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Australian politics have largely always been dominated by two major forces: the Labor Party and the Coalition, which is an alliance of the Liberal Party and the National Party of Australia.
But there’s a new force in play for this election: the so-called “teal independents”.
They’re not a political party – they don’t even all use the colour teal – but they could shape the way the government is formed.
What are the ‘teal independents’?
The teal independents are a loosely-tied group of independent candidates who roughly share similar policy intentions and are supported by the same financial backers.
A political action group Climate 200, set up by clean energy investor and son of Australia’s first billionaire Simon Holmes à Court, funds the campaigns of candidates who align with the organisation’s values.
They are not a political party, but seem to converge on two specific policies: the call for a federal integrity commission and a greater emphasis on tackling climate change.
They are called the “teal” independents because many are campaigning with materials that use the greenish-blue colour of teal.
Who are the teal candidates?
There’s no hard and fast rule that decides who is “teal” and who is an independent running with some other colour.
Climate 200 lists a number of independents on its website that it is backing to help win the 2022 Federal election.
Of these, the following candidates are running with teal-coloured campaigns:
Allegra Spender (Wentworth)
Dr Monique Ryan (Kooyong)
Many independents are running on different colours such as orange, purple and dark green.
(To avoid confusion, the actual colours candidates use don’t mean anything other than a point of difference against the well known blue of the Liberal Party and red of the Australian Labor Party.)
Labelling the group as “teal independents” is a colloquial way of referring to the group as a whole without drilling into idiosyncratic differences.
So why are people talking about these independents?
People are talking about the teal independents because some of them just might win.
What’s more, these independents are targeting long-held Liberal seats where they have the potential of winning.
In Josh Frydenberg’s seat of Kooyong, teal independent Dr Monique Ryan is leading two-party preferred polls and in Wentworth Liberal MP Dave Sharma is facing tough opposition from teal independent Allegra Spender.
It sounds like they are operating like a political party?
Perhaps culturally, but technically (and legally) they’re not.
Each independent is running on their own name, and a vote for them is not a vote for any particular overriding party ethos or platform.
The independents are being backed by donors such as Climate 200 to help them run campaigns with advertising and marketing materials equal to that of their major party competitors – and that takes a lot of cash.
Climate 200 says it is “leveling the playing field” by endorsing “underdog candidates” who agree with legislating a federal ICAC and doing more on climate change.
What happens if a bunch of these independents win seats at the election?
If a number of teal independents win seats against sitting Liberal members then the chance of a minority government or a hung parliament increases.
The way the house of representatives works is really simple (on paper at least).
There’s 151 seats in the house, and to form government one of the major parties must secure 76 of those seats (a clear majority).
A hung parliament is when there is a tie between the two major parties as to how many seats they won, forcing both sides to cut deals with the independents.
In the 2010 election there was an exact 72 – 72 tie between Labor and the Liberal-National Coalition.
A minority government is formed when neither of the major parties win enough seats to claim a clear majority, but gain the confidence of enough independents to ensure bills about ordinary business won’t be voted down.
So if a bunch of teal independents win, will they support Labor or the Coalition?
The independents have (true to their name) largely said that if they win they will negotiate with the party that best delivers on their policy platform, or side with the party that most closely aligns with their own intentions.
Strategically, it makes sense for the teal independents (or any independent for that matter) not to reveal who they would back in the event of a hung parliament – because to do so prior to the election would effectively reduce their bargaining power.
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