A rising tsunami of teal independents is transforming our democracy representing special interests to a participatory democracy of community representatives
As noted in my many posts to Climate Sentinel News, it is becoming increasingly evident that humanity on our only planet faces near term extinction if we don’t manage to stop and reverse the global warming process we have started through our profligate burning of fossil fuels. Their emissions are preventing the Earth from radiating away excess solar energy. This imbalance between incoming and outgoing heat energy causes the world to grow warmer. Unfortunately the problem is global and can only be solved on a global scale through the cooperation of governments – which makes it unavoidably political.
The difficulty of solution is only compounded by the fact that the unimaginably rich global fossil fuel industry has been fighting for decades to disrupt and stop effective actions against global warming/climate change to protect their sources of income from the burning of fossil fuels causing the emissions. Even the supposedly most ‘democratic’ governments have been corrupted so they represent the patrons and special interests (mostly fossil fuel industry related) who support and fund major political parties. This influence is so strong that I have been deeply pessimistic that our governments would ever be able to work effectively to combat climate change and stop our progress along the runaway warming road to extinction.
However, the results of Australia’s May 21 Federal Election provide evidence that Australia has begun to transform its government into one truly representing the substantial majority of voters who want action on climate change to be prioritized above any other issue. Finally there is scope for some genuine optimism that our government(s) will actually work seriously to resolve the climate issues.
As suggested by this post’s featured image above, the presentation explores why the “Voice for Indi” community action group emerged in the Victorian federal electorate of Indi, and how it proceeded in the 2013 election to amaze everyone by replacing the hard line Liberal Party incumbent, Sophie Mirabella, with a climate friendly ‘community independent’, Cathy McGowan.
McGowan’s 2013 win was even more amazing considering that Mirabella had held the ‘safe’ Liberal seat since 2001 (4 terms).
In the presentation I observe that Cathy’s win in Indi represents the epicenter that triggered the spreading and growing ripples of political change I am calling the Teal Tsunami that are in the process of fundamentally transforming the nature of Australian democracy.
In addition to summarizing the facts of what happened in Indi, I also try to present an approachable summary of the four part Teal Tsunami project:
Part 2 – It started in Indi (published here) Details the roles of different kinds of knowledge in the emergence of the Voice for Indi community action group and its role in the election of their selected and endorsed candidate, Cathy McGowan
Part 3 – The transforming crescendo of Teal Voices spreads Follows the spread and evolution of the knowledge base assembled by Voice for Indi through subsequent elections
Part 4 – Theoretical foundations for the analysis Analyzes the Teal Tsunami against the theory of complex adaptive organizational systems developed by William Hall and Susu Nousala to test the theory and make some predictions about the future evolution of the tsunami
About the Presentation
How to get the most out of it
The presentation is published as an hypertext in PDF format. It was drafted using MS PowerPoint and converted to Adobe’s PDF format that preserved all of the internal and external linking capabilities used in the original draft. Scrolling up or down to read the document.
For readers unfamiliar with the hypertext concept, some instructions about how to use the links in the documenet may be useful:
The document has a basically linear structure of numbered pages containing text and/or graphics.
Links in the text are underlined.
Sometimes graphical objects also serve as links (these will generally be identified in the text)
Moving the arrow cursor to either kind of these links will turn the cursor into a pointing finger and display the name of the link.
Clicking the link will take you to another document – generally on the open web – that relates to the text whose link you clicked. How you return to the main document depends on the destination of the link.
For a page on the web, close that page
For a PDF document on the web, close the document, then close by blank web page that opened the document
The numbered objects in the image on page 23 (Knowledge flows in the founding and early success of Voice 4 Indi) in the hypertext are linked to other pages that provide more detail on the object. To return to page 23, hold the [ALT] key on your keyboard and click [<]
I’m a population and evolutionary biologist by training, and worked for the last 17½ years of my professional career as an engineering knowledge management systems analyst and designer for Tenix Defence that was for part of the time Australia’s larges defence engineering contractor, as I solved its real-world problems in knowledge management, together with a trio of remarkable PhD students and other collaborators, I began studying how it worked as a complex living system and assembling this knowledge into a theoretical understanding of knowledge-based organizational systems (publications of this work are accessible via my personal web site Evolutionary Biology of Species and Organizations – see List of Publications and Essays and Sketches.
From around 2015 it was clear that effective political action would be needed if we were to have any hope of solving the climate emergency, and I explored several approaches. In the 1980’s when my Australian wife and I returned to Australia, she worked several years for the Liberal Party’s Victorian Secretariat including being a member of one of the Party’s policy committees and we took part in a variety of Party activities as the Fraser and Hamer governments gave way to their ‘drier’ right-wing extremists. Both of us worked for Tenix from 1990 and were far too busy for politics.
However, in 2015 when the Liberal Party was clearly the problem I joined the Greens and my wife joined the Labor Party as active members hoping to change things. Where our local branches were concerned we were both welcomed to participate in both branches, where it became clear for their various reasons that neither was going to be able to act effectively against climate change. Together with several progressive friends we then tried to establish a local Extinction Rebellion group to push for climate action until it became clear that the organization lacked the know-how for making the required political changes. Several of us (along with others) then formed Vote Climate One to see if we could facilitate electing the right people to change the existing parties from within towards effective climate action.
In following and reading the ‘news’ for our Climate Sentinel News it has become apparent that Voice for Indi has assembled and is actively propagating the necessary know-how to revolutionize our political system so that members of our local communities concerned to fight climate change are able to transform our Parliament from a ‘democracy’ of the special interests to one in which community members can actually participate in the democracy so it represents their needs and wants rather than the special interests, many of whom are not even people or citizens of the country.
Voices for Indi is already broadcasting its know-how via the Community Independents Project, but this needs to be advertised even more widely to all of Australia and the world, as I am hoping to do via this publication.
Any help my readers can offer to further circulate the work will be greatly appreciated. I am also open to any comments or suggestions readers may wish to make via this post, or other avenues.
The featured image is of Slide 23 from my presentation “The Teal Tsunami started in Indi”, introduced by this post. The diagram is a map of the flows of knowledge surrounding the emergence of Voice for Indi. This small community action group comprising 12 people determined what the citizens of the electoral district of Indi wanted from its MP in Federal Parliament. When the Voice determined that their sitting member wasn’t concerned to achieve these results, they selected, campaigned for, and elected their own candidate — replacing the 4 term incumbent candidate from the dominant Liberal Party in one of the ‘safest’ Liberal seats in the country. The map is used to explain how this was done.
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Views expressed in this post are those of its author(s), not necessarily all Vote Climate One members.
The results of the 21 May 2022 federal election looks like the beginning of a fundamental revolution in the way politics is done in Australia. Not only has our Parliament shifted from close to a decade of domination by the conservative and reactionary Liberal and National Party Coalition to a more progressive Labor government, but the whole nature of Parliament may be changing. What has been a ‘representative’ democracy dominated by political parties primarily representing the parties’ donors and special interests, may be shifting towards a ‘participatory’ democracy based on independent parliamentarians selected by local communities, and who negotiate with, are endorsed by, and actively represent those communities. Most of the new ‘community independents’ are economically conservative like liberals (generally designated by blue), but more like the Greens in their humanitarian and environmental interests. Hence their designaton as ‘teals’.
In a series of posts I will explore the genesis of the revolution I am calling the ‘Teal Tsunami’: considering the historical circumstances of its origins; the sources, nature, and evolution of the knowledge accounting for the successful election of their candidates; and a theoretical framework for understanding the underlying dynamics of knowledge-based community action groups.
The historical extent of this tsunami so far is illustrated in the following two images showing time lines of particular lower house electorates.
The first major wave (Fig. 2) of the rising tide of the tsunami in the 2022 election just passed removed a significant fraction of then then present and future leadership of the Liberal Party from what had been some of the previously ‘safest’ seats in the Liberal heartland. As I will argue and demonstrate in the series, this success is fueled by a shared body of knowledge developed, tested, and proven by the first generation of teals Cathy McGowan, Helen Haines, Allegra Spender, and even earlier prototypical community independents, Tony Windsor, Rob Oakeshott, and Andrew Wilkie (Figs. 1 & 2). (Note: the roles of shared knowledge and election funding facilitating this result will be detailed in subsequent Parts of this review)
The following Google Sheet details all the teal candidates (elected and otherwise) who ran for the 2022 election and whose campaign funding was assisted by seed and matching funds from the Climate200 organization. All the elected candidates are shaded in teal blue.
Result and Quota counts are final as at 01/07/2022.
Column B links to Wikipedia or Linkedin entries for the person concerned. Where no link is provided, basic biographical info is derived from other sources.
Column C links to the last archived version before the 21 May election of Climate200‘s website (see the Internet Archive’s WayBack Machine). The pre-election material was removed soon after the election.
Column D links to the ‘voices for …’ site nominating or supporting the named candidate. In some cases no voices organization was operating in the electorate. In a few, there was more than one.Column I summarizes the voting. For all seats, bold face is used for the candidate(s) elected, and italic type designates the teal independent.
Column I summarizes the voting. For all seats, bold face is used for the candidate(s) elected, and italic type designates the teal independent.
Almost all the teals, whether elected or not, are remarkable women.
That this Teal Revolution is well and truly under way is shown by the fact that the number of climate friendly community independents sitting in Parliament more than doubled in this year’s election at the expense of the Coalition who had controlled government for some 9 years. The teal’s result combined with Labor’s win against the Liberals was a clear signal that voters generally wanted a change to move the pendulum enough to flip many marginal seats. Even given the general swing, the teals decimated leaders’ heartland seats that Labor could never have touched (and turned several more of the seats from safe to marginal).
Where the lower house of Parliament is concerned, Labor won two more seats than the required 75 to form government in its own right, while losing some votes overall (-0.7%). The Coalition was cut by 19 from 77 seats (a majority) to 58 by Liberal losses to Labor, Greens and independents. Only 4 of the remaining Liberal seats were won on first preferences (Barker, Cook – Morrison’s seat, Farrar, and Mitchel; Nationals won 2 seats by first preferences; and QLD LNP won 1. Essentially, the entire Liberal Party is now ‘marginal’. Also, with the elimination of most ‘moderate’ Liberals, Peter Dutton, probably the most hated Liberal still in Parliament, emerged as Leader of the gravely wounded Opposition. This has interesting implications for the next election! By contrast, Labor managed to win 8 seats on first preferences.
The “Cross Bench” more than doubled. The Greens only increased their total national vote by 1.6% but gained 3 new seats in Queensland’s heartland, for a total of 4. Ten of the independent candidates who were elected were assisted by Climate 200 and have promised to prioritize climate action are classified here as ‘teals’ (socially progressive but economically conservative, designated by italicized names). Six “independents” were reelected: Katter, Lambie, Wilkie, Sharkie, Steggal, Haines (4 teals are italicized) – Seven independents were newly elected: Li, Scamps, Tink, Spender, Daniel, Ryan, Chaney (6 are teals). Three more teals (Alex Dyson – WANNON Vic, Caz Heise – COWPER NSW, and Nicolette Boele – BRADFIELD NSW) finished second on first preferences where incumbents failed to gain a majority. Excepting Andrew Wilkie, an ex-intelligence officer reelected for the 5th time, all teals are mothers – several from health professions, a majority have postgraduate qualifications in their professions and are CEO’s, Directors, or Managers of significant enterprises. Mothers would be used to unruly children & cleaning toilets ! – (Labor’s Dr Anne Ali has similar qualities: PhD, Professor at Edith Cowan Uni, researching radicalization, violent extremism and counter terrorism. / mother of 2).
The present article focuses on events leading up to the 2013 Australian Federal Election, especially as it culminated in the emergence of the Voice 4 Indi community action group and their selection, endorsement, and election of one of their founding members, Cathy McGowan in NW Victorian electorate of Indi, one of the safest rural Liberal Party electorates in Australia. As will be detailed in Part 2, Cathy was reelected for two terms, and successfully passed on the community independent baton, to Helen Haines, who was also returned for a second term in this year’s election.
In many ways, McGowan was the prototypical teal. She and the evolving Voice 4 Indi group passed on their successfully tested and re-tested working knowledge to support most of the subsequently established “Voices for ..” community action groups. The body of practical knowledge covers how to involve large communities in the selection, funding, and guidance of candidates and then how to help their endorsed candidates win their elections.
Part 2 of this series will explore how this knowledge emerged in the formation of the Voice 4 Indi community action group and its candidate, Cathy McGowan’s election and reelection to Parliament.
Part 3 will then explore how the successful paradigm established by the Indi group facilitated the establishment of more ‘Voices of ….’ groups whose endorsed candidates have gone on to win several more seats in Parliament – decimating the Liberal Party ranks of present and likely future leadership. This is probably only a foretaste of a much greater revolutionary wave to come with the next federal election.
In Part 4, I will present a theoretical framework for understanding the transformative revolution the teals are making towards replacing government representing political parties’ special interests and patrons, with a ‘participatory democracy’ of government. This is where no party has a majority and government decisions require involvement and assent from ‘community independents’ reflecting the thoughtful wants of the groups they are endorsed by and represent. In the last election, several of the losing Liberals wailed that having independents in the balance of power was a recipe for chaos and catastrophe. Countering this is the fact that the Gillard Minority Government was one of the most successful governments in Australian history measured by the amount of legislation passed in a term or the number of bills passed (see Hung Parliament: Chaos vs Independent Thinking).
Tsunami Warning! The ocean has receded and the teal tide is now rising at an accelerating rate
A desiccating Liberal Party ran into trouble under Howard and temporarily lost control of government
Time-lines of several electorates (Figs 1 & 2) highlight the growing importance of community independents in the in the changing nature of the Australian Parliament in the 21st Century. The story begins with the Liberal/National Coalition Government under PM John Howard becoming increasingly ‘dry‘, as Thatcherite economics, business and their special-interest donors were prioritized ahead of improving the lives of ordinary citizens (to say nothing of how this has been egged on by the growing power of the Murdoch media and their friends). The Sydney Morning Herald’s, 2021 Explainer, Who’s who in the Liberals’ left, right and centre factions? that to me provides evidence for a progressively growing shift in the Party from community representation to factional dogmatism.
Citizens’ concerns over the retreat from humanism and community representation in Coalition government under John Howard probably led to the 24 November 2007 election giving Labor a Parliamentary majority under Kevin Rudd.
Driving the point home that Australians were fed up with Drys and John Howard: Howard was defeated in his own seat of Bennelong by the well known and respected ABC journalist, Maxine McKew. She joined the Labor Party in 2006 after retiring from the ABC and was living with her long-time partner, Bob Hogg, National Secretary of the Labor party from 1988-93.
While in Parliament, McKew was a totally loyal follower of he Labor Party line. In retrospect, it would seem that her election was due more to the fact that she was a credible alternative to Howard for those voters tired of the dry conservatism of the Coalition, than a foretaste of a revolution to come. She lost in the 2013 Election because she offered the electorate nothing more than a rubber stamp for a chaotically under-performing Labor Government under Kevin Rudd. Bennelong was returned to the Liberals in the 21 August 2013 election through McKew’s loss to the well known tennis professional, John Alexander who presented a much milder and human brand of Liberalism than Howard had done.
The first ‘greenish’ community independents are elected
Also in the years before the 2010 election, and giving a foretaste of what was to come in 2013, three already established and socially progressive politicians were elected at different times to Federal Parliament as independent MPs: Tony Windsor (10/11/2001 – 05/08/2013) and Rob Oakeshott (06/09/2008 – 05/08/213) from safe National Party regions in mid-northern NSW, and Andrew Wilkie (21/08/2010 – ) from marginal and mostly urban southern Tasmania.
Tony Windsor‘s political career began in NSW state politics, where he initially intended to run for the National Party representing Tamworth. However, he was dropped by the NP and was elected to the seat as an independent, which he held from 1991 to 2001, when he ran as an independent for the federal electorate of New England, which he held from 2001 until his retirement for health reasons in 2013. In 2016 he re-contested the seat against Barnaby Joyce, but Joyce won comfortably.
Rob Oakeshott also began his political career in NSW state politics as an NP representative in 1996. While in the NP he held several ministerial portfolios, but split from the party as an independent in 2002 over his increasing dissatisfaction with the NP’s social conservatism. Nevertheless, Rob won the 2003 state election with 70% of the primary vote, showing that the community was clearly happy with how he represented them! He retained the seat in 2010 almost as easily. In 2008 Oakeshott resigned his state seat and ran for the Federal seat of Lyne, winning around two-thirds of the primary vote, which he retained in the 2010 election. He retired before the 2013 election. In 2016 he ran for Cowper (which included part of Lyne in a redistribution), and turned the seat marginal although he did not win. He ran again, unsuccessfully, in the 2019 election.
Andrew Wilkie started his professional career as an Army officer, becoming an intelligence officer in the Office of National Assessment. In 2003, in the lead-up to the Iraq War, he resigned from the ONA because he was concerned with the humanitarian consequences of going to war and disagreed with Howard’s push to join the invasion. He stood as a Greens candidate for Bennelong, running against the PM, John Howard in the 2004 Election – achieving nearly 17% of the primary vote. In the 2007 election he stood at second on the Greens Senate ticket for Tasmania, behind Bob Brown, where the Greens failed to win the second quota required to achieve Wilkie’s election. He resigned from the Greens in 2008, citing their lack of professionalism. He then ran in 2010 as an independent in the state seat of Dennison of Hobart, where he narrowly lost; and then in the 2010 federal election for the federal seat of Dennison (same boundaries) where he narrowly won on distribution of preferences.
Mr Barns says Mr Wilkie’s public and private battles with some of the institutions he is involved with do not reflect a difficult character, but show that he is a true independent.
“I know Andrew Wilkie very well. I’ve known him now for three or four years and talked policy with him,” he said.
“He’s a deep thinker, he’s a person of great integrity, and I think people of that sort of integrity, it’s not surprising that they might move from an organisation to an organisation.
“I think that’s what that shows about Wilkie – not that he’s a difficult character, simply that he is a person of integrity and he’s finally I think found his natural home, which is to be a true independent.”
Wilkie was reelected in each subsequent election where today he still represents the community in the Division of Clark (renamed & slightly redistributed Denison).
Labor takes power in its own right (temporarily)
Despite winning a clear majority of seats in the 2007 election, over the term in Parliament Labor then failed to convince the electorate that they were any better than the Coalition.
Following Wikipedia’s summary, Rudd’s 2007 government ratified the Kyoto Protocol, offered a Parliamentary apology to the “Stolen Generation” and organized the somewhat farcical Australia 2020 Summit (of the 962 recommendations of the summit, only 9 would be adopted). In economic policy, his government re-regulated the labor market by rescinding the Howard government‘s dryish Workchoices reforms and responded to the Global Financial Crisis with a large (and successful) stimulus spending program. Rudd also dismantled the three pillars of the Howard government’s inhumane asylum seeker processing system – offshore processing, temporary protection visas, and turning back unauthorized boats at sea.
Tony Abbott replaced Malcolm Turnbull as the Liberal Party’s Leader of the Opposition in a spill on 1 December 2009. This gave him the maximum opportunity over the following years to give effect to his dogmas and represent his special interests by continuously attacking climate science and all things Labor both on the floor of Parliament and in the press.
Also, on the Labor side, Rudd’s autocratic, abrasive and chaotic leadership style, especially where the Government’s responses to climate issues were concerned, eventually led to a spill motion in the Labor Caucus. Rudd resigned before the spill vote and called for a vote on the leadership. His deputy, Julia Gillard was elected on 24 June 2010 (she received 71 votes to Rudd’s 31). She called an early Federal election for 21 August 2010. This resulted in a ‘hung’ Parliament where Labor and the Coalition each won only 72 seats – 4 short of the 76 required for a clear majority. Gillard was able to marshal pledges of support on supply from the cross-bench (3 independents and one Green) that allowed her to form a stable government. (Note that Philip Chubb’s book – available inexpensively in Kindle, Power Failure: The Inside Story of Climate Politics Under Rudd and Gillard, comprehensively explores this period in history, that will not be detailed here.)
The roles of three independents introduced above, Tony Windsor, Rob Oakeshott, and Andrew Wilkie, in the Gillard minority government represent the first ripple of what has become the ‘teal tsunami’.
The first pro-climate (i.e., ‘teal’) independents show what teals can do in the Gillard-led minority government
Following Labor’s win in the 2007 election under Kevin Rudd, the resulting Government was dogged by Rudd’s ego and chaotic leadership, confounded by party factionalism, culminating in movement towards a spill, leading to Rudd’s resignation on 24 June 2010 hours before the vote was scheduled (see Wikipedia). This gave Julia Gillard leadership for a period leading up to the 2010 federal election, which she called early for 21 August 2010. Labor lost several seats, and the Coalition regained several. Each side won 72 seats in the lower house, 4 short of a majority. The election and its results are detailed in Sims & Wanna (eds, – 2012), Julia 2010 — The caretaker election.
One Green (Adam Bandt) and three community independents, Tony Windsor, Rob Oakeshott, and Andrew Wilkie pledged support for Labor. While the Coalition led by Tony Abbott was only able to obtain two pledges, allowing Labor to form a minority government.
As detailed in my Climate Sentinel News article, Hung Parliament: Chaos vs Independent Thinking, this supposedly hung Parliament, was arguably the first (most legislation passed per unit of time) or second (percentage of legislation passed) most successful Parliament in Australian history in terms of formulating and passing legislation. Led by a woman, all successful Government legislation was developed and negotiated in collaboration with the three independents and one Green — something to think about!
Representative vs Participatory Democracy
There are a vast number of ways large social institutions such as nations can be managed. Most people would hope that their nation is governed in ways they can guide and that will benefit them, their families and acquaintances. Basically, most of us hope our governments are ‘democratic’. There are many different versions of ‘democracy’, and many different ways citizens can be involved in democratic processes. It is beyond me to sensibly explore this diversity, but I strongly recommend reading Wikipedia’s article, Democracy, for a practical survey of the possible forms of democracy.
Whether this was intended from the outset or not, most representative democracies end up being governed by members of a small number of political parties (usually two main blocks or coalitions) that battle for overall power. In Australia since the end of WWII, this has been between an increasingly dogmatic socially conservative coalition of rural and urban interests giving priority to free markets, economic management (i.e., the Liberal/National Coalition); and a more progressive or even dogmatically socialistic Labor Party or coalition giving priority to providing a better life for unionized workers and ordinary citizens.
To me, the net effect of such party-based ‘representative’ government provides less than ideal outcomes for ordinary citizens, whichever block is in government. This is because would-be representatives of the different parties must compete within their districts to be elected. To win, a competitor must build a substantial campaign organization and expend substantial resources on marketing to win enough votes from eligible voters to be elected. In general, to have much chance of being elected, a candidate requires requires the endorsement of a major party and its support in the form of organizational skills and funding for marketing,
To get this endorsement the candidate must show a high degree of loyalty to the party line, rather than his/her electorate. Almost inevitably, the political party ends up representing what its main financial donors and special (e.g., wealthy capitalists and corporations on the ‘conservative’ side; labor unions and major employers on the ‘progressive’ side) and what they rather than what the general citizens want. Voters thus end up being treated like a market to be harvested for votes that may then be sold to the special interests.
In other words, to win a party listens to its patrons and markets the patrons’ desires to the community; rather than listening to the community and working to achieve what the community wants. Inevitably, to be supported on a continuing basis, party-sponsored MPs must follow the discipline of their parties in the same way that the parties need to follow the ‘disciplines’ demanded by their sponsors.
On the other hand, participatory democracy works to achieve a system whereby citizens have a direct role in selecting and supporting candidates, and in guiding their actions and decisions when once selected. This is much harder to achieve in that there are few if any paradigms to follow that are proven to work, or that don’t quickly degenerate to autocracy or party politics.
World history suggests that party politics is the default condition / dominant paradigm for representative democracy. As summarized below, the rise of the teals in Australia represents what I think is the beginning of a fundamental revolution or “paradigm shift” in the nature of Australian politics and Government from political party-driven “representative democracy” to what its practitioners in local community action groups (usually known as “Voices of …”) call “participatory democracy“.
The revolution is being driven by the emergence, evolution, and proliferation of a new type of self-sustaining community action group focused on achieving political representation for its members and associates. These action groups, often known as “Voices of …” the particular constituency they represent. By comparison, even though political parties are normally based on local branches to “get out the vote” for their endorsed candidates, they often have little or no effective role in candidate selection or in setting the candidate’s parliamentary agenda. The following graphic based on my own observations summarizes the differences between the two social systems.
Part 2, takes up the story with the NE Victorian electorate of Indi, where the first self-declared community independent Cathy McGowan replaced the Liberal incumbent, Sophie Mirabella in the 2013 Federal Election, as Tony Abbott’s Liberal led Coalition replaced the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd government.
Views expressed in this post are those of its author(s), not necessarily all Vote Climate One members.
A flock of teal independents has landed in Parliament. Their ‘first speeches’ show why their community independent movement is so important.
This article here is an extract from a major essay I am currently writing on the origins, emergence and evolution of the ‘teal tsunami’ and the growth of the body of knowledge enabling and generated by the revolution. A preliminary version of the essay will be published in parts on Climate Sentinel News as they are finished. Discussion and commentary on them will be greatly appreciated as this will help me improve the final product to be formally published.
For several years I have been hopelessly pessimistic about the capacity of our governments to solve the existential problems the human species faces as we slide down the road to runaway global warming leading to an unsurvivable Hothouse Earth. However, after attending the Community Independents Project Convention, ‘Empowered Communities – Next Steps‘ and listening to these ladies describe their life histories and intentions going into Parliament, I am optimistic that they will help transform our government into a capable instrument for organizing appropriate responses to the dangers ahead.
The image featured in this post is from a blog by someone else who attended the CIP Convention and draws the same very optimistic conclusions I have. Begin with the video linked from the blog to share some of the excitement this transformation in bringing:
I’ve spent the whole weekend attending an online work-related convention and I should be feeling resentful about being trapped inside at my computer. But the crazy thing is, I’m more excited to be at my desk on a Monday morning than I have been for weeks!
The event was an opportunity for “community campaigners, ‘voices for’ and community groups, peak bodies, community independent MPs, candidates seeking what next and all those interested in community engagement and grassroots democracy” to share their experiences and ideas, to celebrate what has been achieved and to think about the next steps.
And GOSH it was interesting! There was a full range of fascinating sessions from those in Parliament, to those who’d only just engaged in capital-P politics for the first time, to those who’ve been playing with campaign ideas for years.
I’ve tried to distill some of what I think were the most interesting lessons to come out of the convention, but first, I want to talk about the vibe…
As will be demonstrated in subsequent parts of this project, evidence from the Parliamentary performances of early teal MPs and their precursors is that once elected, they continue working for what their electorates tell them they want. Because they don’t forget or ignore their electors, they seem to keep getting reelected for as long as they want to stay in the job.
Political parties representing special interests take note:
I would argue that the election of a flock of teal independents to our parliamentary lower house represents a fundamental revolution in the nature of the Australian political system (the Senate will be discussed elsewhere). The transformation is from ‘representative’ democracy mainly representing special interests, to one of ‘participatory’ democracy, where communities of voters genuinely select and guide work of their preferred representatives. The ladies embodying this transformation come from a variety of backgrounds ranging from affluent urban electorates to comparatively hard scrabble rural communities. A common factor is that most of these transformed electorates were considered to be Liberal Party heartlands. Let the teals tell you in their own words in their ‘First Speeches’ on entry to Parliament why they ran and what they are intending to do.
As you listen to these speeches, you might consider what this tells you about the Liberal Party they are demolishing…. The Labor Party is likely to be next — especially if they don’t begin to rapidly progress actions to stop and reverse global warming.
Every one of these teal independents’ speeches is worth listening to in its entirety (20-30 min each). These women as truly remarkable: Each is caring, motivated, intelligent, wise, capable and responsible — and practiced in networking, listening, negotiating and managing. Together, they represent a fundamentally transformative revolution in Australian politics.
However, to gain a flavor without spending a whole day, each of the First Speech links below starts with a point in each speech focusing on something that tells an important story about the teal tsunami or the new MP. Dot points below jump to other significant topics in each speech.
In one sense, all of these speeches are mundane statements of what each of these new MPs is bringing to Parliament, i.e., they should be totally boring like the shopping lists they are. But listened to in detail, they are definitely not boring to anyone like me, concerned with the future of our planet, society, and communities. These people are extraordinary, in heritage, in experience, in community involvement, and in prior achievements. There is every reason to think they will do even more in the future than they have up to this point. To hear such people talking about how they will help shape our futures is optimistically exciting…..
I can even hope that Australia’s transformation in politics will spread to other ‘democratic’ nations around the world where control is held by political parties representing special interests rather than their communities of voters such that we can work collectively to address the only issue that really matters — climate change.
Views expressed in this post are those of its author(s), not necessarily all Vote Climate One members.
Since 1999, Australia’s parliament has become less, not more representative of women: we have plunged from 15th in the world to 57th on this measure. In the early 1990s, both major parties had around 11% female MPs: now, the ALP has 47%; the LNP has just 26%.
The rise of (mostly) female independent candidates has highlighted the LNP’s cultural problems with women. Faced with a government that bullied and humiliated many of the women in its ranks, and which has proved intransigent on climate change and corruption, a group of highly capable women have steadily built grassroots campaigns in formerly safe Liberal seats.
The teal independents are highly accomplished, white female professionals, running against “moderate” or self-described “modern” Liberal MPs. They are not former staffers or party hacks. They have tapped a deep well of frustration about politics but have channelled it to build positive, inclusive and local campaigns.
The men of the Liberal party have responded to them with a mixture of outrage, misogyny and petulance. These women had the temerity to challenge Liberal MPs who, in the words of Alexander Downer, “could become truly great men”.
Liberal MP Jason Falinski suggested the money independents were spending on their campaigns was “immoral” because they could be directing their resources to women’s refuges. Matt Canavan even described gender equality as a “luxury” that only the teal seats, not “bogans”, could afford.
The treatment of the independents by the men in the LNP has provided a telling insight for the ways they have treated the women in their own party. It has also offered a glimpse of the ways they regard women, even ones who would normally be inclined to vote for them. Women are fine, provided they know their ‘place’.
Today’s Breakthrough Institute report shows we are tipping climate thresholds like dominoes as we slide down runaway warming’s road to Hell
Featured Image: Cover picture from the emailed announcement received 17/05/2022 of Breakthrough Institute’s new publication “Climate Dominoes“, by David Spratt and Ian Dunlop. This report summarizes the vast array of evidence showing that the climate emergency we currently face is truly existential as we progressively trip over important thresholds increasing the rate of warming as we slide down the road to a global mass extinction event in Earth’s “Hothouse” Hell.
Where the current election is concerned, stopping the warming and managing the associated climate emergency are genuinely the only issues that matter. If we fail to stop the warming we started as a consequence of the Industrial Revolution, there will soon be no humans left to be concerned about anything. Making the economy the most important election issue without putting climate repair as the absolute first priority only ensures there will soon be no economy at all.
[Climate Dominoes] should be read and acted on by governments and their advisors, by the financial communities of the world, and by scientists, engineers, social scientists and philosophers. Precautionary action is needed now to avoid, to the extent possible, further tipping points being triggered.
This is a code red situation. No government is taking it seriously enough. We must urgently seek productive collaboration between sub-national, national, and international bodies to do more to combat climate issues equitably, with determination and speed.
From the Forward by Prof. Sir David King, Fellow of the Royal Society
Good leaders are guided by physical reality, not belief and dogma; and history has proved that science is our best tool for understanding that reality
Climate Dominoes encapsulates the body of Earth and climate science that our would-be Parliamentary leaders and members should consider as Australia progresses through time into evermore threatening climatic future …. A future that will be determined by the laws of physics and biology; irrespective of whatever fables, faith, belief, dogma and a miasma of self-serving humbug, bulldust, misrepresentation, and outright lies made by a bevy of puppet politicians representing super-wealthy vested interests.
Who would you prefer to have in government to represent you in the current climate emergency? — ranting puppets of narcissistic special interests (e.g., fossil fuel multi-billionaires) trying to make you believe in fairy tales about how good life is now and how much better their magic future will be for you while they squeeze the last cent of profit out of killing the world? … Or the alternative: qualified, ethical, independent thinkers and doers from your own community who understand how science works in order to see and understand the actual reality you live in……. Which kind of candidate would you trust to manage the real and growing climate emergency you can see and feel around you seriously look at the reality around you? E.g. increasing heatwaves, raging wildfires, dust storms, windstorms, floods, pandemics, dying reefs and forests, eroding shore lines, etc….
Following is the text of the Climate Dominoes’s overview that describes the main thesis of the work, and its absolute relevance to our upcoming election in Australia and the would-be leaders we are electing. Other than some added emphasis (in italics) and parenthetical comments, I have not changed the text. It is here because I completely agree with it, and so readers will understand that many scientists besides myself also see the same dangers. Superscript numbers refer to references that can be found at the end of the published document.
OVERVIEW: WHEN TIPPING POINTS COLLIDE
As global heating reduces the extent of floating Arctic sea-ice each northern summer, heat-reflecting ice is replaced by heat-absorbing dark ocean water, adding energy to the Arctic system, and driving more melting. This is a “positive feedback”, a self-reinforcing change. Examples abound in the climate system. On Greenland, for example, warming is reducing the height of the ice, and this lower elevation means it will melt more, because the temperature is higher at lower altitudes.
Sixteen years ago, James Hansen warned that: “The problem that we face now is that many [climate] feedbacks that came into play slowly in the past, driven by slowly changing forcings, will come into play rapidly now, at the pace of our human-made forcings, tempered a few decades by the oceans thermal response time.” ” 4
Those feedbacks can drive non-linear (or abrupt) change that is difficult to forecast. That happened to Arctic sea-ice in the summer of 2007, when a collapse in the ice extent led one experienced glaciologist to exclaim that it was melting “100 years ahead of schedule”;5 actually, the scientific understanding was 100 years behind reality! The same thing is happening in Antarctica now, according to the new observations of the Thwaites Glacier.
A group of eminent scientists point to “biosphere tipping points which can trigger abrupt carbon release back to the atmosphere… permafrost across the Arctic is beginning to irreversibly thaw and release carbon dioxide and methane… the boreal forest in the subarctic is increasingly vulnerable”. [Note: Working directly with the satellite record, I have made an extensive study of rapidly growing frequency, size and ferocity of wildfires in the Siberian Arctic that totally validates this point.] They say that other tipping points could be triggered at low levels of global warming with “a cluster of abrupt shifts between 1.5 °C and 2°C…” 6
Positive feedbacks, with or without abrupt change, can drive a system past its tipping point, which is a critical threshold at which small change causes a larger, more critical change to be initiated, taking components of the Earth system from one state to a discreetly different state. In other words, the system has reached a point of fragility such that it will move to a different state due to its own internal dynamics, even if there is no further external forcing (such as additional warming). [Climate Sentinel News has a number of articles on tipping points.]
An overview from Australia’s Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes describes a number of key aspects of tipping points:7
Some tipping point changes are irreversible on timescales of centuries to millennia.
We do not know exactly how close we are to a tipping point, or even whether we have already passed it. We also do not always know if the changes are reversible, and if so, on what timescales.
There are tipping points that while not yet triggered may already be fully committed to. For example, the warming required for the West Antarctic Ice Sheet to permanently melt might have already been reached.
Climate models lack the mechanisms to robustly simulate many tipping points, and the interactions between tipping points that could lead to cascading impacts. Therefore our understanding of the risks is limited.
Since the risk is hard to quantify, global negotiations around climate change have not appropriately taken into account the risks of initiating tipping points, which is essentially a gamble on the future of the Earth’s climate.
Tipping may be irreversible on relevant time frames, such as the span of a few human generations. For example, ice sheets can disintegrate abruptly — and drive up sea levels — much faster than they can gain mass. So whilst sea levels could rise two or three metres this century — and rates as high as five metres per century have been recorded in the past — it could take thousands of years to reset the ice and get sea levels back down.
This is an example of hysteresis, or bifurcation of a system, where it may be more difficult, or impossible, to return to its previous state. Extinctions are an example of the latter. Carbon Brief explains: “In some cases, there is evidence that once the system has jumped to a different state, then if you remove the climate forcing, the climate system doesn’t just jump back to the original state – it stays in its changed state for some considerable time, or possibly even permanently.” 8
Major tipping points are interrelated and may cascade,9 as illustrated. Interactions between these climate systems could lower the critical temperature thresholds at which each tipping point is passed.10
For example, Earth is approaching a temperature range above which the photosynthesis rate is projected to decline, affecting the storage of carbon in the terrestrial biosphere (the “land sink”).11 This will accelerate the warming rate, trigger further sea-ice loss, more melting on Greenland and freshwater injection into the North Atlantic, helping to further slow the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), often known as the “Gulf Stream”. This in turn would change rainfall patterns over the Amazon and further weaken its carbon stores and Earth’s land sink. And so it goes on.
Physical interactions among the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets, AMOC and the Amazon rainforest tend to destabilise the network of tipping elements. The polar sheets are often the initiators of these cascade events,12 with evidence that Greenland and West Antarctica have passed their tipping (see following sections).
In 2012, James Hansen warned of scientists’ fear about the Arctic and the cascading of tipping points triggered in the Arctic: “Our greatest concern is that loss of Arctic sea ice creates a grave threat of passing two other tipping points – the potential instability of the Greenland ice sheet and methane hydrates… These latter two tipping points would have consequences that are practically irreversible on time scales of relevance to humanity.” 13 [Note: there is even more to the methane story than just methane hydrates as discussed in my presentation on the Siberian wildfires linked above.]
Cascading events may in turn lead to a “Hothouse Earth” scenario, in which climate system feedbacks and their mutual interaction drive the Earth System climate to a “point of no return”, whereby further warming would become self-sustaining (that is, without further human-caused perturbations).14 This planetary threshold could exist at a temperature rise as low as 2°C, possibly even in the 1.5°C–2°C range.15
The problem, elaborated in a 2019 paper, “Climate tipping points — too risky to bet against”, is that time is close to running out: “We argue that the intervention time left to prevent tipping could already have shrunk towards zero, whereas the reaction time to achieve net zero emissions is 30 years at best. Hence we might already have lost control of whether tipping happens. A saving grace is that the rate at which damage accumulates from tipping — and hence the risk posed — could still be under our control to some extent” (emphasis added).16
Likewise, former UK Chief Scientist Sir David King warns that: “What global leaders do in the next three to-five years will determine the future of humanity.”17
Tipping point analyst Prof. Tim Lenton says that the evidence from tipping points alone “suggests that we are in a state of planetary emergency: both the risk and urgency of the situation are acute… If damaging tipping cascades can occur and a global tipping point cannot be ruled out, then this is an existential threat to civilization”.18 [As discussed in my IPCC presentation, linked above, few scientists will actually point out what should be emphasized is that they are actually discussing is a threat to the continued existence of the human species — i.e., near term human extinction]
Who is most qualified and likely to lead “productive collaboration between sub-national, national, and international bodies to do more to combat climate issues equitably, with determination and speed”? Our existing COALition Government of spin merchants, clowns, knaves and fools representing special interest, or an alliance government led by Labor kept focused on the climate emergency by Greens and a ‘teal’ flock of genuine community-based independent thinkers and doers forcing the career politicians to stay focused on the job of solving the climate crisis.
Just how extraordinary many of the teals are is documented in earlier articles in this series (click title to open link):
Applying your decision to preferential voting on the ballot
If you believe that our present COALition government will govern in your interests rather than their patrons in the fossil fuel and related industries, then go with the flow and don’t concern yourself with the likely consequences of going down their fossil fueled road towards runaway global warming. On the other hand, if you think it is better to work for a sustainable future where your children and their children can hope for a happy future, Vote Climate One can help you elect a government that will actively lead and support this effort.
We need to turn away from the the Apocalypse on the road to hothouse hell, and we won’t do this by continuing with business as usual!
It seems to have taken the clear thinking of Greta Thunberg, a 16 year-old girl who concluded school was pointless as long as humans continued their blind ‘business as usual’ rush towards extinction.
In other words, wake up! smell the smoke! see the grimly frightful reality, and fight the fire that is burning up our only planet so we can give our offspring a hopeful future. This is the only issue that matters. Even the IPCC’s hyperconservative Sixth Assessment Report that looks at climate change’s global and regional impacts on ecosystems, biodiversity, and human communities makes it clear we are headed for an existential climate catastrophe if we don’t stop the warming process.
Scott Morrison and his troop of wooden-headed puppets are doing essentially nothing to organize effective action against the warming. In fact all they doing is rearranging the furniture in the burning house to be incinerated along with anything and everyone we may care about.
In Greta’s words, “even a small child can understand [this]”. People hope for their children’s futures. She doesn’t want your hopium. She wants you to rationally panic enough to wake up, pay attention to reality, and fight the fire…. so our offspring can have some hope for their future.
Views expressed in this post are those of its author(s), not necessarily all Vote Climate One members.
When Cathy McGowan won the seat of Indi in 2013, she had no idea that she would become a lightning rod for an independent movement that is now dominating Australian politics. More than 23 so-called teal or community independent candidates are standing in this election and it’s McGowan who has been their “secret weapon”. Join Australian Story as we go on the hustings with the 68-year-old farmer from Victoria to two seats where she’s helping guide candidates and rallying their armies of more than 20,000 volunteers.
Featured Image: Cathy McGowan’s run for Indi started and grew through dinner table conversations in the local community wanting to distant ‘representatives’ to deal with locally important issues. / Still image from the ABC video (https://youtu.be/TIxf8Sr6x8I?t=414)
Views expressed in this post are those of its author(s), not necessarily all Vote Climate One members.