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Article

“I just think it’s so blatantly obvious how fucked up our government is”: On Voting Independent.

Why more and more voters are leaning Independent.

Auspol is fucked.

Okay, a correction: Australia’s federal politics are widely considered by voters to be completely broken. Just ask 21-year-old University of Melbourne student, Annabel Yates.

“The two-party system isn’t serving the normal Australian citizen,” Annabel tells me over Zoom. Yates is currently volunteering as a campaigner for Independent candidate Monique Ryan, the formidable ex-head of Neurology at the Royal Children’s Hospital, and who is tipped as Josh Frydenberg’s greatest threat in acquiring the traditionally Liberal seat of Kooyong.

Many Independent candidates, like Ryan, have little background in politics. This is precisely what is allowing them to be so appealing to voters. Simply put, it seems that most Australians no longer have faith in their politicians. Almost a year ago, the ABC’s Australia Talks survey revealed that 56% of us believe that, “Australian politicians are often corrupt”. Add in a country that is simultaneously on ?re or underwater, rampant with sexual misconduct in parliament, trillions in debt and a Prime Minister whose favourite phrase seems to be “It’s not my job”, voters are looking for a better alternative anywhere at this point.

This is where Independents come in. These ‘teal’ parties have shifted from existing as a footnote that lingers at the bottom of a voting card, to acting as a serious threat to Labor and Liberal.

Their appeal is in their normalcy and their willingness to listen and do better by their community. When I ask Yates about what traits attracted her to Monique Ryan, she cites her “compassionate nature”.

“[Monique] has dedicated her entire life to ?xing and helping,” she said.

And that is just so refreshing compared to someone like Josh Frydenberg who’s been in politics his whole life. Voters see these candidates as understanding of the struggles of ordinary Australians.

Ordinary Australians are the ones backing them. If you are to click on Ryan’s website, you notice that her ‘voter voices’ range from teenagers and twenty-somethings (complete with a Youth4Mon TikTok page) to the elderly (topping up at 87). Almost 80% of her 1500 volunteers have never previously campaigned. If Independent politicians are emblematic of Australia’s need for political change, it’s clear that almost everyone is seeking it.

Although however hopeful Independents may appear, they don’t exist without challenges. A stereotype of Independent candidates is that once they are elected to parliament, they fail to wield much power. Additionally, the lack of political experience that makes some Teal candidates so refreshing can also be a downfall. Ryan herself admits that, she has “values and beliefs, but [she does not] have a full set of policy documents as yet”.

With this, another question arises—how Independent ‘are’ these candidates? Indie candidates have been criticised for having extremely similar policies, and crucially, sharing the same funding. Climate 200 is an organisation that donates heavily to candidates supporting climate action and has garnered criticism for heavily donating to many Teal Indies. If these candidates share the same colour, similar policies and the same donor, doesn’t that make them the same party?

When I pose these concerns to Yates she cites three things. Firstly, Teal candidates might be inexperienced but politicians who ‘have’ experience continually fail.

“Scott Morrison does have a history,” she adds.

“But they act in such poor, poor ways. Josh Frydenberg is the treasurer of Australia [and] he’s put us a trillion dollars in debt.” For Yates, a successful government consists of “a group of people that represent our population . . . the balance of having a range of people.”

Furthermore, Climate 200 was established to support candidates standing for climate action, which happens to be a stance most Teal candidates are taking. Yates believes that these similarities are not based on party lines, but rather through “representing what the Australian community is thinking [which surrounds a] lack of transparency, corruption [and] no climate action”.

Yates also rejects the idea that Independents lack political power. Instead, she argues that Independents will allow for “closer scrutiny” of potential policies. The “beauty” of Independent candidates is that they can vote with their conscience, without being tied to any speci?c policies. This invites the “opportunity for better legislation”, as it allows candidates to vote within the best interests of their community.

 

This piece was submitted to Farrago as an opinion piece.

 
Farrago's magazine cover - Edition Three 2021

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