Elizabeth Farrelly on why she’s running Elizabeth Farrelly Independents in the NSW state election.
For years, as a weekly truth-to-power columnist, I’d be routinely asked “How do you get away with it?” My answer, equally routine, was, “No idea. Figure I’ll just keep doing it until they stop me.” When eventually the forces of darkness did contrive to stop me, after a column calling out dodgy behaviours in council politics, I had a choice: retire hurt, or lean in, getting more involved in trying to rectify the system that enables the sleaze and trashes our habitat along the way.
In many ways I’m the last person to be involved in politics. I have no interest in the glad-handing, game-playing, horse-trading, favour-exchange that is NSW politics. But perhaps this is a strength. Perhaps my very unsuitability to the job is why you should vote for us.
We desperately need real people in politics. Not career politicians or political staffers groomed through the party ranks. We need people who are connected to their communities and care about their futures. People who have some of the wisdoms of life experience and the altruism to vote and act according to the longer-term bigger picture. This is no longer a choice. It is bleeping red.
Yet, even so, there are mornings when I wake up thinking I must be mad. I could have a life. Travel, write books, have fun. Then I have to remind myself of the reasons why, scrawled on hasty yellow post-it notes and stuck randomly to my soul.
I’m doing it because it is necessary, it’s doable and it’s appropriate. Appropriate because I’ve spent my life as a writer, designer, councillor and academic working through these issues and here is a chance to put what I’ve learned into practice. Doable because, if we can replicate the ten percent of the vote I achieved as an Independent in the 2022 Strathfield by-election, we’d get not just one but two people into parliament. And necessary because, well, someone has to.
Someone has to:
Stop the indiscriminate industrial-scale logging of old-growth native forests such as the Bulga
end the greenfield sprawl that devours fertile farmland, spreads the urban heat-island, builds on floodplains and will decimate precious habitat
join the dots between the fact that “one-in-a-hundred-year floods” now happen two or three times a year, and the relentless push to mine coal and destroy the Pilliga for coal seam gas;
transition immediately to renewables;
reduce the land clearing, especially of old growth forest, preserving soil, enhancing carbon sequestration, improving water retention and protecting biodiversity – most obviously koalas;
introduce serious rent controls, so that people can rent with dignity and certainty throughout their lives;
build public housing and encourage affordable housing in our cities and towns without yielding to developers’ demands for forests of ugly, cookie-cutter towers and crammed treeless housing estates;
properly fund public education;
create walkable, liveable, loveable medium-density neighbourhoods for people to live and work.
This is not just about doing the right thing by the environment. Nor is it just about being decent to those less fortunate, though both of those things are important. It’s about inter-generational justice. We must do everything possible to leave our children and grandchildren with a planet that is as habitable and beautiful as that into which we were born. And neither party has the backbone to take us there.
Community independents are critical to a healthy, functioning democracy. Why? Because, unlike party members, they are not beholden to party bosses, factional demands, and big donors before listening to their constituents. For an independent every vote is a conscience vote. Yet everything is stacked against them.
To run an election campaign without the money and muscle of a party machine is difficult, to say the least, and made more so by the fact that, for individuals, donations are capped at half of the limit that applies to parties. To stand in the upper house, as I will, is more difficult still, since the electorate is the whole state. You can’t doorknock, or even letterbox, six million people. And as an Independent or even a group you don’t get your name above the line on the ballot paper. This makes the degree of difficulty overwhelming – which is why no Independent has ever been elected to the NSW upper house.
It’s also why, contradictory as it may sound, we’ve formed an independent party. Even there, it was touch and go. A party must be registered for a full year before the election and, to be named above the line, must field a full ticket of 15 candidates. It was a matter of serendipity that we found a party whose values (openness, integrity and cultural vibrance) meshed with ours and which had outlived its initial purpose. Thus, the Open Party became Elizabeth Farrelly Independents. And here we are, with crampons and ropes, preparing an assault on a mountain that has never been climbed.
We have a vision of a NSW that is lovely and purposeful, where people expect decency from their governments and interest from their neighbourhoods. Where governments and communities work together to clean the air, nurture the seas and forests, create vibrant, walkable, medium-density cities and villages and create a fair and excellent system of education. Where we all feel included in a culture and common purpose that is, in essence, this: civilised survival.
So please, join us. Donate, volunteer, help us end the cronyism and achieve the impossible. Change. Politics!