Independents poised to win big as voters flee major parties

'Teal' independents swept into Parliament in 2022 after campaigning on climate action and integrity in politics.

'Teal' independents swept into Parliament in 2022 after campaigning on climate action and integrity in politics. Photo: AAP

Community-backed independents could win big at the next federal election, as voters continue to flee the Liberal and Labor parties.

The combined first-preference vote for the Liberal and Labor parties has dropped from 76.81 per cent in the 2016 election to as low as 65 per cent in recent polling.

In Tasmania, at least two independents will join the state Parliament with the potential to be kingmakers, because the Labor and Liberal Party failed to form a majority government.

Labor’s 32.6 per cent first-preference vote at the 2022 federal election was a record low for a winning party, and any drop in support could condemn the Albanese government to a minority where the crossbench possesses all the power.

Maintaining enthusiasm

The six independents elected in 2022 represent former Liberal heartlands that are must-win for Peter Dutton and the Coalition if they hope to form government.

Independent candidates used the blueprint built by Cathy McGowan and Dr Helen Haines in Indi to oust long-term Liberal MPs in 2022, building a huge base of volunteers along the way.

Denise Shrivell, a campaigner for North Sydney’s independents, said enthusiasm hasn’t dampened between the 2022 election and now.

“Not only in the electorates that were successful in supporting their candidates into Canberra, but also for electorates that weren’t,” she said.

“There are a lot of communities within new electorates that are working hard to be the positive change that they now know is possible.”

the ‘teal’ independents had huge volunteer support in 2022, which hasn’t disappeared. Photo: Getty

The strength of the personal brand of the teal independents was on display during the failed referendum on an Indigenous Voice to Parliament last year, as Curtin, Goldstein, Kooyong, Mackellar, North Sydney, Warringah and Wentworth – all held by independents – voted majority yes, despite the rest of the country overwhelmingly voting no.

In Goldstein, independent MP Zoe Daniel mustered 600 volunteers across 285 events in support of the Voice.

Shrivell said people have responded to candidates and representatives that are part of their local community and not the “political machine”.

“People are increasingly seeing there is a different way to move forward, have our views represented and move away from the status quo,” she said.

“Communities coming together can bring about the biggest positive change and we’ve seen with the success of the community independents.”

Lessons learned

The 2022 federal election saw a monumental shift within Australian politics, as independents beat established Liberal MPs Josh Frydenberg, Tim Wilson and Dave Sharma.

Wilson, who represented Goldstein from 2016 to 2022, has won the preselection battle to set up a rematch with Daniel, despite suffering a 12 per cent swing against him in 2022.

Rod Tiffen, Emeritus Professor in government at the University of Sydney, said Wilson’s preselection shows that the Liberal Party hasn’t learned its lesson.

“There is a psychology once an electorate has honed in on and elected someone like [Zoe] Daniel,” he said.

“My guess at the moment would be that almost all of the teal independents will be re-elected and that’s particularly the case if the Liberal Party can’t get its act together.”

Outside of Goldstein, local branches are turning to tech and finance executives to change the party’s fortune and win back seats.

Fintech executive and former staffer Amelia Hamer will attempt to win back Frydenberg’s old seat of Kooyong for the Liberal Party, while former Uber executive Tom White will face Kate Chaney in Curtin.

Salesforce executive Gisele Kapterian won a preselection to face Kylea Tink in North Sydney, while Liberal branches have yet to select their candidates for Wentworth, Mackellar and Warringah.

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