In the fog of political warfare that prevailed during the first week of the 2022 election campaign, two voices spoke with utmost clarity. Namely, film producer Jo Dyer and former Liberal Party prime minister John Howard.
Dyer is running as an independent for the Adelaide-based seat of Boothby, currently held by the Liberal Party. She is one of the self-proclaimed independents who are supported by the multi-millionaire Simon Holmes a Court and his Climate 200 group.
Overwhelmingly, candidates supported by Climate 200 will not say whether they would back the Coalition led by Scott Morrison or Labor led by Anthony Albanese if there was a hung parliament after May 21. But Dyer is honest enough to declare her position upfront.
In response to a query last Sunday, Dyer tweeted that if independents “hold the balance of power … my inclination is to support a change of government”. She added: “Australia can’t afford another three years of the current mob.”
That’s pretty clear, then. If she wins, a vote for Dyer will end up as a vote for Albanese if no party can obtain a majority in its own right in the House of Representatives. It’s only fair that the voters of Boothby have this information – and they now do.
On Tuesday, Australia’s second-longest serving prime minister was interviewed on Sky News’s Paul Murray Live. Howard made this point about the independents: “These people are anti-Liberal. The reason I say that with complete conviction is that they’re not running in any safe Labor seats.”
Howard asked this question: “Why don’t they (the independents) run a candidate against Tanya Plibersek or Anthony Albanese … in inner Sydney?”
His answer was brutally truthful: “Because their objective is to pull down Liberals.”
Holmes a Court makes the debating point that the independents, whom Climate 200 is supporting, do not belong to a political party. But they are part of a political movement with almost identical policies (few as they are) and campaigning style. As Margaret Simons acknowledged in her sympathetic essay on the independents in the April issue of The Monthly, Holmes a Court does not preside over an organisation that’s as “hands off” as he claims. She points out that “as well as money”, Climate 200 “provides strategic communications advice and there are individuals who are shared across parts of the movement”.
Some of the independents contesting the election have hidden their past association with the Labor Party and/or deliberately fudged their intentions as to who they would support in a hung parliament. This flies in the face of their proclaimed commitment to integrity, full disclosure and the like. Some examples illustrate the point.
Dr Monique Ryan is running as a Holmes a Court candidate in the Melbourne seat of Kooyong, attempting to defeat Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. After announcing her political intentions, Ryan was interviewed by Virginia Trioli on ABC Melbourne Radio 774.
The ABC and Nine Newspapers are giving soft coverage to independents attempting to displace Liberals. So it came as no surprise that on December 9 last year, Trioli introduced Ryan as a political “cleanskin” who had “never been in politics before”.
Ryan’s message to the Liberal Party voters turned on the claim that she is a “progressive Liberal” and would represent the “traditional values of the people of Kooyong”. Frydenberg’s political predecessors in Kooyong include former Liberal Party leaders Robert Menzies and Andrew Peacock.
On March 5, the Herald Sun revealed that Ryan was a Labor Party member from 2007 to 2010. She has been active on Twitter praising Labor and bagging Liberals. In short, she ain’t no Liberal.
Tink went unchallenged when she claimed to represent “the voice of North Sydney”. No such entity does or can exist. Democratic politics is about competing interests, not uniform positions. Asked about “what happens if there is a hung parliament?”, Tink replied that this would “come down to … who does have and is prepared to move to a stronger climate policy, who is going to back in the integrity commission, who is going to back in the equality measures”.
It was as vague as that. Two days earlier, Morrison and Albanese had launched their respective policies. The choice between the two leaders is pretty clear. Yet Tink won’t tell North Sydney voters what is her political preference.
Karvelas also directed soft questions at Daniel, who was allowed to deliver uninterrupted responses. Daniel presented herself as a swinging voter but it was not clear whether this meant swinging between Labor and the Greens, or Labor and the Coalition. In the past, all Daniel has said in this regard is that she voted for Malcolm Turnbull in 2016. This does not make her a political conservative.
Karvelas did not mention the fact that, last year, Daniel signed an open letter using the hashtag #DoBetterOnPalestine. It called on the media to abandon what was called “both siderism” in covering the conflict between democratic Israel and the Islamist Hamas dictatorship in Gaza. The open letter ignored the fact that the 2021 conflict commenced when Hamas fired missiles into Israel.
Daniel was quoted in the Australian Jewish News (March 31) as saying that she would have framed the letter “very differently”. This overlooked the fact she signed a petition that effectively demanded Hamas’s attacks on Israel be covered-up by the media in some way.
On Wednesday, The Age ran a long article on the Goldstein campaign by Royce Millar which did not mention Daniel’s recent support for the left’s campaign against the Jewish state of Israel.
Dyer and Howard disagree politically. But they know that a vote for the Holmes a Court independents is a vote against the Coalition. And both understand that if the independents defeat Liberals in Liberal-held seats, they will almost certainly do so on the preferences of Labor and the Greens.