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Who would select a candidate like Katherine Deves?

Paul Bongiorno on the Katherine Deves controversy and how it looks to the independents who could be shaping up as kingmakers.
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With a crucial deadline now passed, Liberal candidate Katherine Deves will almost certainly remain the Coalition’s pick for the seat of Warringah. 

That’s despite her transphobic comments, and the concern expressed about them from senior Liberal figures.

Today, columnist for The Saturday Paper Paul Bongiorno on the Katherine Deves controversy and how it looks to the independents who could be shaping up as kingmakers.

 

Guest: Columnist for The Saturday Paper, Paul Bongiorno.

 
Read Transcript

[Theme Music Starts]

RUBY:
From Schwartz Media I’m Ruby Jones this is 7am

With a crucial deadline now passed, Liberal candidate Katherine Deves will almost certainly remain the Coalition’s pick for the seat of Warringah. 

That’s despite her transphobic comments, and the concern expressed about them from senior Liberal figures.

Today, columnist for The Saturday Paper Paul Bongiorno, on the Katherine Deves controversy and how it looks to the independents who could be shaping up as kingmakers.

It’s Friday April 22.

[Theme Music Ends]

RUBY:
Paul, over the past few weeks, there is one candidate who we've heard about a lot, that's Catherine Davies, and the reason that we've been hearing about her is because of transphobic comments that she's made in the past. And as we speak now, she's still the liberal candidate for Warringah. So is she going to make it all the way to Election Day?

PAUL:
Well, Ruby, yesterday was the deadline for registration of candidates, the last chance for the Liberal Party to endorse someone other than Katherine Deves for the seat of Warringah, and she remains the candidate. Even though earlier this week she wasn't eager to face voters; she'd virtually gone into hiding. On Tuesday night, she was a late cancellation for a ‘meet the candidates’ event at the Manly Yacht Club. But keeping a low profile hasn't stemmed the tide of stories about her views and past comments there.

Archival Tape -- Patricia Karvelas (ABC):
“There are I cannot tell you how many countless now deleted social media posts where she says the most inflammatory things about trans people…”

PAUL:
He had more emerged on Thursday morning this time that she had tweeted hateful, more hateful comments about the LGBT community, including criticism of the first openly gay man to run for Democratic nomination for US president. Pete Buttigieg over his surrogate born children 

Archival Tape -- Patricia Karvelas (ABC):
“Her main issue that she's been campaigning on is these issues. She's incredibly passionate about them, but says many ill informed, inaccurate things…”

PAUL:
Well, this comes on top of a slew of anti-trans comments, which she made in now-deleted social media post and has since apologised for. But how sincerely is increasingly an open question to my mind.

RUBY:
Right ok, well, let's talk about how Scott Morrison is dealing with this, Paul, because he's continued to support Deves as all of the things that she's said have become public…

PAUL:
Well, all of it seemed fine by the PM. Of course, she was his pick. But what's clear is he personally chose a candidate who's too afraid to campaign and spends a lot of time avoiding the media. And in recent days, she's complained to supporters she was withstanding savage attacks. She's not a strong prospect anyway, and clearly not a good campaigner. And it's obvious she wasn't chosen by Morrison because she could win the electorate for the Liberals. More likely, she was chosen because her views make her a useful pawn in his culture wars.

RUBY:
Mm.

PAUL:
Morrison and Deves are employing disgraceful tactics straight out of the American Republican Party's playbook. They create false images of trans women endangering girls in sporting contests and claim Deves is being cancelled for her views. The Australian reports a senior government source - I’d say suspiciously so senior it's the prime minister himself - saying many voters would agree with Morrison on the issue. The source said it's a legitimate topic of conversation that would have heads nodding around the kitchen table. Well, this notion is completely rejected by Deves’ opponent in Warringah, Zali Steggall. The former Olympian says there's already legislation in place dealing with these issues.

Archival Tape -- Zali Steggall:
“And let's be really clear about this debate, right? It's a non-issue. We already have legislation in place to deal with this, and all sporting bodies have in fact said this is an issue-…the law and the legislation works…”

PAUL:
She says we're talking about a tiny but at risk minority anyway. 

RUBY:
But Morrison's support of Deves, it hasn't gone down well with everyone in the Liberal Party has it, Paul, because we've seen some calls for her to be disendorsed this week. 

PAUL:
Ruby, it's fracturing along factional lines. 

Archival Tape -- Matt Kean:
“She compared transgender people being removed from their homes to the Stolen Generation, one of the darkest chapters in Australian history. And she also said that half of all male trans people are sex offenders. I mean, that's just outright bigotry.”

PAUL:
Matt Kean is the New South Wales treasurer and the dominant moderate faction leader. He made an extraordinary intervention in the middle of a federal campaign when he said Deves had no place in the Liberal Party, and called for her disendorsement. 

Archival Tape -- Matt Kean:
“My view is that this person should be disendorsed because I do not believe she's fit for office. I do not believe that she is aligned with the values of the Liberal Party…”

PAUL:
You know, he was really laying down markers for where he and the moderates part company with Scott Morrison. 

Archival Tape -- Matt Kean:
We live in a cosmopolitan, multicultural society. Where people are free to be themselves, and that's a fundamental tenet of liberalism… 

PAUL:
But Morrison has support from other warriors from the right, including Tony Abbott and John Howard. And there were leaked private texts to the Australian to prove the prime minister had the support of New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet, another conservative in the New South Wales party.

Archival Tape -- Peter Stefanovic (Sky News):
“Mr Perrotet sent the private texts to the prime minister over the weekend to affirm his government's support on the issue of women competing against women in sport…” 

PAUL:
But fuelling this outbreak of hostilities are fears the whole imbroglio - the mess - will lose votes for the party in the socially progressive seats like North Sydney and Wentworth under real threat from teal independents.

RUBY:
So tensions between factions of the Liberal Party are now playing out in public view over this issue poll. But what about Labor? Where is Albanese and the Labor Party on this, Paul? 

PAUL:
Ruby, Albanese, like Steggall, says the issue is covered by the Sex Discrimination Act.

Archival Tape -- Journalist:
“Mr Albanese, can I ask you, what is your view on transgender participation in sports?”

Archival Tape -- Anthony Albanese:
“That is covered by the Sex Discrimination Act-...”

Archival Tape -- Journalist:
“What's your personal opinion?”

Archival Tape -- Anthony Albanese:
“That girls should be able to play sport against girls, and boys should be able to play sport against boys…”

PAUL:
Albanese has so far avoided being sucked into what is an obvious attempt to wedge him.

The Labor leader, of course, now needs to tread very carefully after polling results this week showed his start to the campaign was not particularly well-received. 

Archival Tape -- News Presenter 1:
“Quite the stuff up for Anthony Albanese, wasn't it to kick off the campaign?”

Archival Tape -- News Presenter 2:
“Yeah, not a good start on the first full day of the campaign, is it?” 

Archival Tape -- News Reporter:
“The unforced errors are adding up, and the stark message is recorded in polling conducted last week by the Sydney Morning Herald and Age Resolve political monitor…”

PAUL:
Albanese has plummeted in all the polls. In Newspoll, he dropped 11 points to be 14 in the negative, compared to Morrison's minus nine. Labor has seen its two party preferred lead cut dramatically in the four opinion polls published this week. The average has dropped from an eight point margin to 5.6.

With the race tightening, it raises the prospect neither major party may be able to govern in their own right. 

RUBY:
We'll be back in a moment.

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RUBY:
Paul, we're talking about the narrowing race as we get closer to the election and the prospect of neither party being able to form government in their own right. But why is that? Why does a tight race now mean that we could end up with a minority government or a hung parliament? 

PAUL:
Well, tellingly, the primary vote of both major parties is in the mid-thirties, which is also prompting this speculation they could be struggling to achieve a majority in their own right. Consoling the Labor Party, though, after a bad first week, is most of its lost primary support went to the Greens or other  the minor parties. One explanation to me, according to a Labor source, is it could mean that voters are sure of one thing: they don't want a return of the Morrison government.

And, of course, climate and integrity focussed independents are causing grief in at least six hitherto safe Liberal seats. Scott Morrison, in this scenario, has much more to fear from the prospect of a hung parliament than does Anthony Albanese. And that's because he's so much further away from the agendas being run by those independents who have a real chance of being elected and could well be kingmakers in a hung parliament.

RUBY:
So the Coalition aren't just running against the Labor Party, as you say, they have to contend with these challenges that we're seeing from independents in liberal seats. So how are they fighting on that front?

PAUL:
Well, on Tuesday, Morrison warned that a vote for the so-called ‘teal independents’ like Zoe Daniel in Goldstein, or Monique Ryan in Kooyong, or Dr. Sophie Scamps in McCullough, was a vote for uncertainty and instability. 

Archival Tape -- Scott Morrison:
“You can vote for the stability and certainty that we've been able to provide. You can vote for the chaos and stability of independence…”

PAUL:
The prime minister said. It was the Forrest Gump principle. 

Archival Tape -- Scott Morrison:
“It's the Forrest Gump principle. You just never know what you're going to get.” 

PAUL:
Except he knows what he's going to get. There'll be a demand for an anti-corruption commission with teeth and a need to take real action on climate change. And that would entail a curb on the favoured treatment fossil fuels have got under his coalition government.

Independent Allegra Spender, running in Wentworth, is not alone, calling for a 60 percent cut in emissions by 2030. In a Minority Government scenario, Scott Morrison would have to bridge the chasm between his traditional coalition partners - the coal-champion nationals who have largely driven the climate wars of the past decade - or these more committed green independents. It looks an impossible task.

RUBY:
Right, but would Anthony Albanese necessarily fare any better, Paul, if he was forced to negotiate a minority government?

PAUL:
Albanese, Ruby, like Morrison, has ruled out doing deals with the crossbench, but just exactly what that means is hard to fathom. If it came to forming a minority government, both leaders would need assurances on confidence and probably supply.

Archival Tape -- Neil Breen (4BC):
“You're gonna probably have to do a deal with independents if you want government, eight seats you need, those coal mines are they yes or no? Because under the deal with the independents, they won't cop it.” 

Archival Tape -- Anthony Albanese:
“There will be no deal with the independents and crossbenchers. I'm seeking to form a…”

Archival Tape -- Neil Breen (4BC):
“No you're seeking, but eight seats....” 

Archival Tape -- Anthony Albanese:
“....government in my, in my own right. I'm the only person running for Prime Minister who can form government in their own right…”

PAUL:
Earlier, Albanese defined his position as not entering into a formal agreement with the Greens or the independents. But Warringah independent Zali Steggall says the Labor leader, or Morrison for that matter, shouldn't expect her to give a blanket agreement on supply. If that supply means things like subsidies for gas projects or new coal mines. Steggall, I have to tell you, is also lukewarm at best on Albanese. She says he's had three years to tell us what he's about, and he hasn't impressed her very much.

But one thing is clear what Albanese has going for him is that he's not Scott Morrison.

Archival Tape -- Zali Steggall:
“This is a politicised weaponization of a side issue at a time where we have major, major whole of society issues, at a time when we need to focus on cost of living, to climate integrity, and yet here we are talking about something that is so…such a non-issue.” 

PAUL:
Her assessment of Morrison's character goes back to his handling of the Deves issue. 

Archival Tape -- Zali Steggall:
“He is seeking to divide and vilify our trans children…”

PAUL:
For Steggall, the idea of picking an anti-trans extremist like Deves to run for parliament showed the worst of politics.

Archival Tape -- Zali Steggall:
“I think this is a dead cat strategy where, you know, you throw a bit of a controversial issue in the middle and that's what takes up the attention, rather than focusing on the lack of policies…”

PAUL:
It explains why there are so many independents capturing the enthusiasm of our communities.

RUBY:
Thanks, Paul. And next week we start ‘The Vote’ from 7am our special election coverage. I know that you're going to be involved, so I'll speak to you then!

PAUL:
Oh, looking forward to it, Ruby. Bye.

[Advertisement]

RUBY:
Also in the news today,

 

Reconciliation Australia has released a list of election demands calling on the next government to constitutionally enshrine a Voice to Parliament.

 

The foundation also called for funding to support a formal truth telling process and for the government to appoint a national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children’s commissioner to help reduce the number of children in out of home care.

 

**

 

And the International Monetary Fund has warned that the war in Ukraine and surging inflation are "clear and present dangers" to the global economic recovery from the COVID19 pandemic.

 

The IMF has slashed its global forecasts and warned that rising prices for food and energy could trigger social unrest particularly in poorer countries.

 

**

 

7am is a daily show from The Monthly and The Saturday Paper. It’s produced by Elle Marsh, Kara Jensen-Mackinnon, Anu Hasbold and Alex Gow.

 

Our senior producer is Ruby Schwartz and our technical producer is Atticus Bastow.

 

Brian Campeau mixes the show. Our editor is Scott Mitchell. Erik Jensen is our editor-in-chief. 

 

Our theme music is by Ned Beckley and Josh Hogan of Envelope Audio. And original music in this week's episodes was composed by Alex Gow.

I’m Ruby Jones, this is 7am. See you next week.

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