Two 'freedom parties' merge as they look to get elected for first time
Updated: Aug 18
Neither party has ever had an elected representative.
Two controversial 'freedom parties' - the Informed Medical Options Party (IMOP) and the Health Australia Party (HAP) - have today announced they are merging to form the Heart Party (Health, Environment, Accountability, Rights, Transparency).
Both parties are looking to get their first-ever elected representatives, having never had any local, state or federal success.
Both parties have faced controversies - in 2020, then-Health Minister Greg Hunt said IMOP’s name was misleading. Four years earlier, Andrew Miller from the Australian Medical Association said of HAP's name: "There should be some requirement of honesty in the way that these party names are put forward and I think this is getting pretty close to the borderline of being exactly the opposite of what its name suggests."
Speaking to 6 News, IMOP founder Michael O'Neill said he doesn't care about being called an anti-vaxxer. Both HAP and IMOP have often been labelled as anti-vax because of their views and policies on vaccinations, including the COVID-19 vaccine.
"A lot of our supporters are very ex-Green, but very unhappy of the direction of The Greens," Mr O'Neill said while explaining the party's new 'heart' name.
"We want the truth about whatever about whatever narrative is going around."
Even with a merger, the new party will likely be facing an uphill battle for election. HAP’s most recent showing in the 2022 Victorian state election saw them with just 0.58% of the total upper house vote, while IMOP only had 0.46% of the vote in the NSW Legislative Council earlier in March.
Dr Isaac Golden, a HAP co-founder, appears to have stepped away in recent times. In a Facebook video announcing the merger earlier today, HAP was represented by Lisa Bentley. 6 News viewers may remember her from the 'Family First vs Family First' registration controversy last year. Her party, Family First Victoria, was unable to get registered while Family First (founded in South Australia in 2021) was.
Bentley ended up joining HAP and ran unsuccessfully for the party at the election.
The values and goals of HAP and IMOP are "exactly the same," according to Ms Bentley.
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