Politics

Former Liberal leader to join forces with Labor veteran in bid to target Morrison ahead of election | Scott Morrison

Former Liberal leader John Hewson has joined Labor veteran Barry Jones to endorse a social media-focused advocacy campaign targeting Scott Morrison’s record on integrity matters and climate action in the lead-up to the federal election.

Hewson says the voluntary not-for-profit organisation, the Truth and Integrity project, has some crossover with Climate 200 – an organisation supporting independent candidates focused on the climate crisis to challenge Liberal incumbents in their urban heartland – and with the “voices” community groups modelled on the successful 2013 campaign of independent Cathy McGowan.

The integrity project, modelled in part on the Lincoln project in the United States, will not field political candidates, but will target its advocacy through content produced for social media. One of the people involved in the campaign is Australian film producer Bob Weis.

Hewson says the organisation intends to fundraise before next year’s federal election campaign “drawing on the fairly significant base of people who will fund this sort of activity, focusing on the big issues that matter to our democracy”.

“I think one of the big issues right now that has been building for a lot of different reasons since the last election has been the whole issue of integrity and accountability in government,” Hewson said.

The former Liberal leader said the Morrison government had failed to produce a credible model for a federal integrity commission over this parliamentary term. “They are just playing games with that – which is pretty offensive.”

Hewson said the prime minister was now facing sustained questioning “about whether he is telling the truth”. He said pre-election contentions the prime minister had made this week about the Labor party increasing the cost of petrol or increasing energy prices lacked factual underpinning.

“There is no evidence at all to support any of this stuff,” Hewson said.

Climate 200, the group established by the climate activist Simon Holmes à Court, has raised $3.6m over the past few months. With government MPs being targeted by activists in blue ribbon seats, the Liberal senator Andrew Bragg has already written to the Australian Electoral Commission asking for a probe of the “voices” movements that are organising independent campaigns.

Hewson said he and Jones had worked with Holmes à Court and “I’ve done a fair bit of work supporting the voices movement”.

The former Liberal leader said it was likely the next federal election could result in a hung parliament with independents holding the balance of power. Many independents contesting the election were running on platforms of climate action, integrity and accountability.

“It all comes together. That’s the over-arching issue,” he said.

“You can see how the independents could hold the balance of power within that over-arching element of integrity and accountability, and the key elements of policies like climate and so on.”

“A loose alliance of independents could say to whoever is in government, unless you give us responsible legislation in these areas then we are not going to support you – I think that will drive to better government.”

In a statement posted on the group’s website, Jones says he has joined Hewson as a patron of the Truth and Integrity project “because democracy is under serious threat and both the Coalition and the federal ALP have no vision beyond the election of 2022”.

“Only an active citizenry can prevent sliding towards authoritarian or populist democracy with its endless appeals to the short term and self-interest,” Jones says.

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