Claire Ferres Miles

Claire Ferres Miles

Claire Ferres Miles is the Independent Candidate for the federal electorate of Casey, and former CEO of Sustainability Victoria.
Claire Ferres Miles

ON FRIDAY I read the article by Katie Allen questioning why Liberals are considering voting for independent candidates, written in response to former PM Malcolm Turnbull’s uppercut to his own mob. In essence, the argument posed was Liberal voters must keep voting Liberal to keep the party as it is.

But that is exactly where the problem lies. The way the party is, isn’t working. Even if you are inside the tent, you can’t do much to change things, regardless of your intentions. So, if you vote the same, you get the same. 

It would appear that the reason for the emergence of the Independents movement has been lost or deliberately ignored by our political parties. They just don’t get it. Our two-party system has become complacent, and self-interested.  Our current Federal Government is dishonest and chaotic, with promises not delivered and public money carelessly misspent.  

It is a sad state of affairs when integrity, transparency and accountability is not at the heart of our democratic representation. When immediate action on climate change that should be in the centre of the political spectrum, is categorised as neither left nor right. When the people of Casey tell me their number one ask is to have honest, present federal representation with a commitment to civic service not personal gain. 

Whilst an agreeably fetching colour, the independent candidates are not all teal

In fact, my campaign colour is burgundy, in honour of the wine region I represent.  We independents are not a party, we are not dishonest, we are not chaotic, we are not dysfunctional. We are not actually a ‘we’. We are a ‘we’ purely because we are individuals powered by community volunteers wanting a voice, asking for representation that is committed to listening to them, not the parties.

The rise of the community independents movement is the very definition of democracy – representation of the people for the people by the people. Defending our current state of negative, tired party politics is not listening to our community. The people of Casey have told me – Liberal, Labor and Greens voters – they are angry and frustrated. They want a voice for change.

So, don’t blame the independents for wrecking the system, for disrupting the power. Don’t blame Cathy McGowan for creating and stirring the pot of momentum. Blame yourselves. 

How can you argue against integrity?

The word integrity has been a feature of this election campaign, and it has made me ponder over recent weeks and months what does it mean to you?

For the people of Casey, it is most frequently defined as honesty, a desire for strong ethics, a hope for truthfulness, a search for trust. It is a Federal Integrity Commission enacted in the first months of the next Parliament, retrospective and with public hearings.

For me, integrity is actions not words. And as a new entrant to the game of political campaigning too often I have paused to question the democratic system we have become – does it exemplify integrity, is it sound, unimpaired and incorruptible? 

Is it ethical to send voters AEC-like postal application forms that are returned to the political party purely for data mining? Knowing the majority of people who complete a postal vote are elderly and the more vulnerable members of our community. Would you send a letter to your grandmother deliberately designed to look like an official government flyer (it wasn’t) with a reply-paid envelope not self-evident that she was sending her private information to a political party not the AEC?

Is it good manners to blatantly park trucks illegally in front of campaign signs of competing candidates, to install a plethora of signs on public land in contempt of State and Council bylaws, to produce false, misleading and incorrect signage and flyers to deliberately confuse and discredit other candidates?

Enough of the same

We teach our kids to have manners and be polite, so why is political campaigning the mire of rudeness.

Is it scrupulous to pork barrel your way to election day, with funding promises made without process, without probity, without assessment? Last time I looked the definition of a bribe is to dishonestly persuade someone to act in one’s favour by a gift of money or other inducement.

Why is political campaigning a game of bribery, deception and disrespect? A competition to the bottom, to manipulate, trying to trick the voter with money, confusion and misdirection. And do we hold to account the cheats, the bad behaviour, the lack of consequences when the rules are broken? 

I welcome questions about how political campaigns are funded. How much better our democracy would be with real-time disclosures of all donations made to all candidates, with individual and corporate funding caps.

I welcome questions about my campaign signage, flyers and social media posts. How much better our democracy would be with truth in political advertising laws with regulatory compliance and enforcement of illegal advertising. 

I welcome questions as the independent candidate for Casey. Community volunteers actively engaging in election campaigns with respect and kindness is to celebrated and encouraged. To be an elected democratic representative is not a right, it is not an entitlement. It’s a service. I know our democracy is richer with frank and fearless debate, with a contest of ideas, with a trajectory of purpose and ambition.

Enough of the same. The game needs to end. Be the change you want to see.