I USED TO think Liberals who claimed outside political forces took Indi from hard right enforcer Sophie Mirabella were a bunch of delusional cranks.
Watching essentially the same scare campaign run nationally against many ‘Voices’ campaigns, rather than just locally, it’s become obvious it’s a must have narrative for both Coalition parties.
Climate action, integrity in politics and gender equality were core components of, McGowan’s breakthrough 2013 community campaign.
On that election night, around the same time the soon to be new Member for Indi, Cathy McGowan, was handed a bunch of flowers by the future member for Indi, Helen Haines, Sophie Mirabella was across town making a speech about a Labor, Greens and GetUp conspiracy that ‘pulled the wool over Indi’s eyes’.
During the campaign Liberals insisted V4I was a political party in disguise.
The Liberals are still claiming there’s a Labor, Greens and GetUp conspiracy but Climate 200 is now the political party and Simon Holmes à Court it’s leader.
The growth of the ‘Voices’ movement has been bubbling away since the first Indi Shares event in 2014. The Indi community has been sharing ever since and there was a substantial uptick in activity by key people after the 2019 election.
Climate 200 (C200) was formed in 2019 as a funding vehicle for the growing number of climate action independent campaigns contesting the election – they also ran hard on integrity in politics and gender equality.
At that election, the ‘Warringah tribes’ that’d been working over election cycles to defeat former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott had become a unified political force after, Louise Hislop founded Voices of Warringah.
Zali Steggall subsequently won the seat and in Indi, Helen Haines made history by keeping the seat independent after Cathy McGowan retired.
Louise Hislop had previously attended an Indi event and in the period between the 2016 and 2019 elections, Denis Ginnivan and Phil Haines were invited by the Warringah community to speak about local democracy.
Same but different
In the wealthy Sydney electorate of Wentworth, energy discussion seems dominated by electric cars and the lack of infrastructure to support them, also strata apartment living limiting access to solar energy.
Rural Australia knows that in an age of climate change induced fires, floods and other extreme weather events, reliable locally produced energy can be the difference between life and death.
In the river districts of Mallee and Nicholls, climate debate focuses on water – it’s wrapped up in climate justice issues and concerns about corruption – communities watch money for no water fly off to the Cayman Islands as the economies of their small towns die.
In Malcolm Fraser’s former seat, Voices of Wannon have endorsed, Alex Dyson who also ran as an independent at the 2019 election.
Wannon is one of the poorest electorates in the country and like Indi in 2013, locals of all ages are seeking to make the seat marginal.
I don’t get the impression in Goldstein or Kooyong that safe seat status has led to a severe lack of Commonwealth services and infrastructure investment.
I’ve heard local government officials, business people and voters in Wannon talk about a local housing crisis exacerbated by people fleeing Covid in Melbourne.
Wannon’s home to arguably the most spectacular coastline in Australia and much of the electorate has comparatively quick access to Melbourne – the great Covid influx I’ve seen in Indi must be a fraction of what the South West Victorian electorate’s experienced.
Candidates endorsed by ‘Voices’ groups take their agenda from the reports produced by local kitchen table conversations – the community.
In Nicholls, where the local ‘Voices’ group decided very early not to endorse any candidate, Rob Priestly is running a very strong community campaign, informed by the Voices of Nicholls process and other groups in the community.
The three major issues of climate action, integrity and gender equality shared by many of the community independents have different points of focus informed by local experiences and conditions.
I’ve read a number of kitchen table reports produced by Voices groups – they tend to share much more than just those three issues and again, there’s local nuance.
Vastly different communities with political agency coming to similar positions on critical national issues impacting all Australians is surprising?
Standing out the front in this campaign, Holmes à Court has given the Coalition something their ‘outside forces’ conspiracy theory lacked until now – a face.
Hanabeth Luke’s Page campaign was quite literally washed away in the climate floods – the small amount of C200 funding probably kept her campaign afloat.
Page is a strong Nationals seat and the C200 funding creates complexity – the cashed up outsider narrative gets traction in rural communities.
The hypocrisy of The Nationals who’ve abandoned farmers and rural communities for their big city corporate fossil donors, right?
But, it’s about perception not truth and some voters are perhaps not ready to accept they’re being taken for a ride – the Coalition are banking on it.
Suzie Holt in Groom hasn’t received C200 funding – on the ground the Liberal National Party campaign is lying to voters telling them she’s funded by C200.
With some notable exceptions, most media coverage of the ‘Voices’ movement has been poor – lacking depth and failing to acknowledge the grassroots nature of the movement, media tends to reinforce the Coalition’s false narrative of all the same and a front for others.
The race was almost over in 2013 by the time the Canberra Press Gallery realised there was a genuine challenge to Mirabella and Indi was the hot seat.
In a general sense, media treated the 2019 Warringah win by, Steggall as a bolt from the blue after the community had been rising over many electoral cycles.
Newsreaders and journalists referring to community independents as C200 candidates is understandable given, Holmes à Court’s high visibility – but it is wrong.
There’s plenty of Independents Day campaigns without C200 funding – it wasn’t on offer to all and not all wanted it – C200 is supplementing local funding efforts of some campaigns.
Local political agency
Indi created the Beechworth Principles, moved them into the political sphere with a petition to Parliament which, Haines then carried forward in her Australian Federal Integrity Commission Bill 2020 – Indi, the community, won broad support outside and inside of Parliament with only the Coalition blocking debate.
“Beechworth’s Trudi Ryan is leading an Indi-wide petition calling on the Parliament of Australia to establish a federal integrity commission that upholds The Beechworth Principles”Haines
Similarly, the Warringah community and Steggall did the work and created the Climate Change (National Framework for Adaptation and Mitigation) Bill 2020.
Clearly the communities of Indi and Warringah now control their own politics in Canberra.
Bernard Keane’s Twitter comment about Ted Baillieu’s opinion piece, which is soaking in male privilege, misses the bigger picture.
The Coalition’s trying to create the illusion community independents are proxies for the agenda of outside others – Holmes à Court slipped neatly into that role when he stepped out in front.
If the Liberal and National parties concede independents represent a community political consensus and agenda, it’d be an admission their parties are irrelevant in those electorates – participatory democracy would spread like wildfire through their heartlands.