Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Today by Paddy Manning

Burnside v Frydenberg
The Greens are mounting a serious challenge in Kooyong

Greens candidate for Kooyong Julian Burnside. AAP Image / Erik Anderson

The contest for Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s blue-ribbon Melbourne seat of Kooyong just got even more interesting with today’s announcement that celebrated human-rights lawyer Julian Burnside will run for the Greens at the coming federal election. Frydenberg was already facing a serious challenge from independent candidate Oliver Yates, an ex-Liberal banker who was head of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, and who is focused on climate action and hoping to replicate the success of Dr Kerryn Phelps in Wentworth. The scene is set for a lively contest, although there are concerns that Burnside and Yates will split the progressive vote, inadvertently making Frydenberg safer.

Like Zali Steggall in Tony Abbott’s seat of Warringah, but from the progressive side of politics, Burnside’s star power is evident from today’s media coverage, and within hours his candidacy had attracted donations of $66,839. (By contrast, the Greens’ recent campaign launch in Macnamara – the party’s next-most winnable lower-house seat after Melbourne – attracted zero coverage.)

The unofficial 11-week campaign is already well underway, as Paul Bongiorno wrote in The Saturday Paper, flagging a possible May 11 election date. “Liberal MPs need no persuading they are in the fight of their lives,” he wrote, adding that Frydenberg “already has his posters up in prominent places around his electorate”. Having dispatched a prime minister over climate action, the Liberals now are absolutely besieged on the issue, rebadging Abbott-era policies while talking nonsense about whether greenhouse gas emissions are going up or down.

It is a fillip for the Greens that the party can attract a star candidate like Burnside, despite a disappointing Victorian election campaign last November and amid turmoil in the NSW branch ahead of the state election in under three weeks’ time. If the Coalition is still hoping to run a scare campaign on border protection, despite polls showing it’s not working, Burnside will be an ace up the Greens’ sleeve, having fought for years for the rights of asylum seekers.

The Greens have a mixed record running star candidates, however: Andrew Wilkie ran a successful campaign for John Howard’s seat of Bennelong in 2004, but eventually quit the party and clinched the prize Hobart seat of Denison as an independent in 2010. Renowned academics and authors Peter Singer, who ran in the Kooyong by-election in 1994, and Clive Hamilton, who ran for nearby Higgins in 2009, both got strong primary votes turned out to be controversy magnets. So it may prove with Burnside: The Australian this afternoon plays up [$] an admission by Burnside on ABC Melbourne this morning that he is comfortable with hitting the wealthy voters of Kooyong with death duties – a perennial bogey for the Greens. 2GB’s Ben Fordham today mischievously claimed that Burnside “once wanted to turn the whole island of Tasmania into an offshore detention centre”.

Burnside seems to have a had a less-than-starry-eyed view of the Greens in the past. “It’s come of age,” he told the ABC today. “It’s not the bunch of environmentalists it was thought to be when it was established in the early 90s. [I joined] only in the past week or two weeks because I spent my entire life not being a member of any political party. But I’m persuaded this election that it’s really important to give the Greens a proper voice.”

Frydenberg won 58.2 per cent of the primary vote in 2016, followed by Labor on 19.8 per cent and the Greens on 18.9 per cent. It is important for the Greens to not only target Labor’s inner-city strongholds but also challenge in conservative-held seats. The party’s win in the state seat of Prahran, where incumbent Sam Hibbins hung on in November, points the way forward. Kooyong, like Wentworth, may never go Green, but it is worth them trying.



“If I’m elected the board will go, I want a new broom through, I know you’ve been on that board for 30 years … but the board will go, it will be sacked … I’m sorry about the SCG Trust board, thanks for your service.” 

NSW Opposition leader Michael Daley tells 2GB broadcaster Alan Jones that he would sack him, as well as other unelected members of the SCG Trust, if Labor wins the state election.


“If you look at the data over the last quarter, they’ve gone down … We’ve been saying for some time that emissions are going down, and my department’s own data has shown us that they’re going down … so it’s good news … I actually think the media’s cherry picking.”

Federal Environment Minister Melissa Price, in response to a question about whether Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions are going up or down.

The Number

The termination fee paid to former ABC MD Michelle Guthrie when she was sacked last year, according to evidence before a Senate Inquiry today. Guthrie last week reportedly settled her unfair dismissal claim against the ABC for a further payment of around $500,000.

The Policy

“We are investing $328 million for the Fourth Action Plan to fund prevention, response and recovery initiatives. This is the largest ever Commonwealth contribution to the National Plan … This is about changing attitudes to violence, and helping those who think violence is an option, to stop.” 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announcing further funding for the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children.

The list

“‘The times favour me,’ he says. ‘The times favour us on climate change,’ he says. But it feels like it has a wider application. ‘People are just fed up. They are fed up with the broken political system where you can’t get real progress, and the people are going to take it out of the hands of the government and fix it themselves at the next election.’” 


“In terms of both art and business, this year’s Berlinale did nothing to arrest the decline apparent in its recent editions. The Competition line-up was dismal. (A fellow critic, charged with reviewing much of it for one of the trade magazines, described it in an email as “a bouquet of turds”.) And after the Netflix- and Amazon-fuelled gold rush of Sundance, just two weeks earlier, its marketplace felt moribund.”


“Cardinal George Pell’s conviction on sexual assault charges this week has so many ramifications, of such importance, it is difficult to know where to look first ... Besides Pell’s seeming indifference towards survivors of sexual abuse – what Chrissie Foster called his ‘sociopathic lack of empathy’ – his use of expensive and aggressive litigation to grind victims into silence has taken on a new dimension in the wake of his conviction.” 

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is the author of Inside the Greens and the unauthorised biography of Malcolm Turnbull, Born To Rule?


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