Flat White

And the winner is: Woke capitalism!

2 June 2022

8:00 AM

2 June 2022

8:00 AM

Capitalism is dead in Australia. Long live capitalism. 

The economic system that made the West rich has been defeated – by itself. This was the election of new Woke capital v. old lazy capital that saw the new kids win while the old folks slept.

Having recently watched the Greens take my local state electorate for the second time, and faced with the clear prospect of the incumbent Coalition MP losing our federal seat of Ryan, I decided – in a moment of madness – to jump into the ring as the local Liberal Democrats candidate. 

Ryan is a huge electorate geographically. Shaped like a big banana, it winds its way from Brisbane’s north-western suburbs to its most south-western edge, taking in Queensland University and some of the city’s wealthiest (and Woke-est) leafy neighbourhoods. 

I knew I had an almost zero chance of winning, but the incumbent – a 37-year-old Liberal Party career politician – was turning his campaign ‘teal’, so someone had to play the crusty old conservative and take the fight directly to the Greens. 

The Greens nominated an older, wealthy, professional architect straight from champagne-socialist central casting. No Teal Independents ran in Queensland, but Elizabeth Watson-Brown was as close as you could get, and I felt she’d win the minute I saw her first flyer. 

Sadly, I was right. She took the seat with a stunning 9 per cent swing directly from the Coalition, becoming one of inner-Brisbane’s three new Green federal MPs.

Capitalism gets a bad rap. We all know that. It is misunderstood, gets picked on, ignored, bullied, and is never popular with the cool kids. But as the years of history unwind, the robust economic model consistently brushes itself off and – aside from a few market failures – survives by delivering the best results. 

Somewhere along the line, all the bullying got too much for capitalism’s defenders. As a result, capitalism in the West developed a split personality. Part of it suddenly wanted to be cool and fit in with the hammer and sickle ‘free stuff’ crowd. It was tired of being the brunt of their jokes. Capitalism wanted to be the cool kid.

And so ‘Woke capital’ was born in our schools, universities, governments, and corporate giants where ‘virtue’ could be incorporated as a type of currency.

Old capital wasn’t sure how to react. Surely this economic hybrid upstart was simply a transient novelty – an aberration like a Hollywood movie star or the latest pop music sensation? Woke capitalism would have its day in the sun, sprout a few hollow catchphrases, and disappear – right? 

Nothing to see here folks. Pass me the wine list and another scotch on the rocks. 

But while old capital lazily slept on the comfort of its legacy, Woke capital tightened its grip on the cultural agenda, education system, Australia’s national broadcaster, media corporations, and – most horrifying of all – control of capitalism’s favourite mainstream political party and the thinking of its corporate managerial class.

Terrified of Woke capital’s sudden power (and a little jealous of its popularity with the in-crowd) old capital surrendered. It didn’t even try to fight. This was a capital capitulation with a predictable consequence…

Both major parties lost this election long before it began.

Never has their collective vote been lower in Australia’s recent history. It would only take someone with a sharp marketing mind and good business strategy acumen to step in and supply the product to fill the gap in the market, screaming for representation.

Many tried.

There was the ‘unfocused capital’ party that got its kicks throwing money at billboards and broadcasters like a schoolboy throwing spit-balls at the classroom clock, hoping in vain that some might stick. 

And there was the ‘social capital’ crowd – conservatives of the orange party; the nascent libertarian party; and the classical liberals, like me, who hitched their lost wagons a little uncomfortably on either one, hoping the wheels didn’t fall off before polling day. 

It wasn’t a fair fight.

None of these minor capitals were as strategically sharp or organised as the king-maker (sorry, ‘queen-maker’) of Woke capital’s political heart, Simon Holmes à Court.

Modern politics isn’t about corflutes, volunteers, letter-box drops, or local issues – as the Liberal Party repeatedly insists to its endless peril. (Four straight losses on that strategy now is it, ladies and gents?)

Volunteers are key, but the shoving of a how-to-vote card into the hands of fed-up electors in the final seconds is pointless if it is not backed with a clear business strategy, relevant simple brand positioning, and exceptional marketing communications. The voters have to want those how-to-vote cards before they’re handed out, but without good air cover, the volunteer troops didn’t stand a chance.

Campaigning in the 2020s is marketing, and all the same rules apply. 

So, with a lot of poetic license and no direct insight (apart from personal failure) to learn from, allow me to outline the simple steps I think Simon Holmes à Court took in order to be the only true ‘winner’ in the 2022 election:

  1. Start early. He began in 2018 to win the 2022 election. 
  2. Identify the target market. He focused on inner-city Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth. 
  3. Understand the gaps in the market. He correctly identified the disenfranchised Liberal voter and centrist youth voters within that target market. Those who wouldn’t vote Green, were unlikely to vote Labor, but were left ‘unrepresented’ by the Coalition. 
  4. Identify the specific top three issues of concern to that market. Remember, being right plays no part here. The top three issues that should be of concern to this market, and which I campaigned on, were: debt, national security, and increasing abuse of power by an ever-expanding government bureaucracy. Simon identified the three that mattered to the target audience today: Climate Change, women’s issues, and integrity in government. 
  5. Fuel and feed those issues and that sentiment for a few years. I’m not sure how orchestrated it all was, or how much support was coming from the outside, but those issues were highlighted and fanned throughout Scott Morrison’s tenure as Prime Minister. 
  6. Provide the solution. Find candidates that as closely match the audience you’re appealing to as possible, and support them financially. 

If you’re new to the game and a minor player, it pays to avoid the deliberately complex red-tape provided by the AEC and other government agencies under laws designed to protect the existing party duopoly. The Teal master-stroke was to avoid the administrative hassle of setting up a genuine political party. By insisting the candidates of the Climate200 organisation were all ‘independents’ and simply collectively and loosely branded as ‘Teal’, Climate200’s influence could be wielded without the burden of formal party registration. 

Labor isn’t too bad at this stuff, and the Greens are quite masterful at it. The conservative parties, meanwhile, are playing 20th century strategy in the 21stcentury. Until they change, they will continue to lose. 

Australia’s inner-city electorates are profoundly left-wing. It’s not possible to ignore this fact and win. We must see strong cultural change before it is replicated at the ballot box. That change will take years, but conservatives and classical liberals must begin immediately. That brings me back to where we started: Woke capital v. old lazy capital. Capitalism will die unless capital supports it. Currently, in corporate Australia, it’s the habit to donate equally to both sides of politics, or sit the game out so as not to put anyone off-side. This must stop. 

Capital built on free market liberalism must fight for free market liberal capitalism or it will most certainly die out. With labour, academia, media, and now Woke capitalists backing the Left, capitalism is all but doomed. 

Climate200 may be the cleverest kid on the block this month, but as a movement, it’s certainly not the wisest when it comes to Australia’s long-term prosperity, freedom, and security. 

Damian Coory is a former Australian journalist (Network Ten, 3AW, 4BC) and Managing Director with the global public relations firm Edelman. He ran in the 2022 election in the west Brisbane electorate of Ryan as the candidate for the Liberal Democrats.


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