Strategic Voting, Climate Independents and the Federal Election

Former Nationals leader spruiking coal (ABC)

Climate Independent candidates for the approaching federal election are coming ‘out of the woodwork’ on a regular basis now. Some very high profile candidates – Zali Steggall in Warringah, Oliver Yates in Kooyong – are already campaigning strongly and getting publicity in the main stream media. There are also some climate independents with a high local profile getting onto the bandwagon. I believe that there are two climate candidates in the seat of Mallee. We await further climate independents – preferably high profile – to appear in the seats of climate change deniers Joyce (New England) Kelly (Hughes) and Andrews (Menzies).

Having a large number of climate independents is a great first step. On its own it will help push the election towards a referendum on climate change. It is of note that some candidates are far more ‘progressive’ on the climate solutions than Labor. Steggalls for instance wants Labor to drop any support for Adani. Many of these candidates accept that there is a climate emergency. Their high profile and public support means the media – even News Corp – are obliged to give them some coverage. This will also give momentum to the climate referendum.

Voting strategically is not new to Australians. They have been doing it for many years with first the Democrats and then more recently with the Greens. This has mainly involved switching votes from one party to another between the lower and upper houses. Only occasionally it has helped elect an independent in the lower house. And in these instances it has almost always involved splitting the conservative vote as in the case of Kerryn Phelps and the recent Wentworth by-election.

For the climate independent to succeed two critical factors are involved – reducing the incumbent’s primary vote to 45% or below and garnering enough primary votes to come second in the contest. This will involve ‘strategic’ voting by Labor and Greens supporters who, for a number of reasons, may cast their primary vote for the climate independent. The remainder – ‘rusted on’ voters of these parties – must direct their preferences away from the incumbent to the climate independent.

I don’t hold out much hope for this in Gippsland but it would be nice for climate independents to step up in the Gippsland and Monash electorates to help focus our region on the real issues that confront us. On a national scale the election of one or more climate independents and the removal of some of the climate dinosaurs will be a big step towards a common sense approach towards the climate emergency.