Every election, ballot sheets are riddled with independent candidates. But this time there’s a newer category of people pushing to win your vote: teal independents. But who are they, and how could they seriously shake up the next election?

To put it simply – the so-called “teal independents” are independent political candidates focused primarily on climate issues. They are backed by one of the biggest political donation reserves in Australian history — the Climate 200 fund.

Sounds like a good thing, right? Healthy for democracy and all that jazz.

Let’s get a few things straight.

What is the goal of the teal independents?

To unseat Coalition politicians who have been slack on climate action such as Tim Wilson in Goldstein, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg in Kooyong and Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor in Hume.

The strategy marks a departure from the tactics of groups like GetUp! which failed to unseat extremely conservative Liberals such as Peter Dutton at the 2019 federal election.

This time, the focus is on unseating more moderate, inner-city Liberals.

Where are these teal independents based?

At the time of writing, there are 22 teal independents running for seats all across Australia.

A full list of Climate 200 backed candidates running for the House of Representatives and the Senate can be found here.

How are they funded?

These new candidates are being funded through a massive political war chest convened by the son of Australia’s first billionaire – Simon Holmes à Court. The funding pool receives donations from philanthropists, business people and many everyday Australians.

The Climate 200 fund and was established prior to the 2019 Federal election. It supported Zali Steggall who famously unseated ex-PM Tony Abbot in Warringah.

While the current amount is unknown, The Age reported the fund contained $4.6 million earlier in December.

Who supports the teal independents?

As the old saying goes, the only poll that matters is the one on election day. However, polling has suggested that a few teal independents might actually be able to pull off a victory as per The Saturday Paper.

In addition to voter support, numerous political players have put thrown their voices (and their cash) behind them.

Ex-Liberal PM Malcolm Turnbull said the movement was “very healthy” and that “clearly a lot of traditional Liberal party voters feel the party has moved way off to the right on a bunch of issues, in particular on climate,” as per Guardian Australia.

On the other side of politics, the Sydney Morning Herald reported the Greens’ all-time top donor Graeme Wood has abandoned the party to pledge his dollars to teal independents.

Who are the teal independents?

While there are many Climate 200 backed independents, there are a few more high profile candidates.

Dr Monique Ryan is running against the federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg in Kooyong, Victoria.

Before running for parliament, Dr Ryan was the director of the neurology department at the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne.

Allegra Spender is running against Dave Sharma in Wentworth, NSW.

Prior to running for office, Spender worked as a policy analyst in the UK’s treasury department and in the private sector for her family’s fashion business.

Former ABC reporter Zoe Daniel is running against Tim Wilson in Goldstein, Victoria.

During her journalism career she was the ABC’s correspondent in Southeast Asia and Washington DC.

Should I vote for the teal independents?

If you live in a Liberal-held seat and hate it there, you might want to at least have a quick Google to suss your options.

Most teal independents want to provide voters with an alternative to heel-dragging Liberal MPs.

They know that historically, the seats they’re targeting are filled with voters who are socially and environmentally progressive (yay LGBT+ rights and solar panels) but economically conservative (yay franking credits and owning 11 houses).

They’re not going to be as progressive as a Greens candidate but they also won’t be as terminally conservative as a Liberal candidate.

What will the teal independents do if they are elected?

While the teal independents are all supported by the Climate 200 fund, they are still independents. This means it’s not a one-size-fits-all sitch in terms of policy. However, there are a few common themes.

All teal independents want more action on climate change. Many also want increased government accountability through a federal Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).

If there’s a hung parliament (where no major party forms a majority government) – they could have lots of power to influence legislation and leverage their climate priorities.

If Labor or the Coalition forms a majority government, the climate independents will have next to zero sway, similar to the current position of Zali Steggall. 

Due to Australia’s preferential voting system, even if these independents don’t win their seats, their votes will flow to a candidate who polled higher  most likely one from a major party.

In that case, they’d be back where they started since their original goal was to provide an alternative to major parties.

Teal independents sound like a good thing, are they really?

While climate action is an important issue for many Aussies, we must acknowledge that these candidates are running on climate as their primary talking point.

That is mainly because voters in these Liberal-held electorates are (in large part) socially and environmentally progressive but economically conservative.

Therefore the teal independents most likely wouldn’t support sweeping changes to the tax system or drastic funding spikes to public education.

But at the end of the day, it’s not a perfect world.

So if a climate 200 candidate can knock off unhelpful slugs like Josh Frydenberg – why not say “fuck it” and let it rip?

Image: Instagram / @zoedaniel / @allegra.spender / @zalisteggall