The Teals were elected to achieve four things; get rid of PM Morrison, establish a federal ICAC, promote women, and speed up action on climate change.
The first has happened. The second will happen next year. The third and fourth are a high priority for the Government.
So what policies will the Teals run on in the next election campaign? And will they all bother to run at all?
They can always attack the government for not going far enough with the ICAC and climate change policies but that is unlikely to get their voters very excited.
Given that they are mostly well-qualified and come from challenging jobs it may be they will be thoroughly bored after a few years of parliamentary life as backbenchers. Especially if most of their original motivations have been resolved without significant input from them. One term may be exciting but the thought of two could get depressing.
The regional seat of Indi has been held by independents, first Kathy McGowan and then Dr. Helen Haines, since 2013. This has been taken to indicate Independents can’t easily be removed. But inner-city seats could be quite different.
Winning votes from the Liberals is unlikely to be a problem. The apparently unelectable Peter Dutton seems secure in the Liberal Leadership and the chaos of the NSW branch continues. The WA and Victorian branches appear years away from victory or even meaningful reform. Meanwhile, Greens victories in three seats in Queensland show there are more seats in surprising places that could welcome a Teal candidate.
Given the Liberal Party’s lack of interest in appealing to the upper middle class the real challenge for the Teals is the ALP. PM Albanese is the last gasp of Labor as a working class party, and he has spent his entire life in the bubble of politics. Apart from him most of the Ministry and a lot of the backbench is resolutely middle class. The Government is proving moderate and sensible. The workers are kept on side by policy rather than rhetoric or style. As the Liberals scrabble for the disaffected, the ALP is taking over the middle ground helped by the Greens channelling votes to the ALP from that part of the middle class that enjoys being outraged.
If the Teals drift out of the public eye, (and after 100 days that seemed to have already happened), and the Liberals become even more irrelevant, some of those previously safe Liberal seats could swing to the ALP, perhaps on a wave of Teal preferences.
Take the seat of North Sydney. Teal candidate Kylea Tink won by 2.9% two-party-preferred. She received 24,477 primary votes, The ALP candidate 20 835 and the Green 8308. If the ALP candidate had taken 2 000 more votes off Tink, or received all the Green preferences, Tink’s preferences would probably have elected the Liberal candidate. But after a term of cheery, moderate Uncle Albo as PM that swing of primary votes and a stronger flow of preferences to the ALP could well be achieved, giving Labor the win.
The only viable alternative to fade-out for the Teals is to form a political party. The first step would be the hardest as they have committed to remaining independent and focussed on their particular constituencies. But as Edmund Burke pointed out two hundred years ago, politicians are elected to use their judgment of the best way to run the country, not to be simple delegates propounding their constituents’ opinions.
Changing your mind and justifying your new course is something a politician sometimes has to do if they are to properly carry out their higher role.
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