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Federal election: Breaking down the battle for Wentworth

Wentworth

Incumbent Liberal member Dave Sharma (left) is facing a strong challenge from Independent Allegra Spender (right) for Wentworth at the election. Photo: Dave Sharma/Allegra Spender.

By SHARLOTTE THOU

The blue-ribbon electorate of Wentworth may be set for a shakeup this month, with five candidates hoping to unseat incumbent Liberal Dave Sharma, including the Independent, Climate-200 backed Allegra Spender, who is mounting a serious challenge for the seat.

Spender has run much of her campaign on climate action, harnessing despondency with the government’s emissions policies to find favour in the electorate. While speaking to City Hub last month, Spender said that Wentworth’s climate values were the “biggest out of step piece” to what was being delivered by the Morrison government.

The government committed to net zero emissions by 2050 last year, and a 26-28 per cent emissions cut by 2030. These targets have been condemned by climate activists, who criticised the Coalition for not putting in stronger policies consistent with recommendations from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  

While Dave Sharma has spoken out against aspects of his government’s climate change approach, such as opposing a government plan that would provide federal funding to coal power plants in 2020, he has also been accused of towing the party line in Canberra.

His preference for United Australia Party (UAP) candidate Natalie Dumer on voter’s ballots has also drawn some criticism across the electorate. The UAP has no climate policy and has campaigned in support of nuclear energy. 

Dumer, a dentist, has said that Wentworth, being “one of the highest tax-paying electorates”, has received “little value other than a $1.3 trillion debt”.

Natalie Dumer. Photo: United Australia Party.

The UAP has previously warned its audiences of “adverse reactions” to the COVID-19 vaccine, with party leader Craig Kelly’s Facebook account being permanently removed last year for sharing misinformation about the pandemic.

The Dental Board of Australia, the national regulatory agency for the profession, has said that promoting anti-vaccination statements that contradict scientific evidence “may be in breach of the [Board’s] code of conduct and subject to investigation and possible regulatory action”.

City Hub asked Dumer how she would reconcile the conflict of pandemic messaging between her profession and party, but she did not respond before deadline.

Wentworth ‘far ahead’ on climate than Canberra: Spender

Since arriving in Canberra after his 2019 election victory, Sharma has come under fire for a failure to drive stronger climate goals and targets in parliament.

If re-elected, Sharma promises to advocate for better climate change action, increase housing affordability, improve transport and school infrastructure, and provide more accessible childcare.

Spender, who has looked to capitalise on the public animosity to the Morrison government during her campaign, has said that Wentworth is “far ahead of where the government is in terms of climate, both from seeing the economic opportunities for Australia of decarbonisation and how Australia can be an energy superpower”.

Spender’s climate policies include passing the Climate Change Bill proposed by fellow Independent Zali Steggall to “provide objective oversight and de-politicise climate change” and to reduce emissions by at least 50 per cent by 2030. She also has policies for building a “smart, sustainable and fiscally responsible economy” and investing in Wentworth’s natural environment.

Climate change is also a priority for Greens candidate Dominic WY Kanak. Kanak brings a First Nations perspective to climate change policies, saying he hopes that the “principles of Aboriginal custodianship and love for country” are values central to Australia’s climate change response.  

Kanak has been a local Waverley councillor since 1999. As an Indigenous Australian, Kanak is passionate about delivering “real justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples”, who have been marginalised by poverty, homelessness, disability, and governmental failures. 

Dominic WY Kanak. Photo: Waverley Greens on Council.

He hopes to advocate for national treaties that will “change the course of this country’s history and set us on a new path”. If elected, Kanak promises to follow through on the Uluru Statement from the Heart and implement the recommendations from the Royal Commission into Indigenous deaths in custody.   

Kanak told City Hub that he is particularly interested in establishing a federal Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) to increase integrity and transparency around the decision-making process. He said that the NSW ICAC has proved its value by “reveal[ing] questionable and corrupt behaviour from public officials”.  

“It would be very foolish to think that questionable and corrupt behaviour stops at the federal level,” he said.  

‘Locally-driven development’ in the electorate

Fellow Waverley councillor Tim Murray is running in Wentworth for the Labor Party. He cites climate change as a key area of concern, having “seen first-hand the impact that pollution can have on children’s health”. The Business Council of Australia has said that Labor’s emission targets – net zero emissions by 2050, and a 43 per cent reduction by 2030 – could be stronger.  

Tim Murray. Photo: Supplied.

He said that Labor is the “only party committed to balanced locally-driven development, affordable housing, investment in public education and health, and an open, secure, innovative and forward-looking Australia”.  

Liberal Democrats candidate Daniel Lewkovitz is motivated by “the lack of talent in parliament”, with politicians who have “sacrificed a generation of other Australians despite having no skin in the game themselves”.

Lewkovitz is campaigning for nuclear energy, lower taxes, and “most importantly, the government out of your life”.  

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