Running alongside the gladiatorial spectacle of two men locked in verbal combat across Australia [Scomo and Albo] is another, only slightly less competitive show – Australian Fashion Week. This year it has proclaimed its allegiance to diversity, difference, and – as always – dollars.
Colours, not just in the burnished skin tones of the models strutting their stuff, have never been more important, so let’s consider the so-called ‘Teals’ – those women running in Coalition seats under a pleasing blue-green shade.
The case of Allegra Spender – who is challenging Dave Sharma in Wentworth, the seat of former PM Malcolm Turnbull – is especially worthy of scrutiny. Spender’s pedigree is flawlessly Liberal, as the media have breathlessly informed us at the start of her run. But actually, I’d suggest a more authentic colour would be eau-de-nil – Nile Green – a darker, murkier shade of verte, that, like its namesake, conceals treacherous shoals.
Spender is a child of Sydney’s richest in Sydney’s richest suburbs. When asked on the ABC if Malcolm Turnbull was advising her, Spender admitted he was a friend, not an adviser. Really, Allegra?
The man who spewed spite from his New York bunker at the party that bestowed on him the honour of leading the country is a member of the same Rich List crowd that has decided Wentworth incumbent, Dave Sharma, isn’t good enough for them.
Sharma, unlike Spender, has served his country as an ambassador. He was head of mission in one of the most turbulent, sensitive spots for an embassy, Jerusalem. It was a post that he was nominated for (surprisingly) by former Labor Premier, Bob Carr.
Sharma was brought up by his Trinidadian-Indian father after his mother died of breast cancer. He attended Cambridge and then headed up the International Division at Prime Minister and Cabinet. Earlier, he served in the Peace Monitoring Group on Bougainville in PNG.
Spender had accused Dave Sharma of being weak when he failed to turn up to debate her, but his past achievements would not sound weak to most Australians.
An Australian who travels frequently between Sydney and Israel said about Shama, ‘The fact that he was given the job as Ambassador relatively early in his career and was seen to be an outstanding diplomat [is] testimony to his qualities of hard work and endurance, as well as obvious talent and ability… while [being] supportive of Israel was not in his job description, as ambassador he earned a reputation as a fair, neutral observer while at the same time honourably and accurately reflecting the friendship between our peoples and countries.’
Years ago, I interviewed Allegra’s dynamic and talented mother, in her Clarence Street office, under the benign gaze of a languid gilt wood Buddha.
If Spender wins against Sharma, backed by the standing-in-the-shadows Climate 2000 claque, we may anticipate – not a fashion fling – but the Frocky Horror Show for small business.
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