Libs Bungle Claim of Teal “Party Machine”

Despite Labor winning a lower-house majority in the federal election in May, socially progressive independents now form a second barrier to the LNP winning back majority government. As you’d expect, this has made them a target for LNP attacks.

The most sustained has been the claim that the so-called “teals” are in effect a fourth major party. LNP figures have repeatedly implied they are a front for Simon Holmes a Court, who ABC has dubbed a “billionaire activist”.

Then last month, the website of Dr Monique Ryan went offline along with that of Sophie Torney and Melissa Lowe, both independent candidates in the upcoming Victorian state election. In response, a Liberal mail-out claimed it “unambiguously reveal[ed] a party machine at work”, funded by Holmes a Court and “a cabal of interstate donors”.

In actual fact, all three “teals” run their websites through the platform Nation Builder. This is a subscription website provider for running campaigns that, in its own words, “powers nonprofits, movements, and campaigns, as they build the future”.

Are the Teals a Political Bloc?

There are of course plenty of similarities between the teal candidates. Ever since Maxine McKew toppled John Howard in Bennelong in 2007, the formula has been to run socially progressive professional women candidates in otherwise conservative seats.

Given the teals’ dramatic success, it is no surprise that new candidates are following the formula, even in their Twitter handles: @Mon4Kooyong, @Nomi4Caulfield, @Kate4Mornington, etc. etc.

On the other hand, the socially-progressive-but-economically-conservative tag paints the candidates with too broad a brush. When Labor’s industrial relations bill passed the lower house last week, it was supported by Melbourne’s Monique Ryan and Zoe Daniel, but opposed by Sydney’s Allegra Spender, Zali Steggall and Sophie Scamps and Perth’s Kate Chaney.

Labor is also seeking to legislate campaign spending caps and increase transparency around political donations. Responses from the independent candidates have been mixed.

Conservatives, then, are quite wrong to categorise the teals as a progressive “party machine”. On the other hand, progressives are wrong to celebrate teals as necessarily an emerging progressive bloc. Indeed, once the Peter Dutton leadership era expires, presumably after the 2025 election, some teal candidates may not be so very far from the LNP.

Follow Christian on Twitter for more news updates.

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