Running the gauntlet of candidate representatives thrusting pamphlets in our path can be daunting on election day, especially if you aren't already sold on who you are voting for.
Post-election research for the 2019 election showed that 11 per cent of voters arrived to vote undecided, so the pressure to choose is real. It's easy to feel like it doesn't matter who we vote for, that our one, single vote doesn't make a difference. But it does. It's so important that we get this right.
There is a lot of "fluff" on the campaign trail. A lot of scare-mongering, of negative campaigning that focuses on putting "the other party down" rather than talking about what's important to the candidate/party themselves. It feels like an overwhelming task to break through the puffery to understand what we are really voting for. Especially when integrity in politics is at an all-time low.
Trust in politics has always felt like a bit of an oxymoron, but never before has this been felt more keenly than during this election. Various allegations have shadowed many sitting members of parliament, including bullying claims, sex scandals and sexual assault allegations, which paints a very grim picture of our political leaders. It's not really surprising that this political disillusionment seems to be empowering independent candidates to stand for office ... and win.
Far from being lone wolves, the "Rise of the Independents" (which sounds a lot like it could be the name of a Marvel movie coming soon to a cinema near you!) are well-organised, coordinated and resourced, dedicated to their communities rather than party lines. Cathy McGowan led the way in the grassroots independent push in my local electorate, by toppling the incumbent Liberal member, Sophie Mirabella in 2013.
What Ms McGowan did with the "Voices for" model she led, was shake the major parties' sense of safety by encouraging the erosion of margins between electoral candidates and the sitting member in previously considered "safe seats". Perhaps ironically, the independent movement has created a nation-wide sense of community, bringing people together not just in electorates, but between them as well, to support an idea that is bigger than themselves: community-led representation.
I've heard many people say that independents just don't have the power in the Houses to make any real difference; that they only way to see any kind of influence in Parliament is to be a member of one of the major parties. In fact, I've asked this question myself.
However, the idea that independent Members of Parliament are marginal or even "irrelevant" is a fallacy. In 2010, the hung parliament resulted in a crossbench of independents and minor party representatives that subsequently used its power to bring in significant reforms, resulting in what Ben Oquist in The Canberra Times termed changes that "improve the quality and breadth of democratic debate."
Mr Oquist highlighted that the allocation of the sixth question in Question Time to the crossbench has seen policy proposals being raised and opportunities to hold the government to account taken, bringing important issues to the fore.
Dr Helen Haines (MP for Indi), has been a loud and consistent voice for a federal ICAC, aligning herself strongly with the importance of integrity in politics, while Zali Steggall (MP for Warringah) has asked the Prime Minister about his support for truth in political advertising laws.
Mr Oquist also demonstrated the value of the crossbench-established Parliamentary Budget Office, which produces independent costings and economic analysis. The PBO plays a vital role in keeping them honest, having revealed what the government refused to mention; that the Coalition's income tax cuts would cost $147 billion ahead of the 2019 election.
Far from a wholly "bad thing" for the people, a hung parliament can actually provide a catalyst for much needed change, deliver greater transparency, honest debate and greater attention paid to marginal seats around the country.
What I've mentioned here are just a few of the achievements of our independent representatives. Imagine what they could achieve if there were more of them in government?
Perhaps the "Rise of the Independents" will bring us the superheroes we desperately need to keep the bastards honest.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.