It seems that dirty tricks in this election campaign are not limited to wording up the media about Tim Mathieson’s speeding tickets and leaking carefully-worded stories about Cabinet discussions. Now we have OneVote warning us about the dangers of an atheist Prime Minister and the Greens’ gaining the balance of power in the Senate.
The site is little more than a vehicle for a well-produced ratfucking video (albeit featuring a rookie mistake in its graphics, as pointed out by The Notion Factory on August 3). Over vaguely threatening music, we are told that the Greens will hold a Labor government to ransom, forcing it to pass laws legalising everything from same-sex marriage to euthanasia on demand (a concept that conjures up blackly hilarious images of poison-dispensing vending machines or ‘safe suicide rooms’). We are exhorted to tell everyone about this threat, and vote for ‘a Christian’. At the end of the video the words ‘Authorised by M. Carter’ appear, along with a residential address in Western Australia
If you sign up for the OneVote newsletter updates, you get even stronger language. The Greens are not genuinely concerned for the environment, according to OneVote. Their green message is, in fact, a Trojan horse concealing their ‘real’ agenda: ‘They want to make Australia a Godless, humanist society, like the Soviet Union and China of old.’
So who is behind this seemingly independent movement of ‘concerned citizens’? Although the ABC broke the story on August 3’s Lateline, internet users had already dug into the background and discovered some revealing information. We did some more digging of our own.
The domain is owned by an advertising company which is a division of AdPack, that specialises in direct marketing and ‘spamvertising’. Its chairman is Rudy Labordus, and a look at his profile on LinkedIn may hold the key. One of the testimonials praises Labordus for his work in helping deliver votes in a state election.
The testimonial is from the Christian Democratic Party, notable for its vocal representative Fred Nile and his crusades against everything from the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras to wearing the burqa. The CDP is also co-friended with Labordus’ YouTube channel, which features the ‘OneVote’ video.
The video, incidentally, features a still shot of CDP candidate Trevor Young angrily shaking his fist at the heavens.
Now, of course the CDP are entitled to their opinion – although the Greens might have something to say about the more outrageous and deliberately misleading claims in that video. What’s of concern here is that this was not put out under the CDP’s banner – in fact, they tried to hide the association. And this is where they have shown themselves to be extremely crafty.
By providing a name and address of an ‘authorising person’, the CDP can technically avoid having to identify themselves. The Electoral Act does not require such a person to disclose their party affiliations – any time you see an attack ad from the ACTU or Nurses’ Federation, the disclosure is purely voluntary – and so the CDP can create the impression that this is all the work of concerned individuals. This also helps the CDP reach people who might otherwise be put off by the associations with its policies and personalities.
There’s nothing new about exploiting this loophole. The Exclusive Brethren are some of the worst offenders, with a long history of electoral lobbying at one remove. (Interestingly, Tony Abbott was among those in the Howard government who held closed meetings with the Exclusive Brethren, at a time when the latter were engaging in a systematic smear campaign against the Greens, and being investigated for possible electoral fraud).
The CDP, however, are not a lobby group. They are a registered political party attempting to do an end run around the Australian people.
While investigating this story, we discovered that the CDP’s YouTube channel has an interesting mutual ‘friend’: the West Australian branch of Family First. We asked the party’s Federal Secretary, Nick Greer, if he was aware of the connection. Mr Greer said he was unaware of the website’s existence until we brought it to his attention. He explicitly denied any affiliation with the CDP, AdPack or Rudy Labordus, but did not provide a comment on why the WA branch of his party was apparently involved in a cross-promotion deal with the CDP. We’re still awaiting comment from WA Family First.