Independents are the new rising force in the political spectrum: they provide the electorate with a means to curb governments and push specific issues. At present this is generally a Senate phenomenon: few House of Representatives independents survive more than two terms, but it is not inconceivable that should the Senate fail as forum for them, the electorate might be encouraged to vote for them in that House. Indeed they became the lynchpin of a minor ALP government in 2010.


Independants are rare birds; they are either refugees from political parties like Bob Katter, or non-conformist loners like the late Peter Andren. Some independents form new parties like Bob Brown (Greens) and Don Chipp (Australian Democrats) but the political system ruthlessly attacks alternate parties and they never last more than a few decades. The saga of Pauline Hanson and her One Nation party is a salutary lesson to minor parties: don't give up your day job. The former Tasmanian Senator Dr x who for years held the balance of Senate power, consistently used it to get deals for his electorate. Peter Andren made sure his views got into Hansard, and was often the only dissenting voice when the major parties did deals on legislation.


The new independent phenomenon is the the rural independent: an alternative to voting Liberal or National. Bob Katter is the most visible success story of this model: the strictly electorate-focussed independent generally keeps their seat. His defection from the National party has accelerated a shift away from Liberal and National rural voting patterns in Queensland: at the 2007 federal election, 10 Labor candidates were voted in, including, astonishingly, Leichardt.

Since the 2010 election, independents have held the the whip hand of government. One expects the majors to attempt to reclaim that ground, but electoral trends suggest the independent's power may grow further.