Josh Frydenberg likes to jibe that Victorian Labor is guided on energy and climate by “a few hundred emails from Green voters in inner city seats.”
But as it turns out, it could be a few hundred well-to-do, environmentally minded voters who bring the Liberal Party undone in the inner-Sydney seat of Wentworth, soon to be vacated by ex-PM Malcolm Turnbull.
With Turnbull’s exit from politics, a by-election is set to be held in the next month in the blue ribbon seat, which includes some of the state’s most leafy suburbs — Paddington, Bondi, Malcolm’s own Point Piper and Vaucluse.
But according to a ReachTEL poll commissioned by The Australia Institute on Monday, the Liberal Party primary vote in Wentworth has plunged by almost a quarter to 39.6 per cent, from 62.3 per cent in 2016.
And the vote for Turnbull’s replacement – which looks to be a contest between David Sharma, Andrew Bragg and Christine Forster (Tony Abbott’s sister) – sank lower still, to 34.6 per cent, when potential independent candidates were named.
But why are Wentworth voters so disenchanted with the Liberal Party? According to the poll, it’s not just because of the unseemly way their Malcolm was dispatched.
Rather, it’s because a majority of voters (62.5 per cent) think Australia should move to 100 per cent renewable energy within the next five to 10 years. Five to 10 years!
A further majority – 66.6 per cent – were shown to agree that the National Energy Guarantee should include an emissions reduction target.
Another 68.6 per cent of voters polled thought new Prime Minister Scott Morrison would do less to tackle climate change than Malcolm Turnbull, and more than half (50.9 pr cent) said his lump of coal stunt put them off voting Liberal in the next election.
“Malcolm Turnbull had a huge personal vote and is enormously popular in the electorate,” said TAI executive director Ben Oquist on Wednesday.
“These figures show the new Liberal candidate faces a major challenge to retain the seat for the government.
“The task is made all the more difficult because this poll shows the government is out of touch with the people of Wentworth on climate issues. The electorate backs renewables over coal hands down.
“Equating emission reductions with higher prices gets both the politics and economics wrong,” he said.
“These poll results show that the community understands action on climate change is in Australia’s national interest.”
ABC election analyst Antony Green is also predicting a swing against Liberal at the by-election – which should take place next month.
“(Turnbull’s) vote is significantly higher than the Liberal vote in the Senate, which suggests that the swing against the government at the by-election will be … maybe 4 to 5 per cent just [based on] the fact that Malcolm Turnbull’s no longer a candidate,” Green said.