Polls 2022 Opinion

Independents: Putting paid to patch-up politics

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Independents represent diverse voting options to big-brand politics (Image by Parker Johnson | Unsplash)

Luke Hinsley intends to run in the upcoming Federal Election as an Independent because "we need leaders who think differently, take bigger actions and plan long term".

*CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses suicide, depression and mental illness

A LITTLE OVER a year ago I wrote an open letter about a struggle I was having with Centrelink — I was stuck in a legislative catch-22.

I was being denied help based on technicalities. I was being refused medical exemptions for a disability considered permanent because the JobSeeker support payment is only meant to be temporary.

I attempted to get the Disability Support Pension (DSP) as a permanent support payment but was rejected based on more technicalities in the legislation. The 'fully diagnosed, treated and stabilised' requirement of the Impairment Rating system is excuse enough to deny most applicants and the application of "impairment tables" is usually the knock-out blow for any stragglers. 

My letter was published by Independent Australia and received a mostly positive response.

Many people shared similar experiences and some kindly offered help. In the end, I didn't get the DSP. I got a final review whereby the reviewer made it abundantly clear that I would not get this support.

The interpretation of the legislation was so strict that to meet requirements, my mental health would need to be catastrophically worse. And that wasn't a path I wanted to go down. By Centrelink's reckoning, if I did not need a carer to do my grocery shopping, cooking or cleaning, or if I wasn't struggling daily with suicidal ideation, then I was not disabled enough for the DSP.

That's not how it's supposed to work. I was given an extended exemption from mutual obligations – which has since expired – and I was left on JobSeeker. Ultimately it was as if nothing had changed and I was back where I started. 

However, writing the letter started something. It led to me finding a purpose, to understand the kind of person I am — how I think and what I value. Writing the open letter was my lowest point of desperation and in re-reading it to write this follow up, I realise that I spoke openly about my problems but I didn't ask for or offer any solution to my problems.

I asked our leaders to do better and to offer solutions to problems that would benefit our society as a whole. I'm the kind of person that even when they are in need, will find it easier to advocate for others than myself.

I want to fix the problems I've written about — at the source of the problems. The politics. The lack of political will. If the current mob won't do it, then I'll do it myself. I've decided to run in the upcoming Federal Election, as an Independent. 

I've had to consider how to approach this. My electorate is a "safe" Labor seat. The incumbent, Richard Marles, has held the office for nearly 15 years. I've even voted for him myself.

My problem is mainly with the Liberal-National Coalition Government. I oppose them. I oppose Scott Morrison; he is an embarrassment. And I do not think Labor is doing enough to oppose them. I don't think Labor is providing enough of an alternative choice for Australians. I want to push Labor to do more.

Anthony Albanese has a plan to build a fast rail connection between Brisbane and Sydney. A fast rail system was an idea floated decades ago; it's still a good idea now. We should have it between all capital cities, but it never got built. This is a symptom of a larger problem in politics. We are a generation behind where we need to be and we are not going to catch up by taking slower incremental steps.

I see a divide between the generations and there will be many different ways to interpret it. I see the divide as a metaphor between analog and digital — we live in a digital world but it wasn't always this way: the world used to be analog.

Technology was mechanical, with gears and moving parts. Like the Industrial Revolution, there was a digital revolution and the world changed. My generation, Millennials, grew up during the transition. We understand both worlds in a way that other generations typically don't.

Generation X might understand analog better and Gen Z undoubtedly knows digital better, but to each, the other world is mostly foreign. "Old world" thinking isn't compatible with the new world — that doesn't mean it never had value, just that it doesn't work that way anymore.

Instead of adapting, we have leaders who stubbornly refuse to change. The Religious Discrimination Bill 2022 is a perfect example. There's no place in modern Australia for anyone to have a legal right to discriminate against anyone else, even for religious reasons. That kind of thinking is outdated and such policies are obsolete.

We need leaders who think differently, take bigger actions and plan long term. Climate change is one of the greatest threats to human civilisation — it's a slow burn – extinction-level even – and we are not taking it seriously.

Every time there's a climate summit somewhere in the world, there's always a handful of nations holding everyone back. We live with the shame of knowing that one of those nations is always us: Australia.

We face a climate catastrophe driven largely by fossil fuels and our Federal Government has chosen to change from one polluting fossil fuel (coal) to a more expensive, more environmentally damaging fossil fuel (gas). It's insanity. Australia has the potential to be the solar capital of the world, providing renewable clean electricity as a commodity, from an energy source as powerful and reliable as the sun. And that energy source is free. This seems a no-brainer, yet we're getting it wrong.

There are numerous reasons why we're getting it wrong. Corruption is first and foremost. We need a Federal ICAC that serves appropriate consequences to the corrupt and we need to amend the rules of acceptable behaviour. Governance is a public service, not a career stepping stone.

We need to: end the revolving door between industry, lobbyists and regulators; ban corporate donations; publicly fund elections, and get the corrupting influence of money out of our politics. Media manipulation is another great hurdle holding us back. As is poverty. The existence of poverty holds us back. The fear of poverty holds us back. 

This is a failure of our political duopoly — we should not have to choose between the lesser of two evils.

I was stuck in a job that made me feel miserable, I stayed until the point of having a mental breakdown because I feared poverty if I stopped working. And I was right — when I stopped working I ended up in poverty. JobSeeker poverty.

Our Government has in place policies that deny us help, forcing us into poverty. There are people who will choose to end their own lives before facing that.

The policies that do this are unfortunately bipartisan; both the Liberal and Labor Party support them. The "20 point system" used to deny many of us help was instituted by Labor, during the last time it held government. Both Liberal and Labor voted unanimously to not raise the JobSeeker payment above the poverty line. Neither major party is right here. This is a failure of our political duopoly — we should not have to choose between the lesser of two evils.

We need better alternatives. We need a representation of different ideas and ideals. We deserve a government that takes action and sets a direction for the nation. Australia was first nicknamed "The Lucky Country" – in a negative context – because we lucked our way to prosperity despite our leadership. Scott Morrison exemplifies this perspective.

We've seen what we're capable of when the government and the people work together. I mentioned Victoria's handling of our pandemic second wave in my open letter and I am still incredibly proud of what we achieved. It was a perfect example of what we can do – collectively – and how party politics and media manipulation can dismiss and deride our collective effort as being "compliant", as though selfishness were the true virtue.

There's never been a better time than this upcoming Federal Election to express our discontent with the politics of the two-party false choice, to send the message that Members of Parliament work for us and we are not to be taken for granted. None of them should feel their seat is "safe" or that they are entitled to power.

The Liberal-National Coalition has demonstrated its corruptness and incompetence and Labor is seemingly too timid as Opposition to be drawn into wedge issues and face media backlash.

We need to restore the public's trust in government and that will not happen with more of the same. Now is the time for Independents and third parties to give the people another option — to vote on issues and policies and not just parties. Look at who the candidates are and look at what they stand for. It's time for us to stop being lucky and start planning and preparing to ensure our prosperity. Now and into the future.

Elections are like a job application for candidates, to be employed as a public servant; so let me tell you a little bit about myself. I've never sought power, or positions of authority. I've worked mostly in retail on the customer service side.

In the last few years, I worked in logistics – doing the heavy lifting – which has left me with a minor spinal injury, so I can't do that work anymore. The most I've ever put myself on display was when I cosplayed with friends at Melbourne pop culture conventions (2013-14).

Wearing a costume actually made me feel somewhat exposed. It's an invitation for others to look at and judge you — it's rather intimidating. I cosplayed as Heisenberg from 'Breaking Bad' and a friend cosplayed as Jesse. We handed out little baggies of blue rock candy, which I had made as souvenirs. People appreciated it; it was so rewarding to share a connection and a common experience with them.

My policy positions aim toward benefiting the majority of people — the 99%.

I want to raise the rate of Centrelink payments and start the conversation for a Universal Basic Income (UBI) to end poverty in Australia forever. I want to expand Medicare to include mental and dental care, as a step toward a "national healthcare service". I want universal social housing to end homelessness and rent control measures to ensure housing affordability.

I want us to build a national solar renewable energy grid and take drastic actions toward mitigating the oncoming climate catastrophe. I want to legalise, regulate and tax recreational cannabis, and treat substance abuse as a health issue and not a criminal one.

I don't have positions on Women's issues yet because I don't think it's my place to say — although I believe it's vital to have women's perspectives on issues affecting them.

Finally, as a method of taking back power in our democracy, I have a policy idea I've called "direct ballot referendums" — to add issues of importance to electoral ballots for voters to decide. I'm willing to be the villain to the power structures and vested interests that stand in the way of progress to get this done.

Our democracy is being eroded – and I'm not talking about vaccine mandates or lockdowns; that's misdirection by nefarious bad-faith actors. It's bad enough that the LNP Federal Government acts against the best interests of our nation and refuses accountability, but soon enough, I believe it will make it an offence to even question its actions.

We've seen ABC offices raided, whistleblowers prosecuted, members of the public sued by politicians for criticising them — and said politicians have even had the gall to suggest that public money be used to pay for them to sue us. This is an attempt to intimidate us and silence criticism and is a true threat to our freedom.

All of this has happened under the watchful eye of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the most dangerous of them all. A lack of empathy and pathological lying are symptoms of psychopathy — "complete psycho" being a descriptor that has been attributed to Scott Morrison.

While I don't think being religious is necessarily a bad thing, for a person like Scott Morrison with the power of being Prime Minister, such beliefs can have devastating effects.

The PM told Channel Nine host Karl Stefanovic that he believes in the "second coming" of Jesus Christ. How has that worked out for us, the Australian People?

If the Black Summer fires were part of God's plan, why would he "hold a hose"? If plagues are a sign of the end times, he'd have no need to build quarantine facilities. And vaccines? Just get enough to cover him and his ilk, then let it rip on everyone else.

If the destruction of the world was part of the PM's belief system, why would he ever take action on climate change? I believe Scott Morrison is unfit to serve in public office and is a danger to us all. And the Liberal-National Coalition that has put a person like him in power has no legitimacy as a government or even a functional political entity.

When I was at my lowest and had lost all hope, I gave up on life. I would never own my own home. My parents live in the same public housing area that I do, so there's no "bank of mum and dad" to borrow from.

I long ago decided not to have children – I could never afford to care for them – and I could not justify bringing another human life into a world facing a climate catastrophe. What was the point of doing anything if it was all going to be lost anyway? I don't think I'm alone in feeling this way.

The LNP Government is so out of touch with the reality of the world we live in, that it does not even see how it contributes to these problems, or worse yet, it might not even care. I gave up on myself, but I could not give up on my siblings, my nephews and my niece. They deserve better — the next generations deserve better. They deserve a fighting chance at a habitable world and I want to save the world for them.

I'm willing to devote myself to getting this done; I've got the rest of my life but we do not have time to waste. We're decades behind, a generation lost. We need to stop being reactive, solve the problems of today and start preparing for the problems of tomorrow.

I do not intend to be like any politician we've ever seen before. For starters, I'm not asking for your money. I'll need donations eventually but as someone who lives in JobSeeker poverty, with rising costs of living, I understand how every dollar counts and I do not want anybody else putting themselves in financial strife — not for me.

Most Independents need to keep their options open regarding working with either of the major parties, but I'll state my preference for working with Labor. In fact, my goal is to form a union with other Independents and third parties, as a voting bloc, to extract greater concessions from a (likely) minority Labor Government. I want to take the Crossbench to the Cabinet and chart a new future for Australian democracy.

This is not something I think will be easy. There's a lot to overcome and I'm starting from a position of having nothing and being a nobody. I don't have money or the community following to properly launch a campaign. I have a website set up, I've written out my policy positions and I've uploaded some videos discussing them, but, so far, nothing has gained traction.

I need help — I cannot do this alone. I don't know how to get my campaign going and I can't afford to pay others for help. So, I reach out to you, the Australian people, for ideas and support on how to do this.

The challenge is huge but it's also a chance to send a message that cannot be ignored, a shot across the bow to the politics of the status quo. Change is coming. 

I'm giving it a go — can I get a go? 

*EDITOR'S NOTE: Unfortunately, Luke Hinsley has been disqualified to run in Federal Election 2022 by Section 44(iv) of the Constitution.

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or need help or information about depression or mental illness, you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit beyondblue.org.au.

Luke Hinsley is a Victorian who intends to run in the next Federal Election. If you would like to support Luke, you can contact him here or check out his website to learn more about Luke and his policies. You can follow Luke on Twitter @TakingLifesL.

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