Australia Frydenberg faces pressure on multiple fronts — and he hasn’t even started fighting for his seat yet

13:16  25 november  2021
13:16  25 november  2021 Source:   crikey.com.au

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Poor old Josh Frydenberg is starting to feel like he’s under assault from all sides.

Josh Frydenberg wearing a suit and tie © Provided by Crikey

The federal Parliament’s most assiduous communicator with journalists would have been none too pleased to read a piece in The Age yesterday pointing out that Liberal insiders are now openly talking about the “kiss of Josh”, meaning the candidates he backs in Victorian Liberal Party preselection battles tend to lose.

As The Age’s Stephen Brook wrote in his CBD column:

Frydenberg backed Kevin Andrews, who lost to Keith Wolahan in the Menzies preselection, then backed Andrew Asten, who lost to Aaron Violi in the Casey preselection, and then backed his former staffer Simon Frost, who lost to Greg Mirabella in the Senate preselection.

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Come December 11 it looks like Frydenberg will do it again when his ex-staffer Jessica Wilson throws her hat in for preselection for Tim Smith’s plum seat of Kew, which she seems unlikely to win.

Liberal members don’t like blow-ins and don’t like being told who to vote for — and Frydenberg jumped the gun by backing Wilson in Kew before he saw who else was contesting.

As things turned out, there are six in the field and Wilson is the only non-local, living two seats away in Box Hill. She’s also never run a business.

Contrast that with insurgent candidate and former soldier Lucas Moon, who pulled himself up through the state education system, served his country, is a qualified CPA, spent two years in state Treasury, owns stakes in multiple businesses that employ people and is commercial manager of Victoria’s largest privately owned construction company, Winslow.

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On top of that he’s the volunteer president of the famously pokies-free Hawthorn RSL, which in two years has gone from being dormant to having the largest contingent of actual service members of any RSL in Victoria. He also has a powerful endorsement from Baptist minister and anti-gambling campaigner Tim Costello.

Could this be the first Liberal Party preselection where an anti-gambling message proves to be influential?

As Costello wrote in his endorsement of Moon sent to the 190 local Kew delegates and 100 state-wide delegates:

I’ve been campaigning for a reduction in gambling harm ever since Crown Casino opened in 1994 and first came across Lucas Moon three years ago when he raised concerns about RSL Victoria operating with the poker machine industry, given that gamblers were losing $260 million a year at 50 RSL-branded pokies venues across the state. Over that entire 27 year campaign period, Lucas is one of the smartest, energetic, strategic and determined advocates I have come across and, largely as a result of his efforts, RSL Victoria is under significant pressure to divest itself from the electronic gaming machine industry.

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Factional warrior and shadow treasurer David Davis is the warm favourite to win the preselection in his bid to transfer from the upper to the lower house, but a third, more independent candidate could come through the middle as the least-disliked option.

That will likely be the strategy of the Voices of Kooyong when they announce a candidate to run for Frydenberg’s own seat, tapping into the campaign infrastructure that former Liberal Party member and Clean Energy Finance Corporation CEO Oliver Yates garnered in his 2019 tilt, which attracted 9% of the vote.

Voices of Kooyong, which is working with veteran climate campaigner Simon Holmes a Court, is set to unveil its candidate on December 11, the same day as the Kew byelection.

You can tell that something is really building against Frydenberg with Kerry O’Brien and Cathy McGowan both heading to Melbourne for a Voices forum in Kew next week, as The Age reported today.

Holmes a Court, who was recently profiled in a Good Weekend cover story, seems particularly motivated to take down Frydenberg after he was evicted from Frydenberg’s Kooyong 200 Club in 2018 because he dared criticise the treasurer’s support for keeping the Liddell coal-fired power station open.

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Once again Frydenberg proved himself to be super-sensitive to criticism, ordering Holmes a Court to have two years’ worth of donations and membership fees refunded less than 24 hours after the column first ran.

I encountered a similar sensitivity from Frydenberg after he won the Kooyong preselection contest in 2009 and was getting ready to enter Parliament.

In the early days of Crikey, I’d made some mention of him wearing shiny tracksuits when playing junior and university tennis in the early 1990s. He requested a meeting at the RACV Club, ostensibly to challenge this comment, get to the bottom of it and ensure it wouldn’t be repeated.

Twelve years later he still has that glass jaw — meaning he must have found all the attacks on his enormously wasteful JobKeeper scheme hard to stomach.

And with Parliamentary Budget Office figures showing that $38 billion of the $88 billion in JobKeeper payments went to employers who didn’t suffer the required revenue drops to qualify for the scheme, you can stand by for the Voices of Kooyong candidate to savage Frydenberg’s economic credentials over his wastefulness.

Poor old Frydenberg, he really is copping it from all sides at the moment — while leadership rival Peter Dutton appears to be getting a rails run.

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This is interesting!