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Teal independents seek Liberal voters and deceive Liberal MPs.

Teal independents seek Liberal voters and deceive Liberal MPs.

A building with election signs for both Monique Ryan and Josh Frydenberg.

One of the Morrison government’s biggest challenges in this election campaign is the rise of the “teals”, a group of 22 independents who have received funding from Climate 200.

They are running on platforms that support science-backed climate action, integrity Reform, and real progress in gender equality.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg faces serious threats from Monique Ryan, a Kooyong medical doctor. Ryan is currently in the inner Melbourne seat of Kooyong. Ryan has used the term repeatedly. “fake” independentsThese challengers are difficult to describe. John Howard, a former Prime Minister, has used similar terminology. Indicted them of “posing” as independents. Prime Minister Scott Morrison Says they are the “voices of” Labor and the Greens.

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This strategy of playing the woman and not the ball – as well as the advertising spend in electorates like Kooyong – suggests the Liberals are concerned. They have good reasons to be.

The teal appeal

These independents are running for Liberal seats and not Labor. It is true. Simon Holmes, Climate 200 convener and Court administrator, disagrees. ArgumentsThey are running for the goal of dislodging MPs from government (which happen to be Liberal).

It is important to remember that not all Climate 200-backed independents utilize the Teal colourFor their campaigns. North Sydney’s Kylea Tink uses pink, while Indi’s Helen Haines uses orange. Yet, the choice of teal for most campaigns – a colour between blue and green – does give an indication of their message to the moderate Liberal voters they are trying to attract.

The teal independents are speaking directly to moderate Liberal constituents who are frustrated with the (blue) Liberal Party’s positioning on social and environmental issues.

A building with election signs for both Monique Ryan and Josh Frydenberg.
Residents of Kooyong have been bombarded by campaign material from Josh Frydenberg, a sitting member, and Monique Ryan, an independent challenger.
Diego Fedele/AAP

While these same voters may never vote Labor or Greens, many are alienated by Morrison and his government, particularly on climate change and women’s issues.

It is important that 19 of 22 Climate 200 candidatesWomen are the most successful in their respective fields, with all of them having had successful careers. High-profile candidates include Ryan (Kooyong), a professor and head of neurology at the Royal Children’s Hospital, Zoe Daniel (Goldstein) a former ABC foreign correspondent, and Allegra Spender (Wentworth) the chief executive of the Australian Business and Community Network.

Teal independents do not represent political staffers who are attempting to make the next step towards a political career. These are women who are professionals and have taken a bold sideways leap because it is what the times demand. It’s a compelling story.

Climate 200

Teal independents can run for Climate 200 funding. They must also campaign for support.

Holmes a Court has been at pains to argue his organisation is not a political party – it is a platform to support independents based on their commitment to the three main goals. As he TelledThe National Press Club February:

The movement is nothing like a party – there is no hierarchy, no leader, no head office. No coordinated policy platforms.

Comparison of policies

How does the Coalition, Labor, Greens and Independent Candidates compare? I have looked at the policies of Daniel, Ryan, and Spender as they are the three most prominent new independent candidates.

On climate, Spender proposes to cut emissions by “at least 50% by 2030”, while Daniel and Ryan want 60% by 2030, and Daniel adds an Target of 80% renewable energy by 2030.

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These targets are more ambitious that the Coalition and Labor but less ambitious than either. The GreensThe group wants 75% reduction in emissions by 2030 and net zero for 2035.

On integrity in politics, all three independents variously demand a “strong”, “effective” anti-corruption body “with teeth”, greater transparency around tax-payer funded programs, reform of political campaign funding rules, and truth in political advertising. These policies largely align with Labor’s integrity policies, which include a National Anti-Corruption CommissionBy the end of 2022. They also align themselves with the Greens who add a role to the National Audit Office. Audit all government programs.

Finally, all the teal independents have a range of policies to increase women’s safety and equality, including childcare, parental leave, better pay for caring professions, women’s rights at work and programs to end family violence. These policies are why the Coalition is more aligned than the independents.

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The Liberal response

The Liberal Party is definitely taking this challenge seriously. It diverts campaign funding and resources towards seats it would otherwise consider safe.

It spends a lot of money on billboards nine meters wide to “sandbag” KooyongThis seat has been held by the party since Federation. In Wentworth, Dave Sharma’s posters use The same colour tealSpender was his challenger and they have no Liberal party logo. A stoush about election signs ended in Goldstein Court.

Another way they take it seriously is by trying undermine the authenticity of independents. If voters are seeking something different from the major parties, what better way to sway them away from changing their vote than suggesting their local independent isn’t really independent?

This is where the Liberal party is wrong. It is better for these candidates to be located within a lineage including Kerryn Phelps and Cathy McGowan. Their goal is to harness the power of cross-benches to create a hung parliament. If elected, a Labor majority would actually reduce their power and work against their ambitions.

Independents are the power of independence

Major polls suggest a tight race between major parties. After May 21, a hung parliament with independents holding the balance is highly likely.

Despite fear campaigns from both major parties, it is worth remembering that Australia’s last minority government was one of The most successfulThe legislature passed more legislation than any other modern government.

Windsor and Rob Oakeshott have both said they decided to support Julia Gillard’s government because she treated them with respect during negotiations in 2010, unlike her opponent, Tony Abbott.

This is a lesson that Liberal party would do well again to learn.

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