Independent Candidates and the Senate

I have been a member of Independents CAN (formerly Independents for Climate Action Now) and strong supporter since just before the last election. In 2019 ICAN fielded a number of candidates in the Senate in 3 states but they were unsuccessful. My personal preference has always been to concentrate on lower house seats for a number of reasons and my own candidacy as an independent was always in this direction. Minor parties are often attracted to the Senate as, with proportional representation, it offers the slim chance of election. On the other hand, the seat of power is in the lower house and Independents candidates there can succeed as both Zali Steggall and Helen Haines have shown.

However Independent candidates in the Senate nearly always fail and I am unaware of any candidate in the ‘ungrouped’ section of the ballot paper in any state being successful. An example of this was the candidacy in 2019 of former mayor of the East Gippsland Shire Council, Cr Mendy Urie – an excellent candidate who was invisible to all, but local voters, on a mammoth ballot paper and hidden amongst a group of other hopefuls. On strategy, proportional representation means that the crossbench in the Senate will be relatively large, with the Greens guaranteed to win a fair number of seats, and thus making positive climate action certain. This is another reason why climate activists should direct their energy to the lower house.

I am not privy to the ICAN strategy but think there are a number of Senate candidates in the wings. This will be jeopardised if ICAN fails to get the 1500 members required by the new electoral laws and are deregistered. Any of their candidates will then be classified as Independents and ungrouped. On the positive side even if they are deregistered, the finances and organisation of ICAN can still be directed towards Independent candidates* in lower house contests who agree to ICAN’s five core policy areas. (see image)

Locally I am unaware of any climate candidate in Gippsland or Monash but there is still plenty of time for them to appear. Realistically in Gippsland the best Independent candidate has little chance against the incumbent and should be aiming to put the issue forward as much as possible and to get at least 4% of the vote. There is a Voices group operating in Monash and a well-known candidate there may be able to poll much better and even affect the outcome.

*as does the Climate 200 organisation which is supporting climate independents in lower house coalition seats.