Victoria’s opposition leader, Matthew Guy, and his former chief of staff have, Mitch Catlin have been the subject of an investigation by the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) over allegations that they had tried to circumvent the state’s political donation laws1. Guy has repeatedly said he and the Liberal party have fully cooperated with the electoral commission and denied exploiting a legal loophole to stymie the probe until after the state election2. However, in a statement, the electoral commission said: “Despite public statements to the contrary, the VEC has not received full cooperation from those connected to its investigation. While the VEC is not in a position to allege wrongdoing based on the allegations it has sought to investigate, the possibility of offences … have also not been able to be discounted”. As a consequence of this, the VEC has referred its investigation into Guy and Catlin to the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) for further investigation1.
Clearly seeing an opportunity, the Liberal Party has demanded that the VEC stop interfering in the state election after the commission directly contradicted Guy’s claims that he had fully complied with the investigation. What is particularly chilling is the statement by the state director Sam McQuestin, who said “It is the party’s view that these actions constitute a serious, deliberate and unprecedented interference in the Victorian state election” and that he was “deeply concerned that, through its actions, the VEC has compromised its own independence and damaged public trust in the electoral process”3. If, as seems likely, the Liberal Party do not win government, and now that McQuestin has obviously given them the opening, how long will it be before some of the Liberal Party’s many less rational members start shouting the Trumpesque ‘stop the steal’ after the election and blame the VEC?
Like the Liberal Party, cookers are giving themselves an opening for a ‘stop the steal’ type of whine if they do not win the seat of Mulgrave which is currently held by Victorian premier Daniel Andrews. They put out a bogus ‘shock exit poll’. It refers to prepoll votes of supporters of appropriately named Independent cooker, Ian Cook, which are said to be “outvoting Dan Andrews”4. The mangled English indicates that this was prepared by cookers themselves.
In addition to the shameful behaviour of politicians and their gofers, the Murdoch media have been desperately trying to avoid a Liberal Party wipeout as happened in the most recent Western Australian (WA) state election, where the Liberal Party was left with only 2 members in the 59 member lower house5. Murdoch and the Liberals are fearful of this happening in Victoria because similar factors are at work. In Western Australia, the Liberal Party had largely been taken over by religious nutters6, and the Morrison government joined forces with Clive Palmer in a legal action against the shutdown of the WA border by the WA state government7. While it was generally understood that then Prime Minister Scott Morrison was a religious nutter worthy of distrust, joining with Palmer amplified that distrust and this rubbed off onto the state branch, leading to their wipeout.
In Victoria, the Liberal Party also has been largely taken over by religious nutters8,9, The reader may say, ‘but Matthew Guy has exiled Pentecostal Renee Heath from the party room should she be elected’. I suggest that she was not exiled because she was a religious nutter (the Party would have known that with their vetting process), it was because her views became publicly known. Indeed, at least nine senior Liberal Party members wrote to Guy and other party leaders weeks ago (before the cutoff for disendorsement) to sound the alarm about the political risks of candidate Heath’s controversial religious views, but were dismissed, or received no response10.
In addition to the religious nutjobbery, all the way through the pandemic, when Victoria went into lockdown, the Coalition federal government hammered the Victorian government constantly. This, as a way of trying to rehabilitate their state counterparts, was unconscionable. Former Victorian Labor premier Steve Bracks asked what had happened to Morrison’s earlier “we are all melburnians now when it comes to the challenges we face”, when Morrison said of Andrews’ detailed plan that it was “hard and crushing news for the people of Victoria”. This was especially galling when Victoria’s response was based on the agreed suppression strategy of the National Cabinet which Morrison chaired. Even worse was Morrison saying the plan was “a Victorian government plan”, implying it had nothing to do with the National Cabinet11. The popularity of these actions were manifest in the federal election when several relatively safe Liberal seats were lost to independents and to the Labor Party12.
In an incident which engenders cries of ‘where do they get these idiots?’, the Liberal Party’s candidate for Narre Warren North, Timothy Dragan, says Australia should not recognise First Nations people because “we won this land fair and square”, that waste from nuclear energy should be dumped in Alice Springs, and that he would vote to ban abortion because women are using it as a form of contraception (yes, he actually said that)13. Like many religious nutters, he believes that personhood starts at conception. He also spoke out against climate change, saying “the earth has never been greener” and that he would vote against emission reductions using the old denialist trope ‘carbon dioxide is a plant food’14. In addition, Dragan also called senior Liberal MP Brad Battin, in whose seat he lives, a “prick” and said he didn’t vote for him. Presumably after receiving a boot up the arse from the party hierarchy, Dragan said he “unreservedly apologise[s] for my insensitive and inappropriate language”. He said his comments did not reflect the views or policy positions of the party. Maybe not, but it shows you what he thinks. Matthew Guy tried to minimise the appalling comments by Dragan, simply calling them “disrespectful” and stated he wasn’t the only one to make “silly comments”15. Bigotry, science denial, misogyny are only considered silly comments because they seem to be endemic in the Liberal Party.
What is happening in Victoria is the importation of the Murdoch-Fox methodology of repeating lies, slurs and innuendo, repeatedly and without any compunction. Of course, this was around to some degree during the first couple of years of the Covid-19 pandemic when Victoria went into lockdowns. At the time there was puerile and pathetic whining from the Victorian Liberal opposition and Murdoch’s Herald-Sun ‘newspaper’ with epithets of ‘Dictator Dan’, ‘Chairman Dan’ being thrown around constantly11. Cookers were very much in evidence as they demonstrated seemingly incessantly, with a nod and a wink from fellow conspiracy theorist, the then PM, Morrison16. This didn’t happen in other states at anything like the level it happened in Victoria despite other states going into just as severe lockdowns. You didn’t see such puerile carping from the Labor opposition in states which have Liberal governments, perhaps because, unlike the Liberal opposition in Victoria, they have not been taken over by religious nutters11, and do not have the megaphone of the Murdoch media.
With the approach of the Victorian state election, this appalling behaviour has gone into overdrive17. There have been bogus stories put about by the Murdoch media about an accident from 10 years ago in which a cyclist ran into Andrews’ car while his wife was driving. Then there was doubt cast upon Andrews falling down some steps and breaking his back such that he ended up in hospital. The standard Murdoch playbook is to firstly, demonise the Labor leader and deify the Liberal opponent; secondly, exaggerate any of Labor’s mistakes while downplaying or ignoring those of the Coalition; thirdly, dismiss Labor promises as too expensive and reckless but praise the spending initiatives and innovation of the Coalition; fourthly, dismiss Greens or other environmental parties as economy destroyers; fifthly, claim that the state is falling apart and use some dog-whistles to create panic about crime by black or brown people18.
The ramifications of this appalling behaviour of the Murdoch media and their Coalition clients have been manifest recently. Catherine Cumming, who is running for the Angry Victorians party of cookers at next Saturday’s state election, said she would like to turn Andrews into “red mist”. She said. “In the army, we would call it pink mist, but I want him into red mist. Give anyone here in the army a job to blow someone up, and they will.” Pink mist is a military term used to describe the blood that comes out of a sniper’s target when they are hit. She later stated she did not intend to “infer [sic] any physical harm” to Andrews19. Sure she didn’t.
As you would expect the Liberal Party does not see a problem with this at all. They are desperately trying to shift the blame for this behaviour from Murdoch and the cookers in the Liberal and other parties to anyone else. As an example, former Victorian Liberal Party president Michael Kroger, disgustingly said that Daniel Andrews has incited a certain ‘hatred’ towards himself because of his behaviour as Premier20. This was after Andrews has received several death threats. People like Kroger are beneath contempt.
Murdoch’s behaviour as well as that of the Liberal Party bring to mind a quote by US commentator David Frum: “If conservatives become convinced that they cannot win democratically, they will not abandon conservatism. They will reject democracy.”21
This is what is happening in Australia, just as it has in the US. Murdoch has imported the Fox News method of lies, innuendo, bigotry and dog-whistling into Australia to desperately try to prop up the religious nutters, bigots and cookers of the Liberal Party so that the rich can get richer, and the poor can get screwed, as always.