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The Taxpayers Party was created in 2009 by David Collett.
David holds a Bachelor of Business (eco + mar), Graduate Certificate in Project Management, Advanced Diploma of Financial Planning and a Diploma of Finance and Mortgage Broking Management and works as a finance broker.
He is also the author of Meditation to Relax.
The story version
Let’s say a man in his early twenties starts doing security in pubs on weekends, initially to try and get through university. Over the years, conversations are had with many different patrons from all walks of life, about what they do in their lives and what they are interested in. The vast majority of patrons are working full-time. They are working in either the private sector or the public sector. They have kids and they have mortgages and are therefore locked into the 40 hour week for many years into the future. They can’t make the choice to just do as they please Monday morning and then only have to worry about getting back to work on Friday.
Over time, there were conversations with patrons from many different professions. Some were working in or owning private businesses. The others were working in taxpayer funded areas in the public sector. But both groups could be classified into two categories; whether they were personally interested in and cared about the job they were doing or whether it was just a means to get enough cash to pay the bills. A much larger proportion of people working did care about their jobs, and they cared about whether the organization they were working for was achieving its goals or not.
One Friday night, nearly eight years after his first shift, the security guard is talking to a patron who is enjoying his Friday night drink. The security guard asks the patron about his opinion on a big state government decision made that day that was in the papers. The patron says he actually happens to be working in that area (of the public sector) and he has no desire to talk about the decision.
About a minute later the beer does its job, the patron opens up and says the state government has been sitting on its ass for the past eight years doing nothing, and now it’s making a knee jerk reaction that completely goes against the advice of the professionals in that area. The security guard then asks the patron, “If the minister for X came to you right now and asked you how we could be the best in the world in this area, and also said the cash for implementation is very limited, could you and your team work it out? Would you know what practical steps we could take to achieve it?”. The patron doesn’t even blink and says yes of course, that’s what we are trained to do.
That night the penny dropped. The basic nuts and bolts of that conversation had been had many times before. Similar conversations have been had with workers from health, police, science, urban planning, social workers, teachers, ministers advisers and economists.
If these people didn’t care about their work then it wouldn’t matter what the minister in their area did or did not do. If these people were in the private sector they could just switch businesses until they found a manager or owner that gave a shit. But these people do care, and they work in professions that cannot avoid the competence or otherwise of the ministers above them.
The reason the above is personal is because it grates against a belief that one should not waste another person’s time. We don’t know how much time we have. If we were actually free we would be free to choose how we spend our time while we are alive. If we waste taxpayers money, we are wasting peoples time and therefore are wasting the most valuable thing people have.
From then on, the “mind your own business” shackle became increasingly uncomfortable. Each weekend watching patrons drink became an opportunity to think through the available alternatives.
The first option was to try and influence existing members of parliament and the parties they belong to. Potential methods of influence included writing letters and making phone calls. However, the likelihood of a political party or minister changing his or her behavior because a nobody with no money to contribute to the parties fundraiser thinks a change is necessary, seemed remote.
The next step involved emails/phone calls to Labor, Liberal, Greens and Family First to ask them if it was possible to attend one of their public meetings in order to learn about their party and whether helping out would be a good idea.
The response from all four was that attending a meeting would require being either a full member prior to attending the meeting or looking over their website to become sure their party was the right one for me. After looking over the content and policies presented on each of their websites, the amount of motivation to attend one of their party meetings was zero.
The next option to be considered was standing as an independent at an upcoming state or federal election. The likelihood of this method achieving a change in the behavior of ministers and/or their parties seemed just as remote as writing letters or making phone calls.
The next option considered was starting a new political party. Despite an upfront cost of only $500 and needing only 500 members, this option also seemed equally unlikely to make a difference. The most successful new party to make ground against the two main parties in Australia has been the Greens. The Greens started in 1972, and in 2010 had a primary vote in the federal election of 1,667,315 or 13.11% of the primary vote. Since it took 38 years to reach 13.11% of the primary vote with a group of highly passionate individuals, starting a new political party did not seem like a practical step forward.
So being completely out of options, and with more conversations occurring on weekends along the lines described above, something had to give.
Instead of being a victim and feeling powerless, there was reflection on what resources and skills were already available.
In terms of resources, the main one was being walking distance to a functional public library, that had free access to newspapers, books and the internet. Email and the internet provided direct access to all active organizations in Australia and overseas. In terms of skills, being able to speak and write English and use a dictionary meant that learning about what other people and organizations are up to was possible.
The idea of making even some kind of general outline about what the desired hypothetical solution should be became much more enjoyable than feeling down about what currently exists.
Since a federal election was looming on the horizon, reflective questions were asked such as “What would it take for me to actually want to vote for a political party at an election as opposed to being forced to choose the least worst option?”.
“What would it take for me to want to become a member of a political party as opposed to becoming bored, uninterested and distrustful when coming across their output?”.
“What would it take to not ever have to worry whether taxation revenue is spent wisely for the benefit of all, not to buy votes at elections and prop-up vested interest groups?”.
These and other questions created a growing hypothetical thing. Initially termed The Imaginary Party, The Evolutionary Party, The Party and even The Other Party, the hypothetical slowly grew. Brainstorming sessions were inflicted upon other guards who helped with worst-case scenarios and suggestions.
Despite initially not having a comfortable format to put the ideas into, eventually the free WordPress software was stumbled upon. After making a basic mock-up site, it was found to be reliable and easy enough to use without the need to spend money on building an expensive glossy site that requires money each time a change is made.
The process of building the website and deciding what the content should be for each section became enjoyable, as it provides an opportunity to engage with people who have specific and useful contributions to make. It also forces questioning and reflection on one’s own beliefs and opinions, which would not occur if they were not put out into a public space.