Federal energy and emissions reduction minister Angus Taylor could face a major test to keep his seat of Hume, with a well credentialed independent challenger set to emerge with the backing of local community groups.
Community group Voices for Hume says it will reveal next month its endorsed independent candidate, who will mount a challenge to Taylor at the next federal election – and will deploy its considerable volunteer and financial backing in an attempt to unseat the federal energy minister.
The group says it is looking to replicate successful independent campaigns run in the electorates of Indi and Warringah, which unseated conservative Liberal incumbents Sophie Mirabella and Tony Abbott, respectively.
Modelling itself off the ‘Voices for Indi’, and the ‘Vote Tony Out’ campaigns – which were critical to the success of independents like Cathy McGowan, Helen Haines and Zali Steggall – the ‘Voices for Hume’ group was formed last year with a view to supporting a challenger to Taylor.
While the identify of the candidate is has not yet been announced, like the Indi and Warringah campaigns, the Hume candidate will be a woman with ‘significant local connections’.
An additional ‘Vote Angus Out’ group has received a surge of support from locals unsatisfied with the performance of Taylor as their local member.
“We started 18-months ago – there’s sort of a formula that one can follow – that starts with talking to as many people as possible in the electorate and asking them what would they like preserved or changed in your electorate,” Voices of Hume co-founder Matt Murfitt told RenewEconomy.
The group collated responses from around 300 locals, and published a report, detailing the types of measures that the community members would want to see pursued by an independent candidate
The group will reveal the name of its endorsed independent candidate in mid-November, at an event in Goulburn, which will be hosted by television presenter Julia Zemiro and Cathy McGowan.
The endorsed candidate will receive the backing of as many as 1,500 local volunteers – as well as almost $70,000 in donations and merchandise sales already made to the campaign to oust Taylor.
“Vote Angus Out has a simple purpose. We are building a movement in the electorate of Hume that stretches from Gunning and Goulburn in the South, to Camden and Silverdale in the North, to help ‘unelect’ Hume representative, Angus Taylor,” the group says.
The ‘Voices of Hume’ group says that had been motivated to start a community-led independent challenge given Taylor’s significant list of controversies and poor performance as the minister responsible for climate policy.
The group lists three key trends in Taylor’s parliamentary voting record as reasons to unseat him, including a record of voting against the interests of farmers, against the interests of pensioners and against the interests of Australian industry.
Mounting the challenge to Taylor is about more than just Taylor’s record as energy and emissions reduction minister, with those joining the Voices for Hume campaign saying they were overwhelmingly concerned about perceptions around Taylor’s association with big business.
Murfitt said that around 30 per cent of local community members said they had been motivated to get involved because of climate change – with integrity and a surge in local development also ranking as major concerns.
Taylor’s electorate covers most of the New South Wales Southern Highlands, and is host to some of Australia’s best wind resources, with the regions of Crookwell and Gunning, hosting several wind developments.
Taylor retained the seat of Hume at the last federal election with a personal vote of 53.3 per cent. Taylor has held the seat since 2013 when he replaced the previous member, Alby Schultz.
To be successful, an independent challenger would need to win enough support to ensure Taylor received less than 50 per cent of the primary vote while securing enough of their own support to at least win on preferences.
The contest is one of a number of independent challenges to incumbent Liberal MPs, with David Sharma, Trent Zimmerman, Tim Wilson and treasurer Josh Frydenberg all set to face strong independent campaigns.
Some of those campaigns are being funded by the Climate 200 organisation convened by energy analyst Simon Holmes à Court.