The fairy tale that there’s an anti-authority streak, some anti-ruling class rebelliousness, running deep in the blood of Australians is as bullshit as Drop Bears.
But way less fun.
Ned Kelly, the Eureka Stockade, a jumbuck nabbing swagman… we even fancy ourselves a bit Mad Max.
Yet in fact — and of course —we’re a nation of suckers.
In deep irony it’s this make-believe rebelliousness that helps seal our fate as subservient schmucks.
Much like Americans and “freedom”.
In both cases these national identities have been weaponised against their citizens by the dark forces of Big Money that actually run the show.
The double-barrel shotgun has been bent back around into the face of the nation. We’re all Elmer Fudd.
If this all sounds a bit “conspiracy theory” to you, I understand entirely. It would have to me too, until I experienced it first-hand across two decades as an investigative financial journalist.
As Deep Throat said in All the President’s Men: Always follow the money.
How it works is this.
Big Money (e.g. billionaires, fossil fuel giants, rapacious financial behemoths) want the public to act — and vote — in ways that will favour them (that is, make them richer).
By nature, this almost always means coaxing the public to vote against its own interests.
Now, Big Money trying to do this by itself has its obvious limitations.
Enter the Unethical Media.
Fox in the US, tabloids and “Sky News” in Australia, for example, court Big Money for, erm…big money.
In exchange, Unethical Media effectively launders the information (obscuring Big Money as the source) and flips the information around.
Applying a combination of logical gymnastics, half-truths, untruths, omissions, or even outright lies, the message from Big Money becomes instead something highly palatable to the public.
It’s been weaponised for cash.
(The “culture wars” — that is, getting people riled up about useless nonsense such as transgender toilets — are so huge because they serve as a giant distraction. What actual news stories might the public be seeing otherwise?)
The process often involves creating a fake “us” versus “them” (the audience/public being the sham “us”, in this 180-degree stitch-up).
Central to this tactic is falsely claiming — as loudly and regularly as possible — to represent the interests of the public: “We’re For You”, “We Report, You Decide”, etc, etc. It’s the gaslight of the 21st Century.
The second prong is yet more insidious.
Unethical Media serves as an exoskeleton, a form of legitimiser, for broader, much more blatant, disinformation and lies (favouring Big Money) that are clinically spread across social media. Read: Climate change is a hoax; wind farms will annihilate whales; the Voice would be a third chamber of parliament…
For example: Andrew Bolt will make a series of absurd, anti-science statements, from a script carefully vetted by lawyers to minimise the public fallout, all the way up to an invisible line — then the next click or two on YouTube is some full-blown disinformation version; the “quiet part” said aloud.
Of course, there are grey areas and overlaps, including unwitting bad actors, or “useful idiots”. But this is the thrust of it, the mechanism of turning lies into cash in 21st Century media.
Which brings us to the Voice — the point of this article.
The “No” campaign against the Indigenous Voice to parliament has coughed-up as an exquisite specimen of just how hopelessly gullible so many of us are to the vested interests.
A vote on a singular issue (and so stripped of the myriad of matters that pile into any election) and on a topic highly susceptible to disinformation and lies, the Voice has held up a frightening mirror.
The nerve centre of the No campaign was Advance (officially Advance Aus Ltd).
The shadowy entity – with just three people as directors – was at the heart of at least seven connected front entities, including its campaign arm Fair Australia, Australians for Unity (the “charity” arm of the network) and “Referendum for News” (which falsely held itself out as an impartial news source).
The enemy was the “elite” and “inner-city woke”, or so we were told.
“More of us are worried about what woke politicians and inner-city elites are doing to our country,” Advance told Australians.
Advance was a “grassroots campaign” of “ordinary Aussies” with “mainstream values”, it claimed.
“We believe Australia is a free country. But you wouldn’t know it from the way woke politicians and the inner-city elites carry on”.
From the outset, for many, the No campaign didn’t feel right.
It was suss.
It was initially (allegedly) centred around a group called Recognise a Better Way, launched in January, and headed by Warren Mundine and Jacinta Price.
Yet within weeks, Price announced she had jumped ship to join Advance (why was never fully explained); and then in May it was announced the entities had “merged”.
The murkiness continued. If it was a “grassroots” campaign of ordinary Australians, why were all the No websites so similar? And so professionally manicured?
More importantly, if this was some genuine movement, why were different arms of the same “No” network pushing — to different audiences — different reasons as to why the Voice should be defeated?
Advance Aus Ltd and Fair Australia claimed the Voice went too far; its arm “Not Enough” suggested the Voice didn’t go far enough; while another arm, “Christians for Equality”, pushed opposition to the Voice on supposed Christian grounds.
The common point was that the Voice had to be defeated — the “why” didn’t appear to matter much.
The address of the national “headquarters” of the movement appeared thousands of times across the nation – in the political “authorised by” disclaimers on social media advertisements, on flyers and on stickers. On the webpage of every arm of the shadowy Advance network.
“Level 4, 15 Moore Street, Canberra City, 2601”.
Yet even this seemed suss: a simple Google search showed an improbably large number of companies all registered to the same address.
A couple of phone calls, and we established neither Advance or any one of its string of connected entities was located at the address – and never had been.
It was a “virtual address” operated by a company called Regus. (As a bit of extra colour, it was confirmed Advance had signed up to the $85 a month version of the fake office.)
The directors of Advance are Matthew Sheahan; a Laura Jean Bradley; and Vicki Dunn — a long-time Liberal MP in the ACT Government.
Advance’s disinformation campaign (which had been bubbling along for some time) went into overdrive from early April when Liberal leader Peter Dutton declared the party’s opposition.
The impact was devastating. Support for the Voice, which had long been hovering around 60 per cent, went into freefall, plunging to 43 per cent before the poll.
The Advance network (a central plank of its campaign) pointed endlessly to the big money being lavished on the Yes campaign by major corporates including Commonwealth Bank, ANZ, BHP, Wesfarmers, and Coles — which has long been well documented and disclosed.
So, who was bankrolling this aggressive campaign against the “elites”, these rebellious “grassroots” campaign of “ordinary Aussies”?
The super-elites, of course.
And we’re not talking about your urban professional or leafy suburbs doctor here either (the apparent target of the manufactured outrage machine appeared to be anyone living within 30km of a CBD).
The disclosed donors to Advance (officially Advance Aus Ltd) in the 2022 financial year (the most recent filings), boil down to just ten entities.
The bankrollers of Advance are a handful of people who have made a killing on the back of Australia, its resources and its people — much of it inherited.
Of the ten entities, eight (at the very least, we’re being very conservative here) have fortunes of $100m or more.
They’re not even the 1%. They’re the 0.01% — literally.
They own entire sporting teams, wineries, private aeroplanes, and portfolios of mega-mansions.
These are the sort of people (hint: vitamins tycoon Marcus Blackmore) who, when asked why they bought their latest super yacht, answer simply: “I don’t know…I suppose because I can”.
There’s the “notoriously private” Brett Ralph, the owner of the Melbourne Aces Baseball Club, part owner of the Melbourne Storm NRL Club, and, since January, the majority owner of Dick Johnston’s V8 Super Car racing team.
There’s grazier tycoon and property developer Lyn Brazil — a director of mining company Aurelia Metals Limited — who has estimated personal wealth of over $300 million.
Investigations show ties between the “No” campaign and fossil fuels and mining run deep. Advance runs its own pro-fossil fuels, anti-renewables arm “Not Zero”.
The after party for the murky No campaign was held in secret. Media were refused entry – yet spotted was resources billionaire Gina Rinehart.
Fellow fossil fuels billionaire Clive Palmer announced, just before polling day, he had kicked in $2 million to knocking the Voice on the head.
If there’s a silver lining to this entire charade, it’s this: we’ve just retrieved from the coal mine one thoroughly fucked canary.
And the lessons from its autopsy need to be heeded.
We’ve been given the blueprint of how the Liberal Party under Dutton will act from here on in – a view of the sleazy trenches of lies and disinformation around which the 2024 federal election will almost certainly be fought.
We, the public, need to act now. To shine the light on, and call out, this dangerous apparatus of clinical disinformation.
Otherwise, we’re all not only the drowned swagman, hunted down by the wealthy squatter and his troopers — we’re all the jumbuck too. And the ghost haunting the billabong will be our democracy.