• Kristin Perissinotto

The thing about independent candidates

There's a strong theme around this election, and I'm not talking about how much of a **** Scott Morrison is. There's a rise in popularity of minor parties and independent candidates. You've probably heard a lot of talk about 'teal' independents, the candidates whose policies sit somewhere between the 'blue' Liberal party and the 'green' Greens (that one was probably obvious). These candidates are majorly white 40-55 year old women with relatively conservative views but a strong emphasis on climate action. There are plenty of pros to voting independent, but there are a few things you should consider before giving them a '1' on your ballot paper.

Voting independent is seen by many as somewhat of a protest vote. It's sending a message to the major parties that says 'I'm not happy'. Becoming elected as an independent is hugely improbable, with your average indi getting around 5% of the vote. But it's absolutely not impossible, and some will likely get up this coming election. A successful independent candidate is usually one with a few (or one very wealthy) donors, existing name recognition and a really good campaign strategy. There are a lot of pros to voting independent, especially if you're unhappy with what the parties have to offer.

Pros of voting independent

  1. They aren't toeing the party line. This is the most important difference between indi and party candidates. They can vote however the fuck they want in parliament.

  2. They can make calls based on what their electorate wants. As above, they have free range to swing with their electorate. This is actually how government should work, and is one of the major downfalls of party politics.

  3. They are probably making all the calls. When a party candidate makes a statement, you can guarantee it's come from the party office. Indi candidates (and their teams) make their own policies and their own statements. Obviously this gets a little shaky when you consider the possibility that it is actually their donors who are making the calls, but that's getting in a little too deep for this article. Growing older is just realising what a fucking scam everything is. Yikes.

  4. They can make up the balance of power in parliament, or even form a coalition. Sometimes the winning party will not have enough seats (or votes) to pass legislation alone. This means that the winning party will have to convince the crossbench (indis and minor parties, think Greens, One Nation, Jacquie Lambie) to vote with them. The argument here is that the government would have to ensure the piece of legislation is good enough to convince the crossbench to vote for it. The downfall of this theory is of course that some indis or minor parties will vote against any legislation that a certain (or any) major parties suggest. See, what did I say about everything being a scam?

Cons of voting independent

  1. You can't always get a read on their values. When a candidate runs with a party, you can fairly safely assume at least some of their values, or at least how they are going to vote on certain issues. If you're considering voting independent, spend time looking at their website, and send them and email or message if you have more questions.

  2. They could just end up voting with a party every time. Which is a huge bummer and defeats the purpose of an independent. Looking into them is the best way to find out if this might be the case.

  3. If elected, they will lack voting power. The pro of a major party is that legislation put up will most likely have have guaranteed support of a party. An indi politician doesn't have that inbuilt, but it doesn't mean their legislation won't be supported by a major party, it just means they will need to convince the parties that it's a good idea.

  4. They likely won't win. This is less a con, and more a reminder to use your preferences when voting! If you vote 1 for an independent, make sure you apply your preferences in a way that aligns with your values! Check out our article on preferential voting here.

I think the takeaway is that indi candidates are not inherently better nor worse that the party people. There is often an idea that voting independent is the way forward for democracy or the 'right thing to do'. While that's not necessarily the case, it's not untrue either. Indis can uphold democracy if elected to the House or senate, but they can also be extremist neo-Nazis. The very best thing you can do is do serious research into your local independent (I would argue even more than you would for a party person whose movements will be more predictable if elected), and make sure you understand preferential voting.

If your goal for this election is to get rid of the Morrison government, the very best thing you can do is make sure you put your Labor candidate above the Liberal/National/LNP candidate on your ballot paper.