The Guardian • Issue #2007


Keep money out of politics

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2007

Climate action has been at the centre of the 2022 Australian Federal Election. The two major parties are flexing their climate credentials, with the Coalition stating it will cut emissions down 26-28 per cent by 2030 and the ALP stating it will cut emissions down 43 per cent by the same year. The Greens – Australia’s premier climate party – want emissions cut down 75 per cent by 2030.

Emphasising the importance of climate action, a new “group” – Climate 200 – have entered the fray promising to deliver action on climate change. Who is Climate 200? While not formally a group, Climate 200 purports to be a “community crowd-funded initiative” whose candidates – all of which are independents – are committed to “a science-based response to the climate crisis; restoring integrity to politics; and advancing gender equity.”

During the election, the Climate 200 group made a name for themselves by challenging the seats of sitting Coalition MPs. These were real contests, especially in seats such as Kooyong and Wentworth, where MPs Josh Frydenberg and Dave Sharma tried to tidy up their image. Sharma went as far as not to campaign with Prime Minister Scott Morrison, scrubbing his campaign material of Liberal Party branding.

While most of the Climate 200 were new candidates, the group included current independent MPs such as Andrew Wilkie and Rebekha Sharkie, who they believed shared their values.

The group, however, is not as grassroots as it appears. While Climate 200 has had over 9000 donors and developed a war chest in the millions, it is the initiative of Simon Holmes à Court, son of Australia’s first billionaire, Robert Holmes à Court. Holmes à Court claims that the money given to the independents comes with “no strings attached”, but this is questionable, given he has conceded all candidates have “a shared philosophy on climate change, integrity and gender equity.”

To see a multimillionaire use his wealth to primarily challenge the Liberal Party in a substantial way is a positive development. It has meant that the Liberals have had to spend more resources defending previously “relatively safe” seats and pressured them to commit to deeper reforms on climate. However, the influence of multimillionaires in our electoral process needs to end. We can only move past bourgeois democracy by limiting the ability of the ruling class to affect elections directly. Our politics should not be the hobby horse of Australia’s richest, representing their values and ideas. We must demand reforms and better transparency on electoral funding. It is only when the political playing field is levelled that those who better represent the working class can have a real chance at transforming some of Australia’s worst problems.

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