32 résumé and personal presence alone, but the backstory to that gold medal sets her even further apart. In 2011 she was pushing her four-year-old son in a pram through an underground car park when a driver lost control of his vehicle, slamming into a concrete post and three other cars. The young mother was caught in the impact zone. She flung her child out of the way but she was crushed between the runaway car and a stationary vehicle. Surgeons amputated her left leg hours later, after two failed attempts to save it. When people ask France whether she is up for the challenge of taking on a brutish political operator like Dutton, she usually replies that she’s faced bigger challenges. “After losing my leg seven years ago, I spent a lot of time in doctors’ waiting rooms talking to people and got a real sense that people were struggling and finding it hard to pay for out-of-pocket health expenses.” She credits her time working for a palliative care charity as further opening her eyes to some of the challenges that people tend to grapple with in silence and often alone, save for the support of close family – if they are lucky enough to have them. council in Victoria in the 1970s, and family memories of door-knocking Kooyong for Andrew Peacock. Instead, perhaps nudged off the punishingly straight and ideologically narrow-minded by his old man’s falling out with the party over a matter of principle, a young Benedict Coyne turned green. “In the late ’90s,” he says, “I was studying at UWA and I heard David Suzuki speak.” Coyne was dating the daughter of the chief justice of Hong Kong, a young woman from a very conservative legal family. Inspired by the Canadian environmentalist, they both deferred their studies and dived deep into campaigning for Western Australia’s old-growth forests. It gave Coyne an early taste for straight up walking into a hopeless fight. Or what most people would assume was a fight. Expecting to find himself an intruder in the logging towns and forest camps of WA’s south-west, the activist instead marvelled at how inviting supposedly hostile territory could be. “I was always amazed going into logging and mining towns, thinking you were going to get beat up or whatever, when you’d get this incredible reaction. I think it was as people became more aware of climate The demands of running the home affairs super ministry keep him away from the electorate while canvassers from the ALP, the Greens and GetUp run wild every weekend. “There’s a lot of vulnerable people in our community,” she says. “And many families who are struggling to keep up with the cost of living. I understand the struggle, and I’ll stand up and fight for them … The things that connect us are my experiences of adversity, of raising kids, of navigating the health system and of trying to get ahead.” If Dutton falls, it is a near certainty that his slayer will be Ali France. A near certainty, but not a lock. The Greens’ Benedict Coyne will tell anybody inclined to listen that if only one in six voters were to shuffle their preferences to sneak a vote for the Greens in ahead of the ALP, it would break the grip of the old political duopoly on Dickson and send a truly independent voice to Canberra to speak up for the electorate. He maintains this argument with the confident selfassurance and unshakeable trust in ultimate victory of the 7th Earl of Cardigan leading the Light Brigade as they charged into the muzzles of the Russian guns at Balaclava. Coyne is in some ways the perfect nemesis for Dutton. A lawyer who chose community campaigning and human-rights cases over more lucrative work, he is, like Tony Abbott, an old boy of the Jesuit Catholic school system. Coyne could have gone the way of the Liberals’ most famous seminary student. His family pedigree is a deeper royal blue than the former PM’s, with a father who sat on the executive of the Liberal Party state change … I remember in Kalgoorlie, having this line of seven blokes waiting to give me money, because they felt awful about this huge hole they were digging.” His eyes unfocus as his memory reaches back and he tries to understand their motivations. “They knew they needed to offset the impact they were having,” he decides. “Let’s put it that way.” Dickson is nowhere near as openly hostile to a Greens candidate as an outback mining camp could be. Dutton took the seat from Cheryl Kernot after her defection from the Australian Democrats to the ALP. It would be fair to say, however, that until his half-botched attempt on Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership in August, Peter Dutton had not fixed himself deeply in the affections or even the short-term memories of his constituents. Unlike Benedict Coyne and Ali France, he is not a natural campaigner, not what you might call … a people person. The demands of running the home affairs super ministry keep him away from the electorate while canvassers from the ALP, the Greens and the lobby group GetUp run wild every weekend, and when he does appear his profile doesn’t necessarily help. Mike Myer, who lost out to Coyne in a three-way preselection contest for the Greens’ spot on the ballot, muses wryly that on the rare occasions Dutton does visit his own manor he comes surrounded by a phalanx of federal agents providing close personal protection. the monthly — essay
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