Published: 16 May 2022

Voters need to be well informed, and not succumb to the scare tactics of the major parties, writes Ruth Forrest

OUR parliaments, both federal and state, are made up of individuals elected to serve the people. But most have been anointed by the major parties, which are now run by a coterie of largely nameless officials. Other candidates are parachuted in as "captain's picks" with the party membership having no opportunity to vet or even contribute to the selection of candidates that are likely to represent the views of their party and electorate. As a consequence, members have deserted the major parties in droves because they feel unheard and ignored.

Hence it's no surprise to see the number of high quality independents running at the federal election. The major parties have only themselves to blame. However, to claim a vote for independents and minor parties is a vote for instability and inertia is baseless scaremongering.

The term 'hung parliament' is a pejorative term which does not reflect the opportunities. I prefer the terms "open" or "inclusive" parliament, where all those elected to serve the state or country, actually work together through the contest of ideas, inclusive debates and full transparency, for the benefit of Australians equally.

The federal Liberals have been in Coalition with the National Party, via agreements which have never seen the light of day.

The deals done, and promises made behind closed doors, are never revealed. For instance we can only guess at the terms of the secret deal to support net zero by 2050 by trying to follow the money trail. If the prospect of a 'hung parliament' is such an issue, surely we need to see the details of the agreements already in place, as well as details of any future deal.

We are now hearing, from both major parties, including the Coalition who is currently and directly benefiting from such secret deals, that the very presence of independent candidates, and potential deals made by any who may be elected, will lead to instability and chaotic outcomes. The major parties and the media demand to know what independent candidates would agree to if elected and who they would support to form government.

These demands completely ignore the fact we will have no knowledge of the details of the deal to be negotiated with the National Party in the event the Liberal/ National government is returned. If we need to know what independent candidates will expect or demand, surely we should demand the same from the coalition partners.

The independent candidates have been clear about the key issues that led to their decision to stand for election. Broadly they have promoted openness, transparency and integrity of the decision making process.

They all want real action on climate change. It is only through such open and transparent negotiations can we hope to rebuild trust in politics and politicians. Being required to negotiate policy development and legislative change in an open and transparent manner is good for democracy.

Robust, open and transparent debate has a much greater chance of achieving positive outcomes.

It is not something to be afraid of. Rather it is through the robust contest of ideas, with those who may not look, sound or think like you, combined with a willingness to listen to and genuinely consider alternative viewpoints, informed and inclusive decisions are made.

No one party or person is custodian of all good ideas.

The Tasmanian Legislative Council has shown the importance and impact of independent members for more than 150 years. It has demonstrated how working together to achieve positive outcomes for the state can be done.

Good, community-focused policy will be supported and we know the vast majority of legislation passes the parliament without, or with only minor amendment, in a timely and co-operative manner.

Independent members are not bound by party positions or politics and are in a unique position to work constructively with all parties.

Independent candidates in both the lower and upper houses of our parliaments have the capacity to raise the level of debate, to promote and demonstrate transparent decision making, move away from polarised debates and restore trust. Surely this is a positive outcome for us all. I am not endorsing any particular candidate through these comments, rather I urge voters to be informed, look at what candidates stand for and how well informed they are and not succumb to the scare tactics of the major parties.

The Mercury, Monday 16 May 2022

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