Australia 2022: When does a “group of independents” become a political party?

In Australia’s election several independent candidates have beaten incumbent members of the Liberal Party

“The so-called “teal independents”, named after the colours of their campaign materials, are candidates contesting in typically safe Liberal seats on a platform of greater climate action and implementing a federal integrity commission.

“These candidates were backed by a well-funded campaigning machine called Climate 200, which raised about $12 million from more than 11,000 donors.” (ABC)

Backed by a specific campaign organization and with agreed policy priorities—sounds almost party-like. And they may matter—almost like a party holding the balance of power—because it’s not clear whether Labor has won a majority in the House of Representatives. At the moment Labor sits on 72, with 76 needed for a majority, and counting to continue.

21 thoughts on “Australia 2022: When does a “group of independents” become a political party?

  1. Yes well it is a fascinating result. The Liberals have comprehensively lost the leafy middle class suburbs of the three biggest cities in Australia. Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. A swag of seats that are , or were, safe Liberal because they are full of upper middle class people that until this election always voted for their economic interests. They have been lost to the teals or to the Greens or to Labor. The outer suburbs haven’t moved much but Labor have picked up one or two. The regions and rural areas didn’t move much either, but if anything the poorer regions moved towards Scott Morrison / Libs Nats. It is an election where the cities have decided the result and the regions have had less influence than in previous elections.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think it will come down to whether they act like a party or not.

    Will they have a leader on the floor of the House? Will they vote as a block? Will they come together to campaign to keep their seats next time around?

    Or will they just act like a bunch of independents who happen to vote the same way most of the time,

    Liked by 1 person

      • When do we treat the House Freedom Caucus as a distinct party from the Republican party in the US? Or the squad as distinct from the Democratic party? Such would be more consistent w/ the predictions of SPM for the US, right?


        • It is a good question. But they run under the Republican label, and therefore, under the rules of how parties nominate candidates in the US, they are Republicans. (And similarly for the Progressives in the Democratic Party.)

          The Seat Product Model predicts the US to have more parties than what we observe, yes. But it can’t tell us which parties “should be.” And, as I often say, a key reason for the under-fragmentation of the US party system is indeed that groups that would brand themselves as distinct parties in most other party systems instead adopt one of the two major party labels, and compete at the intra-party level (in a subset of constituencies, anyway).

          The US is not actually a FPTP system. It is a two-round system, albeit a very unusual (make that unique) one.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. “This is a loosely-tied group of 22 – 19 female and 3 male candidates – with past connections to either corporate or political establishment who are fighting against mostly male Liberal MPs in Australia’s affluent electorates.” One incumbent was Zali Steggall. “Her 2019 victory, partly funded by the then-nascent Climate 200 group, has been an inspiration for the group to drive a larger campaign this election.” But she is not its leader.

    Helen Haines was elected in 2019 in Indi as the political heir of Cathy McGowan, first elected in 2013. “Now 68 and retired, the so-called “godmother” of the independents movement flies under the radar. However, McGowan remains a force to be reckoned with in this current election, despite not standing as a candidate.” “For the past few months, she has been travelling around the country mentoring many of the so-called “teal independents”, sharing the learnings from her own campaigns and rallying their army of 20,000 volunteers.” An online conference in February last year was held by Cathy McGowan’s Community Independents Project. “We ran the Community Independents convention and we thought we’d get 50 people,” McGowan said. “We got 300 and out of that convention, this number of electorates running independents has sort of blossomed. So part of my job is to stay in contact with those people.” Since then, McGowan has been instructing Heise and her team on how to best connect with the community, how to win a seat and run a campaign, “to hopefully replicate the success of Indi.”

    Different shades of Teal. “Allegra Spender, running for the seat of Wentworth in inner Sydney, comes from upper-crust stock, the daughter of John Spender, Liberal Party politician and diplomat; and, perhaps more famously, Carla Zampatti, fashion designer, entrepreneur and builder of a multi-million dollar family fortune. Her hue of blue-green must surely be Tiffany Blue® – the proprietary turquoise of high-class New York jewellers, Tiffany &. Co: a symbol for class, privilege and high fashion.”

    Liked by 2 people

  4. The Teals are green on climate and blue on economics, hence the colour. They are also very big on integrity and inclusion issues.

    The most peculiar feature of this election is that (1) Labor’s popular vote actually fell and was smaller than the Liberals’ and (2) Labor’s popular vote was smaller than the Liberals’. Labor won both the 2PP and the election on Teal and Green preferences.

    For the most part the defeated Liberals were moderates. For example Josh Frydenberg, the federal treasurer (finance minister) and deputy leader of the Liberal party, a moderate, was defeated in Kooyong. All of Sydney’s leafy North Shore, a Liberal heartland, is now held by Teals. The result is that in an election that decisively rejected climate denial and culture wars, the most likely next Liberal leader will be Peter Dutton, another hardliner like Morrison.

    Frydenberg’s defeat is not yet certain and the figures will keep shifting around as counting proceeds. It’s just possible he could win his seat.

    Liked by 3 people

    • How does one subvert climate denialism? It seems a good deal of the problem is the incidence of the cost of making changes which has led many wealthy to sponsor pseudo-research designed to muddy the water.


      • Even in that case I do not like it. I’d reserve “popular vote” for cases of indirect election, like the US electoral college and… well, not much else. When applied to votes and seats, it is redundant (what other kind of vote is there in the electoral process?). When applied to first-preferences votes in ranked-choice systems, it is certainly inadequate (all the ranks are “popular”).


  5. ” I have received and have had discussions with the existing members of the crossbench and received confirmation from Rebekha Sharkie, Bob Katter, Andrew Wilkie, Helen Haines and Zali Steggall that they would not support any no confidence motions against the government and that they would also secure supply.” A confidence and supply agreement without needing any Greens and any new Teal Independents. Relying, oddly, on a “Centre Alliance,” a long-time independent, and a conservative populist, as well as the heir of the “godmother” of the Teals Cathy McGowan, and the first 2029 Teal. What a mixed bag.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Further to this point, the only independent to gain a seat from Labor was Dai Le, who won the ethnically diverse and normally safe Sydney seat of Fowler against Labor candidate Kristina Keneally (who had moved to the seat from her home in Scotland Island on the coast). Le claimed to be a “real independent” after the election, presumably in an an attempt to distinguish herself from the others.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Is Australia’s Preferential Vote system for Single Member Districts doesn’t work as well anymore now that the party system is fragmenting? Should Australia move toward using STV in Multiple Member districts for the lower house?


  8. The preference swapping between the Liberal National Party and One Nation in Queensland depresses me.

    As an aside, is there anyone that springs to mind as an expert on housing politics in Ireland? Or at least someone that could give me the basics?


    • Sounds like the sort of question meant for Twitter. Maybe you’ve asked there, too. If you have, I can retweet for you in case anyone who follows me might know.


      • I have and a retweet would be appreciated. Not sure what the correct hashtags are though:


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