Hypocrisy of Dave Sharma and Andrew Bragg

By November 14, 2021Australian Politics

They Vote For You is a website which tracks how parliamentarians vote on whatever issue you care to name1. As they say in their ‘About’ page, “Forget what politicians say. What truly matters is what they do. And what they do is vote, to write our laws which affect us all”2.

This website is a way to track how individual politicians vote on every issue. You can look up any politician by name or, using your own postcode, chase up your local representative and see how they vote on the issues that concern you. I have used this website to demonstrate that the concept of a ‘Liberal moderate’ as embodied by the seemingly urbane Trent Zimmerman is a myth. While Zimmerman portrays himself as a moderate and utters ‘moderate-sounding’ platitudes, his voting record argues otherwise. Nobody could accuse the current member for Hughes, former Liberal Party member and now Clive Palmer’s pet, the deranged climate change denier, antivaccination activist and ivermectin promoter, Craig Kelly, of being moderate, much less urbane. However, Craig Kelly and Trent Zimmerman have an almost identical voting record3. While I have used this site to uncover the hypocrisy of Zimmerman, you can just as easily use it to track how Anthony Albanese4, Tanya Plibersek5  or Joel Fitzgibbon6  vote. 

Now, two of the most vacuous members of the House of Representatives, Dave Sharma, member for Wentworth7, and Senator from New South Wales, Andrew Bragg8, have written to regulators including the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC) arguing that the site is biased and should be stripped of its charitable status. Bragg whined in a letter “Its primary purpose is to provide curated content and present information in a highly partial, polemical and partisan light,” and that its actions were incompatible with its duties as a charity not to promote or oppose candidates for political office9.

Matthew Landauer, co-founder and director of the OpenAustralia Foundation that runs They Vote For You, denied the site was partisan in any way, saying its purpose was to make sure people could reconcile politicians’ rhetoric with their votes. Landauer said. “We do our absolute best to make what’s visible on the site as [a] true and accurate reflection of the real votes and the voting intentions of those politicians.” He said the website was open about its methodology, and had previously fixed errors when MPs had found problems. Landauer invited any MPs who felt aggrieved to engage with the site but said none had done so for years. He also noted that the charity regulator had not been in touch either. Landauer added “It’s very easy for an MP to misrepresent reality because they say a certain thing but then they vote a completely different way”9.

Despite Sharma’s and Bragg’s protestations that They Vote For You is biased, their concerns in this regard do not seem to apply to the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) which is also classified as a charity. This is an organisation which is ultraconservative and has constantly denied climate change, something that could hardly be construed as being ‘beneficial to the general public’, one of the purposes a charity is supposed to have. Indeed, denying climate change is harmful to the public10.

It has also argued against plain packaging for tobacco products (it has been funded in part by the tobacco industry), and stridently argued against Aboriginal self-determination. The latter was ironically the reason that Rio Tinto abandoned the IPA11. In recent years, one of the major funders of the IPA has been Gina Rinehart12. Several IPA alumni have been in parliament and currently include Liberals Tim Wilson and James Paterson11. In addition, the IPA often indulge in political campaigning and advertising. The latest effort was an attempt to prevent the Nationals coming to an agreement with the Liberals on net zero emissions in their recent tiff13.

The IPA and the Liberal Party have almost been joined at the hip since the creation of both in the 1940s after the spectacular loss of the UAP-National coalition in the 1943 election, and the subsequent collapse of the UAP, respectively14. When Herald Sun hack Andrew Bolt was found to have breached Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act in 2011, the IPA was outraged and immediately launched a campaign to repeal the offending section. A full-page advertisement was taken out in their journal of choice, The Australian. It included the names of senior Liberals such as Jamie Briggs, Michaelia Cash, Mathias Cormann, Mitch Fifield, Nick Minchin and Andrew Robb14.

For Bragg and Sharma to whine against bias from They Vote For You and not from the IPA is extraordinary hypocrisy. What they are mostly concerned about is keeping the truth hidden. When you look at their voting record it demonstrates that the platitudes they utter in their campaigning are at best disingenuous, at worst, lies. That The Vote For You uncovers this is what Bragg and Sharma hate.

Sources

  1. https://theyvoteforyou.org.au
  2. https://theyvoteforyou.org.au/about
  3. https://blotreport.com/2021/08/15/trent-zimmerman-and-craig-kelly/
  4. https://theyvoteforyou.org.au/people/representatives/grayndler/anthony_albanese
  5. https://theyvoteforyou.org.au/people/representatives/sydney/tanya_plibersek
  6. https://theyvoteforyou.org.au/people/representatives/hunter/joel_fitzgibbon
  7. https://theyvoteforyou.org.au/people/representatives/wentworth/dave_sharma
  8. https://theyvoteforyou.org.au/people/senate/nsw/andrew_bragg
  9. https://www.theage.com.au/politics/federal/mps-call-for-partisan-political-transparency-site-to-lose-charity-status-20211108-p5971z.html
  10. https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/the-climate-denialist-ipa-and-its-public-interest-charity-status,13325
  11. https://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Institute_of_Public_Affairs
  12. https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/how-gina-rinehart-bought-the-ipa,11749
  13. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/nov/05/ipa-targets-key-coalition-seats-with-net-zero-facebook-ad-campaign-described-by-experts-as-fear-mongering
  14. https://theconversation.com/with-friends-like-these-just-how-close-are-the-liberal-party-and-ipa-60442

11 Comments

  • Arthur Baker says:

    The IPA, a charity. Have to say I hadn’t heard that before. If that’s a fair dinkum charity, my name’s Franklin D Roosevelt. Besides, they probably pinched their initialism from the International Phonetic Association, which was in existence more than half a century earlier and contributes a whole lot more to worldwide peace and understanding than some nutjob right-wing think-tank.

    • admin says:

      Arthur,
      Friends of ours are microbrewers and I was, among others, a test pilot for them. When they said they had brewed an IPA, I was alarmed and worried that it might turn me into an RWNJ. Fortunately, it was India Pale Ale, and was lovely.

      • Arthur Baker says:

        Ah yes, India Pale Ale, just another of my native country’s magnanimous gifts to the world. We shipped it to India, presumably to keep the people too pissed to complain about our brutal colonial occupation of their land. We were taught about the glorious British Empire, upon which the sun allegedly never set, in primary school. In some countries that sun has still not set, particularly those countries whose flags feature the Union Jack in their upper hoist and where the head of state is a 95-year-old lady who lives in a palace in London.

  • Jon says:

    Like many politicians, contemporary federal conservative politicians in particular, these sensitive darlings have an extreme dislike for transparency and accountability, along with pretty much any organisation or mechanism which exposes their hypocrisies. That’s why they opportunistically go after GetUP, They Vote For You, the ABC, the NSW ICAC etc and why they will never establish a federal anti-corruption without severely restricting its powers to investigate political and other public corruption. The silver lining is that by their public complaints these petals will have alerted many to the Vote website and data, although as usual the typical complacent, compliant/complicit Australian voter won’t give a fig either way.

    I mentioned in another Blot comment about the slow corruption of honesty and integrity in Australian politics and even government departments in recent decades. There was yet another stark example of this last week with the revelation that NSW Transport had sacked someone for assisting police with murder enquiries. He had simply responded to a public call for information which might help track the murderer down, suggesting that NSW Transport may have useful information. I’ll let you read the SMH article for details but apart from the obvious lack of integrity involved in the decision to sack him, the appalling actions of that department should be a concern for everyone involved in not just the administration of justice but also in the fundamental honesty and ethics of public organisations.
    https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/nsw-transport-failed-to-provide-information-to-police-for-murder-investigation-20211112-p598jg.html

    Simon Longstaff’s words continue to be proven right (if you haven’t read it I recommend reading the full piece):
    https://www.afr.com/politics/federal/car-park-rorts-rot-the-body-politic-20210707-p587r7
    “Whether deliberate, or not, our governments are grinding us down – corrupting the democratic spirit of the nation. The process has a name – the “normalisation of deviance” – by which the unthinkable becomes practically inevitable. It’s just that nobody notices the corruption spread – like gangrene slowly putrefying the body politic, one cell at a time.”

    • admin says:

      Jon,
      I hadn’t heard the phrase ‘normalisation of deviance’ before, but it explains perfectly what is happening. Journalists are complicit in it too.

    • Jon says:

      And right on cue Andrew Bragg has dodged around normal Senate procedures to establish a government dominated Senate enquiry into the ABC, even as that organisation is in the middle of its own independent enquiry into aspects of its news and investigative reporting which brought angst in some quarters. Didn’t Bragg talk to his hypocritical mate Tim Wilson? A far better ploy would be to obtain a list of anti-ABC people (preferably without their knowledge or consent), email them, and conduct obviously biased public enquiries at taxpayers expense across the nation. If he’s not up for that Bragg might also consider supplying suggested answers to people he’s lined up to confirm that his, er, concerns aren’t just a manifestation of his ideology and the need to provide Morrison with yet another diversion.

      The funniest thing about this was Morrison’s comment: “Yes, they have their independence and no one’s questioning that, BUT THEY’RE NOT ABOVE THE SCRUTINY FOR HOW THEY CONDUCT THEMSELVES USING TAXPAYERS’ MONEY.” Morrison’s right for once. He’s reserved the privilege of unaccountability and protection from independent scrutiny for himself and his cabinet.

  • Jon says:

    The IPA – a nursery for neocons hoping to get their snouts in the public trough, where reason and honesty in argument are substituted with ideology and brainwashing, and social responsibility and empathy are anathema. Blot’s earlier exposure of Wilson’s hypocrisy was an eye opener, although hardly unexpected given his IPA history.

    Only last night I was reading an old climate change blog which tore apart comments James Paterson had written at the IPA about Flannery’s comments on dry dams etc. A complete demolition of both Paterson – whose response was “you called me a denier so I won’t have anything further to say” (obviously knew he was out of his depth intellectually and wrt climate change knowledge), and Bolt – who didn’t respond despite the author’s invitation (to both).
    https://indifferencegivesyouafright.wordpress.com/2012/08/06/tim-flannery-did-not-say-australias-dams-would-never-fill-again/

    Flannery as a sometime spokesperson for climate change (something he is not expert in) and even in his role as the teacher in Two Men In a Tinnie has made many comments which are contestable, particularly when taken out of context – as is the wont of deniers and certain species of neocons. He should have known better. That said, to lie (by omission), deliberately mislead the ignorant and gullible, and not modify their comments when given the opportunity is reprehensible and reflects VERY poorly on Paterson and Bolt.

  • Jon says:

    Yet another case of the corruption of integrity, fairness and ethics in public offices.
    https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/mother-and-daughter-jailed-for-importing-tea-the-abf-wrongly-identified-as-drugs-20211116-p599du.html
    “They are now suing for costs, which the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions has refused to pay” – despite the monumental ABF fcuk up which kept two innocent women in jail for 4 months. Good job ABF and Commonwealth DPP (Director is currently Ms Sarah McNaughton SC).

    To show just how vacuous mission statements etc often are, here’s part of theirs:
    https://www.cdpp.gov.au/about-us
    “Our Aims
    We will provide an effective and efficient independent prosecution service that contributes to a fair, safe and just Australia where Commonwealth laws are respected, offenders are brought to justice and potential offenders are deterred.

    We will:
    -be fair, consistent and professional in everything we do;
    -recognise, value and develop the knowledge, skills and commitment of our people;
    -work with our partner agencies to assist them in advancing their goals and priorities in accordance with the Prosecution Policy of the Commonwealth;
    -treat victims of crime with courtesy, dignity and respect;
    -provide information to the public about Commonwealth criminal law and prosecutions.”

    You couldn’t make this stuff up.

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