Independents who have served in Australian parliaments


January 12, 2019

With a record number of independents standing in the Victorian election, this list tracks politicians who have served as independents in Australia since the 1970s.

Peter Andren: a former teacher, journalist and radio and television producer, he was an independent member for Calare, NSW, in the house of representatives from 1996 until 2007. In 2007 he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and passed away in the same year.

Sam Benson: he served with the navy during World War II where he commanded the HMAS Kiama. He was elected to the house of representatives in 1962 as the Labor member for Batman. He was re-elected in 1963, but 3 years later was expelled from the ALP because of his support of continued Australian participation in the Vietnam War. He was re-elected as an independent in 1966 and retired in 1969.

Peter Besseling: a former NSW rugby union player, he was elected as an independent member, in the NSW lower house representing Port Macquarie, at a 2008 by-election following the resignation of Rob Oakeshott.

Doris Blackburn: married to Maurice Blackburn and fellow Labor party member, she was upset at his treatment by the Labor party, so following his death she stood as an Independent candidate for Maurice's old seat of Bourke at the 1946 election, which she won and held until 1949.

Maurice Blackburn:
a lawyer and member of the Labor party, in 1914 he entered the Victorian Legislative Assembly as the member for the Essendon, but lost his seat in 1917. He returned to practising law, establishing the firm Maurice Blackburn & Co. in 1921. In 1925 he returned to parliament as the member for Fitzroy, but resigned in 1934 so he could contest the Federal seat of Bourke which he won and held until he lost at the 1943 election. During this time he was expelled twice from the Labor party, the last time in 1941 when he served as an independent for the remainder of his term.

John Bowler: a former Labor Minister who has represented the district of Murchison-Eyre in WA since 2001. He became embroiled in controversry when the Corruption and Crime Commission alleged he leaked confidential information relating to Fortescue Metals Group to Julian Grill and Brian Burke. Despite calls from then Premier Alan Carpenter for his resignation, Bowler remained in Parliament as an independent and won the seat of Kalgoorlie as an independent at the 2008 state election.

Ralph Clark: a Labor member in the SA lower house from 1993 - 2002 representing the electorate of Ross Smith. He was diposed by factional infighting and then stood as independent in 2003 but fell just short. In 2006 he stood for the SA upper house but only achieved 0.1% of the vote.

Phil Cleary: a former VFA player and coach, he was elected as an independent to the lower house at the 1992 Wills by-election, becoming the only non-Labor member to have ever held the seat. The election however was deemed void as he was still employed by the Crown and the constitution forbids people, employed by the Crown, from standing for election. He is described as socialist left.

Liz Cunningham: has represented the electorate of Gladstone in Queensland as an independent since 1995. Along with Peter Wellington, she briefly held the balance in power following the 1998 Queensland state election, but her political influence declined when Peter Beattie formed an ALP government.

Susan Davies: the former shool teacher joined the Labor Party in 1993, and was the Labor candidate for Gippsland West in the 1996 Victorian state election. When the incumbent Alan Brown resigned, she resigned from the Labor party and contested the by-election as independent which she subsequently won. She held her seat in 1999 election but soon after her seat was abolished.

Paul Filing: a former Canberra flat mate of John Howard, in 1990 he was elected to the House of Representatives as the Liberal member for Moore. In 1995 he lost Liberal endorsement so he resigned from the party and stood as an independent, holding the seat at the 1996 election. In 1998 he was defeated and left politics.

Chris Foley: a former National Party candidate in Queensland who resigned over an unresolved dispute. He was elected at a 2003 by-election for the seat of Maryborough following the resignation due to ill health of another independent, former One Nation MP John Kingston. In 2006 he stood as an independent and romped to victory with nearly 70% of the primary vote, and again held the seat at the 2009 election.

Diane Hadden: in 2005 she resigned from the Labor Party, which ended over 25 years membership of the Victorian ALP, and became the independent upper house member for Ballart in Victoria. She was quoted as saying " I also want no part of a Labor government that seems obsessed with social engineering, the removal of individual liberties and rights... and has the potential to trample on the hard-earned rights and freedoms of ordinary Victorians."

Kris Hanna: once a practicing lawyer, the former member for Mitchell in SA from 1997 until 2010. Originally he was elected as a Labor member, but he defected to the SA Greens in 2003 before becoming an independent in 2006.

Brian Harradine: he was the longest-serving independent federal politician in Australian history, representing Tasmania from 1975-2005. He was once secretary general of the Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council between 1964 and 1976 and a member of the Labor party but ended up expelled from the ALP by the Federal Executive. He contested the 1975 election which he won comfortably and held for 30 years.

Ray Hopper: first elected in 2001 as an independent or Darling Downs in the Queensland lower house. He joined the National Party later that year and then the Liberal National Party in 2008 representing the district of Condamine.

Craig Ingram: the one-time abalone diver unexpectedly won the seat of Gippsland East in the 1999 Victorian state election. He along with Russell Savage and Susan Davies, held the balance of power in the lower house and would not support a minority government led by Jeff Kennett which led to the demise of Kennett's political career.

Bob Katter: he has served as a member of the house of representatives since March 1993, representing the Division of Kennedy, Queensland. Until 2001 he represented the National Party of Australia, but left the party that year and continued to hold the seat as an independent.

John Kingston: was one of the first One Nation MPs to leave the party and contested the 2001 election as an Independent representing Maryborough, getting just enough National Party preferences to overhaul the Labor Party's lead on primary votes. He resigned from parliament early in 2003 due to ill health.

Peter Lewis: first elected as a Liberal member of the South Australian lower house in 1979 and served until 2000 in electorates such as Hammond, Ridley, Murray-Mallee and Mallee. He built at reputation as a maverick by defying party authorities on many occasions which led to his expulsion from the Liberal Party in July 2000. From 2000 until 2006 he served as an independent which included a stint as Speaker when a propped up a minority Labor government led by Mike Rann.

Ted Mack: trained as an architect, he is the only person ever to have been elected and re-elected as an independent to local, state and federal governments. He won the federal seat of North Sydney in 1990, defeating incumbent Liberal MP John Spender, and remained until his retirement at the 1996 election.

Shayne Murphy: he was a Labor party member of the senate, representing Tasmania, from 1993 to 2005. He represented Labor until 2001, when he left the party and became an independent. In the 2001-04 parliament, Murphy shared the balance of power with senators Len Harris, Brian Harradine and Meg Lees, but was defeated at the 2004 election.

Shaun Nelson: was elected as MP of the One Nation Party at the 1998 Queensland state election, before resigning from the party to sit as an independent in February 1999. He served out the remainder of his term before being defeated by One Nation candidate Rosa Lee Long at the 2001 election.

Rob Oakeshott: the independent Member for the Division of Lyne, NSW, which he won in the 2008 by-election following the resignation of Mark Vaile. He was elected as the Nationals candidate for the state seat of Port Macquarie in the NSW in 1996, he left the party to become an independent in 2002.

David Oldfield: while working as a senior staffer for Liberal federal MP Tony Abbott, Oldfield secretly founded the One Nation Party with independent MP Pauline Hanson and David Ettridge. Oldfield won a seat in the NSW legislative council at the March 1999 state elections but was expelled from One Nation by Hanson in 2000 and founded the separate One Nation NSW party. In 2004 he left that party and sat as an Independent and in August 2006 he announced that he would not contest the March 2007 election.

Dorothy Pratt: a former coffee shop proprietor, in 1998 she was elected to the Queensland lower house as the member for Barambah, representing Pauline Hanson's One Nation. She left One Nation in 1999 to sit as an independent. In 2001, her seat of Barambah was abolished and replaced with Nanango, which she won as an independent.

Russell Savage: a former police officer in London and Melbourne, he ran as an independent candidate for the seat of Mildura in the 1996 Victorian state election. He retained his seat at 1999 election, until the 2006 election.

Bob Such: was first elected to SA parliament as a Liberal member in 1989. In 1996 he was relegated to the back bench by John Olsen and became disenfranchised. Since 2000 he has been the independent member for the seat of Fisher in the SA lower house.

Peter Wellington: a former police officer and solicitor who defeated the incumbent National Party candidate Neil Turner in the 1998 Queensland state election. He briefly held the balance in power following the 1998 election, and his decision to back the Labor Party led to Peter Beattie becoming premier.

Andrew Wilkie: a famous defence whistleblower against the Iraq war, former army officer and former Green party member for 4 years, Wilkie stood as an independent for the federal seat of Denison in the 2010 federal election and won with a primary vote of just 21%. Wilkie then backed a minority Gillard governme

Tony Windsor: a former farmer and National party member, he was also the Member for Tamworth in NSW for ten years before resigning in September 2001, to contest the federal seat of New England, which he has held as an independent in the house of representatives.

Nick Xenophon: the barrister and anti-gambling campaigner was first elected to parliament in SA at 1997 state election. He then went successfully win a senate seat at 2007 federal election receiving nearly 15% of the vote.

Paul Zammit: a former NSW Liberal state politician, in 1996, he stepped down to contest the federal Division of Lowe which he won. In 1998 he resigned from the Liberal Party, and contested the seat as an independent, but he managed only 15% of the vote, losing to Labor's John Murphy.