Can’t see the forest for the MEs

The Liberal voting housewives of Moncrieff are a challenging if not interesting target for an environmental campaign.

Considering the man they voted in last year, Steve Ciobo has not a single record of any environmental credentials on his website, they could also turn out to be the most futile target for an environmental campaign.

However, every campaign is only as strong as the research that goes into it, so today being Mother’s Day I’ve decided to spy on the proposed demographic at a popular alfresco restaurant at Tedder Avenue in Main Beach.

Tedder Avenue has the reputation for being the Gold Coast’s old-money equivalent of Sydney’s Double Bay and judging by the cars here it’s easy to see why.

I park behind a blue Audi convertible that is about to leave. The middle aged woman behind the wheel puts down the roof with a push of a diamond encrusted finger on a button.

“Go girl. A perfect specimen of the Liberal Voting Housewives of Moncrieff,” I think while her male partner, perhaps a little over the limit in polo shirt, shorts and deck shoes, drags with golf-club-like sophistication on a cigarette outside the car.

The alpha-male fan of nicotine in times of stress, networking and other frivolity embarks into the sports car and the door closes with the sound of money.

I watch them leave and I cross the road. Looking back I notice how my crookedly reversed-in green Ford Festiva with ibis shit looks like a cockroach that’s crawled into the Tedder cliché of wealth, the evenly spaced Audis, Mercedes, BMWs and Range Rovers each parked exactly 50 cm from the kerb.

I hope none of the prestige car drivers watching me blow my cover as I flip flop up to a suitable establishment.

The young waitress slash maitre d’ looks at my Brasilian thongs, salty eyelashes and pepperoni encrusted jeans, hesitates and directs me to a table in the corner.

Sitting with latte and a view of three Liberal Voting Housewives enjoying Mother’s Day with their families, I open up my laptop to note down the main points about the habitat and behaviour of this demographic in their natural environment.

I don’t note anything particularly distinctive, except maybe for, and it’s hardly worth mentioning, the silicon lipped member of the local crossfit congregation beside me asking her daughter, who is so young she barely reaches the table, if she wants barramundi or eye fillet.

The girl avoids the question as skilfully as Joe Hockey, but I can almost see the MacDonalds burgers floating before her eyes.

This is definitely helping my research, but the next question I need to ask is: Where are these women at, in terms of their own self-perception, awareness and interest in environmental concerns?

Good question mmm. There could be some clues in the three year old eating a $35 piece of barramundi and the $100,000 cars that surround my Festiva.

But conspicuous consumption and the preoccupation with luxury and prestige is an aspect of the Liberal Voting Housewives of Moncrieff that’s too clichéd, too obvious and too often parodied to be useful.

To improve the environmental credentials of this demographic and Steve Ciobo, do I really want to take the piss and tell them they are wrong to spend so much on themselves?

Well yes.

But it won’t help the environment much, so I need to mine (open cut style, with lots of FiFOs, leeching megalitres daily from the artesian water basin, dredging and dumping mud on my spiritual coral reef that’s already half bleached) my soul for the humility that still has a pulse in this inverted snob.

I need to find out about them, how they feel, how they see themselves, their family and their futures in Moncrieff.

Moncrieff is a safe Liberal seat, so campaigners for the environment would rather club seals than spend their energy here. It’s much more efficient to focus on swing voters and marginal electorates.

But Moncrieff shouldn’t be neglected, after all Steve Ciobo might not have heard of the Gold Coast environment, so the campaign could start by just trying to make him aware.

After that, you just have to make him interested and then make him feel like there’s something he can do. It can’t be impossible, but is there something he can do?

You have to start the environmental message somewhere. I mean I’m no climate change doomsday fanatic but I’ve seen distant brown muffins of pollution hang over most cities in Australia…

I’ve heard enough concerns about the Great Barrier Reef to make it a priority to visit it as soon as I can in case it dies…

I’ve seen half of my mates make a packet by going to the mines…

And I’ve never heard of koalas doing well anywhere there is land development.

So…

According to a 2008 Griffith University survey, the beach a few blocks east of Tedder Avenue, Main Beach, is one of the Gold Coast’s three most popular beaches along with The Spit (another beach in Moncrieff that was packed with families on Mother’s Day which is currently under the looking glass of developers) and Burleigh.

The majority of the 8000 Gold Coast residents surveyed said beach cleanliness was the most important thing to them and most of them just use the beach for passive activities like relaxing rather than active activities like surfing, fishing or snorkelling.

In other words it’s all about lifestyle. It’s all about me and not the environment, which is fair enough. Ok with me.

Over 50 percent said the beach was very important to them.

Also very importantly and coincidentally over 50 percent of Moncrieff-ians gave the LNP their first preference in the 2013 election. More than double the number who voted Labor and over nine times the people who voted Green, which is the party with the strongest environmental credentials.

But environment credentials and credibility don’t go deliciously together like eye fillet and mushroom sauce in Australian politics and media.

In fact the media and the authoritative sources that journalists use make it almost impossible for groups with environmental credentials to sound credible.

Eminent environmental journalism scholar Libby Lester says it’s the definitions of the powerful that get reproduced in the media.

She says, “Non dominant groups cannot easily penetrate this primary definition” because they are regularly and systematically stigmatised as extreme and irrational.

Does that sound familiar Prime Minister? Um… Climate change? Don’t underestimate the power of the message.

So what’s the message to the Liberal Voting Housewives of Moncrieff? What’s the environmental campaign going to be about?

Well I don’t know yet, but I quite like the coffee on Tedder Avenue so I’m starting to get the message if I stop fighting the Liberal Voting Housewives of Moncrieff and join them I’ll be a lot better off.

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