John Safran stars in the TV special The Goddam Election! With John Safran.
John Safran stars in the TV special The Goddam Election! With John Safran. SBS

John Safran tracks rise of minor parties in new doco

PROVOCATEUR John Safran wants to share the story of the religious undercurrent likely to have an impact on the Federal Election.

The satirist and filmmaker returns to the small screen tonight with a one-hour documentary for SBS called The Goddam Election.

For the past two months Safran has been investigating the micro parties contesting the Federal Election, revealing bizarre alliances that upend our perception of Australian multiculturalism.

According to a recent Newspoll, a record number of Australians, 15%, said they'd rather vote for an independent or minor party than Labor, the Coalition or the Greens.

As the nation heads towards a neck-and-neck election, the micro parties supported by Australia's religious minorities could end up with a balance of power.

"Australia's way stranger than you think," Safran told The Guide.

"If you've been watching the news and these (anti-Islam) rallies, it's actually way more confusing than that. So I'm bringing the confusion (with this documentary)."

Safran first gained fame in the ABC's Race Around the World, a competition for young documentary makers, in 1997.

He went on to produce a series of documentaries, television shows and host radio programs, but is perhaps best known for his pranks on celebrities including Shane Warne, Ray Martin and Rove McManus.

The 43-year-old was inspired to make a documentary about the micro parties while working on a book on Australia's anti-Islam movement.

"I was turning up to these street protests (for the book) and when the election was called I noticed some of the people involved in these parties were standing for election," he said.

"These people are usually quite difficult to get access to, but by turning up so many times I got my foot in the door.

"I would have thought because of my bad reputation as a prankster people would be apprehensive (to talk to me), but people were more glass-half-full about it."

He discovered a peculiar political fringe where some Sikhs, Hindus, alleged neo-Nazis and a Sri Lankan priest had joined forces.

He also spoke to Reverend Fred Nile, of the Christian Democratic Party, about the surprising support he has received from some immigrants.

"He was saying he's still in parliament because of immigration," Safran said.

"The rest of Australia is getting more secular and (some of) these immigrant communities are unashamedly Christian or religiously conservative.

"We think of immigration and multiculturalism as this lefty victory, but in the case of Fred Nile that's what's kept him in parliament. It's counter intuitive."

Safran also door-stopped controversial One Nation pollie politician Pauline Hanson.

"I wanted to talk to her because she was forming this political alliance with this guy from an anti-Islam party who had immigrated from an Asian country in the 1990s," he said.

"She tried to make out she wasn't anti-Asian immigration back in the '90s.

"She somehow made me feel like I was a jerk for bringing it up."

The Goddam Election with John Safran airs tonight at 8.30pm on SBS.



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