Fiona Patten, Elected Member of the Legislative Council (MLC), Parliament of Victoria

By on March 28, 2015
Fiona Patten in parliament

Looking back on your career path, what were the most important steps you took in getting elected to the Victorian Parliament?

Well it’s taken quite a while to get into this position. People come to politics in many ways. Some just happen to be in the right place at the right time and they get pre selected; some work for a party over many years and work their way into a Ministerial support job and get pre selected from there. Not many people enter politics by coming at it from an industry group without political party support. Eros has been unique in that way. I guess my decision in 1992 to accept John Lark and the old Adult Video Industry Association’s request to be the CEO of the new Eros Foundation was the real beginning of this path.

In terms of guidance and assistance to finally get to where you are now, who or what has been your guiding lights?

Without a doubt the members of the Eros Association have provided the most assistance. You have to remember that the Sex Party was always a ‘campaign’ of the Eros Association, just as our campaign to stop X rated films being banned in the mid 1990s was a ‘campaign’. We certainly wanted to get people elected with this campaign but we also wanted to show politicians that the adult industry was capable of putting together its own political party and that if they didn’t start acting more sympathetically to our issues, we would take votes from them. The seat I took at this election was formerly occupied by the Liberal Party. The seat that Sex Party candidate, Martin Leahy missed out on by 230 votes was a Greens seat.

What drives you?
I don’t really even know the full answer to that myself! I was driven to get elected because I passionately believed in Eros member’s issues. That still holds and I hope to introduce a number of issues into the Victorian Parliament this year that will reflect that. But I’m also driven by social injustice and issues like euthanasia, abortion, gay marriage and domestic violence also drive me to do what I do. On a personal level, swimming drives me as well. If I don’t swim I feel like I’m drowning out of water!

Are you now a career politician, is this your end goal or where does it go from here?

If you mean am I looking to end my working life as a politician? I don’t think so. I’d like to get a second term in the Victorian parliament for sure so that I could finish off on the things I am starting now. But after that….wow…I haven’t even delivered my maiden speech yet so it’s a bit premature to think that far ahead. One thing I can say for sure is that I would like to set up the Sex Party in such a way that we have a few more members in this parliament and that we start getting candidates elected in other states.

How have the first few months been? What have you been doing/ or what issue working on?
The first two months have been all about learning the ropes. There’s a sort of politician’s school that all newbies attend so that we know all the procedures and the practicalities of working in the parliamentary chamber.

I’ve been working on quite a few issues but the major ones have been euthanasia, discrimination that affects adult and other marginalized businesses and occupations, abortion, getting the X rating legal and drug law reform.

How does a typical day look? Have there been any surprises? Have your expectations been met?

My typical day involves meeting constituents, doing media, meeting industry and union groups, meeting other members of parliament, taking calls from the Eros office when they can’t find the stapler or the garbage liners and liaising with my staff. My campaign manager from the election, Nevena Spirovska, is now my office manager and a Canberra journalist who came down here to help in the campaign, Jorian Gardiner, is my new media advisor. Jorian was previously the director of the Canberra Fringe Festival and is a legend for putting on a burlesque show set in Berlin which featured a satirical skit on Hitler. Unfortunately the satire bit went over the heads of a few social conservatives in Canberra and he was sacked. As Eros members will know, I like to party and I like a good laugh as well. Being an experienced political journalist as well, Jorian was a good fit for the Sex Party.

How do you think you can bring positive changes to the citizens of Victoria and to the adult industry? Policy/reforms/classification scheme

Well I guess that depends on where you’re coming from. If you are a priest or an anti-abortionist or someone who doesn’t like the adult industry, the changes that I am proposing won’t be seen as positive. However if you are a reasonably progressive person on social issues, I think my drug law reform proposals could revolutionise the way we regulate recreational drugs in Victoria. I think we could knock out most of the organized crime involved in the drug trade and provide much better services for people who are struggling with their drug use.

I will be trying to review prostitution laws and as I said before trying to amend the Discrimination laws to stop people discriminating against people and corporations on the basis of their job and occupation. If we could allow people to sue others for withholding goods or services, over charging or demeaning people’s stature, just because they work in the adult industry, or are a butcher or a ‘scumbag’ journalist or even a bastard politician….I think we’d be better off!

I’d like to see people dying with dignity when its time to go rather than in a ball of pain which is compounded by a family’s grief at seeing this pain. I’m currently leading the charge to set up exclusion zones around abortion clinics to stop young women from being harassed and assaulted on their way into the clinic.
And I’m talking to the government about ending the 30 year prohibition on X films in Victoria by giving them the same status off line that they currently enjoy online.

Any last words?

I’d just like to thank all those Eros members over the years that have stood by me on this journey. It’s their resources that have got us to this point and nowhere else in the world has this happened. In fact, I don’t know of any industry association in Australia ever being successful in getting one of their own into parliament. So for the adult shop owner, adult entertainment owner, social tonics distributor etc…if you thought that was all you were doing – think again. You’ve also been a freedom fighter and your business and resources have just helped to further the cause of free speech and personal freedom in Australia by a country mile. Well done Eros members!

A Synergy Magazine interview with Fiona Patten, MLC, Victoria

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