Some Australians may regard it as amazing that Laura Tingle remains as the chief political correspondent for ABC television’s 7.30 program with regular appearances on Insiders, despite having accused the Scott Morrison-led Coalition of “ideological bastardry” in a late-night tweet not so long ago.
For her part, Tingle told 7.30 viewers on Wednesday that former Liberal Party prime minister Malcolm Turnbull’s attack on the Prime Minister at the National Press Club on Wednesday was “quite amazing”.
In fact, there was nothing surprising in either event. The ABC is a conservative-free zone without a conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its prominent TV, radio or online outlets. Tingle fits in well with her colleagues.
And Turnbull has joined the conga line of one-time Liberal leaders who have turned on the party that made it possible for them to pursue successful careers in politics. Those include Malcolm Fraser and John Hewson.
If the ABC was as influential as it claims, then Australians would have had a Labor-Greens government for eons. Many Australians follow ABC news and current affairs but the evidence suggests the taxpayer-funded public broadcaster is not a substantial vote changer – despite the political allegiances of most of the staff.
The essential problem the Coalition faces here turns not on the views of ABC staff but the causes that the ABC promotes – and how they are picked up by other left-of-centre media outlets.
Take the new “Voices of” movement, for example.
In 2013 the “Voices of” organisation was formed in the federal seat of Indi in central Victoria. Cathy McGowan defeated incumbent Liberal Party member Sophie Mirabella after polling 31 per cent of the primary vote. In other words, McGowan made it to the House of Representatives on the back of the Labor Party and Greens preferences.
McGowan retired after two terms and was succeeded by Helen Haines in 2019.
Currently a number of attempts are being made to “do an Indi” and to run independent candidates against the Liberal Party and Nationals in what are regarded as safe or relatively safe Coalition seats. There is no evidence that an attempt is being made by a “Voices of” independent to dislodge a sitting Labor member or Greens leader Adam Bandt in the seat of Melbourne.
Here’s where the ABC helps out. On September 15, 7.30 reporter Jess Davis set off in search of a “Voices of” campaign against a sitting Coalition member. 7.30 travelled to Groom in southeast Queensland (sitting member Garth Hamilton) and Hume in provincial NSW (sitting member Angus Taylor). 7.30 spoke to members of the Voices of Groom and Voices of Hume organisations.
Davis told 7.30 there was “growing dissatisfaction with the status quo” in Groom and the Voices of Groom movement was “already gaining support”. Her evidence? Well Davis interviewed a Voices of Groom local activist.
It was much the same in Hume where Davis spoke to the movement’s local organiser who declared that it already had 500 members.
Davis filmed meetings of Voices of Groom and Voices of Hume. Some 30 people attended the Groom meeting, while the Hume function had about 20 in attendance. In view of the fact the organisers would have known that ABC TV was in the area, these are hardly large numbers.
But it was not long before the left-of-centre Nine Entertainment newspapers joined in singing from the “Voices of” hymn book.
On Saturday, September 18, The Sydney Morning Herald’s page one “exclusive” was headed “The surprise candidate taking on the Liberals”. In a soft article, Jacqueline Maley declared that Kylea Tink “is about to become a problem for the Liberal Party”. It turns out that Tink is supported by the “Voices of North Sydney” movement to contest the seat against well-known local Liberal Party member Trent Zimmerman.
It’s fair to say that without Maley’s report, few residents of North Sydney would have heard of Tink.
It turned out that Tink is working with investor and millionaire Simon Holmes a Court, who heads the Climate 200 group. It was not long before Holmes a Court received a soft interview from ABC Radio National Breakfast presenter Fran Kelly. Speaking to Kelly on Wednesday, the Climate 200 supremo declared his intention to financially support various “Voices of” candidates.
Holmes a Court indicated that his organisation also would be backing a self-declared independent candidate in Wentworth (held by Dave Sharma) and Hume in NSW. He also suggested his organisation would support independents in Flinders (Greg Hunt), Goldstein (Tim Wilson) and Kooyong (Josh Frydenberg) in Melbourne. Another intended target is Katie Allen in the seat of Higgins.
When Kelly made the obvious point that all the above seats are currently held by the Coalition, Holmes a Court said the independents “also want to beat Labor and the Greens in those seats”.
Holmes a Court knows that if independents are to succeed in any of these seats they will do so on the back of Labor Party and Greens preferences. Just as McGowan did in Indi in 2013 and Haines did in 2019 (with a primary vote of 32 per cent).
In 1968 Frank Parkin wrote the book Middle Class Radicalism about support in Britain for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. He examined the views of well-off Brits who were alienated from society to such an extent that they embraced left-wing causes.
More than a half-century later, Western societies are witnessing the emergence of millionaire radicals such as Holmes a Court – who told Kelly that even net-zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 was “woefully inadequate”. Presumably he wants to close down virtually all emitting businesses within a decade or so.
Australians who vote for Holmes a Court-supported candidates who present as independents should be aware of what millionaire radicals really want.
It is the defeat of the Morrison government and its replacement by a government that is on terms with the green left.