LABOR has increasingly come under fire in recent years for looking less like a political party than a club for advancing the careers of union officials and party hacks.
One candidate who breaks that mould is Anne Aly, running at the current election against Liberal member Luke Simpkins in the seat of Cowan.
Aly emigrated to Australia from Egypt in her early childhood, and has gone on to become one of Australia’s leading authorities on counter-terrorism.
She has enjoyed a distinguished career as an academic, most recently through a professorship at Edith Cowan University. However, that’s not to say her work life is spent in an ivory tower.
As the founder of People Against Violent Extremism, Aly has received government funding for youth mentoring programs and an invitation to attend a White House summit on ways to counter violent extremism.
Her work was even acclaimed last year by Luke Simpkins, before he knew she was going to be his opponent.
Yet for all her qualities, Aly was not the safest choice Labor could have made for a must-win suburban marginal seat.
Terrorism and Islamic radicalism are subjects that understandably provoke strong reactions.
Like all emotive issues, the complexities can easily become lost in the heat of an election campaign – particularly for voters with busy work and family lives and little time to stay on top of intricate political debates.
The temptation to paint a misleading picture of Aly’s work and philosophy was always going to be hard for the Liberals to resist.
In the past week, two senior Liberals, Julie Bishop and Michael Keenan, have attacked Aly over a court submission in which she advised of mentoring services that might be available for radical preacher Mohammed Junaid Thorne after his conviction for flying under a false name.
Keenan’s assertion that the letter showed “pretty poor judgement” is not a conclusion a fair-minded reader would have reached, and Bishop’s claim that it was “an attempt to get him off jail time” was, at best, a misrepresentation.
But with the race in Cowan likely to go down to the wire, it is no surprise that the Liberals should try to use every weapon available to them.
Whichever way they jump, it is hoped voters keep the big picture in mind, without allowing themselves to be distracted by the personal attacks that are all too typical of both sides of politics at election time.