“Teal’ independents bring impressive CVs to Parliament, rather than years of political gaming


Dr Sophie Scamps, Allegra Spender and Kylea Tink. Source: supplied.

From Goldstein to Wentworth with many stops along the way, previous blue and red voters embraced a new colour, a new policy agenda and a new style of politician — professionally qualified beyond all measure.

In 2017, analysis by Fairfax on the makeup of the 45th Parliament showed that nearly half of all Liberal MPs had worked in state and federal politics before being elected and 55% of the Labor caucus came to the parliament from having previously worked as staffers, electorate officers and advisers.

It’s a well-worn path in many established representative democracies, undergraduate in arts, volunteering and then paid work in an electorate office, enter parliament. Ta Da!

While this pathway might make for a good training ground it is highly unrepresentative of the broader community and dangerous in its homogeny. This rise of the ‘political elite’, a group described by German sociologist Max Weber as being not just very active in political circles but also make a living from them has been a contributing factor that spawned anti-establishment and quite extreme movements in the US and Europe.

With one swift stroke of a tiny pencil, voters all over the nation have now given us a pool of astoundingly accomplished educated professionals with political knowledge but no parliamentary experience. Accident?  I think not.

Life experience is electorally appealing.  Having a “real job” makes a candidate relatable and although these real jobs of the incoming independents may be just the career dreams of many voters, they are all obviously anti-establishment.

A former managing director and also chair of an impact fund with an economics undergrad from Cambridge is Allegra Spender. Dr Monique Ryan, the head of the neurology department at the Royal Children’s Hospital. A masters of science from Oxford and masters of public health from UNSW, Dr Sophie Scamps.

The CEO of a major charity and public relations expert, Kylea Tink, a highly accomplished senior journalist and bureau chief in Zoe Daniel. And a principle from Boston Consulting Group and director of strategy for Anglicare WA in Kate Chaney.

Honestly, if they were all about to come over for dinner, I’d need a week to prepare conversation notes.

Much can and should be analysed about how extraordinary women are expected to be for electoral success and how this strong theme of educated professionals is in itself an elite group.

For now though, I’m curious about how their backgrounds will lead to the more thoughtful prosecution of a socially progressive legislative agenda.

Here’s hoping the lack of university politics and political intrigue will take the temperature down a notch or too. Imagine a world where a gender lens approach to public spending is an input to the decision-making process and not an analysis done after the event, or where superannuation legislation is pursued without seeing the savings of working people as an ideological plaything. I’m curious to see the thoughtful, process driven approach the independents can encourage to transition our economy as a clean energy powerhouse without the polarising, get-the-gloves-on arguments of previous parliaments.

What our new independents lack in parliamentary experience they well and truly make up for in an understanding of process and an absence of delight in political skirmish.

My hope is that their ability to apply professional process extends to consultation. An awareness that most of the Australian people have not had the education opportunities that they have. And an intention to bring diverse, blue-collar voices to their consideration of reform.

This 47th Parliament could herald a new dawn, and maybe that’s not the continued presence of independents so much as it is the continued presence of people with diverse careers now seeking to be representatives. Bring on the nurses, early childhood educators, dry cleaners and maybe, in the future a professional gamer?

Just make them real, that’s what we want.

This article was first published by Women’s Agenda.


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1 month ago

Hi Mary

I certainly agree with your comment that the previous parliament and many before it were far from representative of the broader community.

But perhaps the biggest concern for community representation is that less than half the population doesn’t have a degree yet almost 100% of parliamentarians have a degree including the incoming Teals thus very far from representative of the broader population.

There should be no stigma for not having a degree infact much of the most important work needed to be done does not require one (my most valuable employee our lead software engineer has only a high school qualification).

I have an undergraduate degree in Economics and an MBA both totally unnecessary to do the job I am doing – running a business. It was a waste of six years of my life and quite a lot of money …totally unnecessary.

We don’t need more people with degrees we need more people with the right skills to do the jobs needed and much of this does not need a degree.

That is not to say the incoming parliamentarians are not extremely ‘cognitively’ talented but they are also just another elite that are not representative of the broader community.


James McCrudden
James McCrudden
1 month ago
Reply to  Jonathan

Right with you Jonathon. I’m damned if my degree in law fits me on the issue of trade with China, or buying a atomic powered sub.
Secondly theses teals appear to be single issue merchants on climate change – an issue at the bottom of the pile in just about every poll.
Richard Feynman wrote, essentially, that outside their field an expert physicist is no better qualified than the milko on most issues.

James McCrudden
James McCrudden
1 month ago

Ps. The three ladies here have the same policy – climate, integrity, and gender diversity – according to their wikipedia entries. In what issues are they ‘independent’

26 days ago

The three of them look like a bunch of Karen’s, they are all nothing but a bunch of champagne socialists, left leaning let’s save the planet morons.

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