Jo Dyer, the arts administrator and prominent advocate of Christian Porter’s accuser, will run for the marginal South Australian seat of Boothby as an independent.
Dyer is the endorsed candidate of Voices for Boothby, a grassroots group seeking to replicate the playbook that has helped elect independents including Helen Haines and Zali Steggall.
Boothby is held by the retiring Liberal MP Nicolle Flint on a margin of 1.4%, making it the third most marginal seat in the country.
In 2016 the Nick Xenophon Team attracted 20% of the vote in Boothby, suggesting there is potential for a non-major party challenger in the outer metropolitan seat stretching from Glenelg to the Adelaide Hills.
The seat is being contested by the chief executive of St Vincent de Paul Society SA, Louise Miller Frost, for Labor, and the health consultant Rachel Swift, for the Liberal party.
Dyer is one of a new wave of liberal progressive independents campaigning in traditionally blue-ribbon seats, including Zoe Daniel in Goldstein and Allegra Spender in Wentworth, who tend to emphasise the fight against climate change, support for a strong federal integrity commission and gender equality as their key demands.
Dyer confirmed her candidacy on Monday, promising to “reset the toxic mess of our current politics”.
In a video message Dyer said citizens had been “let down by our government” because it is “captive of sectional interests” and “hasn’t been governing for the greater good”.
Dyer cited the “existential crisis [of] climate change” which had been reduced to “another tranche in the culture wars”.
Dyer noted she had “been involved in a campaign for women’s justice” and said she had “experienced first hand the way this government has treated that broad sweeping campaign as just another political problem preferably to be ignored, and if not ignored, managed”.
Dyer is a former chief executive of the Sydney writers’ festival and the outgoing director of Adelaide writers’ week who shot to national prominence after Porter revealed in March that he was the cabinet minister who was the subject of an ABC story revealing that a dossier had been circulated to a number of politicians. It detailed claims by a woman that he had raped her when they were debating teammates in January 1988, when she was 16 and he was 17.
Porter strenuously denied the allegation and that he had any sexual contact with the alleged victim, who took her life in mid-2020 after withdrawing from the New South Wales police investigation.
Dyer became the public spokesperson for a group of the deceased woman’s friends lobbying for an inquiry into the allegation and Porter’s fitness to be a minister.
When Porter sued the ABC for defamation for reporting on the dossier, Dyer obtained court orders against his barrister Sue Chrysanthou, forcing her off the case on the basis Chrysanthou had received confidential information potentially relevant to the case when she met Dyer in November 2020, before she had been briefed by Porter, to discuss a separate matter.
In May Porter agreed to discontinue the case against the ABC in return for an editor’s note being added to the story stating the public broadcaster “regretted” that some readers had “misinterpreted” the article “as an accusation of guilt against Mr Porter”.
After leaving the attorney general’s portfolio to pursue the case, Porter revealed in a declaration of interests in September he had part-funded it with money from undisclosed sources from what he described as a blind trust.
In December Porter announced he would not recontest his Western Australian seat of Pearce, citing the “harshness” of politics and claiming: “There appears to be no limit to what some will say or allege or do to gain an advantage over a perceived enemy.”
He has appealed against the federal court decision removing Chrysanthou, in which Porter and the barrister were ordered to pay Dyer’s costs, likely to amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars. The appeal is to be heard in April.
In May Dyer told the federal court she wanted the allegation against Porter made public in an attempt to stop him ever becoming prime minister. Dyer became friends with the woman during their time as high school debaters in the 1980s.
Dyer has argued that women have been let down by political leaders, citing Chanel Contos’s “devastating spreadsheet of teenage girls allegedly assaulted by their ostensible friends from the country’s most ‘elite’ schools”, and Scott Morrison’s claim he supported women’s rise but not “on the basis of others doing worse”.