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Teal Revolutions and the Crisis of the Liberal Party of Australia

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.

* * *

Melissa runs her own blog, Framing the Narrative, and can be followed on Twitter @MelMarsden96.


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  1. A Commentator

    I might have mentioned that I’m not keen on independents.
    I might have also mentioned that here we have a rich guy who funds a political movement that happens to support his business interests.
    Usually there’s some criticism of that.
    But the latest development is seeing the rich guy get in the face/bully a woman who is a political opponent. That’s something that also usually attracts some criticism.
    The teal independents have been polluted by Simon Holmes à Court
    They were a leaderless policy free zone, now with the added taint of their chief financier

  2. Michael Taylor

    No, you never mentioned it. I’m shocked.

  3. Keith

    The so called moderates in the Liberal Party vote with the reactionary rump of the LNP. There is no doubt that some very unsavoury decisions have been made by the coalition, there have not been any murmurs from the so called moderates. If the Liberal Party is damaged, as the Labor Party had through the DLP decades ago; then hopefully the Liberals will reconsider being more reactive to communities rather than their business mates and donors.

    Secrecy has been the hallmark of the Morrison government, as well as being too slow to act. The political philosophy of the Liberal Party promotes individualism which has morphed into selfish neo-liberalism. Labor is more community focused.

    It will be a tragedy if the LNP are re-elected, they pretend to have a policy on climate, we do not have time to put up with the nonsense they are pushing in relation to climate. There are 114 fossil fuel projects under consideration at present.

    Labor, if anything is better at managing the Economy, they need Teal and other progressives to keep them on course in relation to managing climate change.

    A progressive vote, is a vote for the future of our children.

  4. Albos Elbow

    Not to mention the COAL-NP who get in the face of people supported by a whole bunch of greedy, corrupt rich guys.
    Corrupt rich guys like Clive Palmer who fund a dangerous political movement, spend $80 million on elections so cock suckers like Scummo and The Minister for Burning Fossil Fuels approve his coal mines.

    People in glass houses should pull their fucking stupid heads in.

  5. wam

    I have assured my rabbottian clpers that teal is blue and they have nothing to fear from them.
    Labor may have a problem with extremists but the libs wont lose office by teals.

  6. Carol Taylor

    The Teal Independents have for the most part followed Cathy McGowan’s Voices of model. This is something the MSM struggles with, where it’s not about some ‘powerful other’ pulling the strings but it’s about grass roots democracy. In their struggle to make it fit the mould the MSM called it the Teal movement in spite of a number of candidates not adhering to that colour and in spite of many Liberals using that colour, I suppose in order to confuse which tells you a lot about these Libs confidence in their own party.

    Then to make sure that the Teals fit the prescription of the powerful other organising ‘the ladies’ and of course it just had to be a male person the MSM noticed that Simon Homes a Court was a substantial donor. Mind you not nearly as substantial as the mining or gambling lobbies are to the LNP. But clearly a threat that a pro Climate action group should be entering politics and using..gasp..money to support pro Climate candidates.

    If the moderates in the Libs lose then they can blame the LNP machine and especially Morrison for pandering to the far right and leaving the middle of the field vacant.

  7. Keith


    Two outstanding politicians in Parliament are Helen Haines and Zali Steggall.

    The so called “moderates” in the LNP are nothing more than rubber stamps for Joyce and Morrison.

    The LNP constantly push for privatisation; we see the negative results in Aged Care, Education, Health, Housing, Indue Card, and a number of other areas.

    Social Housing used to provide an assurance to low wage people of secure accomodation, privatisation of housing has seen the terrible rise of homelessness. Similar major defects can be seen in the other major headings above.

    Should the LNP win the election we will see the ABC further gutted. The Public Service will also be reduced providing more avenues for seeking advice from private Agencies which are chosen for their ideological partisan views.
    Welcome to neo-USA.

    Privatisation invariably creates more expensive services and poorer results.

  8. A Commentator

    With the greatest respect…
    Simon Holmes à Court is the founder, convenor, major financier of the organisation that-
    * Funds a significant portion of all the Teal independents
    * Provides the marketing, media and branding
    * Operates as a political franchise
    He is the major financier of all the Teal independents, and he has demonstrated that he has bullied women

  9. New England Cocky

    Who cares if the Liarbral party self destructs? Now let me think …..
    1) Rupert would lose his puppet strings with little, if any chance of tying up any LABOR politicians,
    2) foreign owned multinational corporations would lose their free, gratis & for nothing government handouts,
    3 )American military industrial complex arms manufacturers may find Australians too easily recognise fourth rate military equipment that is unfit for active service and so cannot be sold,
    4) oil corporations may find that their lucrative exploration funding is properly relegated to public infrastructure like hospitals, mental health services and state education.
    So, not really any Australian voters of consequence.

  10. totaram


    “He is the major financier of all the Teal independents, and he has demonstrated that he has bullied women”

    Evidence of bullying?

    After all why would the teals accept money from a known bully of women?
    He has claimed that he is only a partial financier of the Teals. Even if he is a major financier, what is the problem with that? After all Clive Palmer is the complete financier of the UAP.

  11. Albos Elbow

    Its come to pass,
    Scummo gets it up the arse,
    But not his usual from the Coal Lobby,
    Fuck off! from the voters of Australia.

    Couldn’t get much better.
    Scummo out, hung paliament
    The balance of power
    With the Teals and the Greens.

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