Many Kooyong voters saw Josh Frydenberg as a “nice guy” prior to his attacks on the Victorian Government and demands to open up against health advice, writes Hayden O'Connor.
IN DECEMBER 2020, Peter van Onselen wrote that Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg might be ‘too nice for [the] top job’, claiming that Frydenberg was a ‘nice guy’ and that the jury was still out as to whether Frydenberg had a ‘ruthless streak’. Whilst Josh Frydenberg has done well in the past to convince his Kooyong constituents that he is caring and kind, the jury is now in and Frydenberg’s ruthless streak is there for all to see.
Any Victorian paying attention to the news or social media will be well aware of Frydenberg’s ABC 7.30 interview on 13 July. In the interview, Frydenberg refused to blame the New South Wales Government for their lockdown despite having previously blamed the Victorian Government for theirs.
This double standard was a continuation of Frydenberg’s “attack Victoria but praise New South Wales” approach that we have seen through the entire pandemic, such as his criticism of Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews during his petulant rant in Parliament, or his constant demands that Victoria opens up against health advice and his continued “Gold Standard” praise that he persisted with even when Greater Sydney went into lockdown.
His comments made in this interview outraged Victorians on Twitter to such an extent that the words “Kooyong”, “Josh”, “Victorians” and the hashtags #KooyongVoices and #KooyongVotes were all trending shortly after the interview concluded. The outrage re-ignited the next morning with #NotaLeaderJustaLiberal trending number one on Twitter until 11 A.M. when it was overtaken by the hashtag #VoteJoshOut.
Such anger directed at a single politician would usually be alarming for the one targeted, but not Josh Frydenberg, as according to him, those on Twitter are just “bots and trots” trolling out of trade halls. Bots can’t vote, so Frydenberg’s seat of Kooyong must be safe. Frydenberg linked his “bots and trots” insult directly to the online support of Daniel Andrews but it’s been shown that the support for Victoria’s Premier on Twitter has been generated by real people rather than bots.
Since Frydenberg’s comments, Voices of Kooyong gained over 500 new Twitter followers and almost 100 new subscribers to their mail list in less than 24 hours. These are real people – not bots – and they will vote. Voices of Kooyong is one of at least 18 “Voices of” groups that have formed in 2021 and like many other of these groups, they were formed by citizens unhappy with the representation provided by their federal member, particularly in the area of climate change.
On the assumption that the election will be later rather than sooner, all grassroots campaigns have plenty of time to get organised and Frydenberg’s comments have certainly made things easier for Voices of Kooyong when it comes to convincing voters that Frydenberg doesn’t actually represent them.
But it’s not just Kooyong where Frydenberg’s neglect of Victoria will impact the Liberal Party vote. As Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party and Federal Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg is the most senior Liberal Party member in Victoria and therefore he is the face of the Party in the state. When Frydenberg refuses economic support to Victoria during lockdown, demands a path out of lockdown on a 114 case and 11 death day or calls Victorians “bots and trots”, that affects all electorates in Victoria, not just Kooyong.
So whilst Josh Frydenberg might be confident that his 11K margin will see him hold Kooyong against another inevitable negative swing, Gladys Liu holds Chisholm by only 1,090 votes and the seats of Higgins, La Trobe, Casey, Deakin and Flinders are also considered marginal. If Frydenberg’s actions don’t lose him Kooyong, they may well cost the Coalition other seats in Victoria.
Beyond the recent tarnishing of his “nice guy” image, Josh Frydenberg’s past is no better either. In 2020, the Hindu Council of Australia described Frydenberg’s mocking of Ashrams and yoga in Parliament as “brazen, racist and Hindu-phobic”.
In late 2017, as Environment Minister, Josh Frydenberg called AGL board members in an attempt to have them sack their chief executive Andy Vesy purely because Vesy had plans to close the Liddell coal-fired power station.
Most recently, Julia Banks labelled Josh Frydenberg a “bully boy” and accused him of live-texting their private conversation to Sky News. Bizarrely, no one in the media has asked him about this despite having numerous opportunities to do so. At this stage, Josh Frydenberg is yet to deny his apparent part-time role as a Sky News reporter.
When examining Josh Frydenberg’s past behaviour, it’s clear that he was never a “nice guy”, he has simply done a good job at building up a nice guy image with his Kooyong constituents. Unfortunately for Frydenberg, his neglect of Victoria during COVID-19 has destroyed that image entirely.
It’s also clear that Frydenberg has always had a ruthless streak, so perhaps he could indeed become prime minister one day. The Coalition has successfully changed leaders before the past two elections and Frydenberg is Liberal Party heir apparent. However, it will take more than faux opinion pieces in the Herald Sun to repair the damage done in Victoria and Kooyong, so if Frydenberg does want to become prime minister, he would be wise to force a Libspill before the next election.
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