I HAVE, ALL my adult life, been a political tragic. No matter where I have lived, I have been an avid observer of the national politics of my home. Not because it is enjoyable – I am not one who believes that politics is sport for the unfit, nor that politics is entertainment by any stretch of my imagination – but because it’s important.
In my lifetime there have been momentous decisions made at the national level in every country in which I have lived that have profoundly affected the directions that country has taken. It seems obvious to me that if you want to plan for your family, you need to know what is happening nationally, and what is likely to happen.
But other than as a voter, I have never been a participant, never run for office, nor been a member of a party. By temperament, it is safe to say that I am not a “joiner”.
Because I genuinely believe that she has a chance – not a certainty, but a good solid chance – of making Australian political history and replacing an incumbent who, at the last election, got 60% on first preferences.
I would say that though, wouldn’t I? Confirmation bias is a wonderful thing and I’m managing her campaign.
But here’s the thing. You don’t have to believe me. Look at the actions and messaging of the incumbent Member for Bradfield.
The Member for Bradfield, Paul Fletcher, now has a billboard in Chatswood – never done that before, so far as anyone can recall – and the tagline is a “respected voice for Bradfield”. I suggest, for your consideration, that the choice of that word is not insignificant.
He also recently distributed a glossy pamphlet in Bradfield that trumpeted the “Australian way” on emissions. It was full of cherry-picked and misleading numbers – already dismissed by the ABC RMIT fact-check and anyone remotely informed about emissions – but still relentlessly rolled out by senior members of the government.
The fact that Ministers continue to spruik this nonsense might seem insignificant, but for us in Bradfield what was significant was that climate action has not been an apparent concern of Mr Fletcher until this election. I do not know, and do not care, what faction in the Liberal Party he belongs to, but he is most certainly not in the group of Mr Sharma, Mr Falinksi and Mr Zimmerman, who have at least professed to care though, as we know, they don’t vote like they care.
Why, I ask myself, does Mr Fletcher now espouse concern about climate action and claim that the Liberal Party has acted? He must believe that that issue moves votes. He’s right.
Recently, the Member for Bradfield posted on social media that he was assisting in sandbagging to help with the NSW floods. Admirable, don’t get me wrong. But, again, he’s not done that before, though there have been natural disasters a plenty. Many of Bradfield’s postcodes are listed in the Insurance Council of Australia’s catastrophe advices in recent years.
Perhaps it was coincidence that it was shortly after Ms Boele’s social media, featuring her doing bush care work on Clean Up Australia Day, got a warm reception on social media. At least Mr Abbot’s RFS contribution was long standing.
In recent weeks, since just before the election was called, our volunteer ranks have swelled. I knew that there were a large number of disaffected Liberals, including recently resigned local branch members, because I’ve met them and listened to them over the last year. I just didn’t know there were that many who have now firmly come to the view that the Liberal Party has left them, that it no longer resembles anything that they can believe in, and who genuinely mourn a party taken hostage by Barnaby Joyce.
And then there is the 40 percent of the electorate who, in 2019, generally voted ALP or Green. These are not voters that the current Member for Bradfield talks to at all, and he is clearly not concerned enough to use them to terrify the disaffected Liberal voters back into the fold at the prospect of an ALP government.
Bradfield support for an ALP government is not in the foreseeable future. As a result, these voters are ignored by the media as well, but the preferences of this plurality matter, like all preferences. Ms Boele is not recommending preferences. She believes that preferences are for voters to distribute, not parties or candidates. And my experience, in talking with people I take to be a representative sample of the 40 percent, is that, while many are party loyalists, most are also pragmatists. And, boy oh boy, do they want a new representative in Canberra.
All of which leads me to conclude that the seat of Bradfield is, indeed, losable by the Liberal Party, and that it is losable to only one candidate in 2022, Nicolette Boele. What’s more, I believe the Liberal Party’s activities here show that they believe that too.
I don’t have a poll to “prove” that. Good qualitative polling is expensive, and despite the hysteria from the very well resourced Liberal Party that independents are flush with cash, this campaign is not. Probably because donors read the political press and believe that what it is saying and what it is not reporting is the whole truth. I can only judge by what we see on the ground, by the conversations we have, by the emails and social media we get.
So while mainstream political journalists do the traditional horse race journalism of who’s in front and who’s behind and how the marginals are tracking – and maybe that stuff’s important. Who knows? Many of us on the ground who think Australian political history will be made in this nominally safe seat.
It’s true what they say, every impossible thing is impossible until one day it isn’t.
And when that happens, after the election, there will be plenty of political pundits who will say that it was inevitable.
But here in Bradfield, we know it now.