Voters in Malcolm Turnbull’s former seat should use the upcoming Wentworth by- election to register a “protest vote”, says former Liberal leader John Hewson. Dr Hewson, who held Wentworth from 1987 to 1995, has urged diehard Liberal voters to send a message to the government over its inaction on climate change by voting for an independent now, given they can change their vote in a general election later.
“This by-election is a unique opportunity to register a protest vote,” Dr Hewson said at a rally with anti-mining activists on Saturday.
Since former prime minister Mr Turnbull resigned after he was deposed during a brutal leadership battle, candidates have been lining up to try and snatch the seat from the Liberals.
Although Dr Hewson has not officially endorsed any of the candidates, he directed praise towards independent Kerryn Phelps.
“The by-election should be a referendum on climate policy,” the former federal opposition leader told AAP.
“Kerryn has said some positive things about climate action policy,” he added. Dr Hewson, who advised Dr Phelps on her climate change policy, said he would be happy to assist any candidate with creating a detailed action plan. “(Kerryn) seems to be pretty focused on it as an issue…is keener to do something more substantive than others I have seen so far,” he said. Commenting on Liberal candidate Dave Sharma, Dr Hewson said he was a good candidate but his hands were tied by the party.
Dr Phelps says climate change has been constantly outlined as an important issue for voters in Wentworth: “Action on climate change comes up all the time.” She also welcomed Dr Hewson’s support on the matter.
“He helped inform my policy. I have spoken to a number of experts,” Dr Phelps told AAP.
The independent’s six-point climate action plan, released on Monday, includes a ban on new coal fired power plants and a ban on political donations by fossil fuel companies.
The by-election for Wentworth will be held on October 20 and early voting for the Sydney seat began October 2.