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Senior reporter for The Saturday Paper, Rick Morton, on how Queensland could be the next battleground for the climate 200-backed independents.

The teal’s plan to shock the major parties

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The teals of the 2022 election outdid expectations – flipping six historically Liberal seats independent. 

It’s a result that has energised their backers, Climate 200, who are now looking well beyond wealthy, inner-city electorates for their next wins. 

So, can they repeat their success in regional seats and shock the major parties again in 2025?

Today, senior reporter for The Saturday Paper, Rick Morton, on how Queensland could be the next battleground for the climate 200-backed independents.

 

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Guest: Senior reporter for The Saturday Paper, Rick Morton

Read Transcript
[Theme Music Starts]
 
##ANGE:
From Schwartz Media, I’m Ange McCormack. This is *7am*.
 
The teals of the 2022 election outdid expectations, flipping six historically Liberal seats independent. 
 
It’s a result that has energised their backers, Climate 200, who are now looking well beyond wealthy, inner-city electorates for their next wins. 
 
So, can they repeat their success in regional seats? And shock the major parties again in 2025?
 
Today, senior reporter for *The Saturday Paper*, Rick Morton on how Queensland could be the next battleground for the Climate 200 backed Independents.
 
It’s Monday, February 12. 
 
[Theme Music Ends]
 
##ANGE:
Rick, you’ve been looking into Climate 200 – this is the group who helped to fund the teal independents. Why did you want to look into them now?
 
##RICK: 
I feel like. I mean, this is the crazy thing about politics, right? Like, everyone starts planning for election so much sooner than you know, we mostly recognise. And of course, this is the last full year, probably before the next federal election. 
 
So the political outfits are getting ready, and Climate 200 in particular, you know, their grassroots campaigning organization more than anything else and to do grassroots, you've got to start small and then go big. 
 
##Audio excerpt – Unknown:
“Climate 200’s job is done, right? You helped all those indies get elected and now Australia is a climate leader, yeah? Hmm, not exactly.”
 
##RICK:
And so they're raising money, they're identifying candidates and working with those local independent groups and community campaigns in states around the country where they think they might have a chance of succeeding either by winning them or making them marginal.
 
##Audio excerpt – Unknown:
“So here’s our plan to climate proof our democracy, every week we’re getting requests from communities who are inspired and ready to go, they’ve seen the impact of community independents in parliament, and want their own.”
 
##RICK:
And so you've really got to spend that time now, because it's a big machine. And it turns slowly. 
 
##Audio excerpt – Unknown:
“become a recurring donor to Climate 200 today and help us climate proof the Parliament for good.”
 
##RICK:
So I thought I'd have a chat to Simon Holmes à Court, briefly. Who's kind of the man behind climate 200, and he's currently the convenor…you know, Simon’s a really interesting guy. He's, he's always very keen to remind you that Climate 200 does not anoint candidates or, you know, they don't pluck them from a Line-Up like the other major parties do. 
 
In fact, what they do is they find existing community campaigns or where there is like a loose amalgam of people in an electorate who think, you know what, we haven't been set particularly well by the major parties and we'd like to run an independent and Climate 200 backs them, you know with funding and expertise in the campaigning side of things. 
 
And that's probably one of the reasons why that was so successful at the last election, because, you know, pound for pound, I think that back to 22 candidates and 11 got up. So their hit rate is pretty good. Now, the big question, of course, is can they do it again?
 
And you think, given the success, that there aren't actually that many seats left for them to credibly target. But the strategies shifted just a little bit, to focus on seats that were warmed up at the last election. And we're talking regional and outer suburbs seats. 
 
So, a really interesting way of looking at this is that earlier this month, the Climate 200 network flew some of its top people, including Byron Fay, its director, and North Sydney MP, Kylea Tink to an event on the Sunshine Coast in the seat of Fairfax, which is a conservative seat. 
 
So it's an interesting place for them to target. And I was curious when I found out about this, because I kind of found it by accident when I was talking to some local campaigners. And I knew that Fairfax was on the list that Climate 200 was looking at, but I didn't know why, So I kind of wanted to figure out what was going on here, because there must be something that I didn't know about why Fairfax seemed to be appealing. 
 
##ANGE:
Hm. It is an interesting place to go after. Because, you know, when I think of teals, I tend to think more of Manly and Bondi than…regional Queensland. Why does Climate 200 see that part of the country as potential teal territory?
 
##RICK:
So this is a very interesting point. In fact, someone made this point to me attached to Climate 200 that, you know, teals was not their name. teals was kind of an invention of the media. Right? 
 
So it's not necessarily a teal thing, but it is a community independent thing. And now quite a broad, you know, church with those common threads of integrity, climate conscious politics, and accountability. Right.
 
##Audio excerpt – Byron Fay:
“Hello Sunshine Coast! What a turnout!”
 
##RICK:
And so when Kylea Tink and Climate 200 flew up there to meet local organisers in the seat of Fairfax, which is at the northern tip of the Sunshine Coast.  They actually mentioned that they had done polling in that seat.
 
##Audio excerpt – Byron Fay:
“So the turnout here tonight is a real demonstration of the interest in what's going on with the community independence movement around the country. We are very excited to have community members here...” 
 
##RICK:
and the LNP incumbent's support had dropped from 45% primary vote at the 2022 election to, and this is in October last year they've done this polling, to 38%. 
 
Now generally speaking, if a Coalition primary vote is below 40, then it's a vulnerable seat, because it's very difficult to get to a two party or two candidate preferred victory with primary below 40. 
 
It can be done, but it's more difficult. And so, Climate 200, we're like, this is a warm seat. This is possible.
 
##Audio excerpt – Kylea Tink: 
“Thank you for having me. Like, it is so exciting. I actually can't tell you how excited I am to be here.” 
 
##RICK:
And so you've got Kylea Tink, the North Sydney MP, and all the bigwigs from Climate 200, you know, in a room in Fairfax, and they're talking to about 100 people from the community and telling them that they can actually succeed.
 
##Audio excerpt – Kylea Tink:
“We won, and it wasn’t about me, there is absolutely, there is no me without ‘we’.”
 
##RICK:
Not to mention the fact that the member, Ted O'Brien, is actually the Coalition's shadow climate and energy spokesperson…shadow Minister, I guess they call themselves, which is particularly interesting because the Coalition has not exactly changed its tune very much on climate, particularly under the leadership of Peter Dutton, and which puts someone like Ted O'Brien in an interesting position, trying to walk both sides of that fence.
 
But it was really just about inspiring the troop so to speak to get them motivated and show them the art of the possible.
 
##Audio excerpt – Speaker:
“Wow what a woman, thank you so much Kylea.”
 
##RICK:
And Climate 200, of course, ran a similar event on the Gold Coast in the seat of McPherson, where they were talking to local community members about running some of the campaigns there. 
 
##Audio excerpt – Paul Murray:  
“We learn that the teals are going to make a run on south east Queensland.” 
 
##RICK:
And then Sky news picked it up, and we're essentially mocking them for even daring to think that the teals could possibly work on the Gold Coast.
 
##Audio excerpt – Paul Murray:  
“This is an area in and around the Goldie like Robina. Beautiful Burley heads. Coolangatta, my spiritual territory. All of these places is a Gold Coast retiree. One day I'll be able to set up the man cave there, and we'll do the show from the balcony each and every night.”
 
##RICK:
You know, they're quite ambitious, I guess. And I think that there's quite a few seats that are vulnerable or at least worth looking at. And they might not necessarily look like your northern beaches candidates but they will be independent community candidates who have a strong climate conscience. 
 
##ANGE:
And if, if that strategy is successful, if they pull that off, that'll be really politically significant. If we take a step back here and look at the lay of the land of 2025, how big of a threat could a new wave of teal independents be to the major parties? 
 
##RICK:
I find this so fascinating because if you talk to Climate 200 internal strategists, they believe that there are about seven Liberal seats in seven national states around the country that are, quote unquote, vulnerable.
 
Now, that doesn't mean they're going to win 14 seats. They might not win any. 
 
But we saw what happened when they had a little bit of a goal at the last election and I think completely overshot the runway. There are almost more teals in the lower house than national party members. So they really want to rival the national party. 
 
And they're already kind of, the fact that they're already radically changing the way politics is done in this country.  
 
Coming up after the break – What the major parties are doing to fight back against Climate 200.
 
[Advertisement]
 
##ANGE:
Rick, we've been talking about Climate 200 plans ahead of the 2025 election. But you were saying that the success they've already had has changed the way major parties have had to go about politics. Why is that?
 
##RICK:
It really has changed the framing. Right. I spoke to a Labor strategist this week who, you know, has spent a lot of time studying these tactics and campaigns. And, they I mean, they quite up front, I guess that Climate 200 is good for Labor, and bad for the Coalition, generally speaking. And not just because Scott Morrison's loss at the last election was so much bigger than Anthony Albanese's win.
 
And going back to this conversation I had with the Labor strategist, at the 2022 election where Scott Morrison couldn't wedge Labor as effectively. So, I mean, the people I spoke to, they suspect that Peter Dutton knows that that wedge on climate is over and that he can't do that. 
 
So he's thinking, I don't care about those seats. I'm going to try and win without them. And he told the joint party room in February last year, he told them this, that the Coalition that Liberals and Nationals are the parties of the Australian working class and trying to take that working class rump directly right out from underneath Labor.
 
And the teals have essentially catalysed that reaction because, for better or worse, a line has been drawn under that period of politics. Now Labor doesn't mind Climate 200. I guess Climate 200 independent campaign will be there. 
 
##ANGE:
Right and it's interesting to think about how Labor views some of these teal candidates, because it sounds like they don't mind having them around, but at the same time, they're not exactly, you know, their biggest fans either. How does the relationship between the teals and Labor really work now? 
 
##RICK:
For the most part, they've voted together on policy. The teals have been an effective use of negotiating time with the government to get outcomes. 
 
Now, Labor wants to reform donation laws, which ostensibly on that surface, is a very good thing to do because we have a two party system that is completely, exploited, I guess, not only by the majors, but by people with a lot of money. 
 
Now Simon Holmes à Court is, a personally wealthy man, of course, but traditionally we've had Clive Palmer, who spent $117 million at the last election, And I hear whispers that Clive is coming back again. 
 
So Clive’s  been trying to buy elections. Labor doesn't want that. And I had a big inquiry last year, and there's been this talk that eventually, finally they're going to get this legislation into the Parliament that is going to crack down on donation caps, so reducing the amount that have to be disclosed and that can be donated by a single individual in the first place, but also increase public funding of elections. 
 
And the thing is Climate 200. Yes, they would be affected. They say they would be affected, no doubt. But in the last donation, disclosure that would just released this last week, we saw that,  Climate 200 had raised less money in 2022, 23 than Advance Australia, the extremely conservative kind of radical right outfit. 
 
That I think a lot of people laughed off when it started, but is actually becoming increasingly professional in its outlook and wants to do similar things in the election, by running candidates. 
 
So it really does become a philosophical debate, you know, I think, people are happy to have good independents. But we've also seen the opposite side of that coin.
 
##ANGE:
And finally Rick, it does seem like most both major parties, quite uneasy about the idea of more independents entering Parliament. But we know Climate 200 a really busy right now preparing for the next election. 
 
So how consequential would it be if they actually succeeded in getting candidates elected in different parts of the country from all different types of communities. 
 
##RICK:
Yeah. I mean, I think it's critical right because Climate 200 clearly want to replicate that success. You know, any great scientific experiment isn't worthy unless it can be replicated. So there's there's that, of course. 
 
But it matters, right? It does matter. If you believe in climate change in addressing it in a, in an efficient, proper manner that doesn't condemn future generations to living on a planet that is hostile to life, then, yeah, it matters. 
 
But traditionally, these issues have been seen as kind of the, the province of, you know, tree tories in wealthy electorates who can afford to care about these things. Now climate politics have been changing in this country. 
 
And I think even one victory or even one strong message by sending a strong liberal seat or conservative seat marginal in 2025, in a regional area that would be an extraordinary signal to send not just in those particular electorates, but to the country, that the time for caring about how we live in the world is now. 
 
And then that in itself, then would send presumably a strong message to the Labor Party or any party that wins government that incrementalism is not enough. You know, the stronger that force gets, whether it's Climate 200 or just good independents who care about accountability and doing the right thing, whether they're backed by Climate 200 or not. That's the stuff that puts not just the major parties on alert, but us too. And I think that can only be a good thing.
 
##ANGE:
Rick, thanks so much for your time. 
 
##RICK:
Thanks
 
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[Theme Music Starts]
 
##ANGE:
Also in the news today,
 
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared his intent to invade the southern-most part of Gaza.
 
Rafah, which borders Egypt, was populated by about 200,000 people before the war but is now filled with around 1.5 million people who have fled further north. 
 
Over the weekend, the Secretary General of the United Nation, Antonio Guterres, said that an offensive by Israel on the area would, quote: ‘exponentially increase what is already a humanitarian nightmare with untold regional consequences.’
 
And
 
Elections in Pakistan delivered large wins for the party of jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan.
 
Khan’s party, the PTI, looks to have won the most seats but perhaps not enough for an outright majority, further deepening the political crisis that has engulfed the country since Khan was ousted from the prime ministership last year.
 
I’m Ange McCormack. This is *7am*. We’ll be back again tomorrow. Thanks so much for listening. 
 
[Theme Music Ends]

Background Reading

news
February 10, 2024
Climate 200’s plan for the next election

The teals’ gains were the Liberals’ losses in the last election – for the next one, the movement behind these successful independent campaigns is targeting vulnerable Nationals seats.