Brunswick Street bar on site of a sly grog shop was an ideal venue, but party to kickstart senate campaign for Dr Meredith Doig was a bit short on flair, daring and, to be frank, sexiness.
Would-be senator Dr Meredith Doig and the leader of the Australian Sex party Fiona Patten amid the interesting decor of Brunswick Street bar Naked for Satan on Thursday. Photo: Joe Armao
We're not in Spring Street anymore.
The rumble of trams is here, along with the bleary eyed bustle, but also a pot-bellied drag queen in platform heels clopping down a footpath smeared in dog excrement, past a venue surrounded by hand-pressed greeting card vendors and artisan taco dispensaries.
Meredith Doig and Fiona Patten on the rooftop of Brunswick Street bar Naked for Satan. Photo: Joe Armao
Welcome to the Australian Sex Party campaign launch for senate candidate Dr Meredith Doig, held high on the rooftop of Brunswick Street bar Naked for Satan, an establishment named for a Russian immigrant who made bootleg vodka here during the Great Depression (and reportedly stripped during the distillation process as a means of keeping cool against the steamy backdrop of brass burners).
The invitation to this Fitzroy coming out party said "clothing optional", promised vodka shots, "pinxtos" (that means snacks) and pronouncements on every progressive and secular sentiment one might imagine.
It wasn't exactly the white wine political mixer at the local town hall.
Sex Party leader Fiona Patten excused Meredith Doig candidate from delivering her initial stump speech in the nude - "due to the weather". Photo: Joe Armao
A leaflet entitled "Holy Scriptures" said it all.
On civil liberties there was "Marriage equality, now!", "Legalise voluntary assisted dying" and "Protect safe, legal, accessible abortion."
On secular government they called for the removal of tax exemptions for religions, the replacement of school chaplains with school counsellors, and comprehensive sex education in all schools.
On drug law, they wanted wacky tobacky legalised and regulated, and party pills tested to reduce harm.
They were committed to renewables and public transport, and funding long-term clean energy research. And they backed the resettlement of Nauru and Manus Island refugees in Australia, and the lifting of foreign aid to OECD target levels.
But where was the implicit flair and dare in the event?
Where was the sex – or at least the sexy – in this Sex Party?
Fiona Patten, party leader and state MP, was there. The former chief executive of the Eros Foundation (which represents the local boudoir accessory and skin flick industry) always adds a frisson of titillation to proceedings.
She noted that the party was "small but effective" and that Dr Doig – "a truly spectacular woman" – would continue that tradition.
She excused the candidate from delivering her initial stump speech in the nude ("due to the weather") and invited her up. For Thursday morning wasn't about Patten.
No, the glad-handing session was in honour of Dr Doig, who expects to spend the next three months attempting to snare a senate spot in a July double dissolution election.
She might seem at first blush an unlikely candidate, given fairly staid roles as a long-time corporate and educational board member (Port of Melbourne, University of Melbourne, Baker's Delight), as well as working in management (Rio Tinto) and manufacturing (Ford).
But she is a liberal thinker at heart. President of the Rationalist Society of Australia, Dr Doig played a major role in the move to scrap special religious education in schools and has a history of community activism.
She is admittedly of middle-class origin and middle-of-the-road politics, though, so why is she here? The answer is values.
"I got my values from my family. And those values include using whatever capacity you have to get involved and make a difference. To stand firm against hypocrisy."
In the Sex Party she sees a movement that is "socially progressive", "economically prudent" and "environmentally rational".
She wants to do in Canberra what Patten has done in Melbourne. She wants to collaborate and communicate across party lines, to expose the "insidious influence" of the religious right and drag hopelessly out-of-date politicians into the light.
It wasn't quite raunch. It wasn't exactly risque. But people were aroused and inflamed, and the vodka or "holy water" came out next, adding fire to the belly if not the loins.
And just like that, when things had begun to seem a little staid, everything turned evangelical, as if these politicians were preachers – as if all promising to hold a missionary-like position in the throes of passion. Mercy!