ONE thing which everybody on the non-Labor side can agree with Scott Morrison about is that the Voices For movement is a total scam. In Queensland on Wednesday, the Prime Minister dismissed it as “the voices of Labor.” The odd thing about wealthy climateer Simon Holmes a Court’s election stalking horse is that it isn’t striking others as odd. Woke, shallow and cynical, yes – these features are acknowledged – but the oddness, not so much. The gatekeepers of mockery are eager for seats like Wentworth, North Sydney and Mackellar to be snatched from the Liberals. They’re willing to overlook Holmes a Court’s privilege and weird star turn as the Auric Goldfinger of politics – an all-women Flying Circus harrying all before them on his behalf.
If the exploitation of fashionable gender panic isn’t cynical enough, the brown paper Louis Vuitton bags of cash being given to potential MPs in the name of the Climate 200 agenda indubitably is. In any other campaign, the bankrolling of fake independents on this scale – eight wannabes are being funded so far – would be condemned as unconscionable. These aren’t quirky triers with a bullhorn and a boot full of yard signs.
For Scott Morrison, the most optimistic possibility is that the brazenness of this velvet thuggery will backfire and work to his advantage. Slammed for giving in to Net Zero extremists by what the media calls the ‘right wing’ of his own party, the PM has been trying to re-badge himself as sensible man in the middle. If Mr Holmes a Court’s expensive and la-di-da ‘voices’ are loud enough in denouncing the stinginess of the government’s emissions plan, they might actually reinforce that makeover and bring base believers back to the fold. Mr Morrison’s sell-out makes him an undeserving beneficiary of a fluke but another election day miracle originating in the irrationality of his enemies cannot be ruled out. How good is Simon?
The conventional thinking about big money in rich electorates is that well-heeled burghers are less likely than average Joes to raise their eyebrows at the amounts being spent to secure their votes. If $20 million overall will be spent on Voices For ‘independents’ (reportedly, it will), if retailer Naomi Milgrom kicks in $500,000 and Nick Fairfax a further $100,000 (as they have), it only affirms the hyphenated set’s view of themselves as important and socially a cut above.
But even if I could afford to, I’m not buying that. Just as there are ambitious, religiously-motivated and conservative voters in poor electorates who are indifferent to welfare pledges, there are voters in privileged ones who will not be moved by self-righteous soliciting. Some of them may also ask if getting Scott Morrison isn’t a vulgar sort of philanthropy to be practicing in the midst of economic crisis. Twenty million dollars would buy a lot of opportunities for African girls. Were the VF ladies given proper journalistic scrutiny on this – and every other topic on which, if successful, they will be required to vote in Parliament – gaffes would mount up even faster than money. That’s why Mr Holmes a Court prefers women: he knows they won’t be treated equally.