By Melissa Marsden
The outcome of Saturday’s federal election will have widespread implications for Australian democracy.
The increasing number of ‘Teal’ candidates threatening marginal Liberal held seats has meant the ‘two horse race’ between Labor and Liberal can no longer be guaranteed.
Sydney Morning Herald journalist David Crowe has suggested the wave of moderate liberal political-leaning women, supporting issues ranging from climate change to the successful marriage equality campaign, has played an essential role in electing female teal candidates.
These issues, having over the past two decades being the primary wedges within the Liberal Party have spilled over to fertilise this new teal phenomenon.
However, the rise of Teal independents may not be as positive for the parliament as some have thought.
In a recent panel discussion on the upcoming election, held at The University of Adelaide, Associate Professor in Global Security Tim Legrand said he was expecting a “Teal revolution” to sweep across the country at Saturday’s polls.
The issue with revolutions is, they have very rarely been successful, and when they have, rarely has the new reigning political power been a more positive alternative.
In addition, these new regimes rarely last long, the gloss of ‘independence’ soon making way for power plays and conflict much like the once powerful political elites once opposed.
A search of historical revolutions found few actually succeeded in ousting the reigning regime, and even fewer manage to wield any lasting power.
On a smaller scale, even the rise of reactionary right and left-wing political parties and candidates across the world have rarely managed to entirely reshape the political landscape.
Pauline Hanson’s One Nation rose to power in the Australian parliament during the 1990s on a reactionary right winged, populist, economic rationalist and anti-globalisation platform however has since been unable to garner mainstream support.
More recently, 2013 saw the rise of Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party on a similarly reactionary populist platform aimed at “disenchanted Labor supporters” and the election of Glenn Lazarus, Dio Wang and Jacqui Lambie.
The Coalition constantly attacks Labor for its reliance on independents and minor parties during the Gillard years, (and warns of history repeating itself) however both the evolution of the United Australia Party and that of the Teals are far more indicative of a crisis in the Liberal Party than anywhere else.
Now the political sphere is being divided once more, with the new Teals joining the rabble of blue, red, green, and what I refer to as the grey and rosé independents (the latter two being unaligned and Labor-leaning).
Of course, this is not to suggest the Teals are akin to the likes of revolutionary apparatchiks, and indeed some have supported fair and much needed legislative reform.
Former Member for Wentworth Dr Kerryn Phelps helped campaign for fairer treatment of asylum seekers.
Member for Warringah Zali Steggel runs on a platform of gender equality, affordable and accessible healthcare and a federal ICAC.
However, there is a risk.
Whilst a Teal revolution may be beneficial to the overall parliament, with the nation’s house representing all sides of the political spectrum even those not so easily defined as blue or red, the loss of moderate Liberals will ultimately lead to the Liberal Party shifting further to the right.
In a lecture last week hosted by the University of Adelaide Politics & International Relations Association, Emeritus Professor of Australian and European politics Clement Macintyre has said
“The danger is the loss of moderate Liberal seats to Teal independents will lead to a less broad church” within the federal Liberal Party.
The implications of this erosion of the broad church has been highlighted as a significant threat to the Liberal Party for some time now.
All we need do is look back to Malcolm Turnbull’s time as Prime Minister and the Liberal Party’s determination to quash any moves towards progressive policy to see the toxicity that an overly loud hard Liberal Party can have.
Turnbull himself has called out this “shift to the right” within the Liberal Party.
With an increasing number of Teal candidates emerging, will we see the collapse of the Liberal Party’s moderate faction, particularly as young candidates shift away from the traditional two-party system and join the teal revolution?
Will the shining light of the Teal revolution super nova form a black hole in the Australian political system, sucking the Liberal Party in and quashing their so-called ‘broad church’?
Whilst the outcome of the election may not be known until days after, Scott Morrison and the Liberal Party’s political relevance hangs in the balance.
Melissa Gillian Marsden is a passionate advocate for social justice and a self-confessed political junkie.
It was almost destined that from the moment I was born I would forever have a lot to say. The Granddaughter of a proud Yorkshire woman and fellow Leo zodiac, I would always retain the ability to “talk under water with a mouth full of marbles”. Likewise it was unsurprising that from an early age I was instilled with a fierce sense of loyalty, protectiveness of loved ones and a love of arguing my point (even if it ended in tears).
After being diagnosed with a life long, life threatening medical condition six weeks after my birth and suffering a traumatic brain injury at the age of six years old leaving me with low vision and short term memory loss, I suppose I knew from the beginning that fairness and equality are notoriously contested and complex issues. I was also taught that not everyone views people with disabilities as ordinary people- capable of great success and failure, strength and weakness that can be (although admittedly not always) completely irrespective of that disability.
Now as a 25yr old university student with degrees in politics, international relations, history and currently journalism I have come to the conclusion that perhaps my love of understanding why the world is the way it is and the tools I have developed whilst at university can be used to shine a light on issues of injustice whilst allowing me to have a good rant at the debates raging in public and political discourse.
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