The election that had to happen: The rise of the Independents

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Cathy McGowan (left) retires as member for Indi and passes the baton to Dr Helen Haines (Screenshot via YouTube)

The next Federal Election will be focused on diversity and Independent politicians, writes Adam Jacoby.

ON MAY 18 2019, Scott Morrison won the unwinnable election. I suspect the only person who really believed he could win it was the man himself and I am not even sure that he really believed it, given that he commenced his victory speech with “I always believed in miracles”. The commentary by some sectors of the media will no doubt position this as vindication of the conservative agenda and continue to paint the progressive agenda as a threat to the fabric of the country.

This is wrong.

What may be missing from the public review is some context. The Australian political landscape has been leaning more and more heavily to conservative forces for over a decade. As soon as Kevin Rudd, a non-unionist Queenslander, decimated the King of the conservatives, our politics changed forever.

Frighteningly for his adversaries, Rudd’s victory couldn’t be framed by blaming the usual enemies. He wasn’t a lifelong union man, he wasn’t a latte sipper from Sydney or Melbourne, he wasn’t a tree hugger and he wasn’t particularly untrustworthy or gaffe-prone. He was a man with vision and energy and that’s a problem for a party whose predominant promise is stasis. As a result, the conservatives had to find a different way to win and they did.

And so began the Australian era of cover-ups, media manipulation, character assassination and the dumbing down and deliberate division of the electorate. The very same strategies have been employed in the U.S. and the UK with identical effect.

As someone who has spent the better part of a decade working on a new democratic model and looking to understand the erosions and frailties of our political ecosystem, the devastation of this election result is profound. My despair is not about the faux Left versus Right narrative but rather what this result and the campaign means to the quality of Australian politics. But now is not the time for acquiescence or resignation, it is the time for resolve and learning.

I can’t help thinking that this was the election result we needed.

I know that many of you will label that statement heresy, but hear me out.

There was a justifiable expectation that the Government would fall. After all, Rudd-Gillard-Rudd were punished for instability, so surely Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison would be dealt the same fate. The Government had been legislatively impotent for so long — they were lazy by shutting Parliament down, they had been caught out in scandal after scandal, there was incessant in-fighting with Joyce and Abbot and their corruption is less speculation than accepted businesses model. In addition, the Government was contending with the “climate election” for which they have no credibility and the mood had turned on the atrocities on Manus and Nauru.

Further, their Ministry is profoundly incompetent and outside of their electorates, characters like Dutton, Joyce, Abbott and Hunt are despised from coast to coast — as it turns out and as Morrison understood better than Bill Shorten, it is the mood inside the electorate that matters.

And this, more than anything, cuts to the heart of why this election may be the catalyst for real and lasting change.

To be clear, the Liberal Party will form Government but it did not win this election on its vision for the future, it won by instilling fear about someone else’s vision of the future. Both major parties again suffered erosions of their primary vote. This is now a trend that has continued for long enough to determine that there is a genuine shift in our community and our politics. We saw the first Independent succeeded by an Independent in Australian history and another former Prime Minster toppled by an Independent.

Further, the United Australia Party/One Nation phenomenon vindicates further that people don’t trust the major parties and in the absence of something real and better, they will cast their votes on anything that is not blue or red. That Clive Palmer spent $60 million and did not win a Senate seat is delicious but I suspect he did buy a Government. There is no question Scott Morrison did a deal with the devil and at some point, the devil is going to want a tax break, a new mining license, his Government lawsuit shut down or some other self-serving payment.

What this election highlighted more than ever is that the issues in Northern Queensland are not just different from those in inner Melbourne but neither of those communities wants to be dictated to by the political appetite of the other. Perhaps for the first time, the general political sentiment will not wash over the country in blue or red waves as it once did. Single issue, big brand politics is dead. Politics is now local. Hyper local. And that is a very positive thing for the rise of Independents.

For years, I have been standing on stages, writing articles and giving interviews about why genuinely democratic Independents are better for our communities, our politics and ultimately may be able to revive our democracy. This election may well be the catalysts for people in Australia to finally sit up and take notice.

The next election will not be about Left versus Right. It will not be about red, blue and Green. The next election will be about big parties trying to speak to a vast and diverse country and Independents who come together under a single set of behaviours and values that will not be beholden to anyone but their community.

You can follow Adam Jacoby on Twitter @adamajacoby.

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