It happened in a different seat, but former PM Tony Abbott might be feeling just a little bit nervous about the massive swing against the government towards independent Dr Kerryn Phelps in the Wentworth byelection over the weekend.
Not only will Phelps’ likely win — she declared victory on Saturday night, but a late run of postal votes towards Liberal candidate Dave Sharma threw that 100% certainty into some doubt — destroying the Coalition Government’s majority, but the massive swing she’s achieved quickly inspired significant talk on social media about a high-profile independent doing the same thing in Abbott’s safe seat of Warringah, on Sydney’s northern beaches.
Author, media commentator and advertising guru Jane Caro made it clear she was considering her options to run for the seat as the Phelps results were coming in on Saturday night, and into Sunday. She grew up and went to school in Warringah and currently lives in a neighbouring electorate. She said she would be renouncing her British citizenship first.
Grew up there. Went to school there. Sent kids to school there. Live in neighbouring electorate. Anyone interested? Get in touch.
— Jane Caro (@JaneCaro) October 20, 2018
“The sense of urgency that I feel is felt by a great many people,” Caro told The Guardian on Sunday. “Particularly climate change is concentrating people’s mind. Warringah has an awful lot of coast and people there are very much part of enjoying and experiencing and understanding the environment and how it’s changing.”
She also tweeted, “I may not win. Not the point. I feel duty bound to do what I can to stop the climate deniers & the far right destroy my grandchildren’s future. If I could help I ought to at least try.”
I’m hearing you are running in Warringha @JaneCaro .Is that true ? If so I would be honoured to help in any way if it was useful in some way . I really hope you do run.
THE WORLD IS RUN BY THOSE WHO TURN UP.
— Tony Windsor (@TonyHWindsor) October 20, 2018
Caro’s potential tilt quickly gained traction from supporters, including from former independent Tony Windsor.
Meanwhile, a grassroots group created by locals in Warringah called Voices of Warringah, has also emerged in the past few months, frustrated by Abbott’s refusal to engage on issues they see as important, including climate change. It’s based on the group Voices for Indi, which successfully saw Cathy McGowan take the seat of former Liberal frontbencher Sophie Mirabella. The group’s led by president Louise Hislop, with four out of five of its executive being female.
While Abbott’s preselection for the seat last month was expected to happen smoothly, there were reports of significant turbulence during the process. Under pressure to release the full results, the NSW Liberal Party later told Fairfax that he received 68 endorsements votes, with 30 people voting against him and two lodging informal votes (although that figure has been disputed by some members). Abbott was running unopposed, leading some to say he lost votes to an “empty chair”.
During her victory speech on Saturday night, Phelps said the swing marked a return to “decency, integrity and humanity” as well as common sense on climate change.
She also used the speech to call for more women to consider a career in politics.
“I would like to say to any young people, any women, any aspiring Independents out there, if you are thinking of running for Parliament or running for public office: yes, it can be tough, yes, the road can be hard, but it is so worthwhile that we have the right people stepping up to represent Australia.”