With both houses of Parliament standing to be dissolved and re-elected in the fast approaching double dissolution election, it is prime time to contemplate all players in the Australian political game. Rather than the recurring question of Labor or Liberal, now more than ever many voters are vying for an alternative to two party dominated system. The disengagement with party politics and democracy in Australia is harrowingly becoming a predominant trend in younger voters, who are the future foundation of Australia’s political landscape. According to a study conducted by the Australian National University, only 43 per cent of voters believe it actually makes a difference whether the Labor party or Liberal party is in power. Despite their traditional ideological differences, with both parties now enforcing an increasingly similar neoliberal agenda, coupled with constant instability in leadership, it is no wonder Australian voters are losing interest with bipartisan politics. It is estimated that the upcoming election is likely to display the highest level of support for minor parties and independents in the poll’s 31 year history. Independents have always subsisted alongside minor parties in our parliaments in their capacity to hold the balance of power, scrutinise the government, in providing alternative policy and in ensuring accountability. However only in recent times, have they come to the forefront of Australian politics with the ‘Independent Movement’ manifesting in the 1980s.
Today we are witnessing the implications of the movement in its full force, as disappointment and distrust of voters in our political system reaches an all time high. Nick Xenephon, perhaps the most well-known stand alone politician, is taking full advantage of these current shifts. Most recognisable for enabling the Rudd-Labor government to power in the 2007 election, his popularity as an independent has led to the creation of his own minor party, currently posing a significant statement in the upcoming election. His team currently holds national support of 3 per cent and a primary vote of 22 per cent in South Australia, which proves his ability to crucially impact future government policy if elected. He is famously known to hold views on social issues such as predatory gambling, opposition to the death penalty, support for same-sex marriage and for being vocal in his opinions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Economically, he supports Australian Industry as opposed to international competition and seeks to preserve foundational manufacturing jobs. He champions government accountability, anti-corruption, whistle-blower and watchdog laws, which for obvious reasons are enticing to voters given their perceived mistrust in the system. He is one of the few independent senators in Australia; however his eminence in the political playing field is founded upon more than just his policies. His numerous publicity stunts over the years have been the source of both zealous criticism and profound respect. With growing discontent and disassociation with socio-economic class struggles at the heart of left and right wing politics, it is apparent that a more centred and holistic approach to policy making is becoming increasingly relatable to the Australian public.
Another emerging independent expresses a different view and takes criticism of the two-party system to a whole new level. James Wright expresses that the system is altogether broken, distressing, poignant and bigoted. He proposes that swift action needs to be taken in addressing issues of wealth and class inequality in order to preserve many of our civil liberties. He believes that more needs to be done in order to prevent the erosion of the middle class; an issue which seems to be increasingly placed in the back burner by both major parties in recent times. He is attempting to counteract the dangers of neoliberal policy-making and shifts towards the liberal market economy, which would have the ultimate effect of large class distinction and high income disparity. This uneven distribution of wealth and resources would lead to economic collapse due to an uneven reduction and lack of income for consumer spending. He hopes to ‘Advance Australia Fairly’ by preventing social divide and maintaining equal opportunities for the Australian population. Wright advocates corporate social responsibility whereby multinationals are more strongly taxed and revenue is redistributed to advance the welfare of the Australian people. He suggests that in order to achieve this goal, we must stop electing representatives who merely act exclusively on behalf of special interest groups and corporations in a system full of internal conflict and inefficiency. That it is important to recognise a world beyond party politics and to start electing individuals who can act swiftly and collectively in the domestic and international interests of this country.
James Wright is currently an independent candidate for the New South Wales Senate. Being one of the only independent candidates from the millennial generation, he is acting not only for greater equality and preservation of civil rights, but also in representing a generation currently disengaged and uninterested with politics altogether. With a long political career ahead, independents such as James Wright could be the key to re-lighting our generation’s interest in politics.