I’m running as an independent because the cost of inaction is too high

My 14-year-old son convinced me. After years as a foreign correspondent, it would have been easier not to run for Federal Parliament. But when your child looks you in the eye and says, “You have a chance to do something for us Mum”, it’s difficult to look away.

I am standing as the community-backed independent for Goldstein because I am fed up with our dysfunctional two-party system, geared towards optics, not results; and a federal opposition which doesn’t hold government accountable.

Independent candidate Zoe Daniel is running in the seat of Goldstein. Credit:Simon Schluter

I am no radical. I hold the same beliefs as so many in my electorate. Smart, economically-focused climate policy is not radical. Transparent use of taxpayers’ money is not radical. Nor are genuine equality and safety for women. An integrity commission to hold politicians accountable is not radical. Accountability is not negotiable.

The growing trust gap between politicians and the population is dangerous. To exploit that gap, politicians have dubbed independents “puppets”. Outright lies have falsely branded me as a front for Labor and the Greens.

The truth is, I have always been a swinging voter. In 2016, I voted for Tim Wilson when he first stood for Goldstein (which threads bayside Melbourne and Bentleigh, Ormond, Gardenvale, Caulfield South and parts of Cheltenham) to back former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull’s stance on climate. In 2019, I voted against Mr Wilson when Prime Minister Scott Morrison showed little interest in climate policy.

Goldstein has always been a blue-ribbon Liberal seat, but the mood is changing. Polling by Climate 200 in October showed Goldstein voters believe climate change is the number one issue of concern, above the pandemic and the economy. As I grappled with the decision of whether to stand, those figures confirmed that others in Goldstein felt the way I did.

Member for Goldstein Tim Wilson.Credit:Dominic Lorrimer

Our campaign launch video registered several hundred thousand views. Thousands of people signed up to volunteer. Climate 200 is providing some finance, but the campaign has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from within the community.

Among the supporters are disillusioned Liberals seeking political accountability, Labor voters frustrated with a lack of courage, and young people. Take 20-year-old Nick, who is joining our youth movement after a chance meeting in Brighton, or the young woman who introduced herself while I was Christmas shopping at Southland.

The next three years will be critical for climate. The 2030 emissions reduction target must be set at 50 per cent with enforceable targets to reach net zero by 2050 or earlier. By shaking off the influence of the fossil fuel industry we could divert subsidies to renewables, deploy solar, wind energy and renewable hydrogen for export, build new jobs through stable investment.

We could tackle refugee policy, affordable housing, aged care, and an Indigenous Voice to Parliament. We could fully implement the Jenkins reports to protect women at work. We could build a fully resourced federal integrity commission based on Indi independent Helen Haines’ model, including transparency in political donations and truth in political advertising.

Many voters are concerned about climate change.Credit:Dominic Lorrimer

With an independent crossbench, we can drive progress and force change on an idle and stubborn two-party system.

Who would I support in a hung parliament? Whoever can be trusted to address the above issues based on conversations in that event. The campaign platform is clear.

Meanwhile, the major parties make election promises that they don’t keep.

Who can forget Tony Abbott’s 2013 promise: “No cuts to education, no cuts to health, no change to the GST and no cuts to the ABC or SBS”?

Solemn promises worth even less than the paper they were written on.

Let me ask you the question I asked myself when my son laid down the challenge and my husband and 13-year-old daughter backed him up. Are you happy with politics as it is?

If your answer is no, you now have a choice.

Mr Wilson may paint me as naive, but I have covered everything from climate-related disasters, poverty, and civil unrest across four continents, to Wall Street to the disintegration of US democracy and the rise of Trump.

I am not a party apparatchik, ambitious to be prime minister. I would not have stepped forward if my community and family hadn’t asked me to. I wouldn’t have accepted if the party system delivered.

Currently, we have a hung parliament. The puppeteers controlling our future are the National Party MPs, wedded to coal and money. Moderate Liberals say one thing but vote another.

We have the power to do something. If not us, who? If not now, when?

Zoe Daniel is an independent candidate for Goldstein. She is an award-winning journalist and was the ABC’s foreign correspondent.

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