Josh Frydenberg hits out at independents at official Kooyong campaign launch

Josh Frydenberg has taken aim at “so-called independents” at the launch of his campaign to retain the seat of Kooyong, claiming their election would lead to chaos and a hung parliament.

The federal Treasurer and Liberal Party deputy leader told more than 1,000 supporters the contest in the formerly blue-ribbon seat was a “battle” that would dictate the next three years in Australia.

Kooyong, which takes in leafy suburbs such as Kew and Hawthorn in Melbourne’s east, has historically been one of the Liberal Party’s safest seats.

It was formerly held by Liberal founding father and former prime minister Robert Menzies, as well as former Liberal leader Andrew Peacock.

It is now at risk of being lost to Independent Monique Ryan, one of the “teal independents” whose grassroots campaigns have been partially funded by the Climate 200 group.

Mr Frydenberg, Victoria’s most senior Liberal, is the natural successor to Scott Morrison should he leave the role as leader of the party and his potential ousting has many in the party worried.

Senator Sarah Henderson, who introduced the Treasurer to the stage, said it was “the fight of Josh Frydenberg’s political life”.

Mr Frydenberg spruiked his credentials as the local MP for 12 years and a lifelong resident of the area.

He also pointed to the Coalition’s economic management during the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than 700,000 jobs saved by JobKeeper and a near-50-year-low unemployment rate of 4 per cent.

People in blue t-shirts gather in front of Josh Frydenberg.
The Treasurer launched his campaign in Hawthorn.(ABC News: Dylan Anderson)

“Now if you think that Australia… can take the big decisions on the economy with a hung parliament, you are wrong,” he told the crowd.

“Which brings me to the battle we are all facing here in Kooyong in just a few weeks’ time.”

Mr Frydenberg repeated his claim that Ms Ryan was not “a true independent”, saying the Climate 200-funded candidates were akin to “a political party”.

“And they are asking for your vote, but not prepared to tell you how they will vote in the event of a hung parliament,” he said.

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Liberal incumbents are being wedged between independent challengers and their conservative colleagues.

Dr Ryan recently told the ABC if she was elected as a member of a hung parliament, she would negotiate with both major parties on the basis of her two key platforms — climate action and a federal integrity commission.

Her campaign has been financially backed by about 2,000 individual donors and Climate 200, convened by businessman Simon Holmes a Court.

She is a former member of the Labor Party, but has distanced herself by saying she was “never an active member” and never attended party meetings.

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Monique Ryan tells Patricia Karvelas she will give her support to the party with the strongest policies on climate and integrity.
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“A vote for a so-called Independent will be a vote for higher taxes, a weaker economy and weaker national security.”

The only time Mr Frydenberg mentioned Dr Ryan by name was in telling an anecdote about her mother-in-law, saying she would vote for him. 

The launch was attended by Liberal names such as Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar, MP for Higgins Katie Allan and senators Sarah Henderson, James Patterson and David Van.

Also in attendance was former state Liberal premier Ted Baillieu, whose son Robert Baillieu works for Dr Ryan’s campaign.

It took place at the same time Labor was officially launching its campaign in Perth.

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Inflation figures force parties to outline their plan to reduce the cost of living.

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