our work has already been) and also move down to Local (where we would need a much bigger grass roots effort - lots of people! - to have an effect)

@jedb will also have commentary, but ease of election varies dramatically state by state.

  • ACT: min quota 16.7% (LA)
  • NSW: min quota 4.5% (LC)
  • NT: min quota 50% (LA)
  • Qld: min quota 50% (LA)
  • SA: min quota 8.3% (LC)
  • Tas: min quota 17% (LA)
  • Vic: min quota 16.7% (LC)
  • WA: min quota 14.3 (LC)

But that’s assuming you want to win. If you just want to get the PPAU name/logo in front of as many voters as you can, the priority order goes more like:

  1. NSW LC
  2. SA LC
  3. Brisbane mayoralty
  4. Vic LC
  5. WA LC (Perth seats)
  6. Various NSW mayoralties

(There’s a weird detente in Qld where parties don’t formally endorse candidates for local elections outside Brisbane City. If we did, there are a few more high-population mayoralties in SEQ.)

See how high-return the NSW LC is? This is why it’s so comparatively difficult to get registered in NSW.

Another factor is the PPAU presence to voter population ratio. I think WA might actually be in the lead on that front.


Most of our big issues are federal however. Internet censorship, spying and surveillance, dodgy IP clauses in treaties, copyright and patents, privacy, government transparency and other civil liberties are all primarily federal issues. We need to be seen to tackle those issues, because it is that part of the platform that speaks the loudest to our voter base.

Whilst we are spread as thinly on the ground as we are now, we would be dividing our focus into each state political battle separately, dividing our forces whilst giving up our federal profile which would be a loss all-round. Once we get more people active we will have spare resources for state politics, which is why I proposed those state roles for volunteers to step in to.

This is probably the best approach because we don’t have the capacity to tell many people ‘go campaign on this’, when we have trouble getting most of our members to even vote in internal elections. Letting people do what motivates them encourages them to get involved.

In this case, I would go 1. NSW LC 2. SA LC 3. Federal Senate

We got a well fleshed out policy from a Federal perspective and most of the issues apply to states too, there is a lot of cross over, being that Australia is primarily state based. States probably have more power in the grand scheme of things. We should venture into state based issues now, which could usually apply to all states anyway.

I’d be happy to treat State/Federal on the same level.

Exactly. Let people do states who want to. A lot of local discussion about politics isn’t even about Federal issues

Our platform is getting steadily fleshed out on state level issues, and with a little more on transport and development, it’ll be usable for local level. Local tends not to be that ideological anyway - “rates, roads and rubbish”.

Don’t be overly concerned about lack of policy covering local issues. Local issues are necessarily local; usually in any campaign there are a few hot-button issues and we’ll set our positions on those as we go. Our campaigns at that level should be aimed at growing profile (and campaign know-how). The keyword is ‘opportunistic’.

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What hot burning Pirate issues are state issues? Internet censorship? (federal) Copyright? (federal) Patents? (federal) Campaigning against the subversion of democracy through trade agreements? (federal) Data retention? (federal)

It is that stuff that gets people angry and wanting to vote for, campaign for and join us. Of those, data retention is peripherally state, but the law is federal and game classification is state but coordinated through federal. What carries the weight of the issues I listed above in motivating pirates on the state level?

There are state issues to campaign on, but they don’t carry the same importance or urgency as what I listed above.

You completely ignore this point:

We would require a separate campaigning body for each state. Where are the resources? We have maybe 20 people doing stuff regularly, that is a mere 3 a state at most. If half our resources were to be put into state politics, we would have maybe 2 people in the most populous states campaigning on state issues.

Your comment has nothing to do with what I said. Your entire reply is contradictory, arguing that we need to divide our resources between federal and state equally AND people can do what they like. Which is it?

Transparency is a big topic in NSW that is a good motivator. A lot of shady looking decisions going on behind the scenes, FoI requests being locked up in cabinet documents and commercial in confidence agreements.
People in NSW are fed up with the blatant close connections between politicians and people or things that would be considered conflict of interest at face value, but somehow fail to meet that definition.


I guess if you wanted to quantify that as policy, some points could be:

  • More funding for ICAC and giving it prosecution powers independent of the DPP.
  • A tighter criteria on scope and sizes of projects that need to go out to public tender
  • Greater transparency by limiting what can be placed under commercial in confidence and cabinet documents.
  • Referendum for limiting the scope for retrospective legislation e.g. can only decriminalise or expunge convictions, not create new offences that can be retrospectively applied, provisions to allow retrospective legislation if ‘poison pill’ contracts are drawn up by a previous government

Other areas of law reform at the state level could be:

  • Health e.g. public/private hospitals, drug policy
  • Transport and infrastructure
  • Electoral reform
  • State based regulation reform e.g. environmental law, deductions and grants
  • Tax reform e.g. land (value) tax, death duties, payroll tax
  • Powers afforded to local government
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Zoning, particularly high-rise and industrial.
Rate of development vs. community facilities.
Council mergers.
Working with state government vs. not.

We already got policy on all that

This strategy discussion is not about allocating resources to these issues, it’s about long term goals. We should aim to have more resources in general, with State-based groups. Within new/reactivated membership which we are strategising , those people can choose to contribute to either Federal or State issues within the party.

For example, as a Melbourne/VIC person, the State Government is fighting back against Safe Injecting Rooms in Richmond even though it’s a minority there who doesn’t actually want them. I would want to contribute towards that issue from a Pirate perspective. Efforts could be re-applied to any State/Federal.

Policy is not campaigning, it is writing policy. It is the least useful thing to work on to get our message out. If we could put as much energy endlessly debating policies here into raising awareness of our policies and criticisms of the major parties, we would be growing, getting media and as a result we would have more people doing things. Without campaigning for our policies, we are just a think-tank.

Campaigning is raising awareness about issues we already have policy on. This is what gets us more members, this is what gets us publicity, our already existing policies represent the reason we came into existence and campaigning for our platform is why we exist.

This just goes back to @rundll’s point, which is we should just set up the space for people to campaign on what they want, and let them go for it. If people want to work on state issues, they can. If you want to campaign about safe injecting rooms in Melbourne, go for it. I will help you how I can from here. If people want to campaign on federal issues they can. The easiest way to motivate volunteers is to give them the tools to campaign on what they are passionate about.

This is the basic premise of using swarm organisation. We build the superstructure for volunteers to come along and do tasks and take on roles, and people get involved by doing what they care about. We don’t direct them to local, state or federal campaigns, we empower them to decide themselves. Think of it as like Valve’s flat organisational structure with guidance from the annual Congress and overseen by the NC.


Bike lanes are a bit of a thing up here in Brissy at the moment, and there was recently a bit of a furor about a road widening project which involved flattening a bunch of unused public housing along Lytton Road.

Mandatory public / community housing in new developments could be another point that is definitely in the state policy realm.

That it does. The easiest places have low quota percentage, low absolute voter quota and a low number of divisions. Going strictly by system and enrolment numbers and ignoring anything that uses IRV, for States there is:

  • ACT LA: 16.7% quota, 9493 voters for a quota, 5 divisions
  • NSW LC: 4.5% quota, 234304 voters for a quota, 1 division
  • SA LC: 8.3% quota, 98903 voters for a quota, 1 division
  • TAS HA: 16.7% quota, 12517 voters for a quota, 5 divisions
  • VIC LC: 16.7% quota, 83844 voters for a quota, 8 divisions
  • WA LC: 14.3% quota, 38034 voters for a quota, 6 divisions

And for Senate:

  • ACT: 33.3%/94927 normal quota, same for DD
  • NSW: 14.3%/736384 normal quota, 7.7%/396515 for DD
  • NT: 33.3%/45924 normal quota, same for DD
  • QLD: 14.3%/445900 normal quota, 7.7%/240101 for DD
  • SA: 14.3%/169548 normal quota, 7.7%/91296 for DD
  • TAS: 14.3%/53644 normal quota, 7.7%/28885 for DD
  • VIC: 14.3%/574926 normal quota, 7.7%/309576 for DD
  • WA: 14.3%/228201 normal quota, 7.7%/122878 for DD

Remembering that lots of divisions means geographic bias and a need for voters to be close together to get anywhere, the list of easiest places to win probably goes something like:

  1. SA LC
  2. TAS Senate
  3. SA Senate
  4. NSW LC

And it gets murky from there. I am not at all sure of the relative difficulty of WA LC and TAS HA, for example. But the States at the top of list, SA, TAS and NSW, match up reasonably well to historically successful minor parties so this way of looking at the situation is useful. Xenophon and the Democrats both originated in SA, the Greens grew out of TAS, etc. One Nation may seem like an exception, but had 2016 not been a DD they would only have obtained a single Senate seat and their previous strong results in QLD involved extremely high (for a minor party) and reasonably concentrated votes.

Another thing not directly apparent here is ballot sizes and nominations. While NSW might appear to be a good choice to get the Pirate name in front of as many voters as possible, the huge ballot sizes may be a bit counterproductive to that. NSW LC also requires 15 nominations to get a box above the line due to State constitution issues. Somewhat expensive.

I kinda agree. But there are still clear places with high potential returns where we should always be running candidates, attempting to recruit, etc whenever we can. Pure ‘swarm’ tactics don’t work well when the system is geographically biased to the extent that it is.


Maybe I’m misinterpreting the numbers but with NSW as low as 4.5%, we have many active members in NSW already, and we are also registered as a NSW organisation (not that it probably makes a difference), it sound like NSW is the place which deserves focus?

NSW also needs 750 members to register to contest those juicy 4.5% elections. I believe that rego process still needs paper forms. Oh, and several thousands in nomination deposit.

I tend to downgrade the importance of NSW LC a bit due to absolute voter numbers (that 4.5% is 234304 voters we have to convince) as well as ballot/nomination issues. Also NSW is easily the most difficult State to get a Senate seat in unless you’re the Liberal Democrats. The exact order of priorities isn’t all that important. Point is that SA/TAS/NSW are all juicy targets in various ways for chances of getting seats and we should be running candidates there whenever we can.


I agree. But if we were going to do a FOCUS effort, it should be just one.

There are those challenges, most being 234k in raw votes, but that number is going to be even higher for other states (I presume?) and that is the point of a focused effort to get that 234k.

750, not that much really if we are focused and growing in that focus area.

a few thousand…I’m sure member base would pull through if we set a funding target for a purpose. Paper forms… blegh… but has to be done.