Teal independents, simply known as teals and also called community independents, are a loosely-aligned group of centrist, independent or minor party politicians in Australian politics. They have been characterised as strongly advocating for increased action to mitigate climate change by reducing carbon emissions along with improved political integrity and accountability. They also generally share socially liberal outlooks, including on issues such as LGBT rights, and have harnessed grassroots campaigning to achieve strong swings towards them.

The eponymous colour teal, which has been interpreted by some journalists as a blend of the green of the Australian Greens and the blue of the Liberal Party,[1][2] was a dominant feature of campaign branding used by high-profile independent candidates Zali Steggall, Allegra Spender, Kylea Tink, Monique Ryan, Kate Chaney, Zoe Daniel and Sophie Scamps;[3][4] however, not all candidates used the colour.

History edit

2013–2019 edit

 
Cathy McGowan

The teal movement originates with constituents of the Division of Indi, in rural Victoria, who prepared a report about issues in their electorate. MP Sophie Mirabella was largely dismissive of the report, causing the group Voices for Indi being formed, with the aim of making Indi a marginal seat and forcing Mirabella to preferences. Voices for Indi, who chose not to become a party to avoid excluding large portions of the electorate who held loyalties to political parties, endorsed Cathy McGowan. Initially, Voices for Indi was reluctant to go public, and instead chose to meet discretely at Wangaratta Library, as Mirabella had a history of making personal attacks towards opponents, with then-retiring independent MP Tony Windsor describing Mirabella as "the nastiest - I reckon if you put it to a vote to all politicians, she'd come up No. 1."[5] Windsor's comment, prompted by a question on Insiders regarding what he would miss the most about federal politics, went viral both online and in local newspapers. McGowan ran a strong grassroots campaign, managing to raise $117,000 AUD and mobilising members of the local community for campaigning.[5][6] Mirabella also caused controversy when she took credit for multiple health-related projects in Indi, where she had done minimal campaigning, instead leaving it to the local community. [5]McGowan won the seat at the 2013 election.[7] McGowan retired from parliament at the 2019 federal election and Voices for Indi campaigned for Helen Haines to succeed McGowan. Haines was successful in her election, becoming the first independent in Australian history to succeed another independent.[8]

In 2017, Sandy Bolton was elected as the member for the state electorate of Noosa, running on a platform of climate change and local issues, siding with Queensland Labor to form a minority government. She was re-elected in 2020.[9]

By 2018, support for the traditional major parties, the Australian Labor Party and the Liberal National coalition, or just the 'Coalition', was wavering. At the 2016 election, just over a quarter of voters were voting for minor parties or independents for the Senate. The Grattan Institute published a report in March 2018 labelled 'A Crisis of Trust', detailing the rise of an 'anyone but them'[10] vote against the major parties and the rise of minor parties as a consequence, particularly in regional areas. Critically, over 70% of Australians surveyed believed that Australia's system of government needed reform.[10]

Prior the 2018 Wentworth by-election, Kerryn Phelps, a councillor of the City of Sydney, had been considering a run at the lord mayorality of Sydney, including discussing campaign design and management, when she decided to run for Wentworth.[11] Phelps ran a grassroots campaign similar to McGowan's.[12] Phelps won the seat of Wentworth on a 19% swing towards her, succeeding former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and forcing Turnbull's successor as prime minister, Scott Morrison, into a minority government. The result was attributed to the dumping of Turnbull, a popular local member and moderate, by the party's conservative wing, as prime minister in favour of Morrison.[13][14] Climate change was also cited as a key factor in Phelps' win, which conservatives in the Liberal Party had pushed to weaken emission reduction laws.[15] Similar to McGowan, Phelps benefitted from large numbers of campaign volunteers.[16] The result forced the Morrison government into a minority government, requiring the support of a member of the crossbench to pass legislation in the House of Representatives.[15] At the 2019 election, seven months later, Phelps lost the seat to the Liberals' Dave Sharma, who had narrowly lost to Phelps at the 2018 by-election.[17] Simon Holmes à Court, founder of fundraising group Climate 200, expressed anger that he did not invest in Phelps' campaign sufficiently, stating that Climate 200 was "kicking ourselves afterwards that we had under-invested in Kerryn's campaign,"[18] and that he believed that a few thousand dollars in additional funding would have resulted in Phelps retaining the seat.[18]

 
Zali Steggall

Before the 2019 election, a series of community groups, most prominently Vote Tony Out and Voices of Warringah, formed with the intention to eject former prime minister Tony Abbott out of his safe seat of Warringah.[19] Abbott had generated controversy for his climate denialism. He had once called the science behind climate change "crap".[20] Abbott has also been a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage, at odds with his electorate, where over 75% of voters in Warringah supported same-sex marriage at the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey, leading to criticism that he was 'out of touch with his electorate'.[21] They began a search for a pro-climate change, centrist candidate similar to Phelps. Journalists Peter FitzSimons and Lisa Wilkinson, Warringah locals, were approached to run for the seat, however both declined.[19] Scientist and environmentalist Tim Flannery had also discussed running for Warringah with community groups, however he never ran.[22]

On New Year's Day, 2019, former alpine skier, bronze medallist at the 1998 Winter Olympics, and lawyer, Zali Steggall, appeared in a 'Vote Tony Out' T-shirt, created by the community group of the same name. Three weeks later, Steggall announced she was running for Warringah, at a rally organised by Vote Tony Out and Voices of Warringah. At the rally, Steggall outlined her key campaign promises, including climate change action, human rights issues, mental health and domestic violence. Steggall benefitted from the backing of several community groups, including Vote Tony Out and Voices of Warringah, as well as the prominent activist group GetUp!, who had vowed to remove Abbott from his seat.[23][24] During the campaign, Abbott struggled to garner funding, being over $50,000 AUD short of his $150,000 funding goal just two weeks out from the election, a large number of pro-Steggall campaign posters, billboards and clothing, and a grassroots campaign with strong funding sources.[25] Steggall was able to garner over $1.1 million in donations, including Climate 200, bankrolled by Holmes à Court and Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes.[26] Steggall was successful in unseating Abbott, stating that Warringah had “voted for the future”.[27]

Post-2020 edit

 
Monique Ryan

The 2021 March 4 Justice has been cited as a key catalyst of the teal movement, organised as a result of the 2021 sexual misconduct allegations, most promenently Brittany Higgins' allegation of being raped at Parliament House, and Morrison government frontbencher Christian Porter's confirmation that he had been named in a historic rape allegation.[28][29] Morrison received criticism for his apparent need to talk to his wife, Jenny, before responding to the protests. He generated further controversy after refusing, along with his Minister for Women, Marise Payne, to publicly speak to the March 4 Justice protesters, who had surrounded Parliament House.[30] Morrison had lost significant support among women in the leadup to the 2022 election; an Australian Financial Review Ipsos poll had shown that one in three women were voting for Morrison.[28] Social commentator and key campaigner for the teal movement, Jane Caro, stated that she "absolutely [drew] a direct line from the March 4 Justice to the success of the teals."[31]

Climate 200 was revived ahead of the 2022 election by Holmes à Court, to "try to level the playing field for independents once more".[18] Holmes à Court had veteran campaigner Anthony Reid and Byron Fay, a Paris Agreement negotiator who would later become CEO of Climate 200, run a review into Climate 200's first iteration, for the 2019 election, before re-creating it.[32]

Influenced by the corresponding groups in Indi and Warringah, a number of Voices groups organised before the 2022 election, around issues relating to the environment and political integrity.[33][34] At the 2022 federal election, teal independents defeated six sitting Liberal MPs; Allegra Spender in Wentworth, Kylea Tink in North Sydney, Zoe Daniel in Goldstein, Monique Ryan in Kooyong, Kate Chaney in Curtin, and Sophie Scamps in Mackellar.[35][36][37][38] In addition, Zali Steggall, Rebekha Sharkie and Helen Haines were re-elected.[39] Another ten teal lower house candidates were unsuccessful. In the Senate, David Pocock was elected for the ACT, while two others were not.

Voices groups and Climate 200 stood candidates in a number of seats at the 2022 Victorian election,[40][41][42] however none won and only two reached a two-candidate-preferred vote.[43][44]

In the 2022 Willoughby state by-election, Larissa Penn, who had already ran in 2019, gained 29.66% (or 46.70% in TCP). She has been counted as a teal candidate.[45][46] In NSW, despite the success of teal independents in 2022 in Sydney, only one teal independent was elected, Judy Hannan in Wollondilly,[47] likely due to optional preferential voting in New South Wales.[48]

Structure edit

Teal independents are largely female candidates challenging Liberal Party incumbent MPs. Ten candidates for the House of Representatives and one candidate for the Senate considered teal independents were elected in 2022, of which seven were elected for the first time.[49]

Most teal independent candidates have received the support of fundraising group Climate 200, a political funding company led by Simon Holmes à Court.[49] Founded shortly before the 2019 election, Climate 200 gave $437,000 to 12 independents at the 2019 election, deriving from 35 donors, including Holmes à Court and Cannon-Brookes.[18]

Teal independents have been categorised in the media by financial and administrative associations with Climate 200. They are generally unaffiliated to a political party, except Rebekha Sharkie (Centre Alliance, first elected in 2016) and some candidates from The Local Party.[50] Senate candidates David Pocock and Kim Rubenstein also formed political parties for ballot purposes.[51]

In addition to financial support from fundraising organisations such as Climate 200, candidates raised significant amounts of money directly through their personal fundraising arms.[52][53][54]

Colour edit

At the 2019 election and subsequently at the 2022 election, a number of the high-profile candidates in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth used teal colours in their campaign, including Zali Steggall, Allegra Spender, Monique Ryan, Kate Chaney, Zoe Daniel and Sophie Scamps.[3][4] This led to many using this colour to describe the whole movement by calling them the "teal independents" and calling the independent victories on election night a "teal wave" and "teal bath".[55]

Cathy McGowan's Voices for Indi adopted the colour orange, while her successor Helen Haines continued to use it. Likewise, Rebekha Sharkie has used orange since 2016, in line with her Centre Alliance party, previously known as Nick Xenophon Team.

Other candidates associated with teal independents did not use teal, such as successful candidate Kylea Tink (pink)[56]

The selection of the colour teal, a mix of blue and green, alludes to both the Liberal (blue) electorates they run in, and "green" policies.[1][2]

Policies edit

The teal independents have been described as varying from centre-left to centre-right in political orientation, with Kate Chaney and Allegra Spender both descending from former Liberal ministers, and Monique Ryan being a former member of the centre-left Labor Party.[57] Others, such as Zoe Daniel and Helen Haines, have been described as centrist.[58] Generally, teal independents have been described as having progressive social policies, with a focus on climate change, anti-corruption policies and gender equality, while still retaining conservative economics similar to those of the Liberals.[59] Some, such as David Pocock, focus on environmentalism, however others, such as Spender, emphasise economic policy.[57]

In the 2023 Australian Indigenous Voice referendum, teal independents were key campaigners for the Yes campaign, competing in a friendly competition to see who could achieve the highest Yes vote in their electorate.[60] Although the referendum was decisively defeated with 60% of voters voting No, all seats held by teal independents, bar Haines' regional seat of Indi, voted Yes.[61]

Reception edit

Political law professor Graeme Orr describes the movement as a "nascent political movement", sharing resources and strategies across seats, and with similar policy focuses on climate change, government integrity and gender equality.[62]

A number of former politicians on the advisory council of Climate 200 endorsed the teal independents, including John Hewson, Rob Oakeshott, Tony Windsor and Meg Lees. Turnbull, whose former seat of Wentworth was won by Spender, encouraged moderate Liberals to consider voting for the teal independents.[63] Others endorsed specific candidates, such as former Fraser government minister, Ian Macphee, who endorsed Zoe Daniel.[64] In one supportive editorial, The Age found that the teal independents "have often struggled to articulate policies crucial issues to Australia, including its relationship with China, the mounting debt bill, tax reform and cost-of-living pressures".[65]

Due to the impact and significance of the teal independents, "teal" was announced as "word of the year" by the Australian National Dictionary Centre.[66][67] The teals, as well as Pocock and Haines, were shortlisted for the Emerging Political Leader of the Year 2022 by the McKinnon Prize, which Haines won.[68]

Criticism and opposition edit

Because many teal independents contested the 2022 election in seats that were generally considered to be Liberal Party strongholds, multiple incumbent and former Liberal politicians were highly critical of the movement in the months prior: Christopher Pyne accused the teal independents of deliberately seeking to consign the Liberal Party to long-term opposition by targeting moderate centrist voters;[69] Josh Frydenberg and Tim Wilson, who were both directly opposed by teal independent candidates, criticised the movement's open association with Climate 200 and called them "fake independents" and "so-called independents";[70][71] and Morrison argued that sending teal independents to the federal parliament would have a negative impact on Australia's political stability.[62] Former Prime Minister John Howard criticized the teal independents, calling them "anti-Liberal groupies"[72] and stating that they are "...posing as independents".[72]

Independent MP Dai Le, along with Mayor of Fairfield Frank Carbone have formed the Dai Le and Frank Carbone Network, which is explicitly against the teal independents.[73]

Results edit

2020 Queensland state election edit

Legislative Assembly
Candidate Division Incumbent MP Incumbent party % 1st pref. % 2CP Elected
Claire Richardson[74] Oodgeroo Mark Robinson Liberal National 21.48%  
Sandy Bolton[75] Noosa Sandy Bolton Independent 43.92% 65.85%  

2022 federal election edit

Incumbents listed in italics did not re-contest their seats.

† denotes an incumbent MP

House of Representatives
Candidate State Division Incumbent MP Incumbent party % 1st pref. % 2CP Elected
Jo Dyer SA Boothby Nicolle Flint Liberal 6.54%  
Nicolette Boele NSW Bradfield Paul Fletcher Liberal 20.89% 45.77%  
Kate Hook NSW Calare Andrew Gee National 20.40% 40.32%  
Claire Ferres Miles Vic Casey Tony Smith Liberal 8.34%  
Caz Heise NSW Cowper Pat Conaghan National 26.26% 47.68%  
Kate Chaney WA Curtin Celia Hammond Liberal 29.46% 51.26%  
Despi O'Connor Vic Flinders Greg Hunt Liberal 7.24%  
Zoe Daniel Vic Goldstein Tim Wilson Liberal 34.47% 52.87%  
Liz Habermann SA Grey Rowan Ramsey Liberal 11.26%  
Georgia Steele NSW Hughes Craig Kelly United Australia 14.33%  
Monique Ryan Vic Kooyong Josh Frydenberg Liberal 40.29% 52.94%  
Sophie Scamps NSW Mackellar Jason Falinski Liberal 38.11% 52.50%  
Kylea Tink NSW North Sydney Trent Zimmerman Liberal 25.20% 52.92%  
Hanabeth Luke NSW Page Kevin Hogan National 13.13%  
Alex Dyson Vic Wannon Dan Tehan Liberal 19.29% 46.08%  
Zali Steggall NSW Warringah Zali Steggall Independent 44.82% 60.96%  
Allegra Spender NSW Wentworth Dave Sharma Liberal 35.77% 54.20%  
Senate
Candidate State % 1st pref. Elected
David Pocock ACT 21.18%  
Kim Rubenstein ACT 4.43%  
Leanne Minshull Tas 1.44%  

2022 Victorian state election edit

Legislative Assembly
Candidate District Incumbent MP Incumbent party % 1st pref. % 2CP Elected
Sarah Fenton Bellarine Lisa Neville Labor 4.58%  
Jacqui Hawkins Benambra Bill Tilley Liberal 31.70% 49.06%  
Felicity Frederico Brighton James Newbury Liberal 9.10%  
Nomi Kaltmann Caulfield David Southwick Liberal 6.50%  
Melissa Lowe Hawthorn John Kennedy Labor 19.98%  
Sophie Torney Kew Tim Smith Liberal 21.10%  
Kate Lardner Mornington David Morris Liberal 22.42% 49.30%  
Clarke Martin Sandringham Brad Rowswell Liberal 6.91%  

2023 NSW state election edit

Legislative Assembly
Candidate Division Incumbent MP Incumbent party % 1st pref. % 2CP Elected
Victoria Davidson Lane Cove Anthony Roberts Liberal 20.38%  
Joeline Hackman Manly James Griffin Liberal 27.19% 45.15%  
Helen Conway North Shore Felicity Wilson Liberal 21.85% 44.31%  
Jacqui Scruby Pittwater Rob Stokes Liberal 35.86% 49.34%  
Karen Freyer Vaucluse Gabrielle Upton Liberal 17.06% 37.12%  
Judith Hannan[1] Wollondilly Nathaniel Smith Liberal 25.94% 51.52%  
Legislative Council
Candidate % 1st pref. Elected
Elizabeth Farrelly 46,737  

See also edit

Notes edit

1.^ Despite being supported by Climate 200, Hannan has distanced herself from the label "teal".[76]

References edit

Citations edit

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  3. ^ a b "Teal and Green wave surges through inner-city seats". Australian Financial Review. 21 May 2022. Retrieved 24 May 2022.
  4. ^ a b "'Teal' independent Zoe Daniel claims victory over Liberal Tim Wilson in Melbourne seat of Goldstein". ABC News. 21 May 2022. Retrieved 24 May 2022.
  5. ^ a b c Elder, John (14 September 2013). "Ironies abound in the battle for Indi". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 11 June 2023.
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  60. ^ Sakkal, Paul (27 January 2023). "Teals to compete to see who can get the most Yes votes for the Voice". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 3 January 2024.
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Bibliography edit