Advance is a billionaire backed racist disinformation factory undermining Australian democracy

At first glance the images seem fairly innocuous. 

Bunches of people holding placards at this month’s Dunkley by-election, suggesting significant ground-level support for US-style aggressive political disinformation outfit “Advance”. Kind of a Where’s Wally, but an edition for special students. 

Advance, which ran the anti-Indigenous Voice “No” campaign, claims to be a “grassroots” movement of “ordinary Aussies” but is actually bankrolled by a handful of the mega-rich. Something all but the disengaged — or deeply misinformed — would now be aware. 

Leaving aside the “victory” lap vibe (Advance lost its sole aim of defeating the ALP, which actually slightly increased its primary vote) closer inspection reveals — entirely on brand and true to form — even the images themselves are a con.

“Everyday Aussies have had enough of Albo and his Labor/Greens/Teals agenda,” the outfit posted to social media, hours after it was clear the ALP would not only hold the seat, but with a healthy margin. “And they were out with Advance today in Dunkley to send a message: Put Labor Last!”. 

“Thank you to everyone that came out today”. It ran at least three more collages in a similar theme.

A close look shows they all boil down to the same 20 images. And looking closer again (we’ve colour-coded two of them for those playing along at home) the same people appear over, and over.

Six people feature in at least two different shots – two of them turn up in three shots each. In all there’s just 11 people. 

On the face of it, Advance could be discounted as the fringe, psychotic lying outfit that it is. After all, it failed in Dunkley — its sole stated aim was defeating the ALP — despite it reportedly spending more than the Liberal Party (an estimated $350,000) in an “unprecedented campaign”, which Advance’s liar-in-chief Matthew Sheahan told followers would be a “brutal shock and awe campaign”.

Except we can’t doscount it entirely because there is a significant proportion of the population willing — eager? — to fall for its transparent, Trumpian crookery. Its aggressive anti-Voice disinformation campaigning, which included TikTok videos “viewed over 42 million times”, coincided with a collapse in support for the proposal — from around 60% to just under 40% on polling day. 

Well, that, and its fucking hectic your-uncle-bangs-your-mum Deep South 1950s-style racism.

Its anti-Voice campaign included a Jim Crowe-era, US-style hate cartoon depicting Indigenous Voice campaigner Thomas Mayo as a dancing monkey at the feet of two whites.

In Dunkley, Advance’s racism, bigotry and strategy of vile division (in concert with the Coalition, to its deep shame) was on full show. 

It ran full-page advertisements in News Corporation’s Melbourne Herald-Sun citing “rapists, paedophiles and murderers” from “immigration detention”.

On social media it ran images depicting splattered blood and hoodie-wearing “immigrants”. 

Its plan to “rearrange the political landscape” included a social media video, complete with American-accented drawl voiceover. “Todaay is the daay you can save Oorstralia…”, it declared. 

“We have criminal immigrants running lose: Thanks Albo, this is on you and it’s your job to fix it.”  

The central con, of the very many, at Advance is that it is a “grassroots movement” of “ordinary Australians”. This is unmitigated nonsense, and anyone presenting Advance in this light is lying to you.

In 2021-22, its disclosed donors boiled down to just ten entities, all of them worth tens of millions. At least seven of these ten hold fortunes of $100m or more. Australia’s richest woman, Gina Rinehart, is a supporter — she was the only attendee spotted by media at Advance’s secret Voice victory party, to which media were refused entry.

In Dunkley, “we’ve all had enough”, Advance claimed, using images of exhausted-looking workers surrounded by household bills. “We need to take the opportunity this Saturday to send a message and put Labor last,” says “Eva” in one attack ad. “The cost of living crisis is real”.

And no one is more aware of this than Opposition leader Peter Dutton, or so he would have you believe. Unfortunately, as Dunkley went to the polls, he wasn’t on hand as much as he might have been to share his message. 

He’d taken a secret trip from Melbourne to Perth with one hour on the ground — to visit Gina Rinehart.