Jumping ship hasn’t always been the best way to help your political career. As this list shows, those who try to go it alone often end up back in civilian life quick smart. But there is some hope for the one and only member of the Australian Conservatives Party. Herewith, four politicians who could break it and still make it.
Amid rumours of infighting, Senator Jacqui Lambie swiftly resigned from the Palmer United Party in 2014, vowing she would remain “as an independent senator representing [her] beautiful state of Tasmania”. Her short-lived job as a Palmer United Party politician barely lasted a year. Shortly after she resigned, the Palmer United Party national director threatened legal action against Lambie for “breaking promises”. National director Peter Burke claimed Lambie “betrayed all those who voted for the Palmer United Party and the party’s members who worked so hard to get their representative elected in Tasmania”. Before establishing her own party, lone-wolf Lambie flirted with the ALP, PUP and Liberal Party. She continues as a Senator for Tasmania in Parliament and leads the Jacqui Lambie Network Party with candidates in Tasmania, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.
After quitting a career in teaching, Joseph Lyons joined Labor and quickly became deputy leader of the Labor Party in 1924. In 1929 he stood for the federal seat of Wilmot at the request of the federal ALP leader James Scullin and won in the October elections. Conflict over economic policy between rival factions created antagonism in the midst of the Great Depression. Lyons crossed the floor and voted for a motion of no confidence in the Scullin government, along with four other defectors. He resigned from the cabinet and joined the United Australia Party, which merged with the National Party. A critical victory in the elections of December 1931 secured the UAP in winning an absolute majority, and Lyons became the 10th prime minister of Australia the following year. Not bad for less than a year after quitting Labor.
Martin Hamilton-Smith has been a member of the South Australian House of Assembly representing seat of Waite since 1997. He served as a member of the Liberal Party for 17 years. Hamilton-Smith took the Liberal leadership from Iain Evans in 2007, but lost the role in a leadership spill two years later. In 2012, he challenged for the leadership again but lost by a single vote to Isobel Redmond. After declaring himself as an independent, Hamilton-Smith made a controversial announcement that he would back the Labor government in 2014. Following his defection, Hamilton-Smith became the Minister for Trade, Small Business, Defence Industries and Veteran Affairs. According to a report in The Australian, Christopher Pyne said: “Martin Hamilton-Smith will go down not as a fighting leader of the Liberal Party who believed in things but as the greatest traitor to his political party in the history of the state.” According to reports by the ABC, Hamilton-Smith has expressed sympathy for Cory Bernardi, saying “he will be abused, he’ll be called a rat, he’ll be called a traitor, he’ll be enduring the same sort of abuse that was thrown at me”. Hamilton-Smith will reportedly contest the 2018 South Australian election as an independent Liberal.
Kezia Purick entered the Northern Territory Parliament representing the Country Liberal Party, where she became the deputy leader of the party. In 2015, she resigned, becoming an independent. Purick’s decision to defect resulted in the NT government losing its one-seat majority and becoming a minority government. Purick broke the bad news to the Country Liberals chief minister and president with an email and came out to the public saying the government was in “disconnect with Territorians”, according to reports by the ABC. Purick was one of six women to leave the CLP in under two years amid complaints it had become a “boys’ club,” according to reports by ABC News. Currently, Purick acts as an independent MLA and continues her roles as the ninth speaker of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. She has held her seat of Goyder since 2008.