Up to 400 people gathered at the private estate of a former Liberal party state treasurer at the weekend to launch a conservative crowdfunded political organisation to rival activist group GetUp!, BuzzFeed News has learnt.
Former Labor leader Mark Latham, who was recently sacked for making comments about a school boy, launched his Outsiders organisation on Sunday at the NSW Southern Highlands home of Michael Yabsley.
Yabsley's private estate is called Wombat Hollow and people were charged $35 to attend.
Alongside Latham at the event were Liberal MP Tim Wilson; radio broadcaster Alan Jones; Louise Clegg, barrister and wife of Liberal MP Angus Taylor; and Tanveer Ahmed – a psychiatrist who has been twice sacked in recent years over accusations of plagiarism.
One person who attended the three-hour launch told BuzzFeed News: "It was an enormous gathering of aging, old white men."
Yabsley, who hosted the event, confirmed to BuzzFeed News that Alan Jones described the Indigenous "welcome to country" as a "pretentious and indulgent practice".
Latham suggested he'd abolish the SBS and Australia's Human Rights Commission if he returned to politics.
But Yabsley said Latham's Outsiders organisation was being pitched to the audience in the marquee as an answer to the highly effective progressive political lobby group GetUp!
"He has the potential to set up something that would at least rival GetUp!" he told BuzzFeed News. "The major parties don’t really get the mass model and they are living in the dark ages."
He suggested the hundreds of attendees were the "Forgotten People" of the Liberal party – a reference to former prime minister Robert Menzies' slogan from the 1940s about normal Australians who'd been overlooked by politicians.
"The term that really does stir up a lot of people into action is 'Forgotten People', because if you told that audience they were the 'Forgotten People' of the Liberal party, they'd agree with you."
Mark Di Stefano is a media and politics correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Mark Di Stefano at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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