Scholars at the University of Newcastle define a Colonial Frontier Massacre as the indiscriminate killing of six or more undefended people. With little surprise to those who take an interest in Australian history, within Cowper using the current electoral boundaries, three massacres of aboriginal people occurred between 1840 and 1855. One near Ebor, another along the Upper Macleay River and the third near the Collombatti State Forrest. There is little doubt all three massacres, and possibly more yet to be established, have links to the naked ambition of Australian settlers in the region at the time.
This week the Nationals’ Darren Chester tried to link the downfall of four Prime Ministers to the naked ambition of Bill Shorten. Labor in return remembered the naked ambition of Peter Dutton’s challenge, weaponising the party-room petition for Turnbull’s removal. The ruthless ambition of Shorten and Morrison and their campaigns will continue to collide until the strain on one side decides this election. At the electorate level here in Cowper we witness the local campaign ambitions and increasing strain making their own appearances.
Newspoll this week had both Labor and Liberals on a primary vote of 39% nationwide, suggesting we’re not at our inflection point yet. That said, Labor’s primary vote even at this level could be expected to generate a 52% Two-Party Preferred with significant preference support from the Greens. Earlier this week the Greens were kind enough to set their price for that support and it won’t come cheap. Two billion a year was mentioned, a move to 100% renewable energy by 2030, and a proposed carbon tax to pay for it among other items, policy and numbers unlikely to get too much news here in Cowper until now.
A Greens candidate for Cowper also emerged, Lauren Edwards, joining independent Allan Green and bringing the candidate total to six. Previously Labor’s Andrew Woodward and independent Rob Oakeshott had been duelling alone for the Green vote. This provided an interesting trap, and one in which Woodward likely benefited from the imposed discipline of Labor’s platform whereas Oakeshott had no such restraining hold. There wasn’t an environmental group Oakeshott hadn’t tried to ingratiate himself with in Cowper. A Greens candidate might now provide him with a guard rail against the fruitiest of issues, and a proposed carbon tax platform, an unhelpful reminder of links to past climate change policy ambition and atrocities of his own.
Woodward might surprise us yet, but he and United Australia Party’s Lex Stewart show little sign of campaign building toward pre-poll or election day dominance. Woodward resembles more of an empty vessel making a lot of noise than a genuine contender building a strong ground game. Whereas Oakeshott can be seen building a team, including a skilled-up digital presence well supported by Margo Kingston camped out in Kempsey for him.
The Nationals’ Pat Conaghan meanwhile is busily harnessing his party’s local state electoral campaign teams, strengthening his own ground game in Port Macquarie, South West Rocks and Coffs Harbour. Party Leader Michael McCormack’s wombat trail returned to open a Port Macquarie campaign office and Deputy Leader Bridgette McKenzie, who might be the party’s star performer this election, anchored a successful fund-raising event. McCormack and others can be presumed thankful for the absence of naked ambition and atrocity reminders of their own.
Heading toward ANZAC Day we can expect the political strain of past atrocities and naked ambition across all the major political parties will continue before everyone stops to reflect. As we do remember with pride and sadness the horrific ruthlessness humans are capable of, we might hope our rich history, whether battling to settle a new colony with old nations here on the Mid-North Coast 170 years ago, battling to lead political parties this past decade in Canberra, as well as our hallowed Gallipoli and other military endeavors abroad will galvanise us for the election campaign and beyond, pointing to a better and brighter future for Cowper and elsewhere.