The Liberal National Party coalition in Australia is a split waiting to happen. A small coterie of conservatives within their federal and state parliaments and organisations are proving utterly resistant to necessary change and remain aligned with the old economy and big money. From our ex PM down many of the members of these groups are readily identifiable and to increase the tempo of change they must either be removed or their influence severely restricted.
The upcoming state election in Victoria and a federal election sometime in the next 12 months is an opportunity to do something about it. The problem is that almost all of these MPs so far identified are entrenched in safe conservative electorates in the city and country. Thus the ALP or the Greens are unlikely to make an impression in any of these conservative electorates in the foreseeable future. But Victoria has had a number of examples of outstanding independent candidates who have triumphed against the odds.
Currently there is the member for the Federal electorate of Indi in north-east Victoria, Cathy McGowan, who is in her second term, in an otherwise conservative seat. Closer to home, Independent Craig Ingram, held the state seat of East Gippsland, against the odds, for 3 terms. Aside from that this seat has been held by Country Party and National Party representatives for nearly 100 years. The point of this is that reactionary members of Parliament are vulnerable to candidates with appeal who are either from the centre or their own side of politics.
The qualifications suitable candidates require is fairly obvious. Cathy McGowan, for instance, was a former member of the Liberal Party and came from a well-known local family. Likewise the 1999 state election in East Gippsland was a battle between the status quo, necessary change and between two of the regions oldest established families. Some local issues worked in Craig Ingram’s favour – notably the issue of Snowy River water – and he also had some luck garnering the preferences of Bill Bolitho, the strongest local ALP candidate in a generation. Besides this it would also be a great help if the candidate is media ‘savvy’.
Furthermore it may not necessary for these candidates to unseat the sitting member but merely to make the seat less ‘safe’ may make the sitting members more amenable to change. It would be too much to hope for that these candidates actually pushed a climate change agenda but, for instance, they may push a ‘clean energy’ platform or call for ‘donation reforms’. It is time we removed or severely restricted the climate change deniers from their positions of influence and power. Climate change is a momentous problem facing us all. It should never have been politicised.