At this election, we have seen independents becoming serious competition for the major parties.
Independents have been instrumental in some significant upsets in Australian elections, including Prime Minister Howard by a popular ABC journalist, Maxine McKew, in 2007, and there are some that seem to have been around for decades, like Bob Katter and Pauline Hanson. Recently, there have been a lot of notable defections from the Liberal Party, particularly woman aggrieved by both its culture of misogyny and its continuing climate denial. The significance is that these are high profile women who are generally respected, except by their former party.
However, despite these seemingly progressive stances, these women are still firmly conservative in their basic economic imperative, so we are not likely to see their future voting records deviating from the Liberal Party on most issues. These modern political refugees are not the same as some of those of the past that created parties that made significant changes to Australian political life in their wake. These are people that are only wanting a change to the way that women like them are treated, but are quite willing to leave the status que remain for everybody and everything else.
Of course, such candidates will attract some Labor supporters who are fed up with their party's own lack of initiative on climate change and women's rights. While Labor may appear not much different from the Liberals on many issues, Labor is still more generally on the side of peoples' wellbeing, so if any voters do venture towards independents this election, they may well bounce back with the next after they see a lack of any significant change in the policies and politics of these independents in the intervening three years.
Several of these independents are not voting for the Labor-proposed industrial relations (IR) changes, a key sign that they have not really changed their economic outlook much at all. With real wages staying stagnant for more than a decade, significantly due to lack of bargaining power against employers, such IR changes are an opportunity to restore some long-needed economic power balance in the workplace. That these teal independents oppose that shows that they do not really want society-wide equity, but just want themselves to be part of the privileged few.
The teals have not been very successful at all in the NSW election. With some formally Liberal electorates having a high number of female public servants, they would have been perfect candidates for becoming teal, but instead they went to Labor, sort of indicating that those electors didn't think teals would fight for them, especially after most of them opposed the new IR laws.
The Liberal Party lost the federal and Victorian and NSW state elections. If they stop doubling-down on climate-denialism and possibly make some serious attempts to woo back support among women, a lot of these independents will likely re-join the party. Independence works for those who really are mavericks and have a few core principles that drive them to stand for those principles and face down the political apparatuses of the major parties. For those who are not so driven, the cross-bench wilderness can be a lonely place.
With majority governments doubling down on their agendas regardless of what electors want, truly independent politicians having the balance of power gives us the best chance of having a more equitable society. True independents provides us with the multiple voices that must be heard to ensure wealthy vested interests don't define the directions of our society through their paid for ties to political parties. Large numbers of independents would force us to find a new way to govern that involves all those elected being called the government.