This election we should be looking at the Independents in the Senate. It is a sign that people are fed up with the major parties and are working the Senate to be a house of review, for many of us it is where we have worked the most to ensure a robust Senate to “keep the bastards honest”.

Over the coming weeks I will explore the Independents running for the Senate – personally I believe this is the best exercise of democracy we have in a world where the two-party system is not cutting it to deliver sensible discourse about a number of pressing issues.

Reflecting on the recent NSW election and the upper house results (via Ben Raue, Final upper house preference count, Tally Room, 16 April 2019) which landed with Coalition 17, Labor 14, on the right side we have Shooters, Fishers and Farmers (SFF) with 2,  One Nation with 2,  Christian Democrats 1 ; and on the left Greens 3, Animal Justice Party with 2 and former Green Justin Field as an Independent 1.

What this means is that it ain’t going to be smooth sailing for the Berejiklian government in passing legislation through the upper house. Probably the most surprising result is that Keep Sydney Open missed out yet the Animal Justice Party got two spots.

Looking at the Senate there is a motley crew of Independents putting their hats in the ring, and they might just get through and create a proper house of review where legislation and policy is debated and we see the rise of proper discourse about the stuff that matters.

Arguably One Nation voters feel the same about their representatives, so too the people of Australia can now look to the Senate to bring a voice of reason and humanity, of reasonable debate about the inadequacy of stagnant welfare payments, rising inequality, cost of living pressures, rising homelessness among the working poor, and overall inadequate policies and lack of accountability of our politicians.

It is interesting to note that in NSW the preferences made a big difference to who was finally elected. I know I worked tirelessly in choosing my preferences to 35 – as I believed they would surely be exhausted by then? In the Senate, I will be that person in the booth rolling out that piece of paper and numbering every single preference. Why ? I believe it is so important as the days of above-the-line blind belief that the party you select will represent you – bah humbug – for me, both major parties leave me wanting, I want to have people that do not blindly follow a party line, but rather look at what is best for the people of Australia.

Last week I attended an event for The Together Party led by Mark Swivel, founder of Barefoot Law. In a small venue in Marrickville with about 30 locals coming to see who this new party is and asking questions about what they hope to achieve if they get a spot in the Senate.

Mark Swivel opened the event by explaining how he landed here, much like many of us he believed we could do better with elected officials representing the views and hopes of Australia of being better than average. The Together Party will ask two simple and profound questions : Is this good for the people? Is it good for the environment?

This simple statement caused a great deal of  resonance for those in the room and no doubt those following Mark and his colleagues’ journey to say what everyone is thinking – how do we get less self interest and more community focus in politics? How do we make our representatives more accountable to the people? While I don’t agree with everything – I like the general direction this is going and believe it is worth looking into for those who, like me, are disenfranchised or seeking a more rational way of working to represent community concerns.

This week let’s look at the Together Party Manifesto 

Together: A party dedicated to Rebuilding our Common Wealth.

TOGETHER campaigns for the restoration of Government in the public interest, as a constructive force for positive change across our society, from public broadcasting to a national ICAC, from stopping privatisation of public assets to tenure for public servants, from boosting legal aid to investing long term in scientific research, from developing national industry policy to genuine action on climate change.

Our principles:

  • Outcomes not just Opportunity
  • Communities before the Economy
  • People before Profit
  • Homes before Houses
  • Education before Defence
  • Living with, not against, the Planet
  • Human rights above all

Leading with three policy areas with a number of suggested positions:

Better Spending Grow mutual/cooperative and small businesses. Rethink taxation to better invest in community, education, health, and climate.

Better Society   Address key community concerns like housing, minimum wage, legal aid, NBN, clean energy, education, and workers’ rights.

Better Government Including greater transparency and accountability in government, rebuilding the public sector and reducing outsourcing. 

So this coming election – what are you looking for in Independents? I’d love to know some little known parties and candidates in the Senate – let me know you thoughts on this idea of the Senate being the place whee we can affect change.