Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site


Setting a higher price on democracy

  • 18 March 2024
  A few years ago, out of pique, I decided I’d explore what it would take to run as an independent in my electorate. I didn’t have any designs on winning a seat, my motivation was more about being able to vote according to my conscience. I didn’t feel aligned with either of the major parties, or the Greens or other minor parties, so I thought I’d see what it would take to throw my hat into the ring.

It turns out that it requires quite a lot. Some of the requirements are to be expected – you have to be over 18 years of age, qualified to be elected, etc. There are a few barriers that might take a little more effort to get over, such as the requirement – if a person isn’t nominated by a registered political party – for your nomination to be supported by 100 people entitled to vote in the election for which you’re nominating. It makes sense to try to ensure that people running for election are serious enough to at least attempt to get some of the community behind them.

Where I decided to throw in the towel, however, was at the ‘nomination deposit’ of $2000. The deposit is returned if the nominee is successful or receives 4 per cent of the vote, however in my electorate that would mean I’d need nearly 4000 votes. I didn’t have any prospect of gaining that support without even more investment in campaigning and advertising, so I decided it was too much money to spend just because I didn’t have anyone I was comfortable voting for.

Despite these barriers, many independent candidates ran in seats across the country in the most recent Federal Election, one in which more than a third of voters opted not to vote for one of the two major parties. This was a larger proportion of the vote than at any previous Federal Election. As a result, seven new independents were elected to the House of Representatives. It seems clear I’m not the only person feeling that none of the major parties aligns with their values and beliefs.

Something has changed in Australian politics, which should obviously concern the major parties. Their proposed response to this change, however, is something that should concern the rest of us.

Following an electoral reform report last year, the Federal Government looks set to bring in new electoral reform legislation which independents warn would