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Election 2022: Why ‘teal’ independent candidates can’t win

It’s exactly two weeks from polling day – and it’s clear that the election battles you are seeing are not where the war will be won.

It’s exactly two weeks from polling day and so it’s time you were told: The election you are watching is not the election that is happening. The battles you are seeing are not where the war will be won.

There have been no major bombshells dropped by the two leaders and no laser-like sniper shot has taken a major player out — whatever wounds either side has suffered have been

self-inflicted — and the marginal seats where Labor and Liberal are fighting it out show very few signs of the usual guerrilla warfare.

Instead, all the noise and nastiness seems to be concentrated in the electorates where the so-called teal independents funded by the Climate 200 movement are seeking to unseat moderate Liberals.

There was the ugly invasion by a Mackellar independent campaign worker of a function for Liberal Warringah candidate Katherine Deves — who says she has had to relocate her family because of death threats.

There has been the repeated vandalism outside the home of Liberal MP Tim Wilson in the Melbourne seat of Goldstein — also being targeted by a teal independent.

And there has been the infamous scrawling of swastikas on campaign posters in the seat of Kooyong, both on the face of Treasurer Josh Frydenberg — a Jewish man whose parents fled the Holocaust — and his independent rival Monique Ryan.

These are the seats where the fighting is most vicious and upon which most eyeballs are honed, but they are not the seats that really matter when it comes to the brass tacks of forming government.

In fact, these contests will have precisely zero impact on the ability of Labor to win the election — they are merely a diversionary assault which will at best only determine how badly the Coalition loses it.

But wait! Aren’t we headed for a hung parliament and won’t Labor need the support of the independents to form government?

Well, as things stand now, the answer is “no” and “no”. For all the talk of a hung parliament there is no real evidence for it beyond Labor fears of a 2019 rerun and a commentary still burned by our own bullish predictions of that result.

After Anthony Albanese’s first horror show week, the 2PP vote changed not one iota. In the first debate, when Morrison beat him on facts, Albo won over the audience with warmth.

And when Albo was benched with Covid for seven days across weeks two and three, many —

including some on Labor’s side—thought it might be a deliberate strategy to buy some breathing space and push slicker salesmen like Jason Clare to the fore.

It wasn’t, but it still worked. In Newspoll the 2PP vote remained immovable at 53-47 Labor’s way. Albo’s personal approval, preferred PM rating and even Labor’s primary vote may have taken a few hits but the votes kept coming back.

Of course the polls have been wrong before and there still needs to be a seat-by-seat pathway, but the great fear that the vote will tighten as it did in 2019 simply has not materialized.

All this tells you that while voters may not have made their minds up about Labor, they have certainly made it up about the Coalition. And our preferential voting system being what it is, this means Labor is headed for a majority. I don’t know in which lifetime a 53 per cent puts you in minority government, but it certainly isn’t mine.

And this brings us back to the teals, whose only capacity for influence over government policy — which is their primary objective on climate change — is if they hold the balance of power.

The problem is that even if they win they lose. Because they are knocking off Liberal MPs, the only party with a mandate to form minority government would almost certainly be Labor. The fact they have pledged to go with the party who has stronger climate action only makes it doubly so.

But they would still be sitting in blue-ribbon Liberal seats, and so by delivering a Labor government they would render themselves unelectable at the next poll — as Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott found out shortly before their hurried retirements.

And if, by some incalculable improbability, they restored the Coalition to power they would instantly be pariahs to both their funding and activist base. Simon Holmes a Court and Get Up! would hardly tolerate the return of Scott Morrison.

In short, their only hope for survival if they are elected is that Labor has a clear majority and they do not have to make a choice. Their only potential for power is impotence.

And in the same stroke these urban progressives will have also eliminated the influence of urban progressives in the Coalition.

The derangement of this was perfectly — albeit unwittingly — expressed by Malcolm Turnbull in his endorsement of the teals yesterday. Turnbull lamented that moderates did not have enough power in the Liberal party and declared that the best solution to this was a campaign to wipe out moderate Liberal MPs.

It is amazing how the cliff just calls these people.

At the same time Labor has proudly pivoted itself away from woke inner-city interests and if it loses any more such seats to the Greens it will only be even more unburdened of their cares. Thus they will have no influence on either major party.

And so amid all the noise you hear in these angry electorates, the most significant could be the softest: The sound of inner-city progressives accidentally snuffing themselves out.

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