Independents Kerryn Phelps and Zali Steggall buoyed by NSW election results

High-profile federal candidates point to progressive swings in Sydney’s east and north shore as evidence climate change remains key issue

The strong showing for independents and Greens on Sydney’s north shore in the New South Wales election, and the likely win for Labor in Coogee, have buoyed the two most high-profile independents contesting Sydney seats in the federal election.

The independent MP for the federal seat of Wentworth, Kerryn Phelps, said the results showed the electorate was interested in strong female candidates and that climate change remained a major vote-changing issue.

Phelps, who won the blue ribbon Liberal seat in October following the retirement of Malcolm Turnbull, will be contesting it again in May.

The Olympian Zali Steggall is running against another former prime minister, Tony Abbott, in the northern beaches federal seat of Warringah. It is also regarded as a historically safe Liberal seat, but Abbott’s role in opposing his own party’s policies on climate change have turned off some voters in the affluent electorate.

Phelps said she did not want to read too much into the state results.

“There’s a big difference between the federal Liberal party and the moderate state Liberals,” she said.

“But I think it shows that in the eastern suburbs climate change is a big issue, and it was said to be a big issue in Coogee.”

On Sunday morning Coogee seemed likely to be the only Sydney seat to fall to Labor, although the outcome remained uncertain. The electorate overlaps with the southern part of Wentworth.

The Labor candidate, Marjorie O’Neill, ran heavily on the party’s plans to address climate change at state level.

The NSW Labor candidate for Coogee, Marjorie O’Neill.
The NSW Labor candidate for Coogee, Marjorie O’Neill. Photograph: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

“The Liberal party does not have a story to tell about how they will address climate change – in fact the story is inaction,” Phelps said.

“There are people in the federal Liberals who want to continue with coal and fossil fuels, and the party depends on donations from the coal industry,” she said.

“We also have to listened to the younger generation. I attended the Town Hall school rally and an in-school rally at Emmanuel college. Young people are very well informed on climate change science – they have read the IPCC reports – and they want action,” she said.

Vaucluse, the other state seat overlapping with Wentworth, recorded a 5.6% swing to the Greens.


Steggall said the re-election of the Berejiklian government had clarified an important local issue: the building of a tunnel from the northern beaches to alleviate congestion on the Spit Bridge.

Both she and Abbott support the tunnel, but Steggall said she wanted to ensure that environmental concerns about the stacks were properly addressed.

“The tunnel is Tony Abbott’s only policy, and it’s a state issue,” Steggall said.

“A 13.8% swing away from the Liberals shows that the electorate wants change, and James Griffin [the Liberal MP for Manly] is a moderate and quite sensible,” she said.

She also noted the 10% swing against the Liberal MP, Felicity Wilson, in North Shore, where the Mosman mayor Carolyn Corrigan won more than 20% of the primary vote as an independent. The seat overlaps with the Mosman part of Warringah.


Anne Davies

The GuardianTramp

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