Looking past the propaganda: the candidates of Kooyong

15 May 2019

Kooyong has existed as an electorate since Australia’s federation, and in its 118-year history, it has always been represented by conservative men. Known as a ‘leadership seat’, Kooyong is the seat of former Prime Minister Robert Menzies, former Liberal leader Andrew Peacock, and is currently held by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

If this traditionally safe electorate were to become marginal or flip, it would be a major upset for the Coalition government. As unlikely as this scenario may seem, a recent poll conducted by Environmental Research+Counsel suggests that the Green’s Julian Burnside is closing in on Victoria’s highest ranking Liberal.

Although single-seat surveys can be unreliable, Frydenberg has admitted that the race in Kooyong “is tight”, and locals have been bombarded by campaign mail outs and Frydenberg billboards.

It can be difficult to sort through the noise to find the truth when deciding who to vote for, so here is a rundown of Kooyong’s main contenders and what they’re promising:

Josh Frydenberg

The incumbent member and Liberal candidate, Frydenberg is Australia’s current Treasurer and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party. By far the most active candidate in terms of advertising, Frydenberg’s focus has been on the economy, claiming that he will build a stronger one and that Labor will destroy it.

Promising lower taxes, more jobs, and a budget surplus, the Treasurer’s message to the people of Kooyong is that a vote for him is a vote for a strong economy. Although the environment is one of the greatest concerns in Kooyong, the only references to it in the Liberal’s campaigning has been that they will “take action on climate change” after they build a “stronger economy”.

Specific plans for Kooyong detailed by Frydenberg include investing $7.4 million in upgrading local roads, a $1.5 million upgrade of Walmer St Bridge and $9.7 million to improve and expand the Giant Steps Melbourne school for children with autism.

Julian Burnside AO QC

Known for his work as a barrister and human rights advocate, Burnside is the Greens candidate for Kooyong and Frydenberg’s biggest competition. With a couple large billboard’s at major intersections and one pamphlet sent out to each household, Burnside’s campaigning has been more about interacting with people on the streets than doing a full advertising blitz.

With his only Kooyong specific policy being a $225 million investment in Kooyong school’s over the next decade, Burnside’s focus has been more on a national scale. Calling climate change “the greatest human rights challenge we face”, Burnside has followed the Greens tradition of keeping the environment central to his campaign. The Greens have promised to phase out fossil fuels, stop Adani, support solar investment and invest $50 million a year across Australia for local climate adaptation projects.

Jana Stewart

A family therapist, senior policy advisor, and Indigenous woman, Stewart says that she is running so that the opportunities afforded to her will be afforded to all Australians. By far the least visible of Kooyong’s top three contenders, Stewart is also the least likely to gain the seat. Despite this, Labor’s campaign in Kooyong has recognised the electorate’s environmental concerns and so their promise of 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030 is their top-billed policy.

With no Kooyong-specific policies advertised by Stewart, Labor does not appear to be making any real attempt to steal the blue-ribbon seat away from the Liberals. However, Labor is polling ahead of the coalition on a national level. If the ALP forms government, they have promised to increase the minimum wage, spend $804 million on Victorian schools and invest $183 million in Victorian hospitals.

Each of these candidates have maintained the preference deals made between their party’s, so their ‘how-to-vote’ cards each place minor parties and independents above their greatest competition. This may prove to be a bad move for the Green’s and Labor, as their only chance to wrestle the seat away from the Liberal’s is through preferences.

It is predicted that Frydenberg will retain the seat, with 52 per cent of the two-party preferred vote, Burnside is currently coming in second with 48 per cent.

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