Independents: The New Battleground for Advocates
The Wentworth by-election was a perfect storm that saw a gargantuan swing against the Government toward an independent.
The real question is whether the new Member for Wentworth will be able to hold the seat at the next Federal election and so join the rank of entrenched independents in federal parliament?
Kerryn Phelps’ election takes the crossbench to five independents and one Green. Katter, Wilkie and McGowan are dug in solidly; Sharkie is still somewhat vulnerable to a good Liberal candidate, however, is becoming more entrenched the longer she remains; and Labor will throw money at Greens MP Adam Bandt’s seat of Melbourne, but are unlikely to be successful.
The Coalition is now running a minority government with the likely support of at least one of the independents, Bob Katter. National polls are showing that One Nation are polling well in Queensland and that the Shooters, Fishers, and Farmers are likely to pick up One Nation support in NSW wherever Pauline Hanson’s party chooses not to run. GetUp! are pushing a protest vote, particularly against the Coalition and more ‘celebrity’ independents are likely to come out of the woodwork when the election is called.
Independents are becoming the ‘new black’ in the Australian political landscape.
With Morrison only slightly ahead as preferred PM and the polls bouncing up and down, there’s every possibility that either of the major parties could face minority government following the next election.
For those developing advocacy campaigns the rise of independents adds a new dimension to strategy and planning.
This could represent a headache or a godsend. There are a few tips in dealing with independents that, in the context of a hung parliament, may help further your cause.
1. Know your target – It’s essential that you know what each independent stands for and the issues that are important to them. The easiest way to do this is to read their maiden speech and analyse their last dozen press releases. A quick browse of their website can also provide good insight.
2. Work out which independents are likely to assist – Unless it’s a generic issue such as supporting new life-saving drugs or funding for a mental health program, it’s unlikely all independents will support your position and may even be ideologically opposed. Analyse each independent and target your advocacy to the independents that are likely to favourably view your cause.
3. Make your issue contextually relevant – It’s critical to make your cause contextually relevant to each independent member you target. If it’s an issue likely to affect their constituents, show how and on what scale. Quantified research and statistical analysis can help with this.
4. Make them your champion – the ultimate goal is to make key independents champions for your cause. Independents don’t often have the opportunity to rise at Question Time, so providing them with a ‘crusade’ helps them drive your cause in the public arena, in the media, in their electorate and importantly, on the floor of Parliament.