If you believe Sydney’s major newspapers, you could easily be forgiven for thinking Greens candidate Jim Casey won’t be voting for himself at the upcoming federal election.
In the space of a single day, Casey has been accused of being a communist, a fan of Tony Abbott, and a backer of the Labor party. While the attacks by News Corp are nothing too surprising, it’s Fairfax’s search for clickable content that has arguable mauled the truth the worst.
Today saw a frenzy of interest in the battle for Grayndler, the inner-city Sydney seat the Greens hope to one day make their own. Currently held by Labor big-wig Anthony Albanese, Casey faces a seriously tough battle.
In the morning, Casey was copping flak from right-wing tabloid The Daily Telegraph, with the paper splashing an endorsement of Albo on its front page and warning that Casey was a “radical who wants to overthrow capitalism”.
That knock didn’t seem to worry his campaign too badly. But if voters were left with the impression Casey would be marching on Canberra alongside the Red Army in the near future, they must have been confused by the story crosstown rivals the Sydney Morning Herald served up later that same day.
“Star Greens Candidate lauds Abbott,” the paper’s homepage declared.
The follow-up headline was equally confusing.
“Star Greens candidate prefers Abbott to Shorten because it would trigger street protests and civil disruption.”
The ABC took a similar angle, and left space for Albanese to go to town.
“It’s quite an extraordinary comment for someone who wants to go into Parliament to say that they’d rather have Tony Abbott as prime minister rather than Bill Shorten because there will be better demonstrations,” he told the ABC.
“The views of Jim Casey are pretty orthodox, Trotskyist views, saying that the more people are oppressed, the more they’ll rise up.”
When contacted for comment, Casey’s campaign were adamant their candidate did not hold that position. Does Casey prefer Abbott to Shorten? “No, not at all,” spokesperson Julie Macken said.
So what on earth was it all about?
“I would prefer to see Tony Abbott returned as Prime Minister with a labour movement that was growing, with an anti-war movement that was disrupting things in the streets, with a strong and vibrant women’s movement, Indigenous movement, and a climate change movement that was actually starting to disrupt the production of coal. I would prefer to see Abbott as the Prime Minister in that environment, than Bill Shorten as Prime Minister without it.”
In an unfortunate typo in the Fairfax story, ‘labour movement’ was written-up as ‘Labor movement’, making it appear that Casey, a unionist, was hoping to see the ALP grow.
Aside from the apparent confusion about Casey’s political allegiances, as the above quote attests, the video casts his comments in a very different light than the Herald’s report.
In the remarks, Casey weighs up two hypothetical societies. In one, there is a more conservative PM but a more activist civil society. In the other, there is a more moderate PM, but a docile civil society. He professes a preference for the former scenario, though adds that in reality it is likely this would also lead to a more progressive parliament.
He then goes on to argue that without strong social movements MPs are hamstrung. Change comes from the community, not Canberra, as he sees it.
There is plenty conservatives will object to in Casey’s remarks – and that’s not something the outspoken candidate and activist will be upset by. But there’s nothing to indicate, as Fairfax reports, that he actually, shockingly, prefers Tony Abbott to Bill Shorten. Quite a remarkable position for a Greens Party member to take.
Not that any of this detail bothered Labor MP Tim Watts, who used the story to have a dig at the Greens.
Watts, an adept social media user, didn’t get the response he might have been hoping for.
A number of the other replies said they would be happier if Labor altered their ongoing commitment to offshore detention instead of attacking the Greens.
Watts’ unfortunate interlude aside, one of the more depressing elements of the beat-up is that what Casey was actually discussing, the role MPs play in social change, is an interesting and in some ways controversial idea. It’s one that at times divides the Greens, and forces the party to ask tough questions about its recent pragmatic turn under Richard Di Natale.
With coverage like that lavished on them by the two big Sydney papers today, they may have bigger problems on their minds.
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