As a service to the body politic Nicky Hager and the publishers of Dirty Politics have made the chapter of Dirty Politics that deals with Mark Mitchell freely available on the web. It is available here. Hager obviously thinks that it is important for the details of Mitchell’s selection campaign to be subject to public view.
Rereading it brings back many memories, none of them good.
It appears that Mitchell was an enthusiastic user of Simon Lusk’s services. From the book:
After discussing the utu post, Lusk said to Slater, ‘I reckon i can get a few candidates paying you to sort out their facebook pages, could be a nice little earner through the entire cycle.’ He continued, ‘I can sort out Mark no worries, he doesn’t mind spending.’14 Mark was Mark Mitchell, another of Lusk’s paying clients, who was competing for selection in the safe National Party seat of Rodney, where long-time MP Lockwood Smith had decided not to stand again. Mitchell was a good example of the hard right MP grouping Lusk was trying to build. ‘I’d really like to have him win to prove it can be done, and that you and I are crucial in peoples career.”
The chapter then details how the other main candidates for the Rodney selection, Brent Robinson and Scott Simpson, were undermined and attacked.
The chapter includes this classic Slater saying:
[T]hey obviously don’t know about [Whale Oil] Rule of Politics #43, Death by a thousand cuts is always better than a swift beheading.”
And Hager claims that the services were not being provided out of the goodness of Slater’s and Lusk’s hearts.
Mitchell, their selection candidate, was paying big money for this dirty campaigning, and was well aware of what he was buying. Slater wrote to Lusk, ‘I hope Mark is up with the play on these posts.’ Lusk said, ‘Yes am talking to him a lot. He is telling me that it is having a massive effect.’ Slater replied, ‘Hehe.’
Hager concludes by saying this:
Without Lusk and Slater’s vigorous and covert negative campaigning, it is unlikely that Mitchell would have won the seat. The successful candidate would most likely have been either Robinson or Simpson, probably Simpson. The painfully insincere blog posts, the obviously biased attacks and the rest of the heavy-handed negative campaigning had done its job. It was not hay baling that got Mitchell in. Mitchell’s main contribution in his first three years in Parliament would be a private member’s bill called the Prohibition of Gang Insignia in Government Premises Bill: law and order posturing that did almost nothing to change the problems it talked about. He spoke up for strip searching of inmates in private prisons, praised an amendment of surveillance laws and moved an amendment to the 2013 marriage equality law to reassure marriage celebrants that they would not be obliged to marry gay and lesbian people if it was against their ‘religious or philosophical beliefs’ (before he voted against the gay marriage law).
Mitchell clearly does not have a chance in this election. But the chances of a Collins-Mitchell leadership of the National Party should fill everyone with dread.
Interesting times …