The Saturday Paper: Independents – Inside the insurrection of the centre, 4th Dec 2021

Mike Seccombe article The Saturday Paper: Independents – Inside the insurrection of the centre, 4th Dec 2021 was published in The Saturday Paper, 4th December 2021.

You can read article excerpts about Zoe here:

A string of independents who have broken away from conservative politics could define the next parliament.

As a foreign correspondent for 20-odd years, Zoe Daniel saw the devastating consequences of climate change close up.

“I’ve been to the Arctic. I have seen the melting sea ice and the melting permafrost,” she tells The Saturday Paper. “I covered a massive superstorm in the Philippines that flattened an entire city of 200,000 people. I’ve covered bushfires in California and Australia, hurricanes across the US and cyclones in the Pacific. This is not an esoteric thing to me, you know: I’ve actually witnessed the impact.”

Back in Melbourne, though, having left her job at the ABC, she was not sure, when the Voices of Goldstein group approached her to run for federal politics, if she wanted to put herself and her family back in the 24-hour news cycle. In the end, she says, it was her kids who told her she should.

Her daughter is 13 and her son 15 and they are “quite politically switched on”.

“They’ve met Greta Thunberg, for example, when she came to DC,” Daniel says. “My son’s still got the School Strike for Climate sign that he made for that day signed by Greta sitting on his windowsill in his room.

“They’re really concerned about climate, but they’re also just really frustrated at the lack of progress on climate policy. So, you know, I feel and they just feel like there’s been a lot of wasted time, and there isn’t time to waste.”

Climate was not the only motivating factor for Daniel’s decision to run for parliament, though.

“The other big part of this is the integrity factor … the sense of a lack of honesty, of sort of being gaslighted, of not getting a straight answer, ever.

“Having covered Trump, that’s something that really concerns me deeply.”

We’ve seen Australian politicians adopt a lot of the Trumpian tactics such as calling “fake news” as cover for inconvenient truths.

“I don’t trust them. I don’t. I don’t trust what they’re telling us that they’re doing. And I don’t trust them with our future.”

And so Daniel, a self-described swinging voter who went for the Liberals in 2016 on the basis of Malcolm Turnbull’s apparent commitment to addressing the climate crisis, is now working against the government that dumped him as its leader.

She is running for the wealthy, blue-ribbon Liberal seat of Goldstein against Tim  Wilson, the former policy director of the right-wing Institute of Public Affairs, which at the time denied, and still denies, that human activity is heating the planet. (Wilson says he does not personally deny anthropogenic climate change.)

Only this week Wilson claimed that a proposal to establish an independent climate change commission to provide advice to the government on the appropriate policy and interim targets in pursuit of its promise of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 amounted to “subversion and treason” if it could overturn policy.

Daniel says climate policy has been “weaponised to the extent that climate policy is all about politics, not the climate emergency”. She recognises the urgency of changing this. “There’s just no time for that anymore. We can’t keep waiting.”

Daniel is one of several high-profile independents who have announced they will run at the next election, mostly in seats held by the Liberal Party.


More from Zoe