“Zali Steggall’s backed by a whole group of activists and left-wing agitators that we don’t believe represent the electorate,” Mr Benedet said.
Advance Australia’s campaign makes two points: that Ms Steggall holds policy positions similar to Labor leader Bill Shorten, and that her election would make a Labor government more likely in a tightly-contested federal battle.
But Ms Steggall said the “far-right wing activist group” would not resonate in Warringah.
“Their effectiveness is questionable because they’re so misled by their ideology,” she said. “Those ads are so old school and drab that people look at them and know exactly what they are – it’s smear and fear.”
The four MPs Advance Australia are defending were all key allies of Peter Dutton during his tilt at the Liberal Party leadership last year.
The campaign strategy pits Advance Australia directly against GetUp!, which has also announced campaign action in three of the four seats named by Mr Benedet.
Advance Australia will also campaign in Indi, the regional Victorian seat which is wide open following independent Cathy McGowan’s decision to retire.
The right-wing group, founded in November last year, is the latest in a series of organisations that hopes to be a conservative version of GetUp!.
Mr Benedet accepted that his organisation was facing a “David and Goliath” battle against GetUp!, which has over one million members, spent over $6 million at the 2016 federal election, and has in the past year received 600,000 individual donations worth more than $11 million.
“We believe in balance in the public debate and we believe there is an imbalance currently,” he said. “The pace of change in Australia is not being supported by the mainstream voter – it’s too quick, they’re not being asked about it, and they feel like there’s no empowerment in their vote.”
Like GetUp!, Advance Australia will listen closely to its members to determine its positions on policy.
“We’ll be following the guidance of our members, who have said very clearly to us that major values and freedoms are under attack – things like freedom of speech, freedom of religion, they don’t like radical gender theory being taught in schools and they want economic opportunity.”
On Wednesday, Advance Australia released the results of a survey that found almost all of its member wanted the organisation to lobby for secure borders, free speech, and a stop to “the spread of radical gender identity politics”.
In addition, members wanted the new campaigner to hold left-wing activists to account – a thinly-veiled swipe at GetUp!, which has increasingly risked the electoral safety of the Liberal Party’s conservative warriors.
“We’ll do fact-checking, and we’ll be exposing the hidden links and hidden agendas that voters don’t necessarily see,” Mr Benedet said.
GetUp! national director Paul Oosting accused Advance Australia of lying, and pandering to the wealthy member of its “advisory council” which is manned by storage magnate Sam Kennard, doctor David Adler, and former ABC chairman Maurice Newman, among others.
“Advance Australia is spending its secret funding to spread lies and do the dirty work of hard right candidates like Tony Abbott,” Mr Oosting said. “The hard right and their multi-millionaire backers like Maurice Newman have been trying to buy influence for years but what they lack is genuine grassroots people power.”
“They’re yet to learn that ignoring what the majority of the community wants – and hounding everyday people for raising their concerns – gets you nowhere.”
Advance Australia has previously run a campaign against Labor’s proposed changes to superannuation, and one supporting Australia Day.
The organisation plans to run more issues-based campaigns as the federal election nears.
Max is a journalist at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.