Electing independents is the answer to curing the problems facing Australia's democracy, writes Georgia Steele.
SOMETHING IS ROTTEN in the state of Denmark.
William Shakespeare knew it and it only takes a quick look around at the state of Australian politics to know that something has gone badly awry here, too.
It is telling that in the first month of my campaign as the independent candidate for the Federal seat of Hughes, in Sydney’s south and south west, the question I have received almost more than any other is: where are you directing your preferences?
It is a reflection on the decades-long dominance of the major parties that many voters don’t realise that the power of preferencing belongs with them.
The voters of Australia are too used to backroom deals being done. They are used to politicians deciding for them – rather than asking – what they want, and think, and hope for. My stance – that I will not be directing preferences, because I trust the people of Hughes to decide for themselves – is considered unusual.
The dominance of major parties in Australian politics may have created stability in the past, but it is not working anymore. The major parties have proven themselves incapable, or unwilling, to deal with the problems before them: climate action, intergenerational inequality, the speed and complexity of geopolitical change. The Government’s vacuous promises over decades – on matters of integrity, on women’s safety, on protecting our precious, sunburnt country – means we simply cannot afford to wait any longer. The time for change is now.
Only independents can achieve this change with the necessary urgency. It is independents who are about to change the country.
We will do this through something radical: actually working for our communities, and only our communities. Independents only have one boss: their electorate. No party bosses, no donor bosses, no lobbyist bosses. If independents expect their communities to vote for them at the next election, and then expect to stay elected, they have to show up, put runs on the board and deliver for these communities.
There are no captain’s picks, no pre-selection battles, no deals done behind closed doors. Independents are not independent of their community, but for their community, which means that the rarest thing of all, trust, is critical to making this relationship work.
Independents are not a risk. We are also not toothless tigers. As Simon Holmes à Court has pointed out, if just three more Independent MPs are chosen to represent their communities, Australians could wake up the day after the Federal election to a different country.
A minority government, working with a strong crossbench, is nothing to fear. Say what you will about Labor, but you only have to look at Julia Gillard’s Government to see that minority governments can be among the most productive in Australia’s history.
If Independents are elected, safe seats like my electorate of Hughes also become marginal seats. In the current political atmosphere, it is only marginal seats that get attention from major parties. It is only when politicians are at risk of losing their job at the next election that their communities get the level of service they deserve. What a shocking truth to realise.
Hughes is a case in point. We have been taken for granted, first by the Liberal Party and now by Craig Kelly, for far too long.
The people of Hughes, and other voters right across Australia, are ready for a representative that listens to them, works for them and restores trust in democracy. Independents will fill that void.
And while the major parties may not want them to know it, just as with their preferences, Australians can and will and should decide their own future.
Georgia Steele is a corporate litigator and is running for election as an independent candidate for the Federal seat of Hughes.
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