Independent? Depends How You Define It
The well-funded Monique Ryan who is standing against Josh Frydenberg in the Melbourne seat of Kooyong is an utterly fake Independent. Despite securing more than $1 million in funding primarily from Climate 200 supremo Simon Holmes a Court, Dr Ryan is clearly a hard left candidate. She certainly has much more in common with the Labor Party and the Greens than the Liberals. Dr Ryan has every right to be so aligned but she shouldn’t be angry or embarrassed when she’s called out on this important fact. As it happens, both the Greens and Labor are currently running dead in Kooyong.
In comparison, the divisive Kristina Keneally has been parachuted into the supposedly safe Labor seat of Fowler in Sydney’s western suburbs. To Le, the young Vietnamese Australian lawyer who was supposed to be the official Labor candidate, wasn’t even given the courtesy of a phone call to tell her she had been dumped. She found out in the press the same day that the American-born Senator from the wealthy Northern Beaches took her place after failing to gain a winnable place on Labor’s NSW Senate Ticket. The Liberals are also running a Vietnamese-born woman,a real estate agent, who lives in the electorate, Courtney Nguyen.
Importantly, Vietnamese refugee, lawyer and deputy mayor of Fairfield Council, Dai Le, is running as an Independent. Unlike Dr Ryan in Kooyong, Ms Le (who has wide local support) is truly independent.
Much has been made about Anthony Albanese living in a council house with a single mother. But although it is unclear who paid for him to attend, Albo was educated at the well-regarded St Mary’s Cathedral School in Sydney. In comparison, in 1975 Dai Le and her mother fled Vietnam by boat to Hong Kong, where they stayed for four years. In 1979 Ms Le and her mother came by plane as refugees to Sydney, where they lived in council housing.
Mr Albanese tried to brush off overlooking To Le by stressing that Ms Keneally was American. In September last year he said, “The Labor Party has done an enormous amount for diversity.” Albanese continued: “Our Deputy Leader in the Senate, Kristina Keneally, was born in the United States, came to Australia, and is another great Australian success story of a migrant who’s come here. And at the most senior levels, the Leader of the House of Representatives is someone called Albanese and the Leader in the Senate is someone called (Penny) Wong.”
While Dr Ryan (who was a long-time member of the ALP) has been afforded a dream run by the media in her contest against the federal Treasurer, Dai Le has been all but ignored by the ABC and other media in her contest against Ms Nguyen, and especially against Ms Keneally, who lived 44km away from the electorate, and whose grating tone and self-satisfied look continues to alienate many listeners and viewers.
Keneally has a very troubled political history. Her CV is marked by a number of losses – not a good trait in politics. She was made NSW premier in 2009 with the backing of factional bosses Eddie Obeid and Joe Tripodi. NSW ALP premier Nathan Rees saw the rot setting in and tried to do something about it and was felled for doing so. Before Premier Rees was deposed as Leader on 3 December 2009, he stated: “Should I not be premier by the end of this day, let there be no doubt in the community’s mind that any challenger will be a puppet of Eddie Obeid and Joe Tripodi.”
The ALP’s then-general secretary and now Member for Kingsford Smith, Matt Thistlethwaite, strongly opposed Keneally’s appointment to the premiership, arguing that she was too close to Obeid and Tripodi. Even though Keneally insisted she was “nobody’s girl”, she would not have been made NSW premier without their support. Upon being appointed premier, Keneally declared Tripodi and Obeid her mentors, and said they had “served the community well.”
Keneally brought the subsequently hugely disgraced Ian Macdonald back into her Cabinet as the minister for state and regional development, minister for mineral and forest resources and minister for the central coast. Keneally went on to lead NSW Labor to its worst-ever state election defeat in 2011.
But back to Kooyong, where the fight between the fake ‘independent’ candidate, Monique Ryan, and her mother-in-law has caused somewhat of a stir. The mother-in-law said she, and was quoted by Frydenberg, as saying she will be voting for him because he is a ‘nice person’ who knows what he’s doing. Dr Ryan was reportedly infuriated by this undermining from a member of her own family and decided to personally attack the Treasurer. In somewhat disturbing words she declared, “I don’t want him coming after my parents and I don’t want him coming after my children.”
The fake independent candidate in Kooyong refused to debate Frydenberg on Channel Nine in their studio. While she has reluctantly accepted a debate on Sky, it is doubtful if she will detail of her plan for higher taxes to fund universal health and childcare. So far, Ryan has supplied absolutely no costings for her uber-expensive proposals.
In this month’s federal election, the fake independents are only challenging Liberals.They are not opposing any ALP candidates. Moreover, the “teal” Independents, including Ryan, are run like a political party which is resolutely anti-Liberal. As the Treasurer argued on April 27, “They are a slogan and a billboard and nothing more. Yet they will say that they’re campaigning on transparency, but the most important issue on transparency is how would they vote in the event of a hung parliament. And they will not reveal how they will vote.”
If elected, as we all know, the fake independents will vote with the ALP. Let’s hope that the good people of Kooyong fully understand this. Similarily, let’s hope that the good people of Fowler will recognise Dai Le for the true independent she is.
Ross Fitzgerald AM is Emeritus Professor of History and Politics at Griffith University. His most recent books are a memoir, Fifty Years Sober: An Alcoholic’s Journey, and the Grafton Everest political satires, The Dizzying Heights and The Lowest Depths, co-authored with Ian McFadyen, all published by Hybrid in Melbourne
QUADRANT ONLINE, May 4, 2022