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What is the crossbench?

Over the weekend, the first of many independent candidates for the Federal Election was announced in the seat of North Sydney. The independent candidate says she wants to win the seat off the Liberal Party because “our voices are being washed over by a bigger machine”.

If this candidate (or any other independent) is successful at the next election…where do they sit when they get to Parliament? Welcome to the crossbench. 

What is the crossbench?
Most seats in our Parliament are filled by the two major parties: the Coalition (which includes both the Liberal Party and the Nationals) and Labor. But there’s a few smaller parties, and some independents, who make up the remainder.

A simple way to think about the crossbench is this: a Member of Parliament is on the crossbench if they don’t belong to the parties in charge or the main party in opposition. The Greens, for instance, are on the crossbench. So are independent politicians.

Currently, in the Senate, you need some of the crossbench to pass bills. The Federal Government doesn’t have a majority in the Senate, so they need some crossbenchers to support their plans. While this isn’t currently the case in the House of Representatives, it has happened in the past and could happen again in the future. Often, the crossbench can put pressure on the Government or the Opposition to take certain positions on issues, especially in situations when their vote is the key to legislative success.

Some well-known faces on the crossbench include Craig Kelly (who you might’ve received a text from), Bob Katter, Zali Steggall (who won her seat off Tony Abbott), Jacqui Lambie and Pauline Hanson – of course, there are many others. 

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