The Australian has been giving us a hard time of late about People Power’s registration – which is still expected to sail through no problems – but the headline on page four this morning was far more upbeat:

People Power to blow Lib over

The wind-power debate in Victoria has put a former Liberal leader under grave pressure to keep his seat, with a People Power candidate snapping at his heels.

Holy cow! The paper claimed strategists from “several parties” reckon we’re a chance to knock off Dr Denis Napthine in South West Coast. It certainly is an interesting scenario. Labor-connected industry superannuation funds control Australia’s biggest wind company Pacific Hydro which has about $200 million worth of investment ready to roll out around Napthine’s seat of South West Coast.

The father of the industry fund movement, Gary Weaven, fired the first shot when The Age led its business section last Wednesday with a story about the loss of jobs and investment if the Liberal Party did not reverse its opposition to the Bracks Government’s policy mandating energy retailers to source 10% of all power from renewable sources by 2016.

Our candidate, Mike Noske, is a former mayor of Portland and Liberal member who reportedly lost a preselection battle with Napthine 41 votes to 20 in 1996. He owns the local cinema and a printing business and will be running a “pro green, pro jobs” campaign. Napthine is totally wedged because he voted against the Bracks renewable energy proposal in Parliament recently.

The wind industry is looking for a major scalp to send John Howard a message to start taking climate change seriously. They want that scalp to be Denis Napthine and most observers believe our candidate is best placed to knock him off, partly because a general swing against Labor is expected in the bush.

Napthine only beat the Labor candidate in South West Coast by 272 votes in 2002 and was 1000 votes behind before being saved by National Party preferences.

With the likes of Richard Branson, Rupert Murdoch, Al Gore and Bill Clinton all lining up together on climate change, John Howard’s ability to force his state colleagues to hold the sceptical greenhouse line will be sorely tested in the coming months.

Peter Fray

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