AFTER OUR LAUNCH Curtin Independent became more organised when Louise Jones, Justin Kennedy and James Lush joined the team. All would play important roles throughout the campaign.
Finding a candidate and organising a launch was a significant challenge during Perth’s virtual summer shutdown from mid-December to deep into January.We sounded out many people, then Justin Kennedy and Fleur Hull suggested we speak to Kate Chaney. A quick discussion on 3 January led to a 4 January zoom call with Kate, on a family holiday at Rottnest’s Island. High intellect, impressive business experience, community service, compassion.
We had found our shining star
Kate, being Kate, did significant due diligence while contemplating the enormity of giving up her job at Anglicare WA to run as an independent candidate with no payment, uncertain financial backing and a 13.9 percent incumbent margin. While she spoke to people with independent and parliamentary experience, Curtin Independent worked through Perth’s holiday slumber to prepare for launch – T-shirt design and colour, website, etc etc. Louise Jones and Sarah Silbert drove this process.
Kate’s daughter Olive chose Indian Ocean aqua as the campaign colour, and Sarah Silbert’s daughter Sophia designed the T-shirt that would become my uniform.
Having completed due diligence, Kate was all in. We had a few days to polish the website before Kate launched her campaign, and my confidence was bolstered by an exchange with the former State Labor Premier, Alan Carpenter. I knew Alan through both being keen ocean swimmers at the Port Beach Polar Bears. Alan was aware of Curtin Independent’s search for a candidate and asked me after a swim whether we had found a candidate. When I said Kate Chaney had agreed to stand, Alan replied,
“Kate is one of the best people I have ever met.”
Alan had worked with Kate on sustainability at Wesfarmers:
“The Curtin electorate will work it out. Kate is going to win”.
We announced Kate’s candidacy with a page one splash in The West Australian and Margo Kingston’s interview with Kate in The Saturday Paper.
Who the hell does what?
From a standing start in February we needed a lot to go right. This included needing Morrison to call a late election (which he duly did) and the emergence of a groundswell of volunteers.
But first we had to work out who the hell does what? This would not normally fall on a candidate to do. However, Kate was the best person for the job. She loves data, she loves analysing, and she loves doing.
After a few weeks a campaign structure was sorted. Sarah Silbert was Campaign Manager; Sarah Allchurch. Comms Boss; Julie Metcalf, Volunteers Manager; Louise Jones, Policy.
Justin Kennedy and I did various “stuff”, which later included phone banking and door knocking respectively. Add to this an Advisory Board, Volunteer Structure and Events Team. Then there were simply volunteers such as JoJo, Fee and Anne doing any and all tasks in campaign headquarters in Subiaco ensuring positive energy.
The Perry Lakes “Park Launch” on 6 February was our moment of truth. The community group was suddenly very real as 300 people showed up, donned an aqua shirt and applauded Kate’s stirring speech delivered old style on a park table under a canopy of trees. Palpable energy, hope for change!
Now, how to harness volunteer engagement? Julie Metcalf oversaw volunteers across the electorate with a structure that enabled leaflet drops throughout the electorate, hosting of local events and coordination of key activities. Volunteers grew from 200 to 400 to, by election day, 860.
An early advantage for the campaign was as first mover on yard signs (corflutes). We had hundreds of “Smiling Kates” to knock into lawns or tie onto gates and fences on private land before the election was called. We had at least three weeks of a free run before the sitting MPs’ corflutes were seen. We had to take advantage of this free kick, and our vollie network made sure we did, including Brian “the deliverer”, who dropped off yard signs off throughout the electorate.
A series of “politics in the park” and “politics in the pub” events built our volunteer support, and a Lake Monger “Countdown to Canberra” weeks was critical in having volunteers commit to a final phone banking or doorknocking push and shoring up members for the looming pre-poll and election day schedules.
A “Chaney Flashmob” developed, a group of highly engaged volunteers ready to step up into any activity. Waving yard signs, filling in for Covid dropouts.
Ultimately, an engaged community group with hundreds of volunteers proved an unstoppable force.
Running a comms/media department for an independent against the Liberal Party machine fell to Sarah Allchurch, a communications expert with no prior political campaigning experience. She navigated the various media platforms, balancing Kerry Stokes’ usually dominant West Australian with the independently owned local, Post newspaper with its own significant readership.
Sarah fostered working relationships and stayed calm and on-track. The campaign’s positive messaging did not get lost amid constant negative counter-narratives dictated by Liberal Party central.
Bike billboards with Kate signs were ridden around the electorate in stark contrast to the Liberal’s diesel guzzling trucks with mega a-frame signs in your face.
Sarah and Kate’s preparation for the three debates/forums ensured a polished performance at the Hollywood Learners Candidate Forum followed by an impressive and energised display in a one on one debate with Celia Hammond on Geoff Hutchinson’s ABC Drive programme. A host of volunteers sweating on every word.
The campaign attracted global media attention. What exactly was going on down under and out west? BBC World Newshour, Al Jazeera, The Economist and Time Magazine interviewed Kate.
Sarah eventually received help with social media when Lara Elsie admirably stepped up.
The Wise Elders
Fred Chaney and Liz Constable are high profile, respected small-l liberals in Curtin, and their roles or non-roles had the ability to shape the contest.
At the time Kate Chaney launched her campaign we knew her large hearted uncle Fred would be supportive but his precise role, if any, was unknown. Former State independent Liz Constable’s views were unknown.
Fred Chaney’s unqualified support was clear from the moment he stood on the bench in Perry Lakes at the park launch to give a stirring welcome to country and proclaimed that the two party system needed shaking up.
Sen Fred Chaney have a spirited Acknowledgement of Country and welcomed everyone from the top of a picnic table. So great to see how much energy he brought as he climbed up onto the hustings pic.twitter.com/u6yZNZGtzu— michaelsilbert (@michaelsilbert1) February 6, 2022
Fred joined the campaign’s Advisory Board, formed a formidable door knocking couple with his wife Angela, and after his letter to the editor in the Post authored pieces in The Age, and The Saturday Paper on how community independents like Kate could reinvigorate our democracy.
Liz Constable served for 22 years as an independent in the WA Parliament in an electorate within Curtin. After meeting Kate and understanding her motivations and policy platforms, Liz not only supported Kate but was a measured voice and member of the Advisory Board shaping the campaign’s direction.
The Fred and Liz dynamic played perfectly for Kate, as they gave voters ‘social proof’ for small-l liberals to vote for Kate.
Added to this, Julie Bishop remained neutral throughout the campaign rather than endorsing or campaigning for the sitting MP, Celia Hammond. Julie, the former deputy Liberal Party leader and foreign minister, was Curtin’s popular MP for 21 years before retiring at the 2019 election.
The day after Kate announced she was standing for Curtin, the West Australian published Julie’s view that Kate could win it.
You can read Part One: Launching Curtin Independent here
No Fibs coverage of Curtin
- Saturday Paper announcement interview with Kate Chaney by Margo Kingston
- “Beholden only to my electorate”, Kate Chaney’s pledge to launch her quest for #CurtinVotes
- Twitter’s launch report: “We are starting a really exciting journey together.”
- PODCAST: Kate Chaney says win or lose we’ve changed #CurtinVotes
- Inside the #CurtinVotes aqua bubble: Gareth William’s story
- SERIES – Taking the Liberal Party’s crown jewel #CurtinVotes – Part one: Launching Curtin Independent