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Canberra Today 1°/5° | Sunday, May 22, 2022 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

The election ‘scream test’ gets louder

“In Canberra, the threat of independents David Pocock and Kim Rubenstein has finally put the complacent Zed Seselja on his toes,” writes political columnist MICHAEL MOORE.

UNNERVING the conservatives in supposedly safe seats is a measure of the increasing success of independents. Political attacks on such independent candidates are increasing.

Michael Moore.

For example, conservative Sky News commentators accuse the so-called teal independents of taking inappropriate financial support from Climate 200.

Teal candidates draw votes from both of the major parties, but particularly from environmentally conscious Liberal voters (a mix of green and blue). 

The biggest threat from such candidates is to those whose action on climate change and integrity has been inadequate. This is why they have financial backing from Climate 200, an organisation committed to strong and immediate action on “science-based climate policy”.

The funding mirrors money provided to the Liberals and Nationals by big business over many years. Big business has provided financial backing in the hope of having influence on the outcome of elections and those in power. Copying their lobbying tactics has not gone down well with them.

Ironically, the level of influence of independents may be assessed by the “scream test”. The louder they scream the more effective the threat. 

In Canberra, the threat of David Pocock and Kim Rubenstein, for example, has finally put the complacent Zed Seselja on his toes.

There are plenty of conservative support groups that are happy to attack any independent who looks as though they might be a threat. The conservative lobby group, Advance Australia for example, has authorised roadside corflutes that attack David Pocock as an extremist member of the Greens Party. 

Roadside corflutes attacking independent David Pocock as a Greens extremist member… these corflutes are not the truth.

These corflutes are not the truth. However, the intention is clear. They are attempting to scare Liberal voters who might be tempted to move towards a moderate independent. Both Pocock and Rubenstein may be considered as moderate, or teal, candidates. The same is true of Tim Bohm, running for the seat of Canberra. 

Suddenly Zed has realised that Canberra has a problem. Land might provide a solution! What has it taken for him to finally realise the price of housing has gone beyond reasonable and needs government action to find a solution? 

Despite almost a decade already spent in the Senate he hasn’t, until an election threat, been able to see a solution. Now he feels pressure and needs to be seen to be putting the interest of ordinary Canberrans as a priority.

His desperate solution to show he is interested turns out to be the Commonwealth land owned by the CSIRO in the north of Canberra. The 250 hectare Ginninderra Experimental Farm could provide thousands of new house sites in Canberra’s north. 

Senator Seselja argued: “Last year we saw 7500 people register for just 115 blocks of land released in Taylor. There is simply not enough land being released to keep up with the demand.” 

According to the senator this is not just an election ploy, but has been “on the table” for quite a number of years. Does that mean he has been sitting on this idea until it is convenient for an election announcement? 

If Zed Seselja is not elected, will that be the end of the idea? Of course not! Now that the senator has made the idea public and clarified it can be done, there can be little reason for not going ahead. A Canberra independent or Greens senator is likely to have even more influence on whoever is in government to ensure the release of this Commonwealth land.

The standard for independents has been set by MPs such as Indi’s Cathy McGowan and Helen Haines, along with Zali Steggall in Warringah. Climate, accountability and integrity have been their catch cry. A catch cry that does not seem to sing to Scott Morrison, Barnaby Joyce or the majority of the members of their parties. In fact, the leader of the Nationals argued that independents in the parliament would deliver “total and utter chaos”.

These are the words of someone running scared of losing government. Successful minority governments have been common in parliaments across Australia for decades. The Gillard government was hardly in “total and utter chaos” from the cross benches. There was a problem with her own party. However, she achieved more successful legislation than a wide range of governments before and after.

The rise of the teal independents enhances our democracy and challenges the “right to rule” attitude of many in the major parties.

 

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Ian Meikle, editor

Michael Moore

Michael Moore

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