Damien Cole, son of Maurice, has had a gut full. He’s going all the way to the Federal Election to drain the swamp.
Whatever you do, don’t call Damien Cole a politician.
“I never wanna get called a politician,” he says.
“It absolutely appalls me it’s gotten this far and these people have been allowed to do pretty much whatever they want with all our money and they’ve got all this power and they write laws that benefit their friends and give back-handed deals to corporations. The whole thing is fucken disgusting,” he fumes.
It’s the kind of brutally honest, rage-fuelled rant that has earned him a growing following in the working-class surf towns west of Melbourne.
A blue-collar battler himself who, in a previous life, worked in the mines and the offshore industry, Damo is fiercely independent and would love nothing more than to bring back a handful of big-wig scalps at the upcoming Federal Election.
Where the major parties continue to court the banking industry, property developers and big business, Damo is selling raffle tickets and working as a builder’s labourer to fund his campaign. It’s left him broker than he’s ever been but as he puts it, “I love it. That’s what I want to do, help out communities leave a legacy for the next generation.”
In an age of media spin, the corporatisation of politics, conflicting interests, and two-faced career politician swine, he is a breath of fresh bogan air.
We rang him up to find out how he went in the recent Victorian State Election and what his plan of attack will be for the upcoming Federal Election.
Tracks: How has surfing shaped your politics?
Damo Cole: I’ve grown up around surfing my whole life. Obviously my dad being Maurice Cole I didn’t really have a choice (laughter). What it really did was develop a real sense of responsibility to care for our ocean and our coastline.
I still remember when France was bombing the shit out of the Pacific Islands (Moruroa Atoll) with its nuclear testing, my dad got all the pro surfers at the time to come over to our house (in France) and organised a big rally.
We walked past the (French) Vice President’s holiday house and we all had t-shirts on and I still remember spray painting Rob Machado’s hair and having big peace signs on our t-shirts. I remember walking past the Vice President’s house and it was so sticky. These farmers had beaten us to it and dropped off all this rotten rock melon - a truckload outside this guy’s house.
We walked back to the contest at Hossegor and I remember feeling that sense of responsibility and that we were part of something as surfers that we need to look after our own place, that we are connected to this place. That’s how I was brought up: to always look after the ocean because it always look after us.
Your pops Maurice is one of the most respected underground surf legends of all time. What does he think of your run at politics?
Yeah, he’s lovin’ it. He’s very politically minded in his own way. It’s not like he’s there every five minutes saying, ‘I’m so proud of you,’ but I can definitely tell he’s stoked. It’s realistically thanks to him that I’ve started running.
What was the outcome of your run at the State Election?
I got about 8% (of the vote), which is about 3700 votes. For a first-time candidate it’s pretty good but I obviously didn’t win.
For us, it was more important that our community won from it. As soon as we stood up and ran this campaign we saw a lot of people connect with it. Crew started getting inspired and taking notice and there was a realisation that we can actually do better and alls we need to to is stand up and push for a better tomorrow and a better community and we’ll get that.
We really pushed Liberal and Labour.
I ended up helping Labour get the seat and they’ve given us legislated town boundaries and height restrictions under this bill - the Distinctive Area and Landscape bill - which pretty much means we’re not just a suburb of Melbourne and we need to look after Torquay and keep that identity for social, environmental and economic purposes. That was a great outcome.
You’ve chosen to contest the seat of Corangamite in the Federal Election in May. What’s the plan?
At the Federal Election we’re gonna go bigger and better and really try and push again and get a voice for our community.
I’m gonna run as in independent candidate again. I was questioning it for a while. The State Election took it out of me. I was on empty at the end but the amount of support I got from the community for volunteering even wanting to put my poster in their yard, people donating money, people voting for me - all those people who had some connection to the campaign I now feel like I’ve gotta moral responsibility as a community representative to keep pushing.
What we’re trying to do is use the Federal Election as our vehicle to establish a big alliance of all the communities up and down the coast - the whole of Bellarine all the way down the Great Ocean Road… so that if anything does go on in any communities we have each others back and we share resources.
Look anywhere in Australia and all the coastal communities are going through similar challenges - whether it’s over-government, bad planning, climate change - so we’re trying to establish a network that helps each other out.
If we can get a blueprint from that we can move it up and down the coast and over to the west, or, you know, the Central Coast (NSW) might want something similar or the Northern Beaches (NSW), or the Northern Rivers (NSW). We want to instil this tight knit alliance of community groups.
Whats your point of difference with the other candidates?
I’ve got similar values to the Greens, quite progressive. But my main point of difference is I’m not a politician and I don’t have career aspirations for that. I live and breathe this area and I’m part of all these different community groups.
For me, my purpose in life at this point is to help our environment and help our communities. That’s all I give a shit about. I’ve never been so broke in my life. I’ve worked in the mines, I’ve worked in the offshore industry ironically, I’ve made of hundreds of thousands of dollars and it was the most soul destroying thing I’ve ever done. Now I’m back here and I’ve never been so broke and I just love it. That’s what I want to do, help out communities and leave a legacy for the next generation.
You said you’d be offended if you were called a politician. Why is that?
Because the majority of politicians are in it for themselves and their career. Alls their trying to do is climb the ladder. They don’t get it.
It’s this huge industry and it absolutely appalls me it’s gotten this far and these people have been allowed to do pretty much whatever they want with all our money and they’ve got all this power and they write laws that benefit their friends and give back-handed deals to corporations. The whole thing is fucken disgusting.
You’re there to represent us and they’re not doing that job and that’s why I wanna jump in there an go, fuck, you know what, fuck you guys! You’re not doing the right job. Let’s get some people in here that care about our communities. That’s why I never wanna get called a politician. Even if I’m running this country all I’ll be is an elected representative.
Yeah (laughter) putting a few wet boards up. And that’s the beauty of being an independent. I say what I want, I speak from the heart, and I don’t have to tow anyone else’s line except for my own. And that’s how I ran my campaign.
Look at Peter Garret. Perfect example. Came in for the right reasons, is one of the greatest fucken artists in Australian history, and he turns around and joins the labor party. Now look at him. He completely had to compromise his own integrity.
To help Damo Cole drain the swamp of Federal politics, visit his website.
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