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Speech - Being an Independent in NSW Parliament

7 May, 2024. Below is a speech I delivered to workers in the NSW Public Service on the importance of being an Independent in NSW Parliament.

Getting elected is an extraordinary achievement for anyone, the effort for us here is the same, but our pathways are different. The differences are largest between us independents and the Party MPs in majority. The Party MPs are in this place after first securing the approval to stand by only a few dozen others.

Party MPs have the Party backing and get to use the Party brand. They stand protected but at the cost of removing individual free voting rights, aside for rare conscience votes. I understand the good intention to do this, individuals hope the Political Party can provide a vehicle to make a difference and to form Government.

The alternative is to stand as an independent like myself, like the Speaker, the Member for Lake Macquarie, and the Members for Sydney, Wakehurst, Barwon, Murray, Orange, Wagga Wagga and Kiama.

We stood along with a mass field of other independents with a view that our communities in particular are overlooked by the major political parties. We get elected here not to form Government, we have no interest in such things, our interests are only for our electorate’s direct needs. We don’t need to worry about breaking ranks and with this we keep Political Parties honest. We are needed just as much as the rest of you, and I would argue in today’s world we are needed more than ever.

This pathway is much harder, requiring funding and resources. Having no backing of a Political Party, independents are often supported by community organisations that are overstretched and promised open check books by the major parties.

At every moment I get to vote with my conscience. Which means I need resources and to be always attentive. I can tell you, I’ve voted with and against the Government a number of times and have sat next to many MPs who sit near me and ask ‘What are we voting on today?’ That isn’t how the majority of Australians expect their democracy to run.

You don’t get the opportunity to speak and vote on things with knowledge on your own. I get a small amount of extra resources as an Independent MP as I have no party room to tell me what to do, I have no think tanks, no party HQ and no pollsters. Instead I have an extra Research Officer and I have chosen to hire a Research Assistant so that I can prepare for the Bills that I need to vote on. Aside from that it's the same as every other MPs.

Many of you here will become leaders in the public service, you may become Managers or Directors or even Department Heads. In the past this would have meant you’d speak to party people for the majority of your career, negotiating with Labor or the Coalition as they share Government. But the future is different. With the crossbench not only in this Parliament but in other Parliaments all across the Country now getting larger, independents like me will often be in front of you speaking about their community needs.

You need to understand that my supporters are not Left, Right, Green or Nationalist. They are just regular people from Wollondilly. My supporters and my staff that work in the office are very varied, which means you can’t assume as a bureaucrat that I would want a certain end based on my political philosophy. My intention is to vote always with my community which means I will with and against the Government, a bit unpredictable with the exception of predictably for my electorate.

Thanks again for inviting me and I look forward to any questions you may have.