So how will Tony Abbott’s ascension this week affect the green vote in the Higgins and Bradfield by-elections this weekend, if at all?

Apart from voxpopping the streets of Malvern and sniffing round the food court of Chatswood Chase, it’s hard to say…

Antony Green writes on his election blog:

With the clarity that only comes with hindsight, Labor will now regret having decided not to nominate in Higgins. With Labor polling well in Victoria, and with last week’s internal liberal brawls, Higgins would have been open to a vigorous last week campaign by Labor. That is not to be, but Dr Hamilton could now benefit from the Liberal Party suddenly making climate change policy central to the campaign.

It still seems unlikely that the Liberal Party would lose Higgins, though some observers such as Malcolm Mackerras have made bold predictions that the Greens will win.

With no Labor candidates, implications from either result for next year’s Federal election result will be difficult to draw. Having been in the job less than a week, it will be hard to blame a bad result new Leader Tony Abbott, though that will stop many from doing so.

The Liberal party should be able to ride out a poor result. That is unless they lose Higgins, in which case the animosity of a week ago may be re-fuelled.

And if the rhetoric on climate change in the campaign literature is anything to go by… things are hotting up in Higgins at least. This morning Greens candidate Clive Hamilton appeared on ABC 774’s morning program to debate star Liberal candidate Kelly O’Dwyer but she declined to appear.

Host Waleed Ali said: “I should be asking questions of an empty chair in the Bill Peach tradition. [Peach] would interview an empty chair if guests refused to attend. That’s the situation we find today…the debate between Clive Hamilton of the Greens and Kelly O’Dwyer of the Liberal Party is attended by only one of them. Kelly O’Dwyer wouldn’t call in.”

O’Dwyer did, however, send this letter out to residents this week:

091204_kelly2

Meanwhile, the Greens’ latest campaign brochure has been slapped with a star quote from the new Liberal leader:

greensbrochure

This morning our number cruncher Possum Comitatus took the pulse, “Just a quick one, has the election of Abbott changed the chances of the Greens getting up in Higgins or Bradfield? Anyone on the ground have info or vibe on how Abbott as leader has gone down with the locals in those two seats?”

Higgins resident ‘Dewgong’ responded:

I live in Higgins and will be voting Green on Saturday, but can’t really speak for the rest of the electorate on how they will vote. O’dwyer seems to be pulling out all stops this last week, shes been spamming my (and presumably other’s) mailbox constantly with election material, and after Tony Abbott’s elevation as Liberal leader sent out one of those letters designed to look personalized reaaffirming that she believes climate change is man made and happening, but says we need to balance it with protecting jobs etc etc. I think that she had to send that letter means she feels somewhat vulnerabel at the recent turn of events.

Her election material seems to be focused on local issues, she talks about reducing street crime, better health care, protecting green spaces and has “already secured a $200,000 grant from the next Coalition government” to these ends (in what, 20 years or so?) but all in all, very generic commitments.

This is really just a hunch but I suspect there will be a significant protest vote this Saturday and it will be a close run thing.

Fredex wrote:

I see that in Higgins the bloke at the top of the ballot paper, Murphy, is a climate change ’sceptic”

Hamilton for the Greens and O’Dwyer for the Libs are not denialists.

So Murphy at the top could get a fair few ’skeptic’ votes from Lib folks not willing to vote for O’Dwyer as well as reaping the ‘donkey’ vote.

So I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get more votes than expected and for such to be complemented by some of the other candidates such as the DLP bloke whose preferences might flow to Murphy.

Deconst wrote from Bradfield:

I was handing out GreenVoice outside Chatswood station yesterday evening. My feeling is that there’s a general apathy towards the by-election and I think it’ll pretty much be business as usual. I would say there doesn’t seem to be the outright public resentment to the Liberals to cause either seat to fall to the Greens.

Nick of McEwan wrote:

I’ve been volunteering for the Greens in Higgins, both doorknocking and handing out HTVs at the prepolling. Whilst all this evidence is anecdotal, we’ve had some good vibes, particularly since Tuesday morning.

Although Kelly has put out a statement this week (see Dewgong @4), prior to that she seemed determined not to be drawn on the issue of climate change. She has repeatedly refused interviews to the AYCC, who tried to interview all candidates, and has nothing in her material about it. When we were doorknocking on Tuesday night, we had one guy who said he’d voted Liberal all his life, and had over recent weeks tried to get a statement on CC out of O’Dwyer’s office, and got nothing. He was concerned because he’d greened up his business significantly beyond what the ETS would require, and hoped that it would pass so that he’d get some financial reward for his foresight. After getting nothing from Kelly, he told us he’d be voting Green.

I’ve also doorknocked lots of people who didn’t know Labor was (sic)  running a candidate and upon hearing this, said they’d definitely vote Green. I know this shouldn’t be too exciting, as the Greens would be hoping for almost all of the Labor vote in order to make it close, but it’s still nice to hear.

Yesterday at the prepoll station, a couple of people coming to vote made a point of mentioning Abbott: i.e. one guy took Clive’s how to vote card and said “Now your party aren’t climate change deniers are they” – stuff like that.

It’s always hard to tell, but I’ve found the doorknocking more positive than I expected. Most people are polite and don’t give much away, but of those that are open with their intentions, there have been more in sympathy with the Greens than outright against. Also plenty of the “wouldn’t be voting for the Libs at the moment” kind of sentiment.

I think there’s a very good chance that the Liberal primary will drop below 50%. Below 48% would be a huge victory for the Greens. I think Kelly will get in, but if the 2PP is 53-47 or closer, the Greens will probably be happy.

And coconaut writes:

I was leafleting in Higgins yesterday, and I generally spend a lot of time in the area.

This is all my own opinion, I don’t think the electorate is particularly excited about this election, or rather, I haven’t detected any huge enthusiasm.

If voters are turning from the Libs to the Greens/others, I would say it is more because they disapprove of Liberal-leadership-squabbling than any actual issue like global warming or Abbott’s beliefs.

The most Liberal parts of Higgins are solid middle to upper class – I reckon they vote for business professionals rather than for issues, so the infighting in the Libs is bad for the Libs as much as Abbott’s anti-climate credentials.

Hamilton a long shot as he has a lot of ground to make up on election night!

Peter Fray

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