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Liberal Party’s climate war puts candidates battling Teals under siege

Source: Anthony Albanese

The Liberal Party dropping Australia’s 2030 and 2035 emissions targets from its energy policy will go “down like a lead balloon” in seats lost to teal independents, a prominent polling expert has warned.

After opposition leader Peter Dutton walked away from short-term targets in a weekend interview with The Australian, the Albanese government and teal independents, who won their seats from the Liberals at the 2022 election, quickly went on the attack.

Dutton’s dithering and climate scepticism will likely be of concern to Liberal candidates running in seats like Kooyong and North Sydney, where teals deposed Liberal MPs at the 2022 election.

Kos Samaras, director of strategy and analytics at RedBridge, told The New Daily that without winning the seats now held by teal independents, the Liberal Party has no pathway to 75 seats and forming government.

“Looking at the position of the Coalition, it works well in country Queensland, it may work well in regional Australia, but it goes down like a lead balloon in the seats they lost to the teals,” he said.

“The reasons that people moved away from them or chose to tactically vote to remove incumbent Liberal MPs still exist.”

Donations to Climate 200, a climate lobby group that supports independent campaigns, have also soared since the Liberal Party dropped its targets.

Kooyong

In Kooyong, where independent Monique Ryan won her seat in 2022 from former treasurer Josh Frydenberg, the Liberal Party has nominated former FinTech executive Amelia Hamer.

Hamer, in a statement to The New Daily, said achieving net zero by 2050, without mention of 2030 or 2035 emissions targets, remains the Liberal party’s position.

“This remains an important issue to many within the Kooyong community,” she said.

“I am serious about addressing climate change and intend to advocate within the party for practical policy solutions to achieve net zero.”

Hamer would be the youngest Liberal MP in Parliament — and the party’s first millennial — if she won Josh Frydenberg’s former seat back from the teal wave, but has now come under fire from local climate groups and Ryan because of the party’s stance on emissions targets.

Lynn Frankes, co-convener of the Kooyong-based environmental group Lighter Footprints, agreed that Hamer “will have the same problem Josh Fydenberg had”.

“Regardless of what Amelia Hamer says about climate change, she is stuck in that same position,” she said.

“A vote for Hamer will be a vote for the far right of the Liberal Party, which at present does not take climate change seriously.”

Despite this, Hamer said the Coalition is not walking away from the Paris Agreement and the party’s position has been “misconstrued”.

josh frydenberg kooyong

The Morrison government’s lack of climate action was a major factor in the success of independent candidates, including Monique Ryan, during the 2022 federal election. Photo: AAP

Political heat

Internal polling from Mackellar and Wentworth, held by teal independents Sophie Scamps and Allegra Spender, also has people negatively equating the party with opposition leader Peter Dutton, according to the Financial Review.

The Liberal Party’s candidate for Wentworth, Ro Knox, did not respond to questions about whether the Liberal Party’s climate targets are in line with what the community expects.

The New Daily also asked the same of the party’s candidates for Curtin and North Sydney, Tom White and Gisele Kapterian, but did not receive a response.

Although Nationals leader David Littleproud told Sky News that the Coalition is “making a commitment to achieve (net zero by 2050) through different means”, senior members of his party – like former leader Barnaby Joyce, Keith Pitt and Matt Canavan – have pushed for exactly what Dutton and Littleproud have denied that the Coalition is doing.

Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull echoed Samaras’s belief that Dutton and the party’s climate flip-flop has already created an uphill battle for candidates in inner-city seats.

“It seems to me and many other people in the Liberal Party that it is an approach that is going to further alienate the very people whose votes were lost in 2022,” he told ABC’s 7.30.

“I don’t see how it is going to assist Peter Dutton in winning government, it will probably just ensure he doesn’t win any Teal seats back.”

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